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Understand Your Child


There is more to child development than what ordinary parents know.

A six-year-old, in grade 1, came home with homework recently. This

homework had words like jump, jumps, see, sees, I, me, am, a, Mark. The instructions were that a parent or caregiver must jumble these words up and get the child to read and identify these words as part of reading practice.

I witnessed an older sister assisting her sibling with this homework task. Soon enough the caregiver (sister) was frustrated that the child does not remember nor read appropriately the words that she was looking at a few seconds earlier. This frustration was growing more and more painful to both these young individuals.

I came closer to see if I could help in any way. I was shocked to see the kind of homework that this child, under 7 years, had. Simply put, this kind of reading is too

early for a child. Not to mention that this was a second language task. Other experts believe that reading too early can even be detrimental to a child.

It is obvious to all of us that development mostly happens in sequence; and brain development is gradual. We also know that a child listens and then speaks, if all is well. Yet we do not know what really happens within the brain of a child; and what is it that enables a child to listen, speak and eventually read. We also know that in our country many young people in higher classes are struggling with reading and comprehending what they read. Many adults have actually forgotten how they learned to read. Even this teenage sister has already forgotten how she learnt to read.

Here’s what ordinary parents, not neuroscientist, can understand about brain  development in conjunction with reading or learning to read. Language skills develop through hearing a spoken word. The listening and hearing the language happens early enough. In the hearing a child uses imagination and memory. The part of the brain that handles that, is a part that has developed earlier, including the right-brain of creativity.

The logical sequential left-brain develops at a later stage. Reading and decoding letters that form words is a later part of language learning. No wonder learning through play is the most emphasised and most effective way of learning for young children. It is said that even “teenagers do not think with the same parts of the brain as adults” (Frances Jensen). This is because other parts of the brain are still developing. Patience and understanding will assist parents and caregiver in supporting children properly, within the schooling system and at home.

By Thozi Theko-Oum = A Chance for Every Child.


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