Reading to kids must for English familiarity

Poring over the adventures of the Bernstain Bears or exploring the worlds of Hans Christian Andersen with a child has always been a great parent-child bonding exercise.

But, according to George Georgiou, University of Alberta (U-A) professor in educational psychology, it is instrumental for English-speaking children if they are to acquire the language skills, particularly comprehension, essential to their future reading ability.

Georgiou and his colleagues recently published a study in learning and instruction examining the cognitive and non-cognitive factors that may predict future reading ability in English and Greek.

“We have found that in English, you need a rich home literacy environment. It’s absolutely necessary,” says Georgiou.

Since the study was published, Georgiou has expanded his research to Finland and China, with the same outcomes.

He says the home literacy environment, what parents do at home in terms of literacy, and motivation predict children’s various initial literacy skills, such as letter knowledge and vocabulary, differently across languages. These skills, in turn, ultimately predict future reading ability.

Orthography is the part of the study of language dealing with letters and spelling. Georgiou points out that English is an orthographically inconsistent language; in other words, letters can have more than one sound each.

Because of this, he says, children learning English “need someone to show them the letters, teach them the letter sounds, play with letter magnets on the fridge. But that’s not the case in other languages.”

Georgiou notes that students are able to learn to read faster in languages such as Greek and Finnish, because there is one-to-one correspondence between a letter and its sounds.

This difference with English, he says, implies that Greek or Finnish parents do not need to read as frequently to their children to give them an edge on learning the language, said a university release.

Simply put, Greek or Finnish children will eventually learn to read regardless of how rich the home literacy environment may be.

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