Just reading a Times online review of Proust and the Squid: The Story of Science and the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf. Steph at Crooked House has been talking about this one and I'd happily be reading the actual book if I had it to hand.
Here's a little of the review:
Meanwhile, Wolf offers practical advice to parents on how to encourage children’s reading. Being talked to, read to and listened to all matter. It is estimated that, by the age of five, a child in a home where lots of talking goes on will have heard 32m more words spoken than a child in a linguistically impoverished household. How often a child has stories read to it in its first five years is a dependable predictor of its later reading skills, and how the reading is done makes a difference. Sitting on a parent’s knee to be read to means that the child will link reading with being loved. Nursery rhymes, with their alliterations and assonances, train children’s ears and brains in the phoneme recognition that they need for reading.
Unfortunately, Wolf’s advice will not reach those who need it most. What her findings amount to is that many children are already failures before they go to school, because they come from semi-literate, semi-articulate homes. How to alter that (short of Plato’s solution, which was to take all children from their parents at birth and bring them up properly), nobody knows.
There's something a little funny about all of this. Maybe it's the idea it gave me that I'd only had a child so I could "read to it." But mostly, this kind of research just serves to tell us what we already know - the first years are key and that children raised in non-reading homes miss out on that critical period.
But is there really nought to be done? Here's a link to an article
I wrote ages ago about Mother Goose programs.
And here's the site for the Canadian Parent-Child Mother Goose program.
Here's what they say about the history of the program:
In 1984, Barry Dickson, a social worker and storyteller who worked with a large caseload of families who had barriers to bonding, and Joan Bodger, a therapist and storyteller, planned a pilot project that would serve families identified as “at risk” by the Toronto Children’s Aid Society, a child protection agency. The Mother Goose Enrichment Program was based on Barry’s experiments using rhymes and stories with the children in his care and on Joan’s experience in the New York City Head Start Program and her deep conviction of the value of using rhymes and stories orally with children and adults. Celia Lottridge and Katherine Grier, both storytellers and educators, taught in the program with Joan.
The idea was to begin at the beginning with the relationship between parent and baby or young child, and to use the pleasure and power of rhymes, songs and stories taught and experienced orally in a group setting to nurture the parent-child relationship and to foster family wellness.
It kind of makes so much sense it hurts. Also, while I have you here, have you read Joan Bodger's autobiography, The Crack in the Teacup? You'll have to read How The Heather Looks first, but really you should be reading that one anyhow.
And here is a very nice Mother Goose rhyme, courtesy of Barbara Reid's latest book: