Reading is a fundamental skill that gives access to knowledge and alternative points of view, and also provides the foundation for success in school.
Reading opens vocational opportunities. Every child has the right to learn to read well, but in many countries, especially developing regions, there are unacceptably low levels of literacy. An estimated 750 million (approximately 10%) of the world’s adults are illiterate; two-thirds are female (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, n.d.).
The most frequent causes of illiteracy and low literacy levels
in adults are the following:
Lack of reading instruction as a child (e.g., lack of, or denial of, access to schools; inadequate reading instruction)
Difficult living conditions, including poverty
Parents with low educational attainment
Dropping out of school early (intentionally or forced)
The development of basic reading skills is one of the primary goals of elementary education.
Several things need to happen for a child to learn to read and to comprehend
things need to happen for a child to learn to read and to comprehend what she
reads, says Nadine Gaab, PhD, an HMS associate professor of paediatrics who
heads a research unit in the Laboratories for Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston
Infants must learn to process sounds.
By early kindergarten or preschool, the child must learn phonologicalprocessing, which is the ability to manipulate the sounds of language, such as adding or deleting sounds to make words.
The child must then learn to read single words and develop the vocabulary necessary to read and understand sentences and paragraphs,
and, finally, master the ability to read fluently with reasonable speed.
To put it in another way:
The child has to decode words,
The child has to have the vocabulary once she decodes the words,
The child has to know meaning of the words and
she has to read fluently so that she can comprehend a whole paragraph,” says Prof. Gaab.
“These all have to come together for successful reading comprehension.”
READING AND THE BRAIN
Children are born
with almost a full quota of neurons – white spaces (blanks) – in the brain.
Through experience these spaces are connected to increase cognitive
Best years of Life
from 1/4 at birth to fully grown at age 5
At birth, the average baby’s brain is about a quarter of the size of the average adult brain. Incredibly, it doubles in size in the first year. It keeps growing to about 80% of adult size by age 3 and 90% – nearly full grown – by age 5.
From birth to age 5, a child’s brain develops more than at
any other time in life. And early brain development has a lasting impact on a
child’s ability to learn and succeed in school and life. The quality of a
child’s experiences in the first few years of life – positive or negative –
helps shape how their brain develops.
‘the white matter pathways’
Structure of the brain – So how does this work?
Creating pathways to carry information
Neuron form part of the outer layer of the brain. The neuron consists of two parts the central body and the dendrils. The dendrils catch information, collect, scans and transfers information to the correct centres.
In this way pathways are created in the brain to pass on information and store in different regions
Storage Areas (memory)
A number of brain regions/centres are involved in reading
and comprehension. Among them are:
the temporal lobe, which is responsible for phonological awareness and for decoding and discriminating sounds;
Broca’s area in the frontal lobe, which governs speech production and language comprehension; and
the angular and supramarginal gyrus, which link different parts of the brain so that letter shapes can be put together to form words.
In order to read and comprehend, this highway system must be wide enough for multiple pieces of information to travel at the same time. The highway must also be smooth, so that information can flow at a high rate of speed. Professor Gaab says, “You don’t want the information to stop. You don’t want a lot of stop lights.”
There are several important white-matter pathways involved in reading. Professor Gaab likens these tracts to a highway system that connects the back of the brain’s reading network to the front. In order to read and comprehend, this highway system must be wide enough for multiple pieces of information to travel. The highway must also be smooth, so that information can flow at a high rate of speed. And, she says, “You don’t want the information to stop. You don’t want a lot of stop lights.”
Reading ability in young children is related to the growth of the brain’s white matter tracts which links these language centres with parts of the brain that process visual information.
Stimulate the brain
“The brain is developing the most rapidly in the first five years, and kids who have more stimulating experiences are at a huge advantage when they get to school… And it’s really harder and harder for kids to catch up if they arrive behind.”
WHAT WORKS – STIMULATING EXPERIENCE
Recent studies done by the Reading & Literacy Discovery Center of Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital provide neurobiological evidence for the potential benefits of reading and the potential detriments of screen time on a preschool child’s brain development.
Dr. John Hutton, lead author, paediatrician and clinical
researcher at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital says:
“Children are born with more neurons than they’ll ever have in their life, essentially a blank slate,” Hutton said.
“Depending on what type of stimulation the child has with caregivers
These stimuli reinforces connections between these neurons.”
Experience consolidates “hardwires” those connections in the brain, Hutton said. But any that aren’t well used are pruned by the brain and die off.
“And even though the brain can change and learn at all ages, it’s much more efficient in the first five years, and that’s why those early childhood experiences are so important,” he said.
WHAT IMPEDES LEARNING
Most people know that taking away screens and, reading to our children during the formative years of birth to age 5 boosts brain development. We all know that’s true, but now science can convince us with startling images.
A new study scanned the brains of children 3 to 5 years old
and found those who used screens more than the recommended one hour a day without
parental involvement had lower levels of development in the brain’s white
matter — an area key to the development of language, literacy and cognitive
The studies have also shown that excessive TV viewing is
the inability of children to pay attention
and think clearly, while
increasing poor eating habits and
Associations have also been shown between excessive screen
time and language delay, poor sleep, impaired executive
function, and a decrease in parent-child engagement.
So how do you
organize the child’s brain?
Taking away screens and – reading to our children during the
formative years of birth to age 5 boosts brain development.
The brain of a pre-schooler,
who is often read to by a caregiver, show a growth in organized white matter in
the language and literacy areas of the child’s brain. It is these areas that
will support learning in school. There is also the increase in organized white
matter in the language centres of the preschooler’s brain.
On the contrary the
brain of a preschooler who likely spends an average of two hours a day playing
on screens shows massive underdevelopment and disorganization of white matter
in the same areas needed to support learning in school.
In addition to brain
scans, the children were also given cognitive tests.
When it came to
screen time, kids who used screens more than one hour a day had
emerging literacy skills,
ability to use expressive language, and
lower on the ability to rapidly name objects.
contrast, children who frequently read books with their caregiver scored higher
on cognitive tests.
Screen time, on the other
hand, gets in the way of more than reading, “such as playing with toys,
using imagination and going outside,” Hutton said, “thus interfering
with all kinds of activities that would benefit different parts of the brain
that aren’t just related to reading.”
What type of reading was
“What really seemed
to drive the bus, at least based on this analysis, is just showing up and doing
it — reading to your child on a regular basis,” Hutton said. “And,
to me that takes a lot of pressure off parents to find the perfect book. Just
keep reading in a loving and consistent way.
How to read to
your preschool child
There’s no one
“best” way to read to your child, say experts. But research does
provide some tips on what may work best to engage and entice your child to love
books and reading.
Start from birth by talking to your child and
responding to their attempts to “baby talk”
Sing the ABC song
Have your child use their imagination and
make up stories — and ask lots of questions about those invented tales
Pick books with interesting characters — and
don’t be afraid to role play with different accents and voices for the
Have your child point to pictures and words
and repeat them
Most important — enjoy yourself!
This article is
informed by an article posted by CNN
This is your
child’s brain on books: Scans show benefit of reading vs. screen time by
Sandee LaMotte, CNN
Updated 1114 GMT
(1914 HKT) January 16, 2020
From preconception through the formative early years it is essential to safeguard and maximize children’s developmental outcomes
This introduction to reading will investigate:
innate nature and personality
Early Childhood Development (ECD)
فطرة – Fitra” or “fitrah”
(Arabic), is the state of purity and
innocence and a natural disposition
Many of these traits can be observed in young children.
Children are often referred to as innocent – meaning they are naive, harmless, guiltless or blameless etc. So how and when do any changes in their natural disposition occur? These changes occur after exposure.
Now we may ask: Are all children not the same?
A child is a composite human being, inheriting
characteristics from the mother, father and some features that are unique to
itself. Then these characteristics are manipulated through exposure. This
exposure occurs prenatal and after birth.
meaning “to do beautiful things”
It is a matter of
taking one’s inner faith and showing it in both deed and action, a sense of
social responsibility borne from religious convictions.
During the second month this
neural tube begins to differentiate into brain cells and nerve cells. The
brain cells transform into recognizable brain structures. The most notable is
the outer layer called the cerebral cortex.
By the third month the embryo
display reflexes and also reacts to its environment.
At the end of the first trimester,
hormones are released that will determine whether development will continue
to occur as male or female.
By the fifth month, the foetus is
learning to control its reactions to these sensory sensations and to control
By six months the brain becomes fully
developed. Even though the brain has not reached its full size, most of the
neurons (nerve cell) within the central nervous system are present. These
nerve cells conduct electrical impulses (i.e. send messages).Significantly it is during this period that
the foetus begins to prepare itself for the outside world. The foetus can
experience sensory sensations such as sound, taste, and smells. The ability to consciously react to sensory
sensations becomes even stronger during the sixth month. During the sixth month, another major mark of
brain development occurs; the cerebral cortex splits into two separate
hemispheres. Some researchers believe that, at this stage,
the foetus develops the ability to remember.
At birth 80 percent of the brain is developed and consist of 100 billion neurons or brain cells.
This means that during every minute of the pregnancy period at
least 250,000 brain cells are created!
Because of this rapid pace of development, proper prenatal care
is essential to the development of an unborn child’s brain.
During this process i.e. during the prenatal and postnatal,
the child is being prepared for the world around it and evidently the child
will be what the parent exposes it to.
Early Childhood Development
ECD is the net result of ongoing interactions between
biology of children and environments
The early years are critical, because this is the period in
life when the brain develops most rapidly and has a high capacity for change,
and the foundation is laid for health and wellbeing throughout life.
care is provided in a stable environment,
being sensitive to children’s health and
providing protection from threats,
providing opportunities for early learning, and
interactions that are responsive, emotionally supportive and developmentally stimulating.
stable, responsive, and nurturing caregiving;
safe, supportive, environments;
and protection from violence, neglect and abuse.
This is what is at the heart of children’s potential to develop
Why is there so much emphasis on ECD?
From preconception through the formative early years it is essential
to safeguard and maximize children’s developmental outcomes
recognize and work with the sounds of spoken language
Cognitive – relating to, being, or involving conscious
intellectual activity (such as thinking, reasoning, or remembering
[i] In Islam, ihsan is the Muslim responsibility to obtain
perfection, or excellence, in worship, such that Muslims try to worship God as
if they see him, and although they cannot see him, they undoubtedly believe
that He is constantly watching over them. That definition comes from the Hadith
of Gabriel in which Muhammad states, “[Ihsan is] to worship God as though
you see Him, and if you cannot see Him, then indeed He sees you”.
(Al-Bukhari and Al-Muslim)