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Be flexible with young children's reading

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Reading to kids helps with their literacy, that isn’t controversial, but giving students some input works even better.

“Children can be really creative in the ways they deconstruct texts. Rather than just asking questions that check that kids have understood what has been read to them, teachers can develop the outcomes from reading aloud by allowing for creative and innovative responses,” said Dr Jessica Mantei who has published recently on the subject.

Mantei and Assoc Prof Lisa Kervin from the University of Wollongong’s recent paper in the Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, focused on the ways students in preschool and kindergarten settings responded to reading aloud from educators and teachers.

Research was undertaken through observations and semi-structured interviews with educators. The settings were chosen for the diverse social and cultural backgrounds they encompassed in two settings in New South Wales as part of a larger University of Wollongong funded project focused on transforming literacy outcomes for learners (TRANSLIT).

Reading aloud to students in early education settings is an important part of the literacy journey, but it can be developed and improved.

“Of course, it is well known that we need to read to children, but their early literacy experiences would be enriched if they had input into what is read to them,” said Mantei.

The researchers observed that even when children were given some autonomy about what they are read, it was often heavily dictated by the teachers. “Engagement would increase with greater student choice, thereby improving learning outcomes.”

The research also suggests that while it is important to work towards curriculum aims, teachers also need to ensure they aren’t limiting the ways kids are interacting with texts.

“Teacher questioning that seeks specific or ‘correct’ answers restricts the possibility for diversity and imagination in children’s response,” wrote the researchers.

See: Mantei, J., & Kervin, L. (2018). Examining literacy demands for children during teacher-led episodes of reading aloud across the transition from Preschool to Kindergarten, Australian Journal of Language and Literacy.


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