Child's Genius
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International Parenting Association


Early Learning Pathways

Reading Preparation in Infancy
First phase of the absorbent mind (birth - 3 years)

Dr. Maria Montessori revealed to the world that the child from birth through age six has an absorbent mind. Not everyone may know that Montessori divides the absorbent mind into two phases. She says that in the first phase (infancy to pre school) the child’s mind functions at the unconscious level. In the second phase, or preschool stage, we see the mind as functioning largely from the subconscious level. This explains why young children are creatures of feeling, rather than reason, and why they act on impulse. Finally, when a child turns seven it is said that the child has reached the age of reason, meaning that he is able to function as a conscious, rational being. Still he has a long way to go before he can function as autonomously as the adult, as his life experience and knowledge base is far less than that of an adult, and the child has much to learn.

With the exception of the impressions a child may have absorbed while in the womb, the child comes into the world knowing nothing. The mind begins forming from this base of nothingness. The unconscious mind has vast space with which to take in, or absorb, an inconceivable amount of data. The unconscious mind of the child will absorb any amount of information it is provided— and will do so without a single thought to discriminate or attempt to screen the data, as to the content and value of the information. This explains why young children must be protected from unwholesomeness and shielded from negative vibrations, and why we want only positive surroundings for the child.

The impressions and information that the young child absorbs FORM the mind, the character, and the personality of the individual. It is crucial that order, beauty, harmony, symmetry, love, joy and peace surround the child and that he not be exposed to violence, profanity, discord or parental argumentation. The child will absorb whatever feelings and behavior patterns he comes in contact with. Dr. Montessori points out that it is the healthy mind that will solve the problems of humanity, not the mind that deviates from the norm of optimum health.

Since the television has become more vile and violent with the passing of time, a baby or young child should not be in a room where there is a TV playing. Parents have little, if any, control over program and advertising content or what will be absorbed by the mind of the child. Today’s pediatricians are recommending that young children not watch TV at all.
Studies show that preschoolers behave more aggressively than usual in their play after watching any high-action or exciting television content, especially after watching violent television. Furthermore, there is disturbing evidence that TV RADIATION impairs child brain development.

Parents need to take a look at rock music and popular music, also, in relationship to the absorbent mind of the child and ask themselves if they really want what is expressed in the adult lyrics and jagged rhythms of much of this ‘music’, streaming into the baby’s mind and molding its consciousness—forming its attitudes and shaping its world view and philosophy of life? On the other hand, it is the best of CLASSICAL MUSIC that babies thrive on, which is stimulating, uplifting, harmonious and beneficial to the mind and total being of the individual. For instance, baroque largo music has been shown to improve mental functioning and accelerate learning.

Finally, we might take a look at how to positively work with the absorbent mind and aim at developing it to its best advantage. Flashcards are one of the best ways of providing valuable information for the baby’s absorbent mind. Flashcards are easy to use with infants because infants really are the most captive audiences. They ‘stay put’, plus they enjoy the stimulation of being shown flashcards. And babies especially love the interaction with their mommies and daddies.

The Alphabet Song
To prepare a child for reading begin by singing the Alphabet Song and reciting the alphabet soon after the child is born. The Alphabet Song names all the letters of the alphabet from A to Z. Sing the Alphabet Song for the child, over and over again, and recite the alphabet every chance you get.

The Alphabet
By the time the baby has heard this song and recitation several times he will begin to have a burning desire to know what A, B, C, etc. is all about. When you show the alphabet flashcards the baby will look intently, as the song and recitation will have sparked a great interest. You can show ten or more (or less) flashcards at a time depending upon how long it takes you to present them and the attention span, or interest, of the baby. (Click to read more about presenting flashcards.) One or two times are all you need to show the alphabet flashcards to the child with periodic review for reinforcement and retention. Continue singing the Alphabet Song until the child can sing it with you and continue to sing it with him. When you are sure the child knows the song ask him to sing it for you, and continue to ask him to sing it for you from time to time.

Still, after naming the letters, the alphabet remains a mystery, as strange marks on a page do not mean much. Nevertheless the baby is interested, he’s curious and we couldn’t ask for a more perfect or attentive learner. After showing the alphabet flashcards one or two times and naming the letters you can move on to the next piece of the reading puzzle. The baby will be eager to know more and will be pleased and grateful when he is given the sounds that the letters represent. (Letters are called phonograms when they are used to represent sounds. The sounds that phonograms represent are called phonemes.) The baby will still be wondering what it’s all about, even with the giving of phonemes. Don’t be concerned, however, because now the child is even more vitally interested in the mystery.

To clarify our terminology, the word phonogram means, “a character representing a speech sound”. The letters of the alphabet, when they are used as characters representing speech sounds, are called phonograms. The phoneme is the actual sound the letter, which is now called a phonogram, represents.

When presenting phonograms give one sound, only, for each phonogram. For example, the first phoneme for phonogram “c” sounds like /k/, not /s/, and short vowels are taught rather than long vowels, which will all come later. (Download free Alphabet Phonograms from this site and find out which phonemes to teach first.) By the time you have shown and named the letters of the alphabet and have given the most common phoneme for each alphabet-phonogram, the child will be moving swiftly through the mystery—but in his mind, it is not completely solved. Again, don’t be concerned, because the child wants to pursue the mystery unto the end.

To digress for just a moment, don’t be sidetracked by the argument that letter sounds should be taught FIRST and that letter names should come much later. In fact, some authorities even claim that knowing the names of the letters is not important until the child begins formal schooling!

The baby who has heard the Alphabet Song repeatedly will have much interest in letters and will already know their names, which will assist him greatly in learning to recognize the letters of the alphabet by sight, as well as in identifying phonograms and hearing their phonemes. The very names of most of the letters contain the corresponding phonemes and will help the child to remember a phonogram’s phonemic content. Besides this, being able to name and recognize the letters of the alphabet will prepare the child for writing, spelling and alphabetizing.

Phonemic awareness
Many consonant letters are difficult to pronounce without adding a vowel sound, and more importantly, are difficult for the untrained ear of a baby to hear, even when pronounced skillfully by the parent. That is why repetition is necessary and babies need their parents to speak to them distinctly. Singing and reciting the alphabet to the infant trains the infant ear to hear the alphabet phonemes and makes up for shortcomings that a parent may have in his ability to articulate certain consonant sounds. Since the names of the letters contain these phonemes this is yet another good reason why parents aught to sing and recite the alphabet over and over again for the baby.

Dr. Maria Montessori points out that infants need parents to speak slowly and with precise pronunciation. Parents should always speak in a pleasant tone of voice to the baby. A baby is very intent on watching a parent’s mouth and lips whenever the parent speaks to him. Speaking to the baby slowly and taking care to articulate each sound (phoneme)is essential to the child’s development of phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness, which is the ability to hear the specific and distinct sounds of speech. is necessary if the child is to become a successful reader.

The final puzzle piece of the reading puzzle will come when you explain to the baby that the letters with their sounds combine to make words, which are units of speech. You begin again with the “a” flashcard and hold it up for the child to see. With slow precision, the parent identifies the phonogram by making the sound /a/ (as in cat). On the other side of the flashcard is the word “at”, which you will show the baby next. (The child has just been reminded that “a” says /a/ and he has already been told in a previous session that “t” says /t/.) Holding the flashcard steady and at the child’s eye level, say the word “at” with precise pronunciation. Then say the word again more slowly, pronouncing the two phonemes in a drawn-out, segmented manner (/a/ - /t/) while pointing to the letters as you say them. Then blend the sounds together again and say the word “at’ as one word. As you blend the two phonemes, move your index finger under the word from left to right in the same direction as the eyes would move in reading the word.

Follow through in this manner with the rest of the phonogram/word flashcards. You may take anywhere from one to five (or more) flashcards at a time, depending upon the baby’s attentiveness and how long it takes you to go through the presentation. Do not go beyond the number of flashcards the baby will enjoy seeing, as pressure or force will negatively imprint the child. By the time you are using the Intermediate and Advanced Phonogram/Word flashcards, the baby will be learning words at the same time he is learning phonograms. You can move on to Intermediate Phonogram/Word flashcards when you finish with the Alphabet Phonogram/Word flashcards and have gone through them a couple of times with the baby. Occasional review of old phonograms will keep them in the fore of the mind, which will make for a more conscious transition into the preschool stage, and will accelerate the child’s ability to work with the preschool learning games and materials.

By going through the alphabet, phonograms and words in an orderly, logical sequence with your baby, by use of flashcards, you will be preparing your child for early reading, as the information will be absorbed by the baby’s unconscious, absorbent mind. When the child turns three or enters the second phase of the absorbent mind and needs to work with hands-on learning materials (children at this stage are called “hand-minded”) the information, already being in the mind, will find its way out into expression with far greater ease than the child who did not have the benefit of flashcards in infancy. The child who had the benefit of flashcards in the first phase of the absorbent mind will be accelerated way beyond average.

Reading by age two
In fact, children can begin reading by age two because many children have learned to read by age two and three, and because Glenn Doman discovered that the center for reading is in the same area of the brain as the center for speech. Both reading and speech are in the Language Center of the brain and these two functions of language will develop simultaneously, if the child is given the opportunity to learn to read. Talking to the baby, or imputing verbal language, results in the baby learning to speak. Showing and naming alphabet flashcards, then presenting phonograms with their phonemes, and then adding words is the logical and most effective way to feed information to the baby’s absorbent mind that will empower a child with reading skill. (Download alphabet-phonogram/word flashcards.)

Preschool reading games and materials
Nevertheless, we recommend that preschool age children, even if they are already reading, go all the way through with the preschool reading activities, which they will probably go through very quickly. Having hands-on experience will multiply and reinforce learning, as the child will take it in kinesthetically, making learning more powerful and dynamic. By using the preschool materials the child can pick up any stitches he may have dropped along the way, and he can become strong in any area where he may have lacked strength. Starting with the basic materials gives the child valuable experience in working with learning games and materials and provides a good foundation for work with more advanced materials, such as the materials to learn grammar.

Having a huge advantage
Children who are early readers have a huge advantage over children who do not learn to read until they enter grade school. Early readers are the most successful students in their class. Early readers have confidence, a positive mental attitude and self-esteem—all key elements for happiness and success.

A book for PRESCHOOL reading instruction




Her 10-year-old
son mysteriously knew lots of things in school he couldn't remember ever having learned!
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