Aba Brandful is an educator from Ghana. She is also mother to Ariel (8) and Anelle Dinah (5) who both began to read at age 3. Amongst other things she is impassioned when it comes to reading and teaching children other than her own children how to read.
At what age do you think children should start reading?
I would say it depends on the child, but I recommend starting as early as possible
At what age did your children start reading, and why did you start at that age?
I made them start reading at the tender age of three. Their father is the one who thought that it was wise to make them start reading as early as possible. He encouraged me to familiarize them with reading at that age
At what age did they start reading by themselves?
It took about a year. By age four they started to read by themselves
What was teaching them like, and did they pick it up right away?
They read books according to their age, like the ‘Pam Naps’ books and they progressed from then onwards. They picked it up quite quickly and I noticed that they were using words other children their age are not familiar with
Were there any challenges, if so, what were they?
Yes, the primary challenge was their interests. The more their interests develop and as they venture into other activities, the desire to read may fade
What are some tips and tricks that you use to get your children to read?
I put words up around the house for them to constantly see and read to remind them of the new words that they have learned. I also make use of children’s television programmes that help them visualise and acquaint themselves with new words
Why do you think it’s important for children to start reading at an early age?
They learn new words and expand their vocabulary from a young age. Sometimes they will learn new words from cartoons and without reading they would not be able to spot those new words. Anelle will hear or see a word and try to put it in a sentence and if she cannot, she will ask to know the meaning so that she can put the word into context. Reading also helps them in other school subjects, such as mathematics. It helped my son to get ahead as he is in a grade ahead of his peers.
Reading also helps them with comprehension and command of the English language and other languages. It also helps them with the ability to articulate exactly what they want to say.
How do you keep them focused on reading?
I try to limit the reading time to what is appropriate for their age. For instance, four-year-olds have a shorter attention span so I would recommend making them focus at two minute intervals
How do you whet your children’s reading appetite?
I let them read books and literature related to their personal interests. I also give them incentives and challenges. I recently challenged them to read 25 books and my daughter was excited and read faster than my son to get the prize. Ariel prefers to take his time
Do you let them pick the books they want to read?
Yes, I do, and I encourage them to read books with topics related to what they are into at the time. Right now, my son is interested in sports and my daughter likes fairies so I pick books that I know resonate with those fascinations
What prompted you to start the Reading Club initiative? When did you start it?
The love I have for teaching drove me to do it. I felt that if I could do it for my children I could extend that to other children too. It gives me a lot of joy as I teach Sunday school as well. I saw that a lot of children don’t like reading but reading is important for comprehension and the ability to comprehend is important in all aspects of life and it’s a vital life skill. I started Reading Club in 2015.
Do you get your own children involved in the storytelling sessions?
Yea, they like to be involved in what their peers are doing and it’s not difficult to get them to participate in Reading Club. Ariel, my son joins the advanced readers and does comprehension and creative writing with them as they do not struggle with reading and read on their own. Anelle is five but not a beginner reader, so she joins the intermediate readers and they are able to read on their own and use words they recognise to formulate basic sentences.
Do you have anything else that you would like to share with us or encouragement for parents and educators who work in literacy?
To sum it up in one word: consistency. Consistency is key in what you want your children to be able to do. If you want to raise readers, be consistent. You should not stop doing it once they start school. It’s up to parents to nurture the readers. Children do what they see their parents doing. You also need to do what you want you children to do. If you want them to read, they must see you reading. Personally, I was not a reader but now I read because I want them to be readers and my husband is also a reader.
This blog was written by Booksie's Writing Intern, Bandile Mathebula