By Dr. Debbra Lindo
As a retired English teacher, Superintendent of Schools, parent and grandparent I was delighted to be introduced to Dr. Grace Carroll’s new children’s book series on literary devices. The first book in the series, Akira’s Animal Alphabet Alliterations, disrupts one’s thinking about the perceived difficulty children might have in concept mastery, particularly in grasping complex literary terms. Au contraire, this book series makes reading and learning truly enjoyable.
The Oxford dictionary defines alliteration as, “the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words, as in, “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers…” Alliteration, bar none, is one of the most commonly used, yet misunderstood literary devices in the English language. It is difficult to teach so it seems appropriate that Dr. Carroll would start with it. From A-Z, the animals that little Akira, who by the way, is not just cute but smart, encounters, i.e., the Lazy Lion Lounging to the Tyrannosaurus Thinking Triangle with their colorful and amusing illustrations helps children to not only smile but make meaning out of complex language and terms. As an educator and administrator I would encourage all elementary schools in the country to adopt this series. It sets the tone for the new 21st Century critical thinking skills that are part of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
There have been multiple studies written on the importance of early literacy, phonemic awareness and language acquisition. These skills have become predictors of reading comprehension in a child’s later school years. Preschoolers and elementary school-age children, who are read to early, read, write and listen better in school. They are also more likely to develop as strong readers in later years.
Dr. Carroll has latched onto something even more important than reading for reading’s sake and that is the big idea of making meaning out of sounds, words and symbols. I have two elementary school-age granddaughters-one reads incredibly well, yet (thus far), finds little joy in the written word. In fact, she sees it more as a utility or tool to get her other homework done. Rather than something she should love. Contrast that with her sister, a bookworm, who is a voracious reader, who can’t put a book down once she starts reading it. After examining a few pages of Akira’s Animal Alphabet Alliterations, my granddaughter had her own aha moment. She said, “Ogee, is the Wicked Witch of the West an alliteration too? In that instant, she got the significance of a complex literary term and device! We played around creating a few more alliterations of our own and my “utility reader grand daughter” joined in the fun. Look out simile and metaphor; with no hyperbole intended, this is a Super-fantastic book. I am looking forward to collecting the entire series. As I gobble up goo gobs of goodies in department store for Christmas, Kwanzaa, Eid and Hanukkah, this book will definitely be in the grandkids holiday stockings. If I were you, I would Run, Don’t Walk, to be one of the first on the block to share this incredible book series with children I love.
By Linda Spears-Bunton, Ph.D.
Florida International University
College of Education
Let me begin by saying that when talking about learning to read at an early age, means beginning at birth. If I had my way, every child would come home from the hospital with a small library of lovingly selected children’s books. Like oral, language, which linguists have demonstrated can be observed within about 12 hours of birth, infants mimic the mouth movements of adults—doing what we all do—holding our face close to baby’s, making sounds –-almost instinctively in the high pitched tonal frequency babies can hear, and saying words—sometimes nonsense, sometimes not. The point is, babies and their adult caretakers and admirers establish a communication pattern that is critical to their survival and intricately linked to our understanding of the babies needs. Reading too, is a socially constructed linguistic practice; learning to read can, and I believe should, begin in infancy.
Most teachers through training and experiences have come to understand the power and the payoff of reading early and often to their children. Moreover, they expect that the parents of other people’s children have, or should have had, the same experiences and the same success as their own children. And while I think it is justifiable to argue with this presumption of sameness, there are points of departure where most, if not all of us can find common ground. Simply stated, they are the following:
- Learning to read is the most precious and enduring gift every adult can give freely and easily to a child. The ability to read shares the importance scale with healthy food, shelter, adequate clothing and love;
- Reading is the foundation for everything else a child will be asked to do both in and out of school. That is, to think, write, speak, make judgments, enumerate and decipher words critically and accurately;
- While are indeed three centuries beyond the criminalization of persons of African descent for even knowing how to read, the reliable failure of schools across the country to teach children, especially children of color and children of the poor to read, write or think critically, schools produce an astoundingly consistent high out put of children who can not read, who are labeled Special Education classes, largely because of their reading scores.
- The cost of teaching a child to read from infancy through elementary school is about 30 minutes a day. The payoff a lifetime of literacy and empowerment.
Teaching a young child to read is a gift that gives and multiples for a lifetime.
Ironically, teaching young children to read is as easy as cuddling up with a little one in a quiet anyplace with a book in hand. I always recommend beginning in infancy and using nursing time, or bottle time to relax and read aloud. The goal is for the child to associate reading, with comfort, physical satisfaction, building confidence in their own competence and your love. Machinery can never replace the warmth, immediacy, sensual presence or voice that identify a loving presence. As the pattern of reading repeats over time, even very young children will begin to exhibit the pattern of reading—pointing at familiar objects, babbling words in a mimic of the adults or older sibling’s voice, insisting on holding the book and turning the pages, repeating favorite lines on cue, finishing sentences, holding the book upright and asking for a story by name. Teaching young children to read situates unlimited possibilities in the minds as both enjoyable and achievable.