The ability to listen is the first language skill that a child acquires. This is followed by speaking, then reading and writing. If children do not develop the ability to listen proficiently, they will probably have difficulty in the other areas of language. Language is indivisible and each of the language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing are vital to the building of literacy. A whole-language approach (intergrative language system) is a philosophy which involves the bringing together of each of the language skills.
Listening and reading are receptive skills – a person recieves information, or messages, through listening and reading. Listening and reading both entail the receiving, interpretation and understnding of written or spoken messages. Therefore, being read to, plays an important part in the development of a child’s ability to read.
Reading comprehension is determined by the understanding of the spoken language. This plays a vital role in reading success. Reading should always be meaning based. In other words, a child needs to learn to read for meaning. Reading is not just a mechanical exercise. Children need to understand, or derive meaning from, what they are reading. Therefore, children need to hear the spoken language in order to build their vocabulary, become familiar with sentence structure and to enable them to make sense of, or derive meaning from, text. During the ages of 3-5, this is done through stories, poems, songs, discussion, giving instructions to follow, playing games and playing with other children.
Children must be prepared for reading long before they are taught how to read. Reading readiness cannot be rushed, but must be steadily developed by first hand experiences. Parents have an extremely important role to play in preparing children for the early stages of reading. The home should be filled with different kinds of reading materials, parents should read stories to their children daily and children should see their parents reading for pleasure.
Visual memory and recall are important pre-requisites for reading, thus parents can help prepare their children by having printed words visible around the house. This will encourage a child at any stage of assimilating new information to either fight through learning, or to flee and have it available once he or she is ready to learn. One can never say a child is too young to learn if you let the child dictate the progress.
Grossi, Lanterns & Lunchtins, pgs. 232-233