Book presentation and book browsing (child-led play)
Through good presentations adults share their passion for books. Reading a picture book at any age should be a pleasurable and satisfying experience that stimulates the emotions, stretches the mind and inspires creativity. Although we cannot see into a child's mind, we know that a good book experience, even when a child is very young, leaves some lasting impression at both a subconscious and conscious level. A picture book is a dual experience in which the text carries meaning but the sequence of the narrative pictures supporting it carry more detail from which the child decodes deeper understanding and additional stimulation. The breadth of a story book experience is increased where a child has an opportunity to hold the book and pore over the text and pictures, or just the pictures in the case of children who cannot read, by themselves at their own speed. Book browsing - or child-led play with books - is a vital and often overlooked part of a book reading experience.
Most parents, and especially mothers, use presentation skills naturally everyday with their young children. They know from experience that when they take time to explain a forth coming activity, it is usually more successful. These presentation skills, which include parentese language techniques, can be transferred to introducing REALpictureBOOKS in English. A good presentation engages a child in a book experience. The teacher is the mediator between the book and the child in much the same way that a parent mediates a new experience to a young child.
A book in English needs more careful presentation than a book in home-language if it is to be successful. Children need to understand some of the English text before the book is introduced, as they quickly feel 'I can't understand' and switch off their interest. Children need to feel confident if they are to tackle something new successfully. Oral understanding of language should come before we ask children to recognise the print form of a word. Based on the age of the child and his literacy skills in his home-language, a teacher can judge at what stage a child is ready to be introduced to reading in English. However, whether or not reading is being introduced formally, some children who already read in their home-language, work out by themselves how to read English words they know orally and surprise us that they can read them. This is often the case with English rhyme books when children can already recite the rhymes in English.
· Introduce the key words or key-phrases of the story (eg animal names 'an elephant' or phrases like 'clap your hands') through a game or handwork. Don't introduce all the language as this may spoil the thrill of the story for some children.
· Practise reading the text aloud to yourself before hand. Decide which is the core text; with very young children it may be better to introduce only the core text and build in the rest of the text as you re-read the story over several sessions. Work out where you will pause to add suspense and which words you will stress taking care not to distort the reading. Decide what body language you will use to dramatise the story to make understanding easier. You need to feel confident that you know the story well so that you will not be phased by unexpected interruptions!
· To get children used to picture book activities, it is better to have a regular Book Time in your programme. Like this children can anticipate the activity and prepare themselves psychologically. Children who do not have similar book experiences in their home-language need time to learn how to get meaning and information from books (text and picture), as well as how to look and listen to the adult reader. Concentration may be short to begin with. (TV video pictures generally change every 30 seconds). With exposure children gradually learn to expand their concentration span. It is accepted that most girls find it easier than boys to sit still and listen.
· Select a comfortable and different place in the classroom to read books where children can be close enough to observe the adult's mouth movements as children pick-up information about pronunciation by watching and imitating the adult. Check that children who have problems with seeing and hearing - this includes temporary difficulties due to colds and teeth - are also close to the reader.
· Reading picture books is about constructing some personal meaning from the text and pictures. Begin the story by looking at the title page together and talking about it in both English and the home-language. When using the home-language, use English for the names of the characters and other key words and phrases in the story. Be prepared to break the story at a convenient place if children are over excited and unsettled, which may happen on special days and birthdays etc.
· Make story reading fun and interesting and enjoy it. Like this your own passion will come across; enthusiasm is infectious! Each time you re-read, speed up your reading a little, but keep it fresh. With each re-reading, children deepen their understanding of the story and gain more from it. As you re-read children pick-up more of the text by heart and they soon will be ready to add the last word or words to phrases if you indicate by hesitating and signalling that you expect them to join in. They are used to doing this in their home-language so it is only a skill transfer for them.
· Translation of some words and phrases may be necessary in the first readings. Where possible code-switch in your translation to include the key-words and key-phrases your included in your pre-presentation. Use a whisper for the translation so children get used to the idea that the translation is not permanent and will not be there when you re-read. If they know that you will translate each time you read, they may not bother to listen to the English!
· After the first reading, or as soon as possible, only read the text in English. Children have an amazing and often under-estimated ability to cope and they will try to work out using gist understanding skills what they do not understand. They do this continually in their home-language as they do not understand all adults say to them.
· Be sure to pause before you turn a page and add your own commentary like and then what happens? or look at the …. pointing to the picture. Children need time to scan the pictures if they are to decode meaning from them. However don't ask too many questions as they come between the child and the story and thus can irritate children.
· As children begin to join in they may make mistakes in pronunciation. Make no comment as criticism can de-motivate. Praise them for joining in and repeat the word back to them in the same phrase in which they have used it. They will notice the difference and correct themselves straight away or later as they are used to refining their pronunciation to match that of their parent's speech in the home-language. This is another skill transfer from the home-language.
Post -Presentation (Follow up)
· Books that children know well can be put in The English Corner or The Book Corner for everyone to pore over and enjoy. Children need time to browse and discuss books. At this stage discussion is in the home-language as few children have sufficient English to communicate ideas and feelings in depth. Many children even when talking amongst themselves using home-language switch language to include the story language in English. Children benefit from being able to borrow the books and take them home. Family involvement, interest and admiration of reading skills motivates! Some teachers make audiocassette recordings to go with the storybooks.
· Children benefit from further opportunities to discuss the story in home-language. It is important to encourage any discussion as apart from developing thought and language it helps you to know how the children think. Their opinions may be quite different from what adults imagined. In home-language discussion code-switch the English story language.
· Listen to children's ideas and suggestions as these provide clues to their interests. Child-led activities usually need hidden guidance from an adult as without this they may not develop to provide further learning opportunities. This guidance usually entails scaffolding the experience to the next higher level conceptually and linguistically.
· Be prepared to provide opportunities to draw, paint, act, dance and sing or make your own books. These activities help to consolidate the learning experience at the child's level. Be sure that children do not feel that after a lovely story they 'have to do work' which is what they sometimes say about work sheets etc. It is important to feel the mood as some books may not need any immediate follow-up, whilst others may need only a quick one.
· Include a Favourite Book Day in your programme. Let children know in advance that on this day you re-read REALBOOKs selected by them and not by you! Ask them to make their request beforehand so that you can prepare by making a list etc. Gradually develop this into a day when children take over and read their favourite picture book aloud either individually or in a group.
.Adults are the child's initial mediators of REALpictureBOOKS, but with re-presentation the adult's role diminishes as the child takes on his personal relationship with the book. The depth to which this multi-faceted relationship develops depends greatly on the quality of the adult mediator's presentation and the amount of contact, including book browsing, the child has afterwards with the book. Book browsing or child-led play with books should be the ultimate goal of a REALBOOK experience, as, like all play, it will consolidate and deepen the experience and at the same time influence the child's holistic development including his linguistic ability in his home-language as well as in English. Like all children, children learning English need to have opportunities to book browse or play with books. To do this, children need to have and hold REALpictureBOOKS in English.