Dr. Gerald Deskin, Ph.D.
The sad news is that despite all the advertising you cannot raise a child genius if your child does not have the innate ability to learn. The good news is that you can stimulate your child by relaxing and playing with him/her. Talking and reading with your child are also excellent ways of stimulating a child's brain. Age appropriate toys are stimulating to a child's sensory-motor abilities. As soon as a child is born there is a rapid development of the child's senses. Seeing, hearing, touch and tasting all are developing avenues for your child to learn. The child begins to put everything in his/her mouth as a way of learning about it. As a child gets teeth everything is tasted or bitten as a way of learning more about it. This is a way a child learns. As a child's senses develop there is not much use in trying to teach a child to read or calculate, because there are other tasks to complete first.
Children can benefit from being read to at any age. For those of us who work with learning disabled children it is clear that a major weakness is in reading and reading comprehension. If parents wish to stimulate their children at an early age the best task of all is to instill a love of reading. Read to your child daily until they are able to enjoy reading by themselves and even longer. We all love stories. For generations before books knowledge was transmitted primarily through stories and the wandering storytellers were much admired and listened to. A child learns to love reading by emulating parents. As you sit and read daily so will your child model their behavior after you. In some families reading out loud is carried on longer than childhood as something that the family does together. It is this love for reading and listening to reading that stimulates a child intellectually.
Read to your child every night before bedtime. What is important about this process is not only the intellectual advantage your child has by being read to, but the closeness that develops between parent and child. Your child may ask questions about what you are reading about. This discussion becomes an important part of your child's learning. As this process continues your child will develop the urge to read on his/her own. Bright children are those that read because they love to read and to learn.
Children learn from many sources as well as reading. Children learn from television, from movies, from friends, teachers and from listening and looking at everything in their life. However, being read to initially becomes the cornerstone of learning for the child that leads to reading by oneself. There have been geniuses in the past that have not been readers, but that time is passing. As life becomes more complex those children who are early readers have a clear advantage over those who do not.
The feelings that develop between a child and a parent who reads to them only add to the usual feelings a child has for a parent. We all have memories of our parents. The feelings of being with a parent who reads to us are especially strong and remembered with a certain joy.
Suggestions for parents:
1. Read to your children nightly even before you are sure they understand what you are reading about.
2. Be ready to answer your child's questions about what you have read.
3. Remember that children who are read to will want to learn to read on their own.