I have noticed that many mums strive to teach their children to read, in my opinion, quite early. Can you explain what benefits this practice offers? What does the child need to know before he or she is taught to read?
Everything I explain below pertains to children over the age of three, who speak Russian quite well or fluently.
I believe the most convincing factors in teaching a child, who does not live in the Russian speaking culture, to read in Russian early, are the development of phonemic awareness of Russian language and minimization of the foreign accent. Obviously, it helps to further develop the language and offer a child an opportunity to read in a language, which at that point is still stronger. But, in my opinion, the first two factors are more important.
Prior to learning to read, it is important that the child completes the pre-alphabetic phase and develops a firm understanding of Russian phonology, ie. child’s phonological awareness must be very well developed prior to the beginning of regular lessons.
In practice, a child should be able to:
- distinguish and accentuate the first sound in a word, even better, the last sound also. Not only vowels, consonants also, including voiceless consonants;
- differentiate between words, which begin with a soft (palatalized) consonant sound and a hard (plain) consonant sounds;
- recognise words, which begin with a same initial sound;
- break down words into syllables, by clapping along when speaking;
- identify and make rhymes;
Again, it is important to point out that the list above refers to a child, who speaks Russian at a native or close to native level.