Speaking and Reading to Little Ones

(Here’s another reworked post of mine from my yahoo group, Waldorf_At_Home)

In this thread I have not been saying that we shouldn’t talk to our children!! What I am saying is that there is balance needed – that parents who are completely focused on their children (child centered) instead of having a child inclusive approach (ie doing what they need to do and welcoming the children into that space and possibly including them) can tip the balance into a head-centered nervous approach with their children which can escalate into an unhealthy situation. Of course one talks to the children – as is clear in my kindergarten book – though I do believe many of us need to make room for more silence in our lives.
It’s the difference between "Ok honey, what do you want to do today? I think we’ll go to the park – but first let’s clean up the living room and – oh dear – you don’t want to do that? Ok – I’ll clean up the living room and you put your dollies back – sweetie, don’t scream like that – it hurts Mommy’s ears – oh dear — I ‘m not sure we’ll be able to go to the park now if you are still screaming…." As opposed to a mother who says (yes, speaks!) "Park day today! Here’s the duster – dust, dust, dust! Can you do that? MY, you are a good duster – here’s a spot you missed…..and sing sing sing as we work….la de dah de dah singing a work song or some other song" (ok – so that was pretty feeble – I wish you could see me act out the difference!). It’s that the former is focused on the words – and the latter is focused on the doing – and of course there are words in the latter situation, but they are just jolly words that sweep the child along instead of putting the focus on the IDEAS of whether something is going to happen or not. So there’s an issue here also about getting children to join in – give them something to imitate and nine times out of ten an under 7 will join in – give them a mouthful of words and you might just get a mouthful back!!
Of course verbal language is enormously important – that is why I emphasize in ALL my books the need to read, read, read some more to one’s children – to sing and recite poetry and verses – and that this should come primarily via another living breathing human being and not a tv or tape.  Facial gesture, the human warmth – this is vital for the young child.
Further point – and when the child is very little, under 6 or so, I’d say that there should be far more DOING accompanied by warm speech than READING. The child needs to experience things first and foremost – to get things into his or her body and to use that body and its senses as the primary vehicle for learning. If we read too much to the little child, the information and images go in via the head – and do not get a chance to be soaked up, as it were, by the physical body. This, I would say, is  a huge reason for the vast amount of children we see in our society with various kinds of nervous disorders, whether they are seated primarily in the child’s inability to concentrate or sit still, or to use his body in the way it’s meant to be used. (obviously, it is not just the fault of reading too much to a child! But if there is a picture of a child who sits more than he is active, who receives via the mind and eye more than via the other senses and his physical body – then I would say balance has been lost and the scale is dangerously tipped toward an unhealthy situation).
So again – use language when you are around your young child! Absolutely! But carry it mainly via song and verse, and accompany it as far as possible with doing, with useful work that the child can imitate.

Posted on May 14, 2006 in Active and Therapeutic Education, Family Life and Parenting, Kindergarten (and pre-K), Language Arts

  • Kirsten says:

    Nice post. I suppose I fall in between those two extremes. I don’t do the first, but I’m not particularly singsongy.

  • Lesa says:

    thank you SO much for your insightful advice — i have noticed that when i really am the most frustrated — i have sometimes broke out into song (not really thinking it will help) and all of a sudden it lightens the air, and my children seem finally interested in what i have to say! i am inherently so verbal, but i have noticed even in the adult world, i tune out others that talk too much (and, really, don’t enjoy being around them)– too much verbage wears people down – just like tv-

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