Five techniques for introducing a child to reading and the application of knowledge

Muna Kalati

The antidote dictionary defines the word apprenticeship as “the state of being an apprentice; the period of training of an apprentice; the professional training followed by an apprentice”. It is therefore a process that requires organization and stages. Children’s literature could be used to follow a real learning process from theory to practice.

Children’s books are full of knowledge that needs to be passed on to African children (medicine, gastronomy, legends, etc.). This knowledge can really enable children to progressively improve themselves and become complete and qualified people later on. For the past three years, the Muna Kalati association has been focusing on the training of young children through reading pleasure workshops carried out in collaboration with the Alliance Franco-Camerounaise of Dschang. One of the objectives is to make reading a pleasure just like watching television or practicing a fun activity. At a purely practical level, a children’s book such as La Fête des fruits, by Frida Akoa, for example, enables children to learn about fruit salad.  For this knowledge to be passed on to young readers, particular techniques need to be tried out depending on the book.

  •  Lay emphasis on the positive attributes given to characters, concepts used in children’s books, etc.

When it comes to children’s books, there are terms or concepts that are sometimes used not only in the titles, but also in the content. In this first stage, the parent who accompanies the child in reading the children’s book must intentionally insist on these terms. For example, in the book Mara, l’enfant autiste by Chimène Ngouekeu Koukam, the focus could be on the word autististe (autistic).

  • Explain to the children the meaning of these terms and concepts according to their age

The second phase is the explanation of the terms, the clarification of terminology. The advantage is that the children’s book is designed according to age.  However, this is by no means a guarantee of full mastery of the concepts the book contains. Therefore, the teacher or parent who accompanies the child in reading the children’s book should take the time to clearly explain the new word. In the above example, the parent may say that autism is a disease that creates distance between the patient and others. The affected child tends to withdraw into himself. His disability also distances other children from him. The role of the parent is therefore to make the child understand that these people must feel loved in order to overcome their disability.

  • Write these words on the paper.

To keep the child in touch with this new knowledge, it is necessary to write it on a paper. This will help him to better preserve it. The child should keep these words himself until the next step is implemented or achieved.

  • Display the words in places accessible to the children

At this stage, it is necessary to create at home a space  that is accessible to the child, a place where different words and concepts should be posted, a sort of secret board for the child, a place to store knowledge.  The child should be involved in the choice of this space. This could be the child’s room.

  • Encourage familiarization with new acquisitions.

This is where the learning of values and the construction of knowledge are crucial. For the example mentioned above, the parent can regularly communicate on the characteristics of autistic children and the attitude to adopt towards them because of their specificity. If possible, he or she can accompany the child to meet autistic children. Conducting activities with autistic children with a view to creating a climate of acceptance of difference and tolerance would also be a good approach.  We believe that with this procedure, children will gradually learn ethical and existential values. Parents should already give importance to children’s literature and understand the need to accustom children to books for their age. 

In short, we believe that it is possible to use children’s books to transmit knowledge and to promote the application of what children learn. Education is an investment in many ways. Parents must understand that, apart from the financial aspect, there is also the support aspect. This latter aspect is even crucial, because without the availability, the process of education and training of young children will be a failure.  Once awareness on these issues has been raised, a more consistent and efficient education for African children through African children’s books will be possible. 

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