Bringing literacy to the very young

Date published: 2008-08-28 2:44:19 PM

Imagine a new way to teach young children to read—one that takes advantage of their natural love of song and dance, and is astonishingly successful.

In 2003, working on a SSHRC-funded study, Thompson Rivers University researcher Patrick Walton made just such a discovery. He found that “jingle”-style singing helped kindergarten-age children learn and remember written words with astonishing accuracy.

The following year, Walton extended his research. He created a series of simple rhyming musical jingles and used them to increase kindergartners’ literacy skills. Over a six-week period, learning for just two 20-minute study sessions per week, 73 per cent of the five-year-olds, including one autistic child, were reading. They were able to read not only the words Walton showed during the study sessions, but also words they’d never seen before.

Walton, who has Aboriginal ancestry, is now focusing his work on improving reading skills among Aboriginal children. He reports that the work has created unprecedented collaboration between Thompson Rivers University and local Aboriginal communities.

Patrick Walton, education, Thompson Rivers University