[Posted on 5 September, 2017 by Carmela Miniscalco]
Every summer we go on vacation in a small Italian mountain village where time seems to stand still. In our little stone house there is an old TV that we’ll turn on when we want to get back into the swing of the Italian language. Every morning there is a news rundown on one of the TV stations where they cover current events. News are of course presented in all countries, so there is nothing special about that in itself – what’s special is the way that they’re presented! The camera focuses on the text in the news item, as the journalist uses a marker to highlight where they are in the text, all the while reading out what it says, clearly and thoroughly. We the viewers are thus able to both hear and see what is being read. Connecting the letters with the language sounds and the written text with spoken words and sentences helps me to understand a bit better and motivates me to listen that little bit harder, that little while longer. That way I am able to build up my vocabulary and understand more and more. Also, this is a recurring segment that appears on TV day after day, year after year. So besides connecting letters with sounds, interesting current events are used to continuously motivate the viewer, i.e. me, to listen, read and recognise the language, even though the language in question isn’t my native one. The end result is that I feel it improves my Italian skills, and that the learning process is facilitated with regard to both language and reading!
Both national and international research tells us that approximately 6-8% of all preschool children have language disorder and that more than half of them later acquire reading and writing difficulties. The language difficulties in the preschool children (with or without any neuropsychiatric disorder) thus have a negative, long-term impact on function and participation in everyday life.
What I’m thinking about – right in the middle of my vacation – is whether the way that this incredibly pedagogical Italian news rundown is delivered day after day might tentatively be a perfect model for continuously practising language and reading! Not just for me who is interested in learning Italian, but perhaps it would be even more suitable for the large proportion of children and adolescents with language disorder or reading and writing difficulties with and without neuropsychiatric disorders! We know, of course, that there are many other factors that are significant for a child’s development and learning, health and well-being, but this could be a way of promoting language learning.
If one could capture children’s attention at home and/or at school/preschool by presenting little factoids that they find interesting, meaningful and motivating, combining “hearing/listening” with “doing/reading” text, one might more easily be able to create an environment where the children feel motivated and excited to learn about language and reading!