Why Repetition Builds Your Toddler’s Brain and How to Apply This to Reading in Arabic

Recently, my two-year-old started to chime in as we were reading the wonderful and funny حروفي الجميلة . Each time I’d halt in my reading, he would finish the sentence.

At first I thought: Well, he’s just looking at the pictures, isn’t he! (And sometimes, surely, he was.) But then I realized he wasn’t saying ‘otta, as if he’d seen a cat outdoors, but the proper fos’ha قط.

And sometimes he didn’t look at the pictures at all, but just rolled up his face in delight and recited the text. He was clearly delighted that he knew what I was going to say. And he was just as delighted by my “شاطر”!

Education experts agree: Repetition is a key component of pre-reading. Toddlers know this, which is why they love to hear the same books over…and over…and over.

But we can sometimes derail the repetitive effect when we “translate” books as we read (from fos’ha into 3ameya), as we often translate in a slightly different way each time. I am guilty of this: I am not properly educated, and it makes me feel silly to speak fos’ha aloud. But two-year-olds don’t like the surprise of a new version. When yesterday I accidentally interrupted his gleeful معلمة (in أيها الدب  البني، أيها الدب  البني، ماذا تري؟) with my own مدرسة , he looked crestfallen.

My two-year-old clearly enjoys books best—and gets the most out of reading them—when he can anticipate exactly what’s coming. First it’s five monkeys bouncing on the bed, and then four, and then three…and every time those silly monkeys fall off and bonk their silly heads.

Note that repetition of key phrases is not the only part of it; toddlers also like to see a pattern in how the story or rhyme was created. (The farmer takes a wife; the wife takes a child; etc. Or a repeating call and response: بابا جاي متى؟ جاي الساعة ستة. راكب ولا ماشي؟ راكب بسكلته. )

From Sean Brotherson, a Family Science Specialist at North Dakota State  (italics mine):

Few things build a child’s brain and open opportunities for learning more than consistent repetition of healthy activities or experiences. Telling the same stories and singing the same songs over and over may feel boring to you, but it is not boring to children.

Children learn through repetition. Repetition of an experience tends to set neural connections.….

a young child’s brain is “wired” to encourage repetition of sounds, patterns or experiences that provide security, and thus develop strong neural pathways in the brain that become the highways of learning. Such repetition is good for your children and a practical, easy approach to helping your child’s growth and learning.

Brotherson also notes, as to “practical application”:

Children whose parents have read to them for 10 minutes a day from age 6 months on have a brain that has received more than 300 hours of this type of stimulation by kindergarten. Read stories or show pictures to your young children over and over and over again.

حروفي الجميلة is one of my favorites for the toddler set, because 1) it’s an أبجدية book, and we can practice tracing the letters on the page (I might actually glue a bit of sandpaper on there, to enhance the effect), 2) it has a clear pattern, where one thing always turns into the next, and 3) unlike with a “story” book, there’s almost no wriggle room for me to change the text. Each time it’s the same.

This may make it a bit boring for me, at times, but for the two-year-old it’s building those neural superhighways to reading, ISA.

More tips for reading aloud with your toddler from the Reading is Fundamental website.

Other alphabet books for wee ones include أ ب ت الحيوانات from Kalimat.

Meanwhile, I just saw a new study that indicates that reading to boys is critical for their behavior, as “Boys need verbal skills for self control.”

This entry was posted in preschoolers, أبجدية and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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