Onomatopoeias Make Learning to Read Fun


Children love to use onomatopoeia — words that imitate the sounds they are describing. There’s the vroom of car engines, the beep or honk of cars, the clang of a trolley car, and the tick tock of clocks. Onomatopoeia is a great way to instill a love of reading early in kids.

Many animal sounds are examples of onomatopoeia: “meow,” “quack,” “chirp,” “oink,” “neigh,” “ribbet” and “roar.” What’s great about all these words — plus additional ones, like “boom,” “zoom,” “buzz,” “bang” and “click” — is children can shout them out or say them with a lot of expression. Turn your kids loose to read these words once they become familiar with them in frequently read comics or books.

Q. We’re having a battle in our home. I tell the children they’d be able to do homework and prepare for tests better and faster if they stop text messaging their friends at the same time. They tell me they are good at multitasking and can easily do more than one thing at a time. Are they right?

— Against Multitasking

A. People can walk and chew gum at the same time. And they can talk on a cell phone and sort clothes. But there are limitations to multitasking when tasks are more demanding, because you aren’t really doing two tasks simultaneously but switching rapidly from one to the other.

Researchers have used brain imaging to see what is happening when young people multitask. Their studies have shown the ability to do more than just mindless tasks at the same time is a myth. Your children cannot focus on their schoolwork and text message at the same time. Their brains shift between these tasks. And the more difficult the tasks are, the longer it takes to readjust between them.

While children can learn while multitasking, their learning is far less efficient and less long-lasting. They would do better to study for 20-30 minutes and then take an electronic break. This is especially true if they are working with difficult material they wish to remember for a long time.

There does seem to be one exception to multitasking pitfalls. Listening to background music while studying actually may improve concentration by masking distracting noises.

Q. My 4-year-old has absolutely no interest in doing any kind of schoolwork. She doesn’t seem to be learning anything at school. I try to teach her letters and numbers, but she soon forgets them. She is doing well in school and is well-liked by the teacher and her classmates, but do you think she has a learning disability?

— No Letters or Numbers

A. Young children change rapidly. What they can’t or don’t want to do today, they may easily do in a month or two. Instead of worrying about teaching your daughter letters and numbers now, do things that are fun and will prepare her to learn to read and handle numbers. Work now on increasing her natural desire to learn. Plan diverse activities that will let her learn what the world is like.

Forcing your child to work with letters and numbers now could turn her off learning them before she even gets to kindergarten. Instead, read to her every day and teach her rhymes. Read signs to her and call her attention to words in story books so she begins to get the idea that print has meaning. As far as math goes, the first steps to learning this subject are the sorting, ordering, matching, and counting of objects.

Your child is actually learning a lot in preschool. She has learned how to get along with the teacher and her classmates, and she is learning how to behave at school.