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  • Skribentens bildSuzanne Axelsson

The power of a name...

One of the things I have noticed on my visit to Greece is my inability to read Greek... its a completely different alphabet... while I was in Istanbul many of the letters (not all) were similar to the ones I know (English and Swedish) - so I was able to make out the words...

Here in Athens that has been harder... What I have also noticed is that names are an amazing way to learn to read.

The children at Dorothy Snot school have a drawer with their name on it in the rooms... a place to put drawings and other important things.

The children shared their names with me, the teachers used the children's names... and as the child went to their drawers during the course of the day I could work out what sounds went with what written name... it took only a few names to be able to then work out all the other names... to work out the phonetics of the alphabet and then to start applying this to other signs in the classroom, and also on the streets and in shops!! Slowly I am picking up Greek, naturally.

I have also observed over the years how children have learned the alphabet through names too... one year olds would start with "their letter" the first letter of their name, and have great pride for this letter. They share it with their peers, who share their's with them... suddenly the children know a whole bunch of letters. Over time they learn the first letter of their parent's names... and other names and words that are important to them... their ability to recognise the alphabet increases. Naturally.

Even more time and the children recognise all the letters in their name... develop the hands strength through play and climbing and art... to be able to hold and control a pen to write their own names... and the names of those that are important to them.

What I find is that young children are, in some places, being pushed into learning to recognise, read and write key words too soon... they maybe are key to an academic approach to education, but maybe not so meaningful to the child.

An engaged child, one learning in a meaningful way is going to be able to read and write naturally without formal lessons... just about every child I have met has shown an interest in reading and writing - unless turned off by the pressure and stress of having to learn too soon. I have never "taught" anyone to read and write, but I have supported the process so that children have been able to recognise letter, and communicate through writing and reading. Usually it starts with one or two and its contagious and spreads throughout the group... by the time my preschoolers leave me they are all writing - the minimum their name, often more... By retuning to a state of not being able to read (the Greek alphabet) it has given the opportunity to revisit how we learn to read and write, and how strong our desire to communicate is.

For me this is an example of original Learning... of a desire to learn, that working it out was like play, not just work. And I see many young children "play school" in order to practice their writing and reading...

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