How does listening affect reading?

Learn how to listen with intent

I am a mother and a speech therapist wholly and passionately fighting for children to learn how to listen! It’s terrifying; the increase in difficulties with listening skills and auditory processing in recent years and my calling is to educate as many people as I can regarding this negative trend.

Auditory and language processing refers to what our brains do with the sounds and language that we hear. We as adults, take auditory processing for granted. We focus, we listen, we hear, we retain information, we apply meaning, we plan a response, and we act.

Furthermore, we EXPECT this of our children. We expect them to know how to “Listen with Intent”; to listen, remember and process our instructions.

Here is a question for you: How can we expect this of our children if we have not taught them HOW? Is it not unfair to require them to process language accurately when the part of the brain used for listening has been left undeveloped?

In our society, the auditory centre in the left temporal lobe (the area in the brain used for language and listening) is neglected severely in the first 4 years of our children’s lives. The opportunities in our daily life where our children are required to listen and understand without having visual support is minimal! Our children are simply NOT LEARNING essential auditory skills in our current screen-dependent society!

Things to take note of:

  • To a child accustomed to a screen, imagining the movement in a book illustration is tough and tiring, and this makes focusing difficult.
  • When watching screens, a child doesn’t have to “control” his focus or attention, the content changes quickly enough that sustaining attention is not necessary. Focusing becomes difficult.
  • To a child accustomed to a screen, words or pictures on a page aren’t interesting enough to hold his attention; how does that encourage literacy?
  • To a child accustomed to a screen, the most exciting teacher is no match for a video on the iPad. It therefore does not motivate children to learn from human teachers or encourage human relationships.
  • A child watching a screen learns 6 less words per hour, than a child reading a book with a parent. Learning language may be delayed, which is linked to intelligence.
  • To a child accustomed to a screen, there has been no need to listen or recall information he has heard, because everything he needs to be entertained is visual. This sabotages pre- literacy skills.
  • To a child accustomed to a screen, a teacher talking is like watching paint dry. This does not teach a child to love learning.
  • When a baby watches a screen, they don’t apply meaning to what they watch, it’s like watching TV in a nonsense language. This teaches them that understanding is not important.
  • Screens steal constructive one on one time away from parents and children.
  • Screens TRAIN your child’s brain to “zone out” with anything other than visual input. This discourages “listening with Intent”.
  • Screen watching stops our children from being able to listen without looking. This does not encourage literacy or learning.
  • A child accustomed to a screen will not learn to “listen with intent” sufficiently enough to learn to read adequately. How is this a positive influence on our children?

Prepare your children for real life. Make them play and form firm relationships and keep screens for weekends only.

Written by Joanne Ravell – Speech Language Pathologist (BCP-SLP) UKZN

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