Gauteng father helps boost his children's academic performance through reading
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By: Gig Mensah
Although not every child is born a bookworm, a young father in Sebokeng discovered every child loves to feel part of a story. Through this discovery, Dillo Mahaotsane has helped his previously under-performing children learn to love reading, and in turn, they have unexpectedly reaped many behavioural and academic benefits.
Mahaotsane said it was after teachers at Mosioa Primary school in Evaton informed him that his four children; Bontle (7), Tshekgofatso (6), Thabo (7), Bokamoso (7), were lagging in class that he had attempted to find solutions.
Having never tried to engage with his children academically before, per the teacher's advice, he began reading prescribed educational books to his children but noticed his children refused to engage.
“I went to try and teach my kids the book that they gave them to study. Only to find out that no man, my kids are struggling to understand what I am trying to give them,” explained Mahaotsane.
Out of frustration, Mahaotsane reached out to his employer, Lauren Richer, who brought in the help of a Lecturer at Wits School of Education, Dr Theresa Giorza.
Giorza suggested he read to his children in a manner that made books fun and that cultivated imagination.
“I was quite aware that when you suggest that you read to children, sometimes parents' understanding is that you are actually teaching children how to read. The introduction is getting children to first have a positive experience with hearing stories.”
“A story is so powerful in terms of hooking our imagination. Getting us to visualise things, getting us thinking, getting us solving problems, as a lot of stories are about a character having a problem and then resolving it,” she said.
However, Giorza points out that the task of parents reading to children is not a usual activity in every household. Among the setbacks were a lack of resources, few libraries, and in the case of Mahaotsane, whose first language is Pedi, even fewer books in indigenous languages.
Thankfully, Ritcher solved the father's lack of resources by donating books to Mahaotsane, who gladly took on the journey of beginning to read books that his children liked and made it fun by involving his children as characters in the books he read.
Mahaotsane took his task further and cultivated his children's imagination by asking his children to draw the characters. “Papa, I want to draw a cat,” the father smiled while recalling his children's responses. Mahaotsane unconsciously worked at building their cognitive abilities.
During a parent's meeting, after a term of reading to his children, Mahaotsane recalled being shocked at his children's results.
According to the father of four, his two children Bokamoso and Bontle achieved A's and B's across subjects. Teachers lauded his efforts, using him as an example during parents' meetings of how reading to children raises their literacy achievements.
The father continues to read to his children, and hopes to share with others how looking out for your children's interests and how engaging playfully when reading to children can help children develop a love for reading and profoundly influence their life at school.