Mommy, please help me read!

Mamma, help my asseblief lees!
September 20, 2023
Die belangrikheid van die vagussenuwee op ontwikkeling en leer
September 25, 2023

Dr Lindie Moolman

Sally is in Grade 3, however, letters still don’t make any sense to her, regression is at the order of the day and she struggles to attend to the simplest of everyday class activities. She also has regular stomach pains and cries when she has to go to school. What is going on?

Speech and language abilities are developed from birth by touching and naming things like body parts, clothing, people and objects. As the baby and toddler start to experience their bodies and the world around them via their senses, they initially develop a listening vocabulary and receptive language ability (De Jager & Victor, 2013). According to Gettman (1987), the main purpose of language is to communicate. However, to make it permanent one has to present it visually, or in a tactile manner. Gettman (1987) goes on to argue that any child with the ability to hear, who grows up in an environment where there is constant communication with adults in their early years, will eventually learn how to speak. Unfortunately this is not the case with reading and writing. Because reading and writing are not universally regarded as instinctive human behaviour many children find it difficult to learn this “unnatural” activity. Reading has to be learned and cultivated.

How then do we go about teaching our children this valuable skill? Let’s look at the building blocks of reading (preschool up to Grade 3).


Within the first two years of life a child sees, hears and experiences many things without having the ability to think about them in a rational manner. It is however necessary for the child to identify, understand and place these experiences into simple categories. This organisation at an early age is important for developing reading acumen because:

  1. a) the world has to come across as organised for the child to make sense of written work (e.g. reading and writing).
  2. b) the child learns that objects exist on their own and are not only used for personal benefit. The “I” becomes detached from the world (De Jager & Victor, 2013, Gettman, 1987).

How can I as a parent help my child give meaning to his or her world?

For example: go to the kitchen to show and name everything they can find there. Do this with every room in the house. Take a trip to an animal farm and explain to the child that we usually find different animals on the farm. It is a tangible learning experience which involves all the child’s senses.

Read books where objects are organised according to themes, or categories e.g. “Big book of Animals” or “My first 1000 words” or “My first dictionary”. In this way one piques a child’s learning spirit. Your child will realise there is a far greater world left to be explored.


The next building block is where the child realises that there are different sounds for each word. This ability is called phonetic awareness where a child is able to discern between different sounds and put them together (McGuinness & McGuinness, 1998).

Phonetics have existed in language long before written symbols were developed. Written symbols were primarily developed ages ago to represent the sounds they make when spoken in language. Therefore, when a child uses identification during the reading process the content is already known, in other words the child uses the phonetic patterns found in his or her language to represent symbols (i.e. the letters of the alphabet). It is also important to teach your child that letters do not make sounds themselves, but that they represent sounds.

How can I as parent develop my child’s phonetic awareness?

  • Before any sound based games are played, one can first practice the Mind Moves® Antennae Adjuster exercise. The Antennae Adjuster “wakes” the ears and directs the brain’s attention to the fact it must now listen. This exercise develops near senses, auditory processing and receptive language ability.
  • Build words with your child e.g. “m” for mommy and moth, “b” for Ben and ball. In this way your child will realise there are different sounds in a word.
  • Play games like “I spy with my little eye a word that begins with…”
  • In Grade R you and your child can start playing with sounds like the following: “If I say ‘ca-t’ what word do you hear? When mommy says ‘p-a-n’ what word do you hear? What sounds do we get in ‘mat’?”

The ability to discern between different sounds in words and to divide words up into sounds are very important before a child begins to read or write.


The next building block for reading involves the child making the connection between a sound and a letter from the alphabet. During this step it is important that the child also uses his, or her senses.

How can I help my child?

  • Before playing any games the Mind Moves Bilateral Integrator exercise (doing it in rice) is recommended. The Bilateral Integrator is a fun way to develop left-right integration and benefits fluency in speech, writing and reading.
  • Show your child what the sound “a” looks like by drawing it in sand or flour. Writing letters in shaving foam is also a lot of fun.
  • Build the sound “a” out of clay or make letters of the alphabet using sandpaper. Remember to make the letters in exactly the same way that your child will learn to write – begin each letter on the right place. You can also place a sticker on the sandpaper to indicate where the letter begins. When your child draws the letter make him, or her replicate the sound of the letter out loud. Do this with every letter of the alphabet. However, don’t try and teach your child more than eight phonetic sounds at a time. (Playing with clay also helps to develop the hand’s muscles which are used in writing later).
  • When individual phonetic sounds are mastered one can begin to explain how two sounds can be grouped together to create a new one e.g. “a” and “y” makes “ay” etc.
  • It is also important to explain that some sounds are represented in different ways, for example if we write “table” it may sound as if there needs to be an “e” between the “b” and the “l”, but we write it as “ble”.
  • Write your child’s name on the top of his or her artworks, so that their eyes become accustomed to the shape and form of their names. In Grade R your child’s teacher will begin to teach them how to write their names.


  • Movement is the key. Many research studies indicate that repeated movements help strengthen neural pathways between the brain and the body. Even the ability to read, write and do Maths is built on the relationship between the brain and the body (De Jager & Victor, 2013).
  • Children have to train their eyes to get used to reading in the right direction – from left to right. This is not a natural ability in all children. Mind Moves’ Mouse Pad exercise is an ideal and fun way to train your child’s eyes for the correct reading direction.
  • Develop your child’s listening ability. Play something like “look for the animal”. Collect all the farm and wild animals in your toy box together. Spread them out in front of your child. Make the sound of the animal and let your child point it out to you. You can also swap roles (De Jager & Victor, 2013).
  • Develop your child’s observational skills. You can let your child weave beads into a pattern e.g. two white, one red and three blue. Ask your child afterwards which pattern was made. Place three blocks on a table of which two are similar. Ask your child to show you which one is different. Or let your child replicate the same pattern.
  • Let your child develop a love for the written word by reading a story, or a poem to them every day. When your child is older he or she can read to you by looking at the pictures.
  • Talk to your child on a regular basis and give every question a decent and complete answer. Use every opportunity to develop language ability. In this way your child becomes aware of different sounds and their ears tune into the sounds of their specific language.


Mind Moves (De Jager, 2009) is a movement program that can be used by parents and teachers on a daily basis to help improve their students’ reading and spelling abilities.

Mind Moves Homolateral Walk

Lie on your back. Slowly lift your left arm and leg. Relax. Now lift your right arm and leg. Relax. Repeat at least 10 times. This exercise can be done while standing. NB – Always follow up with the Bilateral March exercise.

This exercise develops the left and right brain and relieves a person of hyperactive and impulsive movements.

Mind Moves Bilateral Walk

Touch the left knee with the right elbow, twisting the trunk to bring the opposite shoulder and hip towards each other, extending the other arm and leg. Now touch the right knee with the left elbow, while extending the other arm and leg. This move is best done first lying down and then standing up. Repeat at least 10 times.

This move integrates the left and right parts of the brain and body, while crossing the midline. When eyes are moved into visual, auditory and kinaesthetic positions, this move also crosses all three midlines.

Mind Moves Antennae Adjuster

Start at the top of the ears and gently but firmly massage the whole ear lobe from top to bottom.

This exercise develops the senses, auditory processing, auditory perception and receptive language ability.

Mind Moves Bilateral Integrator

Hold two pencils or sticks with coloured ribbon between your thumbs and index fingers. Let the pencil rest in the gap between the thumb, index finger and middle finger. Move your arms as if conducting a choir. This can also be done in a tray filled with rice.

This exercise is a fun way to develop rhythm, hand-eye coordination, focus and peripheral vision as well as left-right integration and benefits fluency.

Mind Moves Mouse Pad

The eyes are the brain’s computer mouse – they activate different parts of the brain when they turn upwards, down, horizontally, left and right. Hold your thumb about elbow length away from your eyes and focus on it. Move your thumb in an upwards direction, initially around your left eye and then your right. Repeat five times. Switch hands and repeat the process. Always draw a circle around the left eye and then the right.

This exercise stimulates visual, auditory and kinesthetic receptive ability, while crossing the middle line to integrate the left and right parts of the brain and body. It develops eye-hand coordination and visual integration.

Mind Moves Finger Fight

Press the index finger against the thumb and hold for eight counts. Relax. Switch fingers and repeat until all four fingers have had a turn.

This exercise divides the different parts of the hand. It also develops muscle tone, handwriting skills, fine motor control and communication skills.


De Jager, M. 2019.  Kopskuiwe.  Weg met leerblokkasies.  Welgemoed: Metz Press.

De Jager, M. 2019.  Mind Moves – wikkel die brein wawyd wakker.  Johannesburg: Mind Moves® Instituut.

De Jager, M. & Victor, L.  2013.  SPEEL LEER SLIM.  ‘n Kind is ‘n mens in wording.  Welgemoed: Metz Press.

Gettman, D.  1987.  Basic Montessori.  Learning activities for under-fives.  NY:  St. Martin’s Press.

McGuinness, C. & McGuinness, G.  1998.  Reading reflex.  The foolproof phono-graphix method for teaching your child to read.  NY: Simon & Schuster.


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