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What is interactive reading? What are the techniques and steps for engaging in interactive reading with children?

Parenting Tips

October 2023

Source: Educational psychologists, Shum Ka Man and Tang Wai Yan

Interactive reading is when parents and children engage in reading through conversation. The main difference between interactive reading and traditional reading aloud lies in the fact that traditional reading aloud often involves parents telling stories to children or, in some cases, parents’ intention to teach children to recognize words, focusing primarily on word recognition. However, the advantage of interactive reading is not just about word recognition; it aims to foster a positive parent-child relationship and help children express themselves through conversation.

In interactive reading, children take on an active role, where they can ask questions and guide the conversation through these questions and answers, thereby enhancing their reading comprehension skills. When parents engage in interactive reading with children, they should consider what questions to ask and what steps to follow. There are various ways for parents to ask questions, and we teach them a prompting framework that includes five different question types, abbreviated as ‘CROWD.’

C stands for Completion, where questions can be posed in a fill-in-the-blank manner. R represents Recall, encouraging children to remember what happened earlier in the story. O denotes Open-ended questions, allowing children to speculate about what might happen next. W represents Wh questions, covering the six Ws: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Finally, D stands for Distancing questions, which prompt children to relate the story to their own life experiences, asking how the story connects to their daily lives.

Interactive reading also follows a framework called ‘PEER.’

The first step is ‘Prompt,’ which refers to the types of questions asked. The second step is ‘Evaluate,’ where after asking questions, you can provide responses to the child. ‘Evaluate’ involves giving positive encouragement to the child, such as praising them when they answer correctly, saying, ‘You did a great job; you listened very attentively.’ If they answer incorrectly, it’s still important to encourage them, saying, ‘You tried very hard!’ and then attempt to find the answer together in the book.

Next is ‘Expand’ (E), which means expanding on what the child says. If a child’s response is brief, you can add adjectives or other details to make the sentence richer. Finally, there’s ‘Repeat’ (R), where after listening to the story, the child repeats the story, which can help improve their oral language skills.

Being unfocused when playing with toys, will it make it harder for them to concentrate on learning in the future?

Parenting Tips

October 2023

Source : Registered Clinical Psychologist, Yiu Fong Lee

Some parents may notice that their children, aged 4 to 5, often have trouble staying focused when playing with toys. For example, they may play with one toy for only 2 minutes before switching to another, and they might take out all the toys in the room without cleaning up afterward. Parents may worry that if their children are so unfocused now, how will they fare in exams or when studying in the future?

It turns out that when children’s brain development is not yet mature, their attention span can be a bit short. Research has found that mindfulness can help improve children’s focus, especially by training their frontal lobes, which can enhance their attention and concentration.

There are some mindfulness games that can be used as a reference. For example, parents can use certain apps with visual cues. Children can follow these apps, for instance, there might be an image of a balloon that inflates when they breathe in and deflates when they breathe out. This way, by following their breath, children can improve their ability to concentrate. Additionally, there’s a practice called ‘Statue,’ which many parents might remember from their own childhood. In this exercise, children must sit still and watch an app or a timer for a specific duration to see how long they can remain seated calmly.

“Then, if children manage to do this, you can introduce an additional element, which is auditory distractions. For example, you can include some simple sounds, like calm music. If the children succeed with that, you can gradually introduce more challenging elements, such as cartoons or anything they enjoy, to see if they can stay focused on the app and their breathing in a more distracting environment. This helps train their concentration.

Secondly, we can try implementing some rules and visual reminders. You can tell the children that there is a rule when it comes to playing games or with toys: they have to finish playing with one thing before they start with another, and they should spend at least 5 to 10 minutes playing with each item before switching. You can use some pictures to show them one toy, then cleaning up that toy, and then moving on to the next. In between, you can indicate that they should play with each toy for 5 to 10 minutes.”

The third method is a behavioral consequence approach. When children are able to focus, parents can encourage them by saying, ‘You did a great job because you were so focused!’ or by telling them, ‘I appreciate your effort because you can sit still and enjoy one toy. You can actually have more fun while playing with your toys this way.’ If the child cannot do it, we can introduce consequences. For example, you can say, ‘You finished playing with one thing and then jumped to another and then to a third one. This means you couldn’t follow the rules, so now we need to take a break.’ This break could be, for instance, 5 minutes of not playing with any toys. You can use an app to help them sit quietly until they feel they can concentrate on one game, and then you can continue playing.

The fourth method is what we call the ‘Star Focus Reward Plan.’ For this, you can give the child a timer, clock, or hourglass, and the child watches the time while engaging in a focused activity, like 1 minute or 2 minutes. Parents can discuss with the child that for each session of focused attention, they will earn a star, which goes into a piggy bank. The child can see how long they can focus, and these stars accumulate, helping the child become more focused over time.

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Parenting Tips

Everyday life is full of eye use. Adults and children do eye exercises together.

Parenting Tips

October 2023

Source : Chinese Medicine Practitioner, Chiu Shi Cheung

Many children today spend a lot of time looking at computers, phones, or reading, which can strain their eyes. There are some acupoint massages that can help children relieve eye strain.

The first acupoint we’ll introduce is the “Zan Chuk” point. It’s located at the very front end of the eyebrows, about half an inch downward, at the corner of the eye socket. Another acupoint is called the “Jing Ming” point. It’s located at the side of the nasal bridge, right in the middle between the two eyes, near the inner edge of each eye. The third point is the “Si Pak” point, which is about 1 inch below the eyes, roughly the width of two fingers apart. It’s in front of the cheekbone, and when you touch it, there should be a slight depression just below the eyes; this is the “Si Pak” point. The last acupoint is the “Shi Chuk Hung” point, located at the very end of the eyebrow. All four of these points can help with dispersing wind, clearing heat, and improving vision.

Once we know the locations of these acupoints, how do we massage the eye area?

First, let’s start with the first point, the “Zan Chuk” point. You’ll use your four fingers to hold down the eyebrows, and then use your thumb to press on the “Zan Chuk” point. The “Zan Chuk” point is right at the very front end of the eyebrows, in the depression at the corner of the eye socket. Hold it with your four fingers and your thumb, and gently rotate 64 times in opposite directions.

The second acupoint is called “Jing Ming” Point, located in the area in front of the inner corner of the eye, between the eyebrow and the bridge of the nose. We use two fingers to gently pinch the bridge of the nose and then slowly massage it up and down, repeating this motion 64 times.

The third acupoint is called “Si Pak” Point. It is located on the inner edge of the cheekbone on our face. In fact, when you touch it, you’ll feel a slight depression. Using two fingers, place them on either side of the bridge of the nose, and you will be able to locate this point. Gently press inside, and you will feel a slight soreness. After locating it, you can also rotate the pressure 64 times.

The fourth acupoint is Shi Chuk Hung Point. To locate it, use your thumbs to first press on both sides of the temples. Then, starting from the Shi Chuk Hung Point, sweep upward to the Shi Chuk Hung Point again, and then continue downward, below the eyes, to the Shi Chuk Hung Point. This constitutes one cycle, and repeat this motion 64 times.

By massaging these four acupoints, you can not only relieve eye fatigue but also improve the blood circulation around the eyes and prevent eye conditions such as nearsightedness. When we do eye exercises, remember to keep our eyes closed throughout the entire process. After completing the eye exercises, it’s also important to keep your eyes closed for 2 to 5 minutes. We typically press each acupoint for 64 times. Why 64 times? It’s because, from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine “eighty-eight sixty-four“, we call it the “first of eight eights” meaning the most important.