Most children naturally develop verbal language skills through observation of the communication process and by hearing others speak. The ability to read and write, however, doesn’t develop quite so easily.
Reading and writing are key skills that contribute to a child’s success both during and after school. Yet surprisingly, 14% of young Australians fail to reach a baseline level of reading proficiency considered essential for future development. A poor foundation of literacy prior to school entry is thought to play a part in this, with children entering school with lower self esteem, poorer educational and social outcomes, and higher dependence when learning.
So how do you ensure your child starts school right? How do you ensure your child is ready for knowledge acquisition?
9 ways parents can help their children read
As a parent, it’s your role to give your kids the best start in life possible. Here are 9 tips for you to help encourage your child to developing their literacy skills.
1. Reading aloud
Reading books aloud is one of the best ways you can help your child learn to read. Starting from the time you are expecting, this can be fun for you too.
When reading aloud, show your excitement. The more enjoyment you have when reading, the more value your child will see in reading and the more they will enjoy it. Don’t be afraid to use funny voices and animal noises. Look at the pictures and ask your child to name things they see. Talk about how the pictures relate to the story and how they relate to your own life. If your child asks a question, stop and answer it. If there are repeat phrases in the text, ask your child to join in. Most importantly, let your child set the pace.
2. Start early
Parents are sometimes fooled into thinking that by teaching their child before they go to school they are harming their child’s chance at a good education. This is simply not true. You can never introduce literacy too early. Studies repeatedly tell us that reading to your child from the day they are born is beneficial. Hugely beneficial in fact!
There are a number of children’s picture books that are perfect to assist with teaching your child a love of reading from an early age.
3. Create a reading space
One of the easiest ways to get children interested in reading is to fill a cosy and comfy space with engaging and exciting books. Beanbags are super comfy, provide great back and arm support, and completely mould to your and your child’s body shape as you read. Place it beside a Chalkboard and Bookshelf and your child can happily discover reading, even when you’re not around. Choose picture books with big words they can help themselves to, and use the chalkboard section to personalise the shelf with your child’s name or write a ‘word of the day’ for them to learn.
4. Encourage stories
A good way to introduce young kids to literacy is to have them tell you a story. Ask them to recount an experience or make up a story about their favourite animal. This doesn’t have to be Pride & Prejudice - a story that says “I like my dog. He is nice. I feed him. I walk him.” will do just fine. Write it as it’s being told and then read it aloud.
5. Don’t be afraid of big words
Finding rich language in picture books, like “aghast” and “grimace” is not unusual, and these words should never be shied away from. Picture books with such words introduce your child to an extensive vocabulary, and while you can do this by talking to them, reading is far more effective. Even if your own word mastery is excellent, we tend to talk with a lazy tongue. Parent-child conversations tend to stick within the 5,000 most commonly used English words, but with books, words are endless.
6. Point to the words
Point out words and letters as you read aloud and introduce to your child how to read from left to right and top to bottom. Research suggests that children under 5 who are taught to read like this can develop more advanced reading skills than those who weren’t. By showing your child what a word is and what it means, you’re helping them to crack the code of language.
7. Teach phonics
No child can sound out words or write them if they don’t know what a letter sounds like. That’s why learning phonics is so important. Luckily, there are a ton of fantastic apps available to help with this, as well as ABC books, charts, cards, magnets, puzzles, floor mats and wooden blocks. A pencil and paper will work too!
Literacy Planet is a great educational app which takes your child on a learning adventure to help them develop literacy skills through thousands of interactive exercises that covers all key literacy skills such as sight words, spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Another great one is Reading Eggs. Colourful and interactive, it teaches phonics, spelling, vocabulary, sight words, maths and more. Growing with your child, kids can start on Reading Eggs from as early as three years old and will love seeing themselves working through the different levels.
8. Promote writing
Having your child read as much as possible is a great idea, but good literacy also involves writing. Dot your home with pens and paper and encourage your child to write. Leave short and easy to read notes for them and before long they’ll be trying to write back.
9. Be realistic
Reading should be about building confidence and this requires you to be patience. Don’t be over ambitious with your child’s reading and let them master new literacy concepts in their own time. If you challenge them too much or are overly critical of their attempts to read, you’ll take all the fun out of learning.
Give your child a head start at school
Students who start out with optimal literacy foundational skills tend to thrive and grow academically. This increases not just academic success, but occupational success, increased self esteem, a motivation to learn, and commitment to one’s education. Reading is a necessary, lifelong skill that leads to opportunity empowerment, and what child doesn’t deserve that?