When your children start school, and quite possibly in earlier educational settings, they will begin to learn how to read. Learning to read is a complex and challenging task but is such a vital skill that the more practice and the more little ones can be encouraged to read, the better. As a parent, you will play an important role in the journey to becoming a reader, but the overall burden falls on the teachers working with your children.
There are various approaches to learning to read, and you will probably hear different terms. Most methods are based on on of two fundamental approaches:-
Phonics: requires words to be broken down into sounds in order to help sound out whole words.
Lexical: reading teaches recognition of whole words.
Since 2005, the UK government has stipulated a phonic approach to learning to read, employing a particular model known as synthetic phonics. This encourages words to be broken into phonic sounds which are then blended together in order to sound out complete words. Other phonic and lexical approaches play their part - for example, teachers will encourage the learning of 'high frequency words' so that young children can recognise some of the most common words in the language.
The emphasis on synthetic phonics does not mean that other approaches to reading are invalid, and as a parent you do not need to worry about the intricacies of different learning models. The best contribution that you can offer as a parent is to ensure that you read regularly to your little ones, and that you support them in their reading when the time comes.
A lovely way to get little ones involved and interested in reading and writing is to give them their very own letter box. This is a way to encourage them to send and receive notes between their friends and family.
Find a cardboard box and decorate it. Place it somewhere the little ones can reach (outside their bedroom door or by the front door) and post them some mail now and again. Normally it is best to do this overnight, so they wake up In the morning and find a note waiting for them.
It might be a note from the tooth fairy. Or you could write a note to say how good they have been at nursery. Its easy to print a certificate to say they have been good about going to bed or some other activity. Members can find personalised certificates in Fun Stuff at www.ToucanLearn.com.
The notes need not be long, complicated letters. Simply write a short message on a piece of paper, add a heart or a smiley face and leave it for them to find. They will be intrigued by what it says. You could leave a picture for them to colour in or a hand drawn dot to do for them to complete. A little special gift (a pencil, sticker or play ring) could be attached too as a special treat. If you are good at folding, you could leave a paper fan or a paper plane.
Always make time to read the notes to your child, even if you wrote them yourself, and encourage them to leave you notes, drawings, scribbles too. Then you will have an idea of how nice it is to receive them!
Last summer on a family outing to Buckler's Hard in Hampshire, our children were enthralled by the tale of a ship builders daughter who, 300 years ago, would stand in the window of her cottage, reading a large antique bible. She stood in the window for two reasons, first because 300 years ago, before electricity, it was the lightest place at which to read, but second, her proud parents wanted her to be seen by the whole village, so that they could show off their affluence in society by demonstrating that they were wealthy enough to educate their daughter who, in a time of widespread illiteracy, was able to read. Most likely, the bible was the only book that this family owned.
This week the Evening Standard is running a special report uncovering shockingly low levels of literacy in some parts of London. The stories are desperately sad. In one instance a class was asked to bring in a book from home. One nine-year-old brought in an Argos catalogue saying that it was the only book in his house. At one level we might laugh and think this is an amusing anecdote, but the Standard goes on to state that as many as one in three children are growing up without access to books in the home. This doesn't come about because of a shortage of money - 85% of children have games consoles in their home, and most have televisions and hi-fi's. No, this lack of access to books is the result of parents making certain choices, choices that could have a fundamental effect on the lives of their children.
In this modern day, there is absolutely no excuse for parents not to expose their children to books. Books are more readily available today than at any other point in history. If family's cannot afford books then they can borrow them from libraries or school.
The knock on effect of children not being encouraged to read is that 16% of adults aged 16 - 65 living in London have the reading skills of an 11 year old. 40% of employers in London claim that poor literacy skills has a detrimental effect on their business.
Books are a great source of inspiration for children - they're entertaining, educational, exciting and fun! Get familiar with all the different types of books that we use and have a session sharing them with your children. Talk about different books, look a their pictures (or lack of pictures), and talk about what each different sort of books does or helps us with. See how many different types of book you can find! Here are a few suggestions:
Enjoy looking at all the different books together!
The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has said that children as young as eleven years old should read about 50 books a year. This would be part of a national drive to improve literacy standards throughout schools in our country. He claimed literary demands put upon children have been too low for so long that they don't expect to read more than they have to. Instead, children should be reading a novel a week!
He said that primary schools should encourage children to read lots of books too in preparation for secondary education. A December report stated that British teenagers rank 25th in an international league table of teenage literacy!
Along with his Coalition Government, he stated that standards had to rise after he discovered that the vast majority of teenagers read only their GCSE core book and no others.
Many pre-school children will be taking comfort from this as so many parents and carers read numerous books to their children each day let alone each week! Starting the enjoyment of reading at an early age - even before the children can read or talk or even understanding the story - is the best start.
Whether they are learning to read, just looking at the pictures or starting to sound out letters, whatever stage your child is at, it is vital to get them enthusiastic about books. No matter the style of book, whether it is the latest release or an old favourite from your own childhood, or if it is from a book shop, a library or is borrowed - get them excited about books. Here are some easy ways!
Bring it alive: That doesn't just mean fun voices and emotion in your voice when you read... why not introduce some sensory experience too. If it's a book about a fish, swimming in rough water, panting to get to the party on time to eat cake... why not get them to take their socks off and paddle in a few inches of water in the bath, then run on the spot and have a mouthful of cake for them to eat along with the characters!
Pictures: There are some super illustrations in children's books, so sometimes just look at the pictures. Spot things, talk about what's not mentioned in the story but that feature in the pictures. Focus on one thing and make up your own little story.
Familiar books: If you have read a book too many times for your liking, talk about changing the ending and decide what else could happen. Change the character and discuss how different animals or people would make the story different.
Other means: Try all sorts of books, cloth books, out sized books, ones with lots of words or just a few. No matter the age of your child, they will get something out of looking or reading a new book, even if its not officially aimed at their age.
Get everyone involved: If you have family visiting get them to read a book or if your little one is starting to read, get them to read to your family or act out their favourite book. Do a puppet show with teddies or dress up in the characters and do a version as a play.
Library: The library will have books in different forms: A book you may have read may also be available in audio CD/spoken word format or as a cartoon or film on DVD. Use these formats too.
Write your own story together: Take some photos of things and print them. Then create your own story. Write the words in a book, stick in the pictures and it will become your own, unique masterpiece!
Teaching your child to enjoy reading, to love stories and grow their imagination is really a very easy thing to do and you will both reap the rewards. Reading is not only essential at school but it is great fun too!
Local libraries offer a fabulous resource, but at a time of severe funding cuts, there's every danger that your local library may be targeted for closure. When evaluating the value of local services, local authorities will look at how well utilised their services are. If you want to keep your local library open, then make sure you are using it and are appearing on the local radar!
Local libraries offer all sorts of services in addition to simply lending books. It would be a shame to lose these facilities, yet they can only be justified if they are being used. Make sure that you use your library with your children, and help local authorities justify keeping libraries open so that your children's children can one day enjoy them too!
There are lots of ways to liven up story time, both for you and your little one! Try some of these tips!
Whether a Grandparent or Aunty, or even a parent, babysitting a new born baby can be boring! Here are a few tips to make it fun for both of you!
Reading to your little ones is such an important activity, but the youngest children will only pick out sounds that they are beginning to understand as words. The act of reading to them allows them to hear words over and over and slowly they will begin to distinguish the different words. In time, they will learn their meaning. In no time at all you'll have a preschooler who has a broad vocabulary, understanding thousands of words.
To encourage hearing and learning words, you can make reading fun by asking questions at the end of each page as you read to them. Read each page to your children and then ask them questions specific to what is happening in the pictures or the story. If you are reading to several children then make sure they all get a turn, and ask questions appropriate to their age and understanding. Your children will begin to widen their vocabulary, hearing the words repeated in a similar context. Make sure that even the youngest are asked their own question, even if it is as simple as 'Where is the sky?', 'Point to something that is red', or 'What animal goes [suitable animal noise]?!'.
Reading to your little ones is one of the most valuable exercises you can undertake during their first few years. Encourage a passion for reading and books and their learning will become so much easier later on. The more you can create an interest in books by making stories interesting and fun, then the better in the longer term for your little ones!
'Mark making' is the action of making marks on paper with a writing implement and defines the beginning of the journey to literacy - the ability to read and write. Long before a baby is able to make marks there are skills that must be learned in order to control the body, developing both fine and gross motor skills, as well as a mental grasp of making marks on paper. Here are some ideas to help your child gain the confidence to make marks and some ways to encourage them at the various stages of development. From the earliest age babies and toddlers can be preparing to learn writing in later life, and the earlier they start, the more confident they will be.
Up to one year the adult needs to:
18 months - 2 years the adult needs to:
2 - 3 years the adult needs to:
3 - 4 years the adult needs to:
Up to 5 years old, an adult needs to:
We all know how important reading is for children and that reading to even the tiniest toddler will help them in so many ways, but it can be frustrating if you find that your child loses interest after a little while or simply won't settle when you are ready to read a book.
The first thing to remember, is that this is not unusual. Every child is different and while some love the idea of a book, the pictures, the page turning the flaps etc, others are not interested. They don't want to lift flaps or look at the pictures. They consider reading a book as something passive, they sit back and listen and perhaps fall asleep rather than get involved. Or, they will just lose interest and walk away. The answer is not to force them to sit, be still and listen. It is our job to inspire them.
Research has shown that habits made in early years will stay with a child for life; learning is part of that so when the children are young it is a great time to set up some habits that will be good for their learning later in life. All children benefit from reading books. If you get into the habit of reading every day at a certain time of day it becomes part of your schedule and is easy to remember. With a huge selection of books on offer, which are best to choose for your child at different stages of their early years?
Books for Babies and Toddlers Under 2
Children are never too young to enjoy books. They may not speak, or follow a narrative, or be able to turn a page, but sitting with someone, having a cuddle, reading a colourful book becomes a lovely, comfortable, happy experience and that is what they recall. They enjoy the attention and the sound of a parent or carer's voice. They like the feel of the books, the sound of the pages and the colourful pictures. They like the rhymes and the funny voices.
Once they can hold things in their hands, touchy-feely books are great for little ones. Cloth books are soft (washable!) and gentle to touch. Activity books have strings, buttons, and fabric to touch. Flap books have pages that fold out and pictures behind secret little doors. Board books are great to hold and have even been know to be good for chewing too! There is so much fun to be had!
Books for 2-3 Year Olds
Toddlers love the colours and pictures in books. They enjoy rhyme and the repetition of some story lines. They will join in and anticipate what will happen next. Books that explain or deal with every day occurrences are good for this age (going to nursery, going to ballet lessons, having a new baby etc). They may even create their own stories.
They will often look at the same book day after day. The know what happens next and love the idea of anticipating the next page. Pop-up or flap books are great for this age as they can do it themselves. And, sturdy board books are advised as they may get handled frequently and roughly!
Pre-School Books for Children Age 4-5
At this age, children love to learn about the world and books that explain this are always popular with pre-schoolers: bugs and animals, schools and hospitals, the Egyptians etc. so they needn't just have fictional stories, non-fiction is of interest too. Try all sorts of books and discuss each one. What are the pictures like? What is the text like? Can they find certain letters in the text or count certain elements of the pictures? Try and bring the books alive and be led by your child. If they ask about dinosaurs, get hold of a book about them and show them. Visit your local library for access to books on hundreds of interesting topics.
Enjoy the time you have reading with your child and make it as fun as you can.
Writing is a vital skill that children will eventually use over and over again in all subjects at school. Whether writing up an experiment in a science lesson, writing a story in an English lesson or writing about their favourite sport, writing is unavoidable. But, learning to write can be tricky to start with and some children are simply put off by all the complications of writing. This is easily avoidable and because writing is so vital at school and indeed in the adult world too, it's important to introduce children to writing in a fun and positive way. Then, these early skills will be built upon and writing will be the next step.
Some ideas to make learning to write a positive experience:
It can be fun and with a little thought, you'll find that your little ones enjoy writing and begin to make great progress. Perhaps one day they'll be writing their own blog!
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