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A word on speech. “She’ll grow out of it…won’t she?”

I often wonder what it is that triggers parents to make the decision to bring their child to a speech pathologist. So many parents are under the impression with talking, that it is better to ‘wait and see’ if they catch up or let them develop ‘at their own pace’. I wonder if this ‘wait and see’ approach would apply if the child was not walking at 2 years of age or was not toilet trained by 4?
As speech pathologists we know that the best thing to do if you are concerned about your child’s speech or language skills is to ‘address it today and not to delay’. In fact, the timing of visiting a speech pathologist is actually crucial.

Research shows that from birth to 5 years, children learn language through back-and-forth interactions with their parents. The less a child speaks or the less intelligible they are, the less these interactions occur. Check out the full article written by the Hanen Organisation about ‘Why it is important to start early’.

However, I am as guilty as the next parent at putting my head in the sand and hoping things will just work out. So for argument’s sake, I have put together the top 3 reasons ‘for’ and ‘against’ taking your child to see a speech language pathologist.

Continue reading “A word on speech. “She’ll grow out of it…won’t she?””

What if my child doesn’t know his ABCs?

At this time of year, we know that parents may be wondering, “Is my child ready for school?” coupled with potential doubts about their child’s abilities – “She only knows a few letters of the alphabet.”. If that is you, read on!

Firstly, we need to put it out there reading is not a natural process. It is a taught skill and in contrast to learning to talk, which is a wonderful development that happens (for the most part) naturally.

Nearly four decades of scientific research on how children learn to read supports an emphasis on phoneme awareness and phonics in a literature-rich environment. These findings challenge the belief that children learn to read naturally. (Lyon, G.R., 1998).

What is a literature-rich environment?

Having books read to them and having access to looking at books themselves is a good starting point however a literacy-rich environment demonstrates how literacy is useful in everyday life by allowing children to interact with print/texts independently and with parents/educators. This helps children understand WHY they need print, WHAT they use it for and HOW it is useful in everyday life. In other words, it needs to fun, engaging and meaningful to them.

What are some examples of print in everyday life?

  • Your child’s name!
  • Common shop names (e.g. McDonalds, Woolworths)
  • Street signs (e.g. SLOW)
  • Symbols (e.g. arrow, cross)

What do I do after I find this print?

Point it out and be excited when you discover it!
“Oh, look at this letter S on the SLOW sign. It’s just like the S at the start of your name, Sam.”

Talk about symbols and what they mean.
“A symbol is something you can read but it doesn’t have any words. See this arrow – I know that the way it is pointing is the way I need to go.”

Use the terminology
“Ah yes, that is the letter ‘M’ and underneath it is the word ‘McDonald’s”

If you’d like to read more about print awareness, check out more posts here on our blog or our Instagram.

Our play activities incorporate print is lots of ways – see all the themes and membership options available here, or see the activities in action here, here and here!

There will be more posts coming about phonemic awareness – another very important foundational skill that supports learning to read.

Thanks for hearing our call,
Your Little Birdies

Lyon, G. Reid. (1998). Educational Leadership, v55 n6 p14-18.

Language skills may have the greatest impact

Preparing young children for school is the goal for many parents and preschool programs. Research has told us that the more skills children bring into their schooling – in basic maths, reading and social skills – the more likely they will succeed in those same areas in school.

Superskill for school success

But is there a superskill to school readiness? We sure think so – LANGUAGE. A study published in the journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly say that a child’s vocabulary and grammar not only predict future success with written and spoken language, but it also impacts performance in other subject areas.

Dr Amy Pace and her colleagues looked at data for more than 1200 children in the US and looked at several measures of academic and social skills at specific ages and grade levels, including upon school entry and in grades 1, 3 and 5.

The findings reveal that of the skills and milestones evaluated — social/emotional, attention, health, reading, maths and language — only language skills, when a child entered school, predicted his or her performance both within that subject area and most others (maths, reading and social skills) from first through fifth grade.

Why does language affect so many areas?

Language is a foundational skill in social interaction. If you have strong language skills, you will be able to communicate with peers and teachers.

Language skills help with executive functioning – the ability to understand follow instructions from the teacher.

Language skills help with maths and science – terminologyand abstract concepts rely on the knowledge of language.

When kids learn to read at school, strong language skills means they can understand WHAT they read.

How can I support my child’s language skills?

Talk, read and play! Ongoing interactions and conversations with your child about things that interest them will encourage them to explore, ask questions, make comments and retell stories.

Our NEW 6 month membership has just launched – the perfect addition to your home with a high quality picture book, reading guide and play activity arriving to your door each month. Designed by speech pathologists and tested by mums, this will get your kids talking, reading, playing and succeeding!

Thanks for hearing our call,
Your Little Birdies

Pace, et al. (2018). Measuring success: Within and cross-domain predictors of academic and social trajectories in elementary school, Early Childhood Research Quarterly; Volume 46, 1st Quarter 2019, Pages 112-125.

Tripping in the car with kids?

‘I spy with my little eye’ another parent resorting to screen time to avoid the overplayed car games or backseat arguments between siblings on long car trips.  Guilty! As a child, I remember playing “punch buggy” which involved hitting your sibling when you spotted a VW, this was before devices of course. This generations’ version of ‘punch buggy’ is known as ‘Spotto’ and involves counting yellow cars (with no punching involved).   While many car games like ‘Spotto’, ‘Punch buggy’ or ‘I spy’ are observation games, these car trips are also an opportune time for your children to practice their vocabulary and word finding skills.  So when you have the energy these holidays, here are three easy and fun word games to play with your little people in the car that will build their vocabulary skills (plus you can rest assured that you will be setting your child up for literacy and life!)
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3 New Reads in October 2019

All the book publishers have been releasing their Christmas catalogues so it has been my mission to sort through the red and green and find the non-Christmas themed books for those who cringe at all-things Christmas. So here are my top 3 picks for this month – decided by what we like to look for in a book – 1) rich vocabulary; 2) strong story structure; 3) engaging and fun to read aloud and 4) provides opportunities for conversation.

1. The Caveman Next Door by Tom Tinn-Disbury

New Frontier Publishing

A beautiful debut book by UK author and illustrator Tom Tinn-Disbury, this book explores the challenges of being different and how friendship is a vital part of overcoming these challenges. Ogg the caveman really struggles to find into the modern world but luckily he has his neighbour Penny to help him fit in. This story naturally facilitates conversation about the modern era and how things are different in Ogg’s time compared to now. It demonstrates good story structure by showing a number of ‘attempts’ by Penny where she tries to fix the ‘problem’ of Ogg not fitting in. A story told without too much text (to allow room for conversation) but still full of rich vocabulary (e.g. refused, surrounded, furious, miserable, opportunity).

TOP READING TIP: Model comparing and contrasting language by using words ‘but’ or ‘however’ e.g. We know books are for reading, however Ogg thinks books are for eating!

2. Ice Boy by David Ezra Stein

Walker Books

A very cool tale about an ice cube who isn’t afraid of adventure, no matter what form it may take. Yes, you see Ice Boy transform from ice, to water, to vapour and back into ice (as hail!) A great way to introduce scientific concepts to little ones while telling it in a fun rhyming story. The powerful onomatopoeia (e.g., clatter, bloop, puff, boom) along with stunning illustrations help to convey the meaning of the story. You can also discuss print concepts such as the speech bubbles.

TOP READING TIP: Point out print! Highlight print concepts by pointing to them and explaining what they mean. e.g. This word says BLOOP! See how it is falling down like that. Bloop is the word for the sound of water falling into a glass.

3. Millie Muffin by Alisha Henderson

Bauer Books

Alisha Henderson, the baker behind @sweetbakes_ debuts her first book in the Storybook Sweets Series – ‘positively sweet stories with recipes’. Millie Muffin thinks she is plain and wishes she was cupcake girl, pink and pretty with frosting on top. She helps her friends (adorable characters such as Matty Marshmallow and Papa Pie) on Buttercream Bend to see what is special about them and through this, realises that her best quality is the kind of friend she is. This story provides ample opportunities to discuss, explain and try out new vocabulary for both younger and primary school-aged children with words such as pondered, simplicity, reflection, selection, generous and worthwhile.

TOP READING TIP: When explaining new vocabulary to your child, it is easier for them to understand when you put it in a sentence rather than saying ‘it means…’ e.g., When you are generous, you give something or help someone, more than they think you would.

Are you excited about these books? Let us know if we have inspired to go check them out yourself!

If you want the ease of having new books delivered to your door every month, accompanied by helpful tips for parents and a fun activity for your child, our 6 month membership is perfect for you! Check it out here littlebirdiebooks.com.au/for-families

Thanks for hearing our call,

Your Little Birdies

What do I need to know about 5 year olds?

Between the ages of 4 and 5, your child will conquer one huge milestone: starting school. What speech, language, play and social skills do they need to know? We get asked by many parents whether they need to know their alphabet, or how to read before they get to school. Let’s see what communication and play skills 5 year olds should demonstrate and how you can continue supporting your child’s learning.

Continue reading “What do I need to know about 5 year olds?”

Top 3 releases in September 2019

Spring is here and many new books are being released as I’ve started noting down titles I am adding to the Christmas shopping list (am I allowed to talk about Christmas yet?) . If you have been following along with this series, you know that as speech pathologists, Tania and I are on the hunt for books which tell a good story (with strong story structure), sophisticated vocabulary and provide opportunities for back-and-forth conversation with your child as you read. You can catch our previous posts for June, July and August. Let’s get into this month’s picks!

1. Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf? by Kitty Black and Laura Wood

“Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf” is a funny, heart-warming story about friendship and finding the courage to be yourself. The story also introduces children to the idea of stereotypes and how to break away from them. There are many great Tier 2 vocabulary words to introduce to your kids in this book, including fearsome, bold, pleaded, commenced and retreat. Tier 2 words appear more commonly in written text than in conversation, so they are important for reading comprehension and they are usually able to be used in multiple contexts. Providing a kid-friendly definition of these words will help your child to understand them, rather than having to ‘guess’ the meaning from the rest of the sentence or context. For example, “If you say something has commenced, it has just started.” Another great element of this book is the print concepts you can highlight.

Who’s Afraid of the Quite Nice Wolf (New Frontier Publishing)

TOP READING TIP: Make Print Pop – “This poster says “WANTED” – it’s written in big letters to get people’s attention. The poster shows photos of wolves and the numbers written under it tell us how much money you would get if you can tell the police where they are.”

2. The Immortal Jellyfish by Sang Miao

Death is a difficult concept at any age group and psychologists recommend books to be a non-threatening platform to explore these topics with young children. In this book, a young boy’s grandfather dies suddenly and he feels overwhelmed and confused. To his delight, they meet again in a dream, where his grandfather takes him to Transfer City, where our departed loved ones live on through our memories. In this modern, Eastern telling of the afterlife, death is not an ending, but a new start to life, just like the Immortal Jellyfish which is constantly maturing and then regressing, staying as present as our deceased loved ones do in our memories. The illustrations of this book are magnificent and the imaginative narrative makes for a beautiful, accessible approach to the idea of death for young readers.

The Immortal Jellyfish (Flying Eye Books)

TOP READING TIP: Talk about your own experiences, helping your child transfer information from boooks to real-world contexts. e.g. “When my dog died, I printed photos of him doing all the things he loves. When I looked at the photos, it reminded me of the wonderful life we had together.”

3. Two For Me, One For You by Jörg Mühle

Two friends share three mushrooms… who will get the extra one? This book is a great introduction to the genre of persuasive text with the two characters, Bear and Weasel each coming up with one argument after another for why they should have more. A twist at the end of the story sees the two friends outwitted by another creature in the woods! This is a fun story to read, again filled with many opportunities to explore vocabulary with words such as stunned, delighted, agree and grumbling.

Two For Me, One For You (Gecko Press)

TOP READING TIP: Highlight comparative language – “Weasel wanted another, but Bear wanted even more.” “Bear argued that his stomach was bigger than Weasel’s. Do you think your stomach is bigger than your brother’s?”

Let us know if you have read any of these or have recommendations for any other awesome new releases this month!

As always, your favourite books for enriching oral language and early literacy development are featured in our wide range of themed book boxes. Browse our selection here and visit our social media feeds (Instagram and Facebook) to see and hear more about the books and activities.