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.

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.

Book Week 2019 across the ages

We are halfway into our Book Week 2019 celebrations and today’s feature is BIG – featuring 3 books across 3 age groups: 0-3 years, 3-5 years and 5-8 years. Keep reading to see what we like about these books through our speech pathology lens and our top reading tip for each book! Let’s do this!

1. It’s not scribble to me by Kate Ritchie (0-3 years)

CBCA Book of the Year: Early Childhood Notable, Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year: 0-3 years Shortlisted

Cover of “It’s not scribble to me” (Kate Ritchie)

This book will engage little ones, whether they are artistic or not! Many parents and children alike will recognise aspects of this book in their own lives – from the parent who is frustrated at their child for drawing on the wall, to the child who is excited to draw, paint, colour all over the walls! The rhyme and rhythem of the language is highly appropriate for this age group while the pictures and words togeher allow opportunities for predictions and inferences. Each page is features a ‘child-drawn’ picture – sure to spark conversations during and long after reading and even inspire your child to draw their own unicorn or frog. You could easily share this book with older children and use language to compare and contrast how their drawing is same and/or different to the one in the book.

“It’s not scribble to me” (Kate Ritchie)

READING TIPS:
Pause to give your child a chance to ‘predict’ what the bear has drawn e.g. “It’s only a _____” (point as you pause), or “The black is a ____”.

2. Duck! by Meg McKinlay (3-5 years)

CBCA Book of the Year: Early Childhood Notable, Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year: 3-5 years Shortlisted

Cover of “Duck!” (Meg McKinlay)

Duck runs around the farm shouting “DUCK!”, trying to warn them of something falling out of the sky, only to have the other animals exasperately explain why they are nothing like a duck. As speech pathologists, we love the descriptive language (“you have funny webbed feet and I have these fine cloven hooves”) and the moral of the story – to be a good communicator, you have use specific language! Nathaniel Eckstrom’s illustrations are captivating and changes in text type (bold, size, italics, font) encourage 3-5 year olds to explore print and understand how it affects how the story is read.

READING TIP: Make comments about how different character’s perspectives about the events, helping your child’s theory of mind to develop. For example, “Duck is beginning to feel frustrated because he feels the other animals are not listening to him but Sheep can’t understand why Duck would think to call him a ‘duck’.”

“Duck!” (Meg McKinlay)

3. Under the Southern Cross by Frané Lessac (5-8 years)

CBCA Eve Pownall Award: Notable, Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year: 5-8 years Shortlisted

The older sister to Frané Lessac’s “A is for Australia”, this stunningly illustrated book represents all the beautiful elements of our diverse Australian cultural, geographical and social contexts. Educating this age group of readers through a larger-font introductory sentence of the location (e.g. “In Brisbane, the Ferris wheel spins up to the stars, for a sweeping view of the city – under the Southern Cross.”) and then drawing readers in deeper with facts that are embedded into the illustrations. The descriptive language creates a sense of wonder and excitement, sure to prompt many young ones to ask further questions, express that they have seen it before or make comparisons to where they live.

Cover of “Under the Southern Cross” (Frané Lessac)

READING TIP: Encourage your child to compare and contrast their own town/city to the ones described in the book. For example, “In Brisbane, we have a bridge too, called the Queen Victoria Bridge, just like how Sydney has the Sydney Harbour Bridge however, we do not have the Sydney Opera House.”

“Under the Southern Cross” (Frané Lessac)

We hope you enjoyed reading about these three celebrated books and taking on a new reading tip!

Our very own book boxes provide speech pathologist-approved books and play activities designed by us to encourage strong communication skills in your child.

Our Book Week 2019 special is running now – check out the SHOP page!

Language of Behaviour: How to use the power of words to parent

To say the task of ‘parenting’ is overwhelming, would be a gross understatement.  Behaviour management is a complicated beast:  Rules vs Freedom.  Boundaries vs Flexibility.  Bully vs. Pushover.  This is all in a day’s work.  But what if we took the emotion out of the equation and just examined behaviour through a ‘language lens’?  Could it be as simple as a ‘game of semantics’? Let’s look a little closer at what this ‘language of behaviour’ involves:

1. THE POWER OF CHOICE: X OR Y?

Are you currently experiencing the joys of a terrible two, threenager or teenager?  While you have a battle of wills with the small dictator in your life, remember the power of choice.  You provide the choices, you maintain the upper hand. 

Speech pathologists effectively use choices not just as behaviour management technique but also to reduce the language demands of the task. 

Instead of having to know and retrieve the answer, your child simply chooses from the two answers provided; you have scaffolded the task.

“Would like to wear these shoes OR those shoes?”

“Broad beans OR peas for greens tonight?”

2. THE POWER OF A BRIBE OR THREAT

‘If’ and ‘unless’ are known as ‘conditional conjunctions’ and these language elements are necessary for understanding the concept of a threat and a bribe.  Obviously, bribes and threats are not the gold standard in the world of behaviour but we (parents) are not perfect!

Bribe Formula =  ‘If x, then y’. 

“IF you eat your broccoli (x), you can have an ice block (y) for dessert.”

Threat Formula =  ‘No x unless y”. 

“I won’t give you a push on the swing (x) UNLESS you say ‘please’ (y).”

3. THE POWER OF ‘POINTING POSITIVE’

‘Pointing positive’ is a behaviour technique where you say ‘what to do’ rather than ‘what not to do’.   

The social-emotional side of ‘pointing positive’ is that you are parenting with positivity however from a language perspective it is easier to comprehend sentences without negation (ie. not).

“Don’t run!” INSTEAD SAY “Walking.”

“Don’t hit.”  INSTEAD SAY “Be gentle.”

Beware of using double negatives in your sentences with young children as these are even more difficult to comprehend.

“If you don’t take those undies off your head, we will not be going to the playground.”

INSTEAD SAY

“If you take the undies off your head, we can go to the playground.”

4. THE POWER OF STATEMENTS NOT QUESTIONS

If what you are saying is a non-negotiable, don’t ask a question.  Parents are often guilty of asking a question instead of providing a statement.

As speech pathologists, we often work on understanding how to formulate a statement versus a question. 

“Are you ready to go in the car?”  INSTEAD SAY “It’s time to go in the car.”

“Do you need to go to the toilet before we leave?”  INSTEAD SAY “Come and do a wee on the toilet before we leave.”

This ‘language of behaviour’ strategy is easier said than done as often parents are busy avoiding sounding like a drill sergeant.But if all else fails, resort to option 2 (bribes and threats!).

If you would like to read some more behaviour, there are plenty of insightful blogs at Simply Kids by Stephanie Wicker https://www.simplykids.live/articles/challenging-behaviours and plenty of evidence linking language and behaviour by The Hanen Organisation http://www.hanen.org/SiteAssets/Articles—Printer-Friendly/Research-in-your-Daily-Work/Printer-Friendly—Behaviour-Regulation.aspx )

There is simply no way one could possibly overstate the power of words.  In fact, if we as parents learn to use the power of words, we might experience some wins in the battle of behaviour.  Well it’s worth a shot anyway!

Thanks for hearing our call.

Your Little Birdies,

Janice and Tania