Tips for helping your beginning reader

Many four year olds start to show an interest in reading. Once they have figured out that the little squiggles on the page mean something (i.e. having print awareness), their curiosity grows and they may tell you “I want to read”.  Then what? You may want to start whipping out sight word flashcards or sign your children up to reading apps like ‘Reading Eggs’. But here are three things any parent can do that will boost their child’s readiness for reading and set them up for literacy success in years to come. All three tips are based what research tells us are the foundational skills in reading, demonstrated by the Reading Rope (Scarborough, 2001).

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The Simple View of Reading

You may have seen that the teaching of reading has recently been brought back into the media spotlight with various camps arguing about the key elements of reading instruction. We are not here to argue those specific approaches however we ARE about bringing the science of reading to a wider audience. So let us introduce you to the The Simple View of Reading because knowing this will empower you as parents to start your children on the path to reading success BEFORE they receive reading instruction. And no, it does not involve learning the alphabet and sight word flashcards!

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Is my child ready for school?

What communication skills are needed for your child to have a smooth start to school? As speech pathologists, we play an important role in working together early childhood educators and parents to support children to meet their understanding and speaking developmental milestones. Let’s look at some of these key communication skills and read on to see tips on how you can continue to support your child to develop these important life skills!

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RichREADER, PoorREADER: Does how you read to your child really matter?

We all know that reading books is important for our child but do we know why?  If we truly understood the benefits of read alouds, would we change the way we read?

Little Birdie Book Boxes provide RichREADING activity cards in every box to accompany their carefully-selected, quality picture books.  These cards provide a key focus for parents to think about when they are reading the book.  These small changes in HOW you read will give your child an ‘educational edge’ and make your read alouds RICH and your child’s future RICH in opportunities.  Here’s how:

1. The best things about books

Books introduce our children to new worlds, helping their minds to grow and develop. Books and pictures are concrete, always there be to read again and again unlike speech which ‘disappears’ as soon as we are finished talking. Stories and words in books come back to us the same way each time we read a book. This repetition makes learning new words and ideas easier for your child.  So read their favourite story again and again…you are doing your child a solid.

Sneak Peek:  Little Birdie Book Boxes give you access to our very own YouTube channel that allows your child to read along to their new favourite picture books being read aloud by ‘yours truly’.  You can thank us later 🙂

But how can we go beyond just reading the story over and over again so much so that we can we can recite it in our sleep?

2. Not your everyday conversation

The ability to use language to think and learn is developed through the pre-school years and is fundamental to literacy and success at school. We want to foster more complex kinds of language children need to learn about the world e.g., to compare and contrast two things, to pretend and imagine, to provide explanations and descriptions. Your child will start to learn this type of language long before they actually start school and quality picture books provide the perfect platform to start these conversations.

3. Turn book reading into a conversation

Books are a rich source of language for thinking and learning. To build this type of language, we want to encourage the children take turns to contribute their thoughts and ideas throughout the reading. It involves an ongoing conversation – stopping, asking, listening, responding, explaining and commenting.

Studies show that children who participate frequently in extended conversations with adults have better language and literacy outcomes.

4. Ask, don’t test

Testing questions are not useful because they are usually too simple to be cognitively stimulating. Questions like, “What colour is that?” “What is this?” (a familiar object) or “What is he doing?” (when it’s obvious) are testing questions. Your child may answer these questions correctly but they are learning little from them, and often these questions end the conversation.

5. Balance comments and questions

If we are asking too many questions throughout our book reading, it becomes an unbalanced conversation. We all know those people who make us feel as though we are in an interview answering twenty questions – it is unnatural.  Over questioning during book reading limits the opportunities for your child to learn from you.

If adults use more abstract and sophisticated language in their conversations with children, children will raise the level of their language.

BE A RICH READER

Our RichREADING activity cards give you information about the language for thinking and learning and a comprehension skill is targeted in each book box. We provide you with facts and practical tips for how to extend comprehension for your child.  Every box includes specific examples of comments and questions to try during your read alouds.

Out 6 month memberships are great for building a home library or purchase a gift box for a special someone on our SHOP page today.

We know you are reading aloud to your child everyday, why not get more bang for your buck, and become a RichREADER today!

Thanks for hearing our call,
Your Little Birdies

References:
Weitzman, E. & Greenberg, J. (2010). ABC and Beyond: Building Emergent Literacy in Early Childhood Settings. The Hanen Centre: Toronto.

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.