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.

3 talking tips for raising empathetic children

Have you ever shared an experience with someone where instead of feeling heard, you were on the receiving end of sympathy, comparison or worse, a lack of interest? 

Empathy has the power to make or break personal and professional relationships.  It is a cognitive skill that develops over time.  We are all born with the potential to develop empathy but it is a taught skill, arguably the most important skill a parent can teach their child. 

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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 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.

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.