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.

Bear Hug Unboxing

If you are looking for something to entertain the kids over the Easter break, our Bear Hug book box (for 3+ year olds) will certainly take the sting out of some long days!  An added bonus of our book boxes is that #winning feeling you get knowing you are doing something really positive for your child’s communication and literacy development.  We at Little Birdie Books are so much more than books in a box and this blog post will give you a little peek inside one of our best book boxes yet…’Bear Hug’!

Continue reading “Bear Hug Unboxing”

5 Little Tips for Talking to Little Ones

If you have to say “Cat got your tongue?” when talking to a child, then you’re doing it wrong! Winning the affection of children is something that most of us endeavour to master in our lifetime. As Ralph Waldo Emerson states “To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…this is to have succeeded.” Some of us work harder than others to achieve this. We all know the uncle or friend at social events who looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger from Kindergarten Cop on the ground, covered in a swarm of offspring. Whatever your motivation for talking to little ones, be it bonding or to build their communication skills, the truth is that sometimes it is hard work. Here are 5 ways to work smarter rather than harder when trying to converse with a child:

1. Question. Answer. Question. Answer. ZZZZZ…

In the mind of a child, asking questions implies testing but making comments implies interest. Much like a conversation with an adult, one with too many questions can become very long in the tooth. It ends up feeling like a game show where you are the unassuming and under prepared contestant. Children will tend to clam up when asked too many questions which prevents the conversation staying on the one topic. By balancing our questions with comments, we create more opportunities for children to take a turn in the back-and-forth interaction.

Did you know studies have shown a strong connection in the number of turns children take in a conversation and the scores they receive on standardised language tests? Check out this great article by Andrea Lynn Koohi, Hanen Staff Writer on ‘The Power of Turn Taking’ http://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/Articles/power-turn-taking.aspx.

As adults, we should try to ‘Strive for 5’ conversational turns on the same topic with young children to strengthen their depth of language and communication skills.

2. Never give a child the option of saying no

“Would you like a cuddle?” No. “Would you like to have dinner now?” No “Can I play with you?” No. Harsh but true. Try asking an open-ended question instead of a closed one. Imagine a closed question being like a door closing in your face while an open question is an open door…full of opportunities and possibilities.

When you ask a question that can be answered with a yes or no, you have asked a closed question. “Did you have a good day at school today?” The answer will invariably be “yep”.

Try open questions or wh questions and you might get a longer response. “Who did you play with today?” “What stories did you read today?” “Where did you go today other than your classroom?” To extend on the typical ‘wh’ questions, try ‘Blank’s Levels of questions’ when you read with your child http://askaspeechie.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blank-handout.pdf

3. Be interested NOT interesting

By asking about something you’re interested in rather than the child’s interests, you will most certainly send the conversation to a halt. Children are ego-centric. It seems like common sense but some people are much better than others at letting the child lead the interaction. It’s all about something called ‘cognitive resourcing’.

If a child has to use all their ‘cognitive resourcing’ or ‘brain power’ to stay focussed and maintain attention on what the adult is interested in, then less brain capacity is available for the topic of conversation.

If however, they are interested in what they are talking about all their energy can be dedicated to the discussion at hand.

4. Pitch at the right level

Children have very different language requirements depending on their age. Many adults don’t adjust their language when conversing with children and often use jokes that go over the child’s head. So when does humour develop in children? Well like most developmental milestones, it develops in stages and the ages vary considerably.

However, jokes that rely on sarcasm or irony are usually not understood until around age 5. Interestingly, a few pre-requisite skills are required for a sense of humour to develop including socialisation, imagination, perspective and language.

5. Be a player not a spectator

The number one way to get a young child to open up and “have a chat” is to get down to their level and PLAY! All too often, adults will stand by supervising the play instead of joining in.

Joining in and playing builds communication non-verbally first and provides an engaging and shared context for verbal communication.

But let’s face it, there are only so many pretend cups of tea one can drink or games of hide and seek that one parent can endure.
KINDERGARTEN COP, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1990. ©Universal Pictures

And of course, if all else fails, you have two options:
1) Enjoy the peace and quiet of being disliked OR
2) Give them a Freddo Frog and they’ll be your BFF (best friend forever).

Thanks for hearing our call,
Your Little Birdies xx