Tips for helping your preschooler to read and write
Often when children start school, the three things parents want their child to be able to do is read, write and make friends. As a parent, your role in preparing your child to be able to do these things is a key element in how quickly and successfully they will learn at school.
From the moment they are born, children are surrounded by language. Research has shown that their understanding of language and exposure to sounds in their early years forms the basis of their literacy development. In the research article "Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read", it is stated that before children learn to read, they need to become aware of how the sounds in words work.
Your job as a parent is to help your child get excited about communicating in a variety of ways - through oral language, reading and writing. "But I'm not a teacher, I don't know how to do this!" might be your response! You will be surprised how much you are probably already doing - just by talking to and with your child.
There are a number of other ways you can make your child even more aware of language that don't require any training and are easy to put into practice. Here are a few:
• Emphasise initial sounds with your baby: m.m.mum, d.d.dad, b.b.bub.
• Reading lots of nursery rhymes and stories to them from a few months old - even the same ones repeated over and over will help your child learn about story sequencing and the structure of language, so you don't need to change your library books each week. (Repetition is great for your child, even if it drives you nuts!)
• Letting your child see you read - the newspaper, emails, magazines, t.v guide - even the labels on food! It all helps your child see that you enjoy reading and that there is a purpose for it. Share some of the things you read with them. "This is a letter from Aunty Jill. She says…."
• Letting your child see you write - letters, notes, lists - get preschoolers to "write" their own shopping list then tell you about what is on it.
• Rhyming: "Time to put on your hat. Hat, pat, rat, mat" This shows the child that when the initial sound changes, so does the meaning of the word. Extend this by getting your child to complete a rhyme: "The cat wears a…(hat)." "The man has a…(van, fan,…)
• Encourage role playing and make-believe play - this has the basis for story-writing in it.
• Providing "tools" for writing: pens, pencils, felts, crayons and plenty of paper!
• Alphabet jigsaw puzzles and rhymes.
• Point out letters in the same way you point out colours - "See the "s" on the stop sign? S says sssss"
• Any other ideas you come up with! Be creative!
One final point: When it is possible, it is very important for children to have both Mum and Dad interacting with them in ways that promote literacy (not necessarily at the same time!) Dads can play a crucial role in raising children who love to read and write and are successful at school.
Sarah Francis (B.Ed, Dip Tching)