Improving your child’s literacy skills
Literacy is a major component of your child’s cognitive development. Following these guidelines will give you the tools to coach your little one all the way from learning the ABCs to writing their own masterpieces!
Strong written and verbal communication skills are an absolute must for our children to navigate the modern world easily. There’s no need to worry however, there are plenty of different ways to encourage children to develop these skills. Also, every child is unique and therefore grows and learns at their own rate. So there’s no need to panic if your child isn’t the first in their class to start reading! Anywhere between the ages of four and nine is considered usual. If you do have any concerns, reach out to your little one’s doctor for guidance and any resources that may help.
TIPS TO DEVELOP LITERACY IN YOUNG CHILDREN
Research suggests that the majority of parents overestimate the amount of time after birth that their little bundle of joy will be ready to begin developing literacy skills. The truth is that babies are absorbing information from the moment of birth, and so we should be communicating directly from the very start! Here are a few tips to help your child to start reading and writing:
Chat with your child
Many parents don’t speak directly to their young babies as they think that, just because they’re not responding, they’re not listening. Though it will result in many one-sided conversations, try to chat to your child as often as possible. Simple things like saying ‘Hello!’ or pointing out and naming objects is a great place to start. Believe it or not, your baby is taking all of this on and learning from a very young age. With toddlers, include them in conversation and ask them plenty of questions. This enables children to learn to express themselves while also showing that they’re an equally important member of the family!
Listen and learn
When your child has slightly more ability, word association games are a really fun, educational tool. Starting with rhyming games, you can say the word ‘pen’, for example, and ask them to come up with as many words that rhyme with it as they can. For younger kids, these words can be real or made up, the aim of the game is to challenge their ability to hear a word and relate it to another.
A reading routine
Reading with your child is a tried and tested method for improving all aspects of their literacy. Reading to your little one will benefit them even before they can speak. Simply hearing all of the different sounds that the words make is contributing to their development. Progress towards pointing out specific letters and words as you pronounce them so that your child can associate the sound with the written version. Reading will really help to expand your little one’s vocabulary and understanding of how language works. Have patience through this slow process and watch your little bookworm flourish!
Long before children are able to write properly, they will experiment with all sorts of scribbling and colouring. These are important stages on the journey to writing and enabling them will undoubtedly help your child learn to write. Consider setting up a table for your child to play with colours, pencils, markers, paint and paper. While it may seem that this is more about making art, the skills they will practise are key for learning to write. Don’t be afraid to get involved!
LITERACY IN OLDER CHILDREN
Learning to read and write is not an exclusive challenge to younger children. While older children have most likely got a good grasp of the basics, their literacy journey is by no means finished. If your child is a stronger reader, it’s going to be beneficial to their overall development and wellbeing. In school, not having to worry about reading difficulties removes so many obstacles to success. Emotionally and socially, reading will equip your child to understand themselves and others better, as well as enabling them to express themselves better. If you’re looking to boost your child’s reading skills, here are a few ways to get started:
Regular reading time
Reading is a skill and, as with any skills, practice makes perfect. Setting up a set time each day for your child to read is a surefire way to boost their ability. When your child becomes able to read independently, this doesn’t mean the end of the scheduled reading time. Even if they’re comfortable reading alone, it’s worthwhile being nearby to help if they get stuck on an unfamiliar word. Perhaps lead by example and read alongside your child. This provides support and encouragement to read while still allowing your child to enjoy the quiet time that reading brings. Once your child begins reading for pleasure, there’ll be no stopping them!
Surround your child with books
One of the biggest pitfalls when it comes to children improving their reading ability, is the lack of access to books. There is all of the demand but none of the supply! Prevent this from happening by ensuring that there’s a wide-ranging collection of suitable books in your home. Don’t be afraid to have books in every room or even in the car. Children are curious and when curiosity strikes, it helps to have a book nearby that they can explore. A weekly trip to the local library is a cost-effective option that is sure to satisfy even the most eager reader!
Let them fall in love with reading
Some children protest that they don’t like reading – they find it boring and pointless. The real issue here may not be reading itself but may actually be the kind of books they’ve been reading. We all have specific tastes and our children are no different. A history buff is less likely to be engaged by a science-fiction novel, or a sports lover by a series of mysteries. Help your child to discover their interests and show them books on these topics. Reading about something you’re fascinated with is far less of a chore!
Reading outside their comfort zone
Once your child sees the value of reading, you might notice that they’re only reading one type of book. Be it fantasy novels, non-fiction stories or anything else, they may have narrowed their focus onto one specific genre. As mentioned before, reading what they’re interested in will enhance their love for reading, but branching out is also valuable. Encourage your child to read different things from time to time, taking in poetry, newspapers, plays and everything in between. The various types of literature will push your child outside their comfort zone, stimulating their brains even further and boosting their reading development.
The ups and downs
As with learning anything, there will be times when it’s easy and times when it’s hard. Reading is no different and so make sure to support your child throughout all of this. They may get fed up and frustrated at a lack of progress, or some of the reading material may become stale to them. Whatever the challenge, do your best to catch the problem before your little one gets too disenchanted and guide them back on track.
The path to reading and writing comfortably, and reaping all of the associated benefits, is a long and tricky one. Understanding this, and what your child needs to progress, is key to their development. Remember, this is definitely a marathon, not a sprint, and a reader is never made overnight. Allow your child to take their time and focus on cheering them on as they blossom!