The first STEPs to teaching your child to read.

 “Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start, when you begin to read it’s ABC”……..Sound of Music

Well actually Julie Andrews, the very beginning is long before ABC.  The moment your child is born they are learning the very first skills required to later read!  So what can you do to harness this early learning opportunity, without even opening a book?

S- SING:  What on earth does singing have to do with reading?  Songs introduce the concept of beat, rhythm and rhyme to your child.  These are essential reading and writing skills.  Finding and hearing the beat is later used when teaching about syllable, rhythm helps with fluency of reading and predicting sentence structure and rhyme is an integral skill when it comes to word building, cvc words and poetry!  Nursery rhymes are a great place to start and your local department store will stock a great range of childrens music, try PLay School, Hi-5 and the wiggles!

 T- TALK:  A childs vocabulary upon school entry, is one of the best indicators of their later academic success.  In fact studies have shown that a childs vocabulary at age three is the strongest predictor of their reading comprehension at age 8 or 9!  So start talking!  

Long before they can talk back they are taking it all in!  Offer your baby or toddler a running commentary of what you are doing.  “Now Mummy is putting all the clothes in the washing machine, then I am going to put in the washing powder, turn the button on and now it is washing the clothes!”

But once they are old enough to “talk back” start engaging in conversation!  Answer questions, use big words, explain everything!  You will be amazed at how much children “copy” what their paretns say, the good and the bad!  So don’t “dumb down” your language!  Explain and give examples of what words mean.  

For example; When playing dinosaurs you could easily use the term meat or plant eaters to a three or four year old and they would understand.   Instead, try using the words, carnivore and herbivore instead.  It may take some explanation and repeated use but you will be surprised how quickly they start using these “big words” instead! 

E-  EXPOSURE to EXPERIENCES and being ENGAGED:  A wonderful way to increase your childs vocabulary is through experiences.  This could include;

involving them in the day to day activities of your household,
walks in the great outdoors
Visits to the post office, dentist, doctor, shops
excursions to the zoo, museum, library
concerts, plays, puppet shows

Every new experience offers your child a whole new set of topic specific vocabulary, BUT it’s up to you to talk at the same time!  Talk about what you see, hear, feel.  Hearing a sentence whilst being engaged in the activity means so much mre than just seeing it on television or reading it to them in abook!  This real life learning is creating memories and expereinces for them to later draw upon when trying to make sense of the world through reading.

P-PLAY and PRETEND.  The next best thing to the real life experience is playing the part.  Pretending to play “house” or dining in a play room restaurant, cooking in the sandpit,  building with blocks, these are all opportunities to enagage in language with your child.  This can take the form of

social role play (The doctor is going to fix your broken leg)  
rolling commentary (look at you putting the water into the pot, it has almost reached the top!)
predictions (how many more blocks on your tower until it falls over?)
music (lets dance to the beat!)

the opportunities are endless!
These may be the first steps to harnessing your child’s natural learnings but they are also great ways to increase the vocabulary in your household  at any stage!  
So have you sung a song today?  It really is the very beginning!

The more you read, the more you know

Did you know that this year is the National Year of Reading?  Well now you have no excuse.  I have been on my soapbox a lot this past year about just how important reading is for children.  It is not just about reading TO your children.  Let your child explore books from the moment their born, in their own way.  Upside down, back to front, touching, eating, enjoying books! You may not realise but they are always learning.  This is how I often find Little Miss A….

In her cubby with a book!

Melts my heart EVERY time!

Ok so that wasn’t really wordless! 

My Little Drummer Boys