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Courtesy of
Catholic Educaton Office Townsville

As parents, we always want the best for our children. One thing you can do to give your child the best start in developing their reading and writing skills, is to talk with your child.  And read. read, read and read some more. The earlier you take an active role in your child’s literacy development, the greater the result will be in their learning. Our teachers do a wonderful job educating our children and as parents, when we work in partnership with teachers, we have the power to make a huge difference in our child’s development of reading and writing. 

Talking or Oral Language is one of the most important things in reading and writing. In fact your child’s ability to talk and use a wide vocabulary is an indicator of their future success in school. This isn’t just any old talking though, conversations must move beyond instruction giving and surface conversations.  Have rich conversations with your child on topics that interest them. Ask questions, find the answers together, really listen to what your child is saying and try to build their knowledge and vocabulary.

Parents are the Model – all children learn through mimicking.  What do they see you read?  How do you show that reading and writing are important?  When you are out and about with your toddler, stop and think about what you are modelling to them.  Are you talking with your child or looking at print around you?  Or are you distracted by the task at hand or perhaps scrolling social media? What you do yourself matters a lot!  Model reading time by reading a book yourself. Show them that you use writing – write a shopping list or a note.  Be present in the moment with your child – engage them in the task at hand and talk to them about it.  

What age is your child? We’d love to share some age focussed everyday tips on how you can help your child develop a love for reading and writing.

Early Years

Conversations 
Talking to your baby is the first step in developing an interest in language.  Through talking to, explaining tasks that you are doing and asking your baby questions, your child is introduced to the intonation of your voice as you speak.  This helps them begin to learn words, and the way in which language works. As your child grows, keep talking with them.  Dinner time conversations are a perfect opportunity to expand their vocabulary and a great habit to get into from an early age.   Ditch the screens during car rides and replace them with conversations about what you can see outside, where you are going and what you might do there.  

The gift of reading
It is never too early to start reading to your child. Reading to your child not only stimulates their imagination, it allows your child to develop reading skills through listening to your voice. You can also encourage reading skills through visiting the local library for a storytelling session. As they grow, encourage them to choose and hold the books you read to them, this will further encourage a love of reading. Giving books as presents for birthdays and Christmas can also promote reading as a gift. 

Repetition is not only fine, it is essential!
Most children have their favourite books, so keep reading them. Rereading stories allows them to learn about story patterns.  Remember – children learn through mimicking. They will soon ‘read’ their favourite book aloud from memory rather than by actually reading the words on the page. They will copy you and how you read their books.  Encourage this.  Let them use the pictures to help them.  

Nursery Rhymes and Singing are gold
Nursery rhymes are not just fun things to sing with children, they also assist in language development as they introduce new words and demonstrate where words begin and end in sentences. Singing nursery rhymes also teaches rhyme, repetition and rhythm.  

Encourage drawing   
Early squiggles and marks are the beginning of writing so have drawing supplies ready and offer crayons and paper from an early age. Drawing squiggles is an easy daily task that can assist in fine motor skill development and allow your child to develop a love of writing. 

Show print in action
When out and about with your child you can show how reading and writing has meaning in everyday activities by reading shop signs and food labels. You can also play a game of memory in the car with traffic signs.  

Primary Years

Tuning in to sounds 
Children love sounds.  Long before school, they will tune into sounds in words.  A fun way of doing this is to play with rhyming words or play “I spy”. Once your child begins school, they will be introduced to letters and sounds. Remember that sometimes, letters can make different sounds. Think about the sound of the letter c in these words.  Cat and Ice.   What a great conversation to have with your child.

Sight words
Sight words are usually tricky words that children are encouraged to recognise by sight. Often these words can not be “sounded out” and for this reason the ‘sound it out’ strategy doesn’t work. An example of this would be the word was.  If this word was written so that a child could sound it out, then it would look like woz.

The idea of ‘readers’ coming home as a first time parent can be very daunting; however, readers are used as an introduction to high frequency or sight words. Home readers play a small role in helping your child with reading. These books should be quick and easy to read and serve as practice for your child.  Schools will send home guidelines in ways in which you can support and assist your child to read the books.  If your child is struggling to read their home readers easily, speak with your child’s teacher, so they can swap them. 

Top Tip

Remember all children will learn their sight words and progress in reading at different rates.  This is normal.  Try not to stress.  Just as babies learn to roll over and walk at different ages your child will learn when they are developmentally ready.   Keep reading fabulous picture books as well.  Home readers are not high quality literature.  They serve a purpose to help children learn to read. 

Reading together

Once your child has started reading by themselves and In the busyness of after school life, there is great temptation for parents to stop reading to their children. However continuing the daily routine of reading together throughout primary years is the best way to continue to monitor your child’s reading development.  After reading, parents can start asking questions about the book they have read.  For example: What was your favourite part?  Who is your favourite character and why?  This helps to develop your child’s comprehension of what they have read.    Prompt your child to read other books by the same author.  

Top Tip

Make sure your child reads a wider range of book types,  Some fiction books as well as some non-fiction books.  A range of authors.  Picture books as well as chapter books.  Some picture books are quite complex but are overlooked because they are sometimes seen as only for young children. 

Funwork!

As your child brings home homework, make the experience a fun, positive and special time together. You can really support your child with their learning by taking an active interest in their learning and monitoring and celebrating their success.  Talking to your child’s teacher about their progress and work can also help you to support your child at home.

Top Tip

Sometimes Homework straight after school is just too much for your child. 

Take a break and then try.  Or if your child is an early riser, try completing homework in the morning when they are fresh. 

Secondary Years

Allow for conversation and debate
The teenage years often bring their challenges.  Parents find their teens less likely to engage in discussion and are sometimes met with more grunts and shoulder shrugs than ever before.  This makes it harder to monitor where your child’s interests lie. This is where routines of dinner time conversations can help. As your child’s opinions and thoughts develop, encourage sophisticated and deep conversations or debate. You can try (if you dare) to challenge a teenage daughter that Harry Styles’ music is not as good as hits of the 90s and I’m sure you’ll get a verbal reaction… possibly after an eye roll or two! Having conversations and debates allows your child to think about their ideas in a safe space and maintain their confidence and interest levels in literacy. 

If your teen is still reluctant to engage in conversation, try doing another activity at the same time, like throwing a football around outside while you talk or ask them to dry the dishes while you wash.  Sometimes the added distraction helps open the communication channels. 

Be there
As your teen progresses through secondary school, continue to ask questions about school learning and assessment. Know when your child has assessments due and ask them to discuss their work with you or offer to read their work and give feedback. Maintaining an interest in what your child is studying is the key to a continuation of a love of learning. 

Keep lines of communication open
And finally, keep communication with your child and their school open. Open communication is important to ensure your child, school and you are aware of any difficulties they may be experiencing and in what ways you can help.

Helping your child to be successful in literacy throughout their childhood is one of the most important jobs you will ever do as a parent. Inspiring a love of reading and writing, will stand your child in great stead for many years to come. 

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