Read Out Loud Together!
A recent statistic has shown that many school children are struggling with basic literacy skills and many have a reading age far below where they ought to be. Poor teaching in schools, overexposure and subsequent addiction to video games and too much 24 hour multi-channel TV have all been blamed. But it's also been proven that kids are more likely to become keen readers if they're started early, and that's where you as parents come in.
Don't think that just because your child is not learning to read at school yet, it's too early to begin laying down the foundations. Reading, writing and oral skills all develop together from the moment the child is born and evolve gradually as the child grows up.
The most important thing you can do to develop early literacy skills is to read aloud to your child. Make time to sit with your child and read to them. Choose books with large print that appears in small chunks on each page. As you read, run your finger under the words and encourage your child to follow. By reading favourite books over and over again in this way, your child will quickly learn each page by heart. Take this one step further by asking them to point to the words on the page and tell you what they are. The more books you read, the more enriched your child's vocabulary will become.
Cuddling up with your child and reading to them helps to develop a strong emotional bond between parents and their children. Dust off your acting and voice-over skills to make these sessions even more fun and special. Take it in turns to "read" out the text on the page – in character of course! In between the fun stuff make sure you encourage your child to try to read the words you are pointing out to them as you go along.
Bath time can also involve reading aloud. There are plenty of waterproof books available for little kids and play acting coupled with reading aloud to each other is a really fun thing to do especially if the story involves pirates or sharks!
No doubt your child enjoys watching kids' TV and this need not be such a bad thing as you can integrate their viewing into reading by choosing books which feature the TV characters they love. Take this one step further by putting up posters on their bedroom wall showing their favourite cartoon characters. You'll be amazed how quickly your child will be able to pick out and read the name on the poster and the one in the book you read together.
There are plenty of other things you can do in and around the home to help develop your child's preschool literacy. Word association is a very powerful learning tool. For example, at breakfast time, ask your child to read out the name of their favourite cereal from the box front. The earlier your child begins learning these skills, the more likely he is to be successful in reading and writing at school. It's really never too early to start.
About Alison Page
Alison is a freelance writer and author. She is a member of the UK national panel of dressage judges, holds a degree in Equine Science and a Diploma in Business Studies.