Pre-literacy skills are important for all areas of learning. A child’s literacy skills assist them to participate in all subject areas. The ability to read, write, speak and listen are key capabilities in our day to day life as adults too.
So when to start and what to do?! If I say as soon as they’re born, you will be scared off, but truly the little things that we do with our babies are important. Those little things include talking to them and reading books. As our little ones grow and develop we too can change and adapt to support them.
Master H enjoying a book during some tummy time at 5 months old.
Pointing out signs and symbols when you are out and about is such a simple way to expose your child to ways of reading and writing. As I mentioned in the first school readiness blog – children pick up symbols very quickly when they are exposed to them. The English language is made up of just that, a whole lot of symbols. Helping them to sort and recognise items in their day to day activities will help their mind begin to categorise and identify patterns, shapes and lines that make up similar and different letters and words. Ideas such as an ‘m’ and a ‘w’ being flipped, ‘p’ and ‘q’ looking the same, ‘b’ and ‘d’ looking the same and ‘o’ being a circle, come naturally to children when they start to see these patterns in our symbols. Go on a letter hunt, cut out letters from magazines, find picture story books that have the same first letter as your child's name, point out letters in number plates.
Building your child’s vocabulary starts with the conversations you have. A child who partakes in daily conversations will develop their own language skills in a fluid way including an understanding of tenses, sentence structure, pronouns and context. A conversation is a two-way process. It involves listening and speaking, both from your child and yourself. At a younger age, this is very much labelling items and simple command type statements such as up, down, me, please and thank you. However, by the age of three this can truly become a discussion which involves questioning the world and exploring answers together through your talks. I can hear you already, ‘they talk so much and ask so many questions…’ yes and that’s what you want! Talk with them, answer those questions or tell them you don’t know and find out together. Look on the computer, go to the library, get out in the world to explore their questions through conversations. This is also why we designed the play prompt cards in our boxes. They are conversation starters, not just things to play and do, they help build vocabulary, questioning the everyday and inspiring you and your little one to explore and play!
Our Communicate Card from our Feelings Box - We have already prepared questions and conversation starters for you!
Reading to your child can start from the day they are born. Yes, at first, they will simply sleep through the book and will certainly not understand the story. However, the more you read the more they will listen and become eager themselves to choose books, look at them and listen to stories. You will also be surprised how quickly, once their language skills start to begin, they can in fact repeat texts they have heard or make up a story using the pictures. These pre-reading skills help your child to become familiar with books and stories and how they are told, create meaning and the overall joy of reading. Making up stories at bedtime is one of our favourite things to do. Each night we read a book and then tell Master H (my little man Harrison, now 3 years old) a story. Over time these vary between recounts of the day to creative stories about adventures to social stories about things we are working on like sharing. I always start with, “One sunny day…” and Master H will say, “no, one cloudy day…” or “one hot night” etc. The story of course always finishes with 'the end'!
Read, read and read some more! Head to your local library to freshen up your collection regularly.
Literacy is based on a set of symbols, the alphabet to us adults is clear but for young children it is simply a set of squiggly lines and shapes. The representation and recognition of symbols is important and once again exposing your child to these things helps them for future learning. You do not need to sit your child down and get them to memorise the letters for reading or writing, however, building everyday experiences into their learning that exposes them to the alphabet is important. We had photos of special people on our fridge and I wrote the names to match. He would grab a photo and say Dadda and I would say yes, point to the D and say D for Dadda. The parrot kicked in and Master H quite quickly picked up that D is for Dadda and M for Mumma etc. Another thing I love to do is make photo books. Initially I just had photos but as Master H showed interest in the telling of stories I added words to our photo books. Simple recounts of a day at the beach, a camp trip or someone’s birthday.
Some pages from one of our photo books I have made.
Pre-writing skills are about explaining to children the importance of writing and how it can convey a message. Involving them in tasks such as writing a shopping list, making a birthday card or a thank you card, allows them to see a purpose for their mark making and it won’t be long before they are asking how to write things that are important to them. Many parents worry about children being able to write the letters of the alphabet and yes, it is an important skill for learning, but before your child is competent at writing their alphabet they need fine motor muscle strength and movement along with hand-eye coordination. Sitting them down to write the alphabet over and over will certainly ingrain it into them, but it isn’t what they need. Our activity kits have been designed with these pre-writing skills in mind, building fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination into the activities. Use shaving cream to write letters, use water and a paint brush to write letters on brick walls or pavement, roll play dough snakes and make the shapes of letters, cut out letters from sandpaper and close your eyes, feel them and see if you can work out which one it is. I will go further into fine motor skills and provide further activity ideas in a later blog as it warrants more detail.
Some of the most important things we can do for our children is talk to them, listen to them and read with them. Those three things alone will begin their literacy journey and start to enhance their vocabulary and understanding of how we create meaning through what we say, write and read.
Check out our Facebook or Instagram pages for more fun ideas along with our activity boxes on our website happy-explorers.com
We do have an Alphabet Box launching soon so stay in touch for updates.
Have fun exploring!