We love teaching kids how to read! But before they come to us in kindergarten, there is a plethora of practices that you can use in your normal family life that will build early literacy skills. Speech and early literacy are so interlinked- children who talk well often read well. Speaking meaningfully to your children will set them up for success. The following suggestions are easy to incorporate, and most won’t add any time or money to what you are already doing.

Sing Nursery Rhymes

Yes, they are old fashioned, but the sing-song nature and rhyme means that children are able to learn the patterns and can predict the endings of each line.

Use your Voice

Babies, toddlers and children pick up on the intonations in our voices. Speaking higher and lower than normal will refocus young ears, and they are more likely to repeat things that are amusing to them. If it’s fun, you might have an echo, brilliant for speech and sound development.

Read with them

Read, read and read some more. From when babies are tiny, and you don’t even think they are paying attention, they are learning about print conventions and learning the joy of sitting on the lap and snuggling with a book. They will want to read the same books over and over again. That’s ok, embrace the repetition, it’s important for their development.

Model appropriate language

If your toddler or preschooler says, ‘me have that,’ before you respond to them, model the correct sentence and ask them to repeat it. Say, ‘Say can I have that please?’ And then move on with the conversation. You don’t want to dwell on incorrect sentence structure, but gentle correction within a normal conversation allows them to hear the difference between your speech and theirs and points them towards the socially acceptable way of speaking.

Sign up at your local library

Local libraries give out library cards to children of any age. What a fantastic 3rd birthday present for your child! A library card gives your child the responsibility and excitement of choosing and reading their own books. Swap them regularly so you have a steady stream of books coming through your door.

Enrol in music classes or playgroups

These groups allow children to work on vital social skills, in an environment that is probably music, rhyme and song rich.

Exercise your own vocab

Use high level language with your children. Always keep the content appropriate, but kids will benefit from you uplevelling their sentences. ‘That’s a big dog, Mum!’ Reply with, ‘Sure is mate, it’s huge! But not as ginormous as an elephant.’

Turn the screens off

An argument could be made that everything on ABC Kids is educational. There’s a time and a place for it but being outside and in conversation will benefit kids more than sitting in front of a screen. Save it for a (timed) reward, or for half an hour on Saturday morning so that you can have a sleep in.

Involve them in your chores

While cleaning is drudgery for adults, kids will love to help scrub the toilet and sweep the floors with you. It makes it harder to get your jobs done quickly, but they are learning to listen to and follow instructions which are essential skills. Doing activities together provides plenty of opportunity for conversation and language builds literacy.

Listen to music together

Take the headphones out and bust out some moves to the Wiggles. There’s a reason why the Wiggles are so successful; they work for toddler’s development. The rhyme, repetition, simple language and simple melodies are laying a foundation for reading.

Talking meaningfully with your children lays the foundations for readers who can access the language and experience in books. It’s so worth the time investment for your children’s future to build into them, well before they reach school age. In doing so, you’re unlocking their potential for reading success!

Mrs Hayley Burns / Junior School Learning Support Coordinator