As parents, we all have high expectations of our children to pick up reading and writing skills with ease; however, we understand that this can lead to disappointment and frustration when your child doesn’t meet your expectations.
The ability for your child to recite the alphabet or write their name doesn’t necessarily mean a child has grasped the concepts and skills to read or write. Sometimes the pressure to read well before that are ready can leave your child feeling a sense of failure that can turn them off learning.
Before a child learns to read and write, they need to establish the building blocks for literacy. Learning to read and write is a process that starts from the day they arrive into this world and is continually refined throughout their childhood development all the way into adulthood.
Literacy, specifically early literacy is a skill that your child can develop and experience every day through play. They learn to speak, listen and hear which eventually is connected to letters on a page and spoken or sung words. Westernised children can realise from early on that words go from left to right, top to bottom on a page and that books go from back to front.
So, what does your child need to become a successful reader and writer?
- Oral language ability (speaking and listening skills) – vast vocabulary, comprehension of conversation and stories.
- Sound awareness (phonological awareness) – being able to identify and manipulate sounds.
- Letter recognition – being able to recognise letters in their name.
- Experience in environments that encourage literacy – books at home, drawing attention to print in the everyday world, and use of reading and writing in everyday life.
- Visual perceptual skills – being able to make sense of and remember what they can see, visually processing colours, shapes and patterns.
- Fine motor and eye – hand-eye coordination.
Your child needs all of these things to develop their literacy, and we understand that all children will pick them up at different stages; however, it is vital that we encourage interest in learning the above.
It takes time to develop solid foundations of these skills and play contributes heavily to the successful advancement of these skills, but everyday activities can offer encouragement of early literacy. Start with something simple like a conversation, singing a nursery rhyme or sharing a story and then advance to writing a shopping list or following written instructions, e.g. recipes, or sending messages.
Just remember – don’t get anxious if your child isn’t interested in certain activities. There are lots of activities and ideas that can be adapted to whatever your child loves to play with. Simply use opportunities as they come along to encourage your child to have a go at something new.