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Supporting Children’s Emergent Reading and Writing Skills

It is important to look out for children’s readiness for learning to read and write so that we can fully optimise their language learning abilities. As soon as children develop and start showing an interest for reading and writing, what happens next? Here’s what we can do as parents, to support their ‘explosion into reading and writing’:

1) Create opportunities for them to write and to read what they have written. It could be a shopping list (“Oops! Mummy’s forgotten to get you your favourite cereal. Lets write it down somewhere so we can remember the next time we go shopping”) or a wish list (“You would like to have a train set? Good! Lets make a list of all the things which you’d like to have and send it to Santa so he’ll know what to get you for Christmas”) or party invitations (“Who would you like to invite for your birthday party? I think we better write down some important information so that your friends know when and where your party is”).

2) Appreciate children’s attempts at reading and writing. If they have just started, it’s ok if their spelling is inaccurate or if their handwriting is untidy. The important thing is to help them feel that their efforts are appreciated (“Oh wow! Did u write the word ‘awesome’ all by yourself? The way u spelled it ‘o-s-o-m’ was a really, really good try cause I could just put all the sounds together and figure out what it says”).

3) Point to the words when you read to them. It’s great to read to children on a daily basis as this helps them to understand early on, that print is a great way to carry a message across to other people. As such, when we point to the words we are reading out (it could be on a bottle cap which reads ‘press and turn to open’, a story book or a sign board with the words ‘beware of uneven surface’), children will quickly understand that words which are made up of different sounds are put together to carry a certain meaning. They will also figure out that individual words can be strung together to form phrases and sentences which carries a wealth of information.

This is what I have done with my boys at home (and you can certainly do this too!). I held a pizza and movie night at my home one Friday which my boys got really excited about. We looked up some recipes, made a shopping list, got the stuff which we needed for the pizza party and decided on a child-friendly movie to watch. Then, we made party invitations and when the party was over, we wrote thank you cards to those who came.

This was such a big effort on my part to prep and clean up afterwards but I also quickly realised that this was a great opportunity to get my boys to be enthusiastic about reading and writing to the extent that learning to read and write was virtually effortless and even fun for them. Now, we have pizza and movie night at our place once a month and have been doing it for 6 months in a row.

I’ve bought different types of invitation cards and thank you cards for my boys to write on and they write them a month in advance. I have also managed to get them to help me clean up after every event so that they can take responsibility and ownership of their parties.

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