'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Speechie's Couch: Reading Readiness

When I waved goodbye to my baby on his first day of school, I was filled with worries. Would he be happy? Would he make friends? Whether he would learn to read wasn’t on my radar, but I know this is a worry for many. How can we best prepare our pre-schoolers for their first steps into the world of letters and words?

Strangely enough, it is not by teaching children to form letters or write their name. It’s not even about recognising letters. That will all come at school.

The joy of sharing a story between the pages leads to lifelong literacy. Children who regularly share the events within a book are able to sit and listen. This develops auditory attention and is something every child needs for the hours of listening that occurs each day at school.

Children are assessed for their reading readiness in their first weeks at school, but it may not be what you’d expect. One of the first things many teachers do is ask each child to pick up a book. Based on Marie Clay’s Observation Profile, teachers watch to see if children know the difference between the front and back cover, where the first page of the story is and where the teacher will begin to read. Can they point to a word? Which way do you turn the page to find out what happens next?

These simple skills are critical precursors to what will follow: reading for real.

I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. The joy of sharing a book is beyond measure. Every time you share a book with your babies and not so small children, you are cementing a love and knowledge of story and how it works. Showing them where the tale begins and ends, where the words are on a page and even which way is up are critical precursors for literacy.

Jo Burnell is KBR's Development Editor and resident paediatric speech pathologist. A reviewer of children’s and YA books and shortlisting judge for Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year, Jo is familiar with effective writing for Upper Primary and Secondary students. 

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