Many parents of pre-school children have had to keep their children at home during lockdown. The early years foundation stage is a crucial time for young children to begin learning good habits and skills in readiness for school.
During this difficult time, there are many children who should be starting school in September for the first time and haven’t benefitted from the normal lead up to this transition within their early years settings. This blog is intended to give some ideas to parents about how to prepare their pre-school child for reading at school.
Build up a bank of familiar stories and rhymes to read, recite and re-read and re-cite regularly.
There are three prime areas of learning in the early years and four specific areas. All areas of learning are important and interconnected. However, the prime areas are important for igniting children’s curiosity, love of learning and being ready for formal schooling when they leave the early years. One of these prime areas is called ‘communication and language’. Children in the early years should be encouraged to develop a love of words, stories and rhymes. The importance and usefulness of sharing stories, rhymes and songs with your child during their early years cannot be overstated.
Share nursery rhymes
There is already a blog about the importance of nursery rhymes for early years children on the Starline website (www.starline.org.uk). Sharing, learning and reciting these rhymes does many things to develop early language and a love of story. As well as developing vocabulary, being fun to learn, easy to share, there are some that are also useful for developing early mathematics skills. Check out the resources on the White Rose Mathematics website are also really helpful:www.whiterosemaths.com/homelearning/early-years/. The Early years resources have stories you can share to support mathematical development.
Tell your early years child stories
You don’t have to have books to instil a love of reading. Just tell your child stories that you love. It won’t be long before your child loves them too. They don’t have to be complicated. In fact, simple stories with heroes, heroines and villains are perfect. Tell the story of Jack and Beanstalk, Cinderella, Snow White and Three Billy Goats Gruff. Don’t be afraid of retelling and retelling. Learning the structure of the story inside out helps prepare your child for reading and writing later in their education. When you re-tell the story, add more details, or make intentional mistakes that your child might spot and remind you of the proper story. Of course, the more fun, the more your child will want to do it. Add actions, join in together. Depending on the confidence of your child, let them have a go at telling a story to you.
Sing songs together
Not all of us are musical, but this can be a lot of fun. Surprisingly, it is also useful in preparing children to read. Learning songs off by heart and singing them regularly helps develop the parts of the brain that will later hear and interpret the sounds in reading. Nursery rhymes of course do this, but if you don’t know many, then learning your favourite songs with your child can be fun, done anywhere (well, around the house at least) and is a great way of preparing your child for reading.
Read stories to your child
Reading to your child can be really rewarding for your both. Such as reciting familiar stories, reading and re-reading familiar books are a really good way to begin the journey towards reading. Picture books are particularly good for this if you have them. Make sure the experience is fun, relaxed and enjoyable for both of you. Together, you and your child could build up a bank of favourite books. If you don’t have many books at home and have access to the internet, there are several useful sites where you can listen to stories being read online. One example is Amazon Audible, where you can currently listen to stories for free. Check it out at https://stories.audible.com/start-listen. It is not the same as reading a book together, but it can help if you don’t have many at home.
When children start school in Reception, they begin to learn their phonics – the link between letters and their sounds – straight away. Learning phonics is a crucial early skill for reading. If you have access to the internet, there are some useful online resources for parents teaching their children phonics. Many schools prefer it if children learn their individual sounds when they start in school, but there are lots of ways of getting your child to begin to recognise that letters have sounds – such as playing games to describe familiar items using sounds, such as ‘An Amazing Apple’. One good place for early rhymes and games to set the foundations for learning phonics is the jolly phonics website, they have lots of resources for parents which are currently free: www.jollylearning.co.uk
Keep it fun
Whatever you try and do with your child, remember it is about igniting curiosity and a love of learning. Therefore, it should be fun and exciting. If something doesn’t work, or your child is resisting, don’t insist – come back to it at a different time when their mindset might be different. You will know when it is right, because your child will enjoy it. And you will enjoy it too.