One of the biggest factors affecting your child’s ability to progress at school is their language skills. If they cannot understand what is being said or articulate their own thoughts, then school can be a confusing and isolating place. Is your child’s vocabulary holding them back?
According to the Centre for Independent Studies, more than one in five Australian children aged 4 and 5 lack the language skills necessary to describe simple events or to even to speak in sentences. There is a strong need for children to develop good language skills because when you’re behind from the start you rarely catch up.
Here are some ideas you can fit into your busy family lives in order to help your little ones develop their language skills.
Encourage reading for pleasure from an early age
This ensures that positive reading habits are set up from the start. Building a love of stories, books and reading are key to developing a child’s vocabulary. For very young children, create opportunities for sharing books throughout the day, not just at bedtime. Lead by example and let your child see you reading for pleasure as they become independent readers themselves.
Don’t be scared of using challenging language
Children learn from what is being said around them, so if you model using a variety of language then your child will learn more and start to use different words. Use more challenging words and then explain what they mean to increase their vocabulary.
Join the library
Books can be expensive, and it may take time to find the types of stories that engage your child, so join the library and tap into this free goldmine!
Attend music classes or story time sessions
These are also great ways to engage your child and build their language skills.
Label your house
Involve your child in labelling items around the house so they can learn lots of new words. Write the words and get your child to trace over or copy them if they are able. They can also draw pictures on the labels to help them remember the words.
Make word learning fun
Play quick and easy word games such as ‘word of the week’ where points are scored every time the word is used in context correctly. Traditional games such as Hangman, Scrabble and Boggle increase literacy skills. ‘I Spy’ is good for younger children and can be adapted for older children to ‘I hear with my little ear’ and then giving a clue to the meaning of a word for example “a word that means the opposite of agree” or “a word that explains how plants get energy”.
Talk with your child
Conversation is key to building language skills. Whether it’s whilst having dinner, on the journey home from school or before they go to bed, take the time to have a chat with your child. Sometimes it’s hard to get anything out of children, and “fine” or “okay” are given as standard answers. Try a few open questions to get them expanding their answers like “what was the best thing about your day?” Or “Tell me about what you did at nursery”.
Technology can help increase literacy skills if you use it in the right way. Some recommended resources are:
- Free e-books There are lots of websites that offer free e-books for children from toddler to young adult, which can be read online or downloaded.
- Audio books are great when you’re traveling in the car or getting ready to go out. Listen to stories together and then talk to your child about the story.
- Apps such as Pirate Phonics, Hairy Letters and Reading Eggs are great to get started with language learning.
When you are out and about let your child take some photos to make a picture diary. When you get home look through the photos and get them to describe what you did. You can also turn your adventures into a book. Book Creator (www.bookcreator.com) allows you to make 40 e-books of your own for free.
Charlotte Gater is Head of Curriculum at leading extra tuition provider Explore Learning.
This article featured in Issue 32 of our printed magazine, published February 2019.