First 5 Forever | Early Literacy and a Lifelong Love of Learning
Sharing stories together is a truly wonderous, magical thing. Captivating young hearts and minds with the beautiful power of the written word is not only an excellent way to spend time together but a proven kickstart for learning and literacy that will continue throughout your child’s life.
Over one million connections every second
In their first years of life, a child’s brain forms over one million new connections every second. Harvard University’s Center for the Developing Child says that a child’s early experiences determine the “nature and quality” of a child’s brain architecture, and parents and caregivers play a critical role in helping to make this architecture (and the foundations for their child’s future learning and development) strong.
While many might consider their child’s first teacher to be their kindergarten or prep teacher, it’s parents and caregivers who are their child’s first and most important educators. Importantly, for young children this doesn’t mean structured play or learning, but simply sharing everyday activities around the home or out and about.
By talking, sharing stories, singing songs and playing together, real impact is achieved and strong foundations can be built for future learning. As the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute notes, sharing these activities together also helps to nurture a strong emotional bond between parent or caregiver and child.
It’s never too early to start: right from birth, all those little moment spent talking, reading, singing and playing with a child make a big difference later on; in fact, the first few years are the most intensive period for language development in a child’s life. (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute: www.letsread.com.au/About/Research/Resources/2013-Let-s-Read-Literature-Review)
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Children and babies truly are sponges. They soak up every piece of knowledge that they come across. The way we spend our time with our children will shape them into the ‘tweens, teens and adults they are to eventually become. But where to start reading together?
The First 5 Forever program online has some key ideas to help you interact with your young children in informal teaching and learning situations.
Sharing Stories Together for Babies
It’s never too early to start sharing stories! Try making the most of everyday activities. Narrating your activities, emotions and thoughts are an easy way for children to pick up on the beauty of language and communication.
Share stories and take it slow. Babies respond to your voice and repetition is key for understanding. You could even make up your own words as you pore through the pages together. Let your child see your face and interact with you while you are reading to encourage them to start making connections – it’s an incredible joy to watch them learn and respond.
Reading Together with Toddlers and Preschoolers
Make it fun! Play, talk, sing and laugh. Book reading should be an exciting part of your routine and it’s up to YOU to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to fostering a love of learning. Your little might be wriggly or find it tricky to sit still for a whole story. That’s fine! Try talking about the pictures instead, or asking them questions about the characters. It doesn’t matter if you don’t make it all the way to the end of the story, the important things are the conversations you have and the special time you share together.
Speak to your children’s interests. There are so many wonderful texts out there to explore. Enhance, develop and encourage your child to learn more about the world around them. You might like to explore some age-appropriate non-fiction books together, especially if they have a strong interest in something like construction vehicles, dinosaurs or animals. You can also try singing the stories you read to get your toddler or pre-schooler interested and engaged in your story time.
Make reading a key part of your routine, be it during the day or at bed time (or both!). This is key to the boosting of language development. Get them involved in the practice – they can turn the pages, predict words and talk about the pictures. Play guessing games with them – what will happen next? Prediction and conversation are key learning tools. Learning and reading can be on the go as well! Make sure to pack a book or two (or three or four) into your bag for trips to the shops or outings in the car. You never know where reading inspiration will strike.
Why reading together makes a difference
It’s just so simple. Reading together fosters not only language and literacy development but it’s also the perfect way to bond and connect with your children. We are all so, so busy in this day and age that it’s important to find the space in our days to carve out just a little time (even ten minutes a day) to bond over the written word.
Libraries – when they reopen – are wonderful places to get a head start when it comes to encouraging reading together. Taking part in any of the First 5 Forever programs is a fantastic place to begin your family’s journey into the wonderful world of words. The enjoyment does not have to end when the session does – you have a whole world of books (and dedicated children’s sections) waiting for you to sink your teeth into.
Who knows where words can take you? Consider reading together to be the first step on a long journey of enjoyment, educational benefit and excitement as your family travels together down the path to learning and a love of literacy.
First 5 Forever – it’s easy to get started!
Are you interested in the First 5 Forever program? You can visit First 5 Forever online for lots of fun and free activities and ideas to try at home. You can also sign up for the free weekly tips customised to suit the age of your child.