Helping children become better readers

Helping children become better readers

It’s an anxious and exciting time when children start school (especially first children), and for those of you who have children starting school in 2022, it’s important that they get off to a good start.

One of the key predictors of reading progress is the amount of oral (spoken) language that children have in the early years and their general vocabulary knowledge. Too much screen time may mean that children just aren’t speaking or being spoken to enough. When families are out and about, this is an ideal time to talk about what’s going on in the surroundings and create opportunities for children to speak about what they see and hear and listen to their parents talk about their surroundings. If all family members are ‘on screens’, this is valuable oral language learning time gone to waste.

There are profound differences in vocabulary knowledge among children from different socio-economic backgrounds. Studies have shown that in professional homes children hear over 2000 words per hour compared with working class homes (1250 words/hour) and welfare homes (616 words/hour). Over a year, this means that children from welfare homes hear 8 million fewer words than those from professional homes. By age 4, the difference is as high as 32 million words. This achievement gap starts early, even before children begin school, and widens considerably once children go to school. Why is hearing and speaking words so critical? If a child has heard or said a word before they encounter it in print, they learn it more quickly. The more words they know as they learn to read, the easier reading is for them.

So, in the next few months, before your child begins school, talk and listen to them as much as possible so they have the opportunity to develop their vocabulary and be exposed to lots of words before they are required to read them.

For ideas to develop vocabulary (and spelling) seeHelping children become better readers pp. 74-80

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