It can be worrying when your child goes to preschool or primary. It’s easy to compare what your child is doing with other children. Remember, every child learns at their own pace and not all schools approach things in exactly the same way.
If you do have any concerns then make an appointment to meet your child’s teacher or key worker and don’t be afraid to share those concerns.
What you can do at home
The most important thing you can do with your child is TALK with them. Having a clear understanding of the sounds of their language is vital before children can learn to read. It’s also important that children can distinguish between foreground and background noise so it’s important not to have the TV on all the time in the background as this can delay the development of this skill.
Well developed talking skills come before children can develop their skills in other areas of literacy. They may not always be ready to talk to you when you want to ask them questions so try to take the time to answer their questions when they’re ready to ask them.
Here are some top tips on supporting the development of talking skills:
Here is some great advice on how (and how not) to answer children’s questions:
And here’s some advice on the types of questions you could ask:
The Communication trust has some interesting downloads to help support your understanding of the development of talk: https://www.thecommunicationtrust.org.uk/resources/resources/resources-for-parents/ including free downloads such as the Summer Fun booklet with lots of ideas for how to engage in talk activities over the summer.
Becoming phonologcally aware
It’s important that children get the chance to play with the sounds within words. Here’s some things you can do:
- When you see street signs, say the words out loud and encourage children to identify beginning, middle and end sounds – shop = sh / o / p
- Ask children to provide the last sound in a word after offering them a clue – e.g. something you read is a boo-
- Collect items which begin with the same sound and put them in a bag. Emphasise the initial sound when you take the items out of the bag.
It’s really important to create a reading culture at home as this creates an association between reading and closeness and comfort. Things you can try:
- reading bedtime stories
- creating a safe and comfy reading space in your home
- going to the library together and spending time there reading together
- letting your child see you read
- talking about the books you enjoy
- using books as well as the internet to find out information
This Ted Talk explains why it’s so important to keep reading to your child, even after they’ve learned to read themselves.
The Scottish Book Trust have advice on sharing books with your child
Before your child can read they need to have developed a feel for language however, so the following things are all important:
- Learning to listen – don’t have the TV on all the time as this can distract a child from distinguishing between foreground and background noise.
- Having time to talk – giving children space and time to talk to toys as well as talking with adults.
- Music – Music trains the mind to patterns and the ear to sound, so dancing, clapping to rhythms and singing are all important in the development of vital skills for literacy.
It’s important that your child has a concept of print – that they know what words and sentences are. Point out notices and signs and say what their purpose is. Try going on print walks, where you go to the garage or the station and explainthe writing you can see.
Use the words “picture,” “word” and “letter” so your child begins to know what they mean.
Beginning to read independently
Before your child can learn to read they need to be able to recognise the sounds of their language, so make sure that you’re still singing nursery rhymes and playing rhyming games.
Your child’s school may use resources from Oxford University Press such as Biff and Kipper or Floppy’s Phonics. Even if they don’t, there are many resources that you can access to support your child such as 250 free e-Books organised according to age and ability which you can access after registering your details. You can also access activities to help support their reading and book recommendations:
Oxford Owl also contains handy ‘how to’ videos that you can use in supporting your child to read (search within the site for How to: English
Everyday’s a Learning Day contains more ideas for developing literacy and health and wellbeing.
Read, Write, Count is an excellent resource which gives you all kinds of ideas about how to encourage a love of reading with your child.
The National Literacy Trust has downloadable advice sheets at Words for Life as well as activities and ideas for both 3-5 and 5-7 year olds.
Every child in Scotland, from birth to P1, is given a BookBug Bag at age 1, 1-2, 3 and 5. There are also Gaelic bags. You don’t have to sign up for this – they will come through a health visitor or childcare provider. More information about BookBug and activities you can do with your child can be found here.
As your child learns to read you can read along with them. One really effective way of doing this is paired reading: paired-reading-and-how-to-do-it-with-your-child
There are many organisations which support reading, with ideas for connecting with your child, summer challenges, competitions and more:
The First Minister’s Reading Challenge has been extended to P1-3 pupils from August 2017
Hand in hand with learning to read goes learning to write. However, early writing may not be physical writing on the page. It may be using shaving foam or sand to make the letters.
It’s important that your child has the motor skills necessary before they can hold a pencil properly, so activities with plasticine, scissors, threading, spinning tops, sticky bricks, jigsaws etc are all important.
Beginning to write independently
There are lots of ideas online about how to encourage your child to write and where to start:
As well as some simple games to help build sentences, practice nouns and verbs and so on:
There are many apps and webpages that can support the development of early literacy.
You can dowload the CBeebies magazine resources for free from the National Literacy Trust
If you feel that your child is particularly able, Glasgow University’s Scottish Network for Able Pupils (SNAP) has some useful resources which you can use: http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/education/ablepupils/resources/