Emergent literacy is something we are very passionate about, and we’re excited to have partnered with the Children’s Book Council of Australia to have held many wonderful Book Week activities across our Centre.

Literacy in adult life is a requirement for almost all forms of employment. Unfortunately, in 2012 the Australian Census found that around 44% of Australian adults lack the literacy skills required for everyday life, making daily tasks difficult. Even more importantly, low levels of literacy are linked to unemployment and social isolation.

Encouraging literacy in children assists with reading, communicating, and future employment. Most brain development occurs in the first five years of life so laying the right foundations for literacy means starting as early as you can. A report this year in Science Dailysuggests that reading books with a child beginning in early infancy can boost vocabulary and reading skills four years later, even before the start of primary school. Reading daily to children has a significant positive effect on both reading and cognitive skills and it’s important to start reading from the early years.

Yet literacy is about much more than simply learning to read and write. Nowadays it includes speaking and listening, as well as digital literacy – the ability to locate and comprehend information including signs and symbols – allowing children to make sense of the world.

Katie Lill, an Early Childhood Teacher in the Columba Cottage pre-school room, says that children can develop and learn strategies for literacy  through a range of media such as magazines and books, but also from seeing the written word in the environment. “Signs in the street, posters on a wall or seeing the words on a cereal box can aid in literacy development” says Katie. “The greater the experiences at home and in their educational setting, the greater the impact. Their sense of confidence and understanding of the world around them is aided by their exploration of literacy.”

Activities such as the Book Week Parade, which was attended by children from Columba Cottage as well as St Columba Anglican School, promote literacy by making books and reading fun.

Parents are a child’s first and most important teacher and for most parents encouraging and developing literacy skills in children can be simple. Mem Fox, an Australian writer of children’s books and an educationalist specialising in literacy has Ten Read Aloud commandments:

  1. Spend at least ten wildly happy minutes every single day reading aloud. From birth!
  2. Read at least three stories a day: it may be the same story three times. Children need to hear a thousand stories before they can begin to learn to read. Or the same story a thousand times!
  3. Read aloud with animation. Listen to your own voice and don’t be dull, or flat, or boring. Hang loose and be loud, have fun and laugh a lot.
  4. Read with joy and enjoyment: real enjoyment for yourself and great joy for the listeners.
  5. Read the stories that your child loves, over and over, and over again, and always read in the same ‘tune’ for each book: i.e. with the same intonations and volume and speed, on each page, each time.
  6. Let children hear lots of language by talking to them constantly about the pictures, or anything else connected to the book; or sing any old song that you can remember; or say nursery rhymes in a bouncy way; or be noisy together doing clapping games.
  7. Look for rhyme, rhythm or repetition in books for young children, and make sure the books are really short.
  8. Play games with the things that you and the child can see on the page, such as letting kids finish rhymes, and finding the letters that start the child’s name and yours, remembering that it’s never work, it’s always a fabulous game.
  9. Never ever teach reading, or get tense around books.
  10. Please read aloud every day because you just adore being with your child, not because it’s the right thing to do.

It’s never to early to start reading with your children.

For any parents who wish to help their child to become a better reader, a free information session on Fostering a Love of Reading will be presented at SCAS on Thursday 31 August at 5:30pm. 

About the author: All round go-getter, Susanna Christie, is the Executive Director of Columba Cottage Early Learning Centre, where she leads a passionate team of 50 staff who love what they do, caring for children ranging in age from 6 weeks to 6 years. With a background in teaching from pre-school through to university, Susanna is passionate about all aspects of child development and wellbeing. Her qualifications include a Masters in Education, Bachelor of Teaching and a Graduate Diploma in Educational Studies. Susanna’s aim is to ensure that Columba Cottage remains the best Early Learning Centre on the Mid North Coast.