Improve Literacy

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Why You Are Your Child's Most Important Teacher

There you are, sitting on your couch with your child on your knee, the storybook in your hands. She is attentive, begging you to start the fun. Then you are suddenly overtaken by a wave of panic and self-doubt. 'I'm no teacher' you think to yourself. 'What training have I had?'

Suddenly you start worrying about how your lack of knowledge of 'phonics', the 'whole language' approach, 'reading comprehension strategies' and other buzzwords you have heard about will affect your little one's ability to develop critical literacy skills.

You really don't need to worry. Reading with your children from early on in their development will engender an enthusiasm for reading that will stay with them for a long time after their school days are over.

As a parent, you shouldn't be worried about 'messing it up' when you read with your child. Just because you aren't formally trained doesn't mean you can't get involved in helping your child to read. We know that kids learn best when they are having fun, so a cosy, family environment will always be far more conducive to the development of your child's reading skills than the classroom.

Just remember that you are the teacher they have had the longest. From their very first days you were the one who changed nappies, sang lullabies, fed, bathed and bonded with them. So you are the one they will respond to most readily. You may think that simply reading a storybook to your child and asking a few questions about the contents can't really do much good - but you would be surprised. What's more, reading with your child is a great way to spend further 'bonding time' with him or her.

All you need is a few things to help you along, and they are all available to you:

  • your local library
  • a bookshop (or second-hand bookshop)
  • comics and magazines

Library and bookshop staff are specifically trained to help with child literacy issues, and they can also recommend great titles to try out.

Children are great mimics, and they will mimic their parents before anyone else. You've no doubt noticed that when you do something, your child will try to do it too. So if they see you sitting down with a book, they will start to consider this as the 'norm', and will most likely want to do the same. At the very least, it will have piqued his or her curiosity.

So don't feel that you are helpless when it comes to nurturing your child's reading skills. You really don't need to have a language or literature degree. Just a vested interest in your child's development, an open ear, a loving approach and some words of encouragement. This, more than anything else, will help your child associate reading with pleasure rather than work.

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