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Improve Literacy Newsletter

30 January 2009 - Issue 11

Hi there, and Happy New Year to you all!

This month we are going to be looking at ways you can use information technology to help your child's reading skills.

Let's get right into it!

In this issue:

1. Using digital resources to help your child read
2. Some examples of digital resources and where to find them
3. The Improve Literacy website

1. Using digital resources to help your child read

There can be no doubt that today we live in a digital age. One of the most interesting things, though, is that young children are the main adopters of this new technology. It's not unusual these days to see computers and digital assistive technologies in schools and even nurseries and daycare centres, and for most of our children these are teaching aides that are taken for granted as part of their everyday learning experiences.

While it's important for parents not to lose sight of the fact that technology alone is a means to an end rather than a substitute for a teacher, it can be extremely useful when trying to help a young child to improve their reading and overall literacy skills.

Below is a list of digital resources that you might find useful if you are looking for alternative ways to get your child into reading. Kids tend to respond positively to new and exciting ways of learning, so it can't do any harm to try!

a) Educational podcasts - Podcasting is a great and simple way to deliver radio-quality content to an mp3 player that can be listened to anytime, anywhere - even when you're not connected to a computer. The benefits of having your child listen to educational podcast content are numerous - for a start they don't have to be at home or at a computer to listen to them; you can pause or rewind them at any time; you get to control what they listen to; and - best of all - it's usuallly free. There are thousands of podcasts being released every day, and below we list some web resources where you can download some great ones, including children's stories. It can be a great way to introduce children to stories which they might then be interested in reading.

b) Start a blog - A 'blog' is short for a 'web log', and is really a personal website, where the author writes 'posts' (or entries) that get displayed in reverse chronological order, with the most recent entry being displayed at the top of the page. A blog will usually revolve around a central theme, and it can be a great way for your child to express herself in a different way to the more traditional writing of a diary. Another good thing about a blog is that other visitors can post responses to your entries. Encouraging large volumes of responses is one of the exciting elements of blogging. Blogging is a fantastic way to boost both reading and writing skills.

c) Fun website games and quizzes - There is a vast number of free educational games websites out there. Kids love games and quizzes, and there are few better ways to improve their reaction times, overall brain power, co-ordination, general knowledge and memory. They also provide an fun environment where children can read without even realising they are doing it.

d) Have your child join a social network - Social networking websites, such as Facebook and Bebo, are the fastest-growing area of the internet, and have become a way of life for a huge number of people of all ages. They are a great way to communicate with and make new friends, and introduce an exciting environment where children can develop their reading, writing and communications skills.

Naturally using these kind of sites introduces inherent risks, and it is imperative that your child's profile has no identifying information on it, such as an address, school name, or most importantly, your phone number. This cannot be stressed enough, and is something you should consider seriously before allowing your child to sign up to a social netwoeking website.

e) Set up RSS feeds - RSS, or 'Really Simple Syndication', streamlines communication between web publishers and website visitors. The big benefit to RSS is that individuals opt in to content of interest, totally controlling the flow of information that they receive. This means that you can get a steady stream of on-demand content sent to you constantly. So if you were to subscribe to content that would interest your child, you know that you will get a rich source of information on a regular basis to keep you and your little one satisfied for a long long time!

2. Some examples of digital resources and where to find them

a) Educational podcasts

This is a podcast and 'vodcast' (videocast) directory site, offering thousands of podcasts, reviews and rankings, without annoying commercials and banner advertising.

b) Blogging

These are all blogging sites where you can set up your own free blog. They all have pretty good, easy-to-understand instructions that will help you have your blog up and running in quick time.

c) Games and quizzes

Just a few of the thousands out there!

d) Social networking sites

imbee is the self-styled first social network for young people, and is widely considered to be the safest out there. Unlike Facebook and Bebo, imbee is a closed circle of friends. You can't see who's online unless they're in your circle, and you can't communicate with anyone else unless they're in your circle.

e) RSS feeds

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