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How caregivers can help with your child's reading skills

Improve Literacy Newsletter

30 March 2011 -- Issue 31

Hi there!

In this edition we're going to be looking at how caregivers, babysitters, grandparents and other family members can help with a child's reading skills.

Let's get into it!

In this issue:

1. Tasks for parents and caregivers to help children with their reading skills
2. Resources for helping caregivers, parents and teachers
3. The Improve Literacy website
4. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook

As a parent you are your child's primary caregiver, but naturally there are times when you need to entrust your little one to the care of grandparents, babysitters or childcare workers.

Various studies and research programs have shown that the amount of communication and interaction between a child and a caregiver directly impacts development of the child s vocabulary. Infants are naturally programmed to learn the language that they hear most often, and begin to recognize words and phrases shortly thereafter.

Often when us parents read with our child, we have a list of other tasks and chores that we should be doing at the same time, like making the dinner, putting the laundry on and returning phone calls. Grandparents and babysitters, however, are relatively free of all these responsibilities when they are in your home, and so can focus their full attention on the task at hand.

1. Here are a few tasks that parents and caregivers can carry out with children to help them with their reading skills:

a. You can never guarantee that your caregivers will be passionate about reading or have access to good quality reading materials. Try keeping a small backpack of parent-approved titles in the car to take to the grandparents or to a friend's house - but just be aware that in their home, their rules apply.

b. If you leave a checklist for your babysitter with emergency phone numbers, sleep times, snack schedules etc, try adding a few book titles to the list as well. This makes it clear that reading bedtime stories is part and parcel of the job.

c. If you have a child in day care, or are considering enrolling, be sure to ask them about their reading program. There are three things to look out for: children should be read to (aloud) throughout the day; books should always be within easy grasp; and they should also be kept in good condition, be appropriate for the age group, and be frequently rotated.

d. Keep a few books hidden away for the babysitter for when you are out. Entertaining musical or talking books are great to keep in reserve, as are pop-up books, and it's a good idea to get everyone excited about them when the babysitter arrives. Don't forget that you are paying for your babysitter, so it's not unreasonable to expect some reading time.

e. When you let grandparents and friends read aloud to your child, embrace the fact that the way they do it will be different to how you do it. Bear in mind that there is no right or wrong way to read together with a child. Your little one will benefit from a different reading experience, and you will almost certainly learn new strategies and techniques that you hadn't previously considered.

2. Resources for helping caregivers, parents and teachers

a. Child Care Finders:
This article provides information specifically about the benefits of interactions between learner readers and caregivers, and gives handy tips on how caregivers can develop a child's language skills and vocabulary.

b. Reading Rockets Workshop handouts:
This downloadable toolkit is a great reference resource which includes a number of topics, such as discovering your library, helping a child become aware of print, reading aloud tips and suggested reading books for the very young. It's useful as it can be printed out and stuck to the wall or kept in a handbag.

c. How Caregivers Can Foster Early Reading Skills:
This article provides information for caregivers about how they can nurture children's reading skills through read-aloud activities.

d. Scholastic - Baby's First Teacher:
Scholastic is a learning organisation that creates quality educational and entertaining materials and products for use in school and at home. This article provides invaluable information to parents who might be on the hunt for caregivers, or selecting a daycare program for their child.

e. eHow Family - Preschool Reading & Writing Early Strategies for Teachers:
eHow is a huge resource of 'how to' articles, and the Learning to Read section is chock-full of great articles that can help parents, teachers and caregivers with child literacy.

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