Why Early Literacy Builds a Foundation For Your Child❜s Academic Success

  • Parents Only

By: Alex Harmon, ellaslist
Nov 15, 2018

Just as homes require a concrete foundation to build a solid structure on, so too, are early literacy skills the foundations for children’s future learning success to build on. We spoke to Fay Ligonis from Super Kids Tutoring about how parents can best prepare their children for a lifetime of successful learning and help instil a love of reading and writing. 

What are some of the best ways parents can prepare their child for school literacy?

Parents are their child’s first teacher and most important role models. Therefore, it is important to set positive examples through your actions and behaviours. So, let children see you reading and writing and enjoying it. Read anything and everything!

Here are some ways to build literacy skills at home:

  • Build your child’s vocabulary and language through songs, rhymes and stories read and made up! Tell your child stories and get them to tell you stories about their day, activities, trips etc.
  • Establish a reading time each day, even if it is for just 10 minutes.
  • Guide your child through the story. Ask them questions about what is happening, get them to locate pictures of things and encourage your child to guess what will happen at different points.  
  • Provide opportunities for your child to draw. Did you know that making marks (or scribbles) on a page is an important pre-writing skill? The more opportunities for children to use pencils, crayons, textas, paint brushes etc the better! It not only builds their fine motor skills, but is a way of representing something meaningful to them.
  • Doing lots of craft activities like cutting and gluing also prepares your little ones hands for the writing tasks ahead at school.
  • Develop your child’s phonemic awareness, that is, the ability to hear, identify and manipulate sounds. Play games such as EYE SPY, but instead of saying the letter name, make the letter sound, for example, “something that starts with ssssssss”. Ask your child to listen to a word you say and ask them to identify the sound they hear first/last. Choose simple words like “top, run, sip, pat, dog”. Practice listening for words that rhyme and words that start/end with the same letter. Change sounds to make new words, for example, when you take the ‘c’ off cat, it makes ‘at,’ or if you replace it with ‘h’ it makes ‘hat.’


Where do you stand on the phonics vs whole language debate?

This has been a contentious debate!

Think about the home readers that come home from school. Have you ever experienced your child read from memory or guess the story based on the pictures? Or maybe your child gets to a longer more challenging word and they pause for an extended period of time, maybe they look around the room or to you for help? This is an example of a child who has been taught using the whole language approach. They read words in context and from memory but have no skills for decoding and do not know what to do at an unfamiliar word. On the other hand a child who has been taught using a phonics approach to reading and writing will try and work out unfamiliar words by sounding them out and not rely on just the pictures or their memory alone.

In the early years, I believe a phonics approach is the best way to learn how to read and write. After a child has secured the 42 main letter sounds and has had lots of practise putting them together and pulling them apart, then incorporating a whole language approach would make sense. Both approaches have merit. I have a process where I assess students and can determine what style they have been taught predominantly. Then I can then see where the gaps are and teach the missing skills so that students have a balanced approach to their literacy learning.


Do you believe that early literacy builds a foundation for academic success throughout a child's schooling?

Absolutely! Young learners need to have a sound understanding of the 42 main sounds that the 26 letters of the alphabet make, to be able to read and spell successfully. Each new school year builds on the last and if certain skills are missed at any stage, children may be at risk of falling behind. I believe that early literacy skills which can be fostered even before entering formal schooling are the building blocks to learning success across all subject areas.


Do you have a success story with a student that stands out in your mind?

There are so many! I worked with a Year 1 boy at the beginning of this year, who was reading at level 3 and had poor writing skills. His parents were worried he was starting Year 1 behind. His confidence was low, he had poor posture and didn’t like reading and writing at all. After an initial assessment was conducted, we devised learning goals and the stage was set for learning. I taught fundamental reading and writing skills explicitly and systematically, each week building on the skills from the last. After a short time, I saw a change in my student’s behaviour, attention and posture. One day his big, bright brown eyes looked at me and with the biggest smile on his face, he said “I get it now!” It was all coming together and this little boy was starting to make the connections! His teacher and parents could see the change too. After completing my program, this little boy finished on level 16 reading and was on track to reaching the year one outcomes.


What do you think of the government's new proposal to encourage two years of preschool?

Subsidising pre-school places for 3-5 year olds is a great initiative by the government. Pre – schools provide an important role in fostering children’s overall learning and development. However, if the government’s goal is to relieve tens of thousands of children from starting school at a disadvantage, whilst subsidising places is a good start, more money needs to be injected into better teacher training, especially in the area of teaching literacy. That is one of the keys to preventing reading and writing failure – better teacher training at University and in training colleges. Until then, tutors like myself will continue to support the great number of children who are falling through the gaps at school in addition to providing enriching early literacy experiences for pre-school children, which will ultimately set them up for success at school.


Book a free assessment for your child at Super Kids Tutoring here.

Need More School Readiness Info?

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