How parents can support their child’s literacy development

Tuesday, 03 May 2022
Whether striving for academic excellence, engagement with the world around you, or a break from ‘screen time’, head to the library or bookshop, or even to your bookshelf at home, and take some time to read today.
— Nick Johnstone

Starting early with literacy skill development is essential. The role of the parent is key in both the modelling of reading and the time spent with your child reading to and with them. This article will highlight some recent data in this area, some suggestions for parents and the positive impact of reading skills on academic achievement and school enjoyment.

In recent years, digital literacy has improved dramatically with parents and their children but regretfully basic literacy skills of children have decreased, with Australian Early Development Census showing that children in kindergarten are at most risk; the data shows that since 2018, 17.4% of children are now “developmentally at risk or vulnerable” as compared to 2018 when the data indicated only 15.6%. The data suggests a correlation between early literacy practices in care and at home. The good news is that it is never too late to start.

For young children (1-4 years), nursery rhymes are especially helpful for language and early literacy development. Playing audiobooks or reading aloud at home will significantly increase the amount of language your child hears. Other tools include labelling objects in your home - chairs, doors, windows, and other everyday items - and referencing these words with the object. This can show the importance of language, reading, and writing. Help your child build background knowledge on a topic. Interaction is important, too - speaking with your children about everyday experiences, showing your child pictures, and telling them stories will improve their exposure to words and language. Ask your child’s preschool teacher what is happening in the classroom, and add value to your discussions with your child at home. Lastly, make a library visit part of your weekend routine - immerse them in stories, read to them often, and teach them to love books. Positive literacy experiences make the rest of their schooling experience more enjoyable - it is worth the investment in your time.

For older children (4-12 years), play word games, talk about word meanings, and point out interesting or new words when reading together. Read together at night as part of the bedtime routine. Ask questions before, during, and after reading aloud. This can help your child focus attention on the ideas in the story. Before reading, look at the book cover and talk about what might happen in the story. During reading, ask what questions they have about the story. After reading, talk about what happened. Check for understanding and then talk about their ideas and summations. This is a wonderful opportunity to share a story with them about your childhood experiences. Children love hearing about “the olden days”.

For teens (13-18), engage in conversations, offer a literacy-rich environment, and be a strong role model for reading. Talk about school, magazines, or current events. Ask them what they are reading and discuss the books. Have a lot of age-appropriate and grade-level reading material around your home. Model good literacy behaviour by reading regularly yourself. Many males gravitate towards information books or biographies. This should be encouraged but it is worth reading young adult fiction as well as this will expose them to social situations that they will encounter in their own lives as well as a variety of writing styles and authors that will support their own writing. Once again, the library is a great place to visit to browse and to discuss authors. City and school librarians are a wonderful resource often untapped by our modern society. 

It comes as no great surprise that multitudes of studies reveal significant positive relationships between children’s reading habits and student academic performance. Other studies also suggest that this relationship has a positive correlation with engagement and enjoyment at school for many children. 

So, whether striving for academic excellence, engagement with the world around you, or a break from ‘screen time’, head to the library or bookshop, or even to your bookshelf at home, and take some time to read today.

Nick Johnstone