Calling all parents of 0 – 5 year olds

Quesnel School District promotes registration for Kindergarten and also the benefits of an interactive pre-school program

Primary students enjoy books.

Primary students enjoy books.

School District #28 kindergarten registration for the 2013-14 is well underway. Up until March 15, parents of five year olds will be visiting their neighbourhood schools to register for a September start.

Before their children start Kindergarten, parents often ask how they can help their children to have the best start possible. There are many things parents can do at home that will support school success and some great information will be available at the time of registration. This information is also good for parents of younger children not yet ready for Kindergarten. In fact, the earlier you start language activities at home, the more likely it is that your children will be strong readers at school. And if your child is a strong reader by the end of Grade 3, the chance of them graduating successfully from school and having a productive future is more than 95 per cent.

How can you help your child become a successful reader? Here are two things to work into your regular routines.

You have probably already heard this one, but it is really important so well worth repeating. Read books to and with your children! Children who are exposed to books develop print awareness, often before they come to school. They develop a concept of how text works and that text can provide meaning.

They hear words, many words, and get a sense of how words are put together. This is important for a child’s developing phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. Before children learn to read print, they need to become more aware of how the sounds in words work. “One of the most compelling and well established findings in the research on beginning reading is the important relationship between phonemic awareness and reading acquisition.” (Kame’enui, et. al., 1997)

Phonemic awareness can be developed through activities like these: identifying and categorizing sounds; blending sounds to form words; deleting or adding sounds to form new words; and substituting sounds to make new words. We used to make up silly nonsense word games doing this type of thing whenever we were in the car. We also used to play a lot of “I Spy” everywhere we went, spying things that started with specific sounds. There are many, many ways to incorporate fun activities that support this learning.

Using language is also really important for reading success, so talk, talk, talk! Talking seems pretty straightforward, but children from language rich homes where there is a lot of verbal interaction come to school having heard and/or spoken up to thirty million or more words than some of their classmates.

Parents, relatives, friends and siblings have many conversations with the child – from answering simple questions to carrying on longer conversations about many things.

Over the first five years, those conversations add up. Sing to and with your child, recite rhymes together and talk about words.

This can be very simply done; you are not actually teaching your child phonics, but helping them to identify sounds – for example,  can you make the sound your name starts with? Not the letter name, but the sounds.

Another example, take a simple word like not: What am I trying to say? (nnnnnnn-oooooo-t); or, what is the first sound in not?; what is the last sound in not?; Can you tell me all of the sounds in not?

Again, simple sound awareness activities that are easily worked into regular routines can be turned into fun games for your child that will ultimately help them to become strong readers.

Cynthia Bernier is Director of Instruction, Curriculum and Sue-Ellen Miller is Superintendent of Schools.