The growth of literacy skills is a vital part of a child's overall development. Before children learn to read and write, they need to develop the foundations for literacy – the ability to speak, listen, understand, watch and draw.
Most five to six year olds are able to speak clearly and have a conversation about everyday subjects. They can nuance their voices according to purpose, and their spoken sentences get longer and more complex. They like to reason, using words like “because”. Although they have a good command of their native language, they may still find it a challenge to explain complicated events or ideas and might leave out important details when they try to do so.
Five to six year olds enjoy listening to stories, reciting or singing rhymes and songs, and hearing jokes and riddles. They can tell stories, jokes and give short talks to other children.
Reading may become a major interest to them. They may even be able to re-tell basic plot lines and discuss elements of what they like or do not like about the story or characters. Many six-year- olds will begin or continue to develop independent reading, and may enjoy writing stories, especially about themselves.
The number of sight words they know will grow and they may be able to break down words into sounds. Their vocabulary and ability to spell words will also increase.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Take your child's lead. The most important thing to remember when engaging young children in conversation is to take their lead. Let them share and encourage elaboration rather than expecting them to answer "right or wrong" questions. You can ask questions like "Why do you think so" or "What is your feeling about it".
~ Dr Geraldine Zuzarte, Deputy Director, Professional Practices, SEED Institute and Centre Director, The Caterpillar's Cove Child Development and Study Centre
Explain your directions simply. Use clear and straightforward language, especially if your child has difficulty understanding complicated directions. If you are taking a trip to the supermarket or the library, take turns to give directions. Use sequencing words like 'first', 'next', 'then' or 'finally'.
Encourage creative production. Expose your child to different creative productions. Together with your child, produce stories with scripts, create music for puppet shows, publish your own newspaper or record interesting events. This helps your child appreciate different forms of communication and builds his imagination and creativity.
Combine creative expressions. You can involve your child in reading and writing activities while he is engaged in pretend play or dialogues. For example, he may introduce the promotional items in the menu and write down a food order while pretending to be a waiter. This enables your child to acquire multiple literacy skills while having fun.
Involve your child in writing. He can write “thank-you” notes, holiday greeting cards, and letters. When he is ready, he can also make his own greeting cards. Your child will learn that writing is a vehicle for expressing his emotions and wishes to others. This cultivates a sense of understanding on different modes of communication through reading, spelling and writing.
Do an “oral book report”. Recount a story with your child, talk about his favourite characters or recall particularly funny episodes. Show your child how to identify the book’s title, author and illustrator. You may have to prompt him with questions initially but your child would be able to do this on his own after a few practices.
Encourage your child’s interest in jokes and riddles. Children love funny sounds and silly words. Have fun reading humorous stories, riddles, and nonsensical rhymes together. This will cultivate a joy for learning new vocabulary and creating your own rhymes!
Take turns to read to each other. Continue to read to your child even as he learns to read. You can have a turn each at a page or paragraph.
Let your child tell you a story. Write it down and post it on the wall or refrigerator. When he is ready, encourage him to make a book by drawing pictures and or writing the text himself.
Make time for daily conversation with your child. Talk about everyday subjects such as the lunch he had, how his day at kindergarten went, or the people whom he met at the playground.
Build your child’s vocabulary and expressive language. Let your child elaborate on what he learnt in school, watched on television, read in books, or the games he played. Listen to your child when he describes all these details to you.
Add Drama! Use different voices for different characters or while reading a familiar story, stop before the end and ask your child to suggest his own ending to the story.
Establish bedtime storytelling. Such rituals offer your child a comforting way into the new universe of being literate.
Extend your child’s appreciation for books. You can deepen his appreciation for a story by acting out some of the scenarios or drawing scenes from a story.