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?*New*
Was this word repeated twice? Ask your child to listen carefully while you say a short string of familiar words. Deliberately say one of the words twice, then ask her, "What did I repeat?" For example, "cat, horse, dog, cat, mouse." For a start, use words from the same category. Once your child has a better grasp of how to play the game, make it more challenging by increasing the number of words. You can even use unrelated words. For example "pencil, car, flower, car, house."
Talk, talk and more talk! Your child's speech and language are getting more and more sophisticated. He is becoming interested in the meaning of words and phrases and ask many questions. Talk about things that interests him! Listen and give time for him to verbalise his thoughts and feelings.
~ Dr Pamela Sharpe, Early Childhood Consultant
Provide your child with two- or three- step directions and encourage him to follow through. For example, "Please go to your room and bring me your shoes". Use short and simple sentences to help your child understand your instructions and how to carry them out.
Write simple letters with your child! Teach him the different parts of a letter such as the introduction, paragraphs and the closing. The letters can be for a loved one such as grandparents or cousins. Introduce vocabularly to help him express himself!
Play word bingo! Prepare a stack of index cards with different words that you would like your child to learn. Make Bingo cards by writing 9 random words. Ask your child to draw a card from the index card pile and read the word out. Players with that specific word on their Bingo card can cross it out, horizontally, vertically or diagonally will win the game! Have fun learning words with your child!
Play a simple word matching game! Help your child recognise words by making pairs of matching cards with simple words written on them! Read the cards with your child, then shuffle them. Place the cards face down. Have your child turn over a card and read the word on it. Ask her to turn over a second card and read the word. If both words match, your child can keep them. If not, ask her to place them face down again. Take turns flipping the cards to identify the pairs until all the cards are gone.
Conversations with peers and family are important. Do not talk down or patronise your child but respect her as an intelligent person with her own ideas and thoughts. Build and extend your conversations with your child.
~ Ms N. Pushpavalli, Principal of Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten
Increase your child's exposure to reading! Encourage her to have favourite books and authors and to keep a list. Discuss with your child her favourite book and help her do a short but simple book review. Introduce her to poetry and increase exposure to songs and rhymes.
~ Ms N. Pushpavalli, Principal of Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten
Share family stories together! Many of us will remember our grandparents sharing stories from their life experiences and this is another valuable aspect of passing on not just language, but our cultures and values.
~ Dr Geraldine Zuzarte, Deputy Director, Professional Practices, SEED Institute, and Centre Director, The Caterpillar's Cove Child Development and Study Centre
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
Tune in to an all-day news show. Ask your child to listen out for a specific purpose, for example, the time, weather, or a commercial for a product. Have a different task each time so that he has something different to listen for. Encourage him to share his thoughts and views.
Promote careful listening and a good memory. You can do this by playing the "cumulative game" with your child. Begin by saying "I went to the store and I bought carrots." The next person says
I went to the store and I bought carrots and noodles." This game requires you and your child to remember the items mentioned before (in order) and add on a new item with each round.
Play listening games with your child. Duplicate actions dictated by one another while sitting back-to-back. For example, you could each have a sheet of paper with a red circle drawn on it. Take turns to suggest ways to mark the paper, like drawing a blue line under the bottom of the circle, or drawing green squares in the middle of the circle.
Role play telephone messages from callers. Teach your child how to take messages from people who call up. Make it fun by taking turns to be the caller and receiver. Have standard greetings and messages like 'Good morning', 'Can I take a message?' and 'Thank you.'.
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.
Make up poems. Encourage your child to write poems by making the process fun. You can have your child write poems in the shape of a circle, house, winding road or tree. The verse should suggest something of the shape. This enriches his writing experience while he learns to use specific words to convey his feelings and moods.
Appreciate poetic diversity. Explore different forms of poetry with your child. You can read about funny poems, eerie poems or poems which rhyme. Ask your child what he thinks the poem means and how does the poem make him feel. This helps your child develop an awareness of rhythmic patterns and an understanding on how specific words and sentences can be put together to convey different moods.
Read poems with your child. Emphasise the rhyme or repetitive phrases or words. If the poem has a clearly deliberate rhyme, pause at the point where the rhyming word is to be said and prompt your child to supply the word. This helps to build your child’s concentration, attention to details and understanding of the placement of words.
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.