Sunday, 9 November 2014

Why are reading and imaginative play so important for my little one?

It seems that all you hear these days is about how important it is to read to your child from an early age and there are lots of schemes around to encourage early literacy in many countries. In this post I have attempted to explain why early literacy is so important and how you can make the most of story-time with your little one :)

Why is it important to develop early literacy skills?

The first few years of your child's life are incredibly important for early language and literacy development and on top of that, research has shown that developing early literacy skills is crucial for cognitive development. Due to this, it is never too early to start sharing books and stories with your little one. 

Sharing a story involves so much more that just learning to read. There is a plethora of different skills involved such as:
  • learning to communicate effectively
  • developing vocabulary and understanding of language
  • learning about and respecting books
  • beginning to understand how books work i.e. there is a front cover, pages are turned one by one to read the story
  • developing fine motor skills through handling books and turning pages
  • turn taking and sharing
  • beginning to understand that books convey meaning
  • listening and concentrating for periods of time
  • learning to predict what will happen next
  • imagining and building their knowledge of the world around them
As you can see, there is so much to be gained from spending time sharing and appreciating books with your little one. Developing a love of literacy early on will prepare them for the reading they will do later. As they already enjoy books reading will be fun, not a chore.

Tips for a successful story-time!

  • Encourage your child to self-select books. This will give them ownership and involvement in their story-time and they will be happy to have their choice read out to them!
  • Show them how to hold and take care of books. They should understand that books are special, so explain that we hold them carefully, turn the pages like this, close the book when we have finished reading and put it away carefully.
  • Ask your little one to tell you the story. Discuss what you can see on each page and

    what they think is happening. Some children will happily recite a story off the top of their heads, others will need more guidance or prompting. This is a very important exercise and links to the areas of development mentioned above.
  • Adlib - you don't have to read every word in the book. Pitch the story for your child, using words they will understand. They may want to read a certain book but you feel it is too long, so instead of not reading the book, paraphrase to speed the story up. Sometimes it is fun to change the words entirely and read a story from the pictures, especially if you want it to link to a certain topic or idea.
  • Use your voice - vary the volume, pitch and tone of your voice to keep your child engaged in the story. Put on silly voices and accents to make them laugh, it turns
    the story from words on a page into something alive! That is the magic of good story telling!
  • Ask lots of questions while reading - ask your child what they think will happen next and why, and ask questions when you have finished the story (e.g. was that what you thought would happen? Who was your favourite?). Ask your child to point things out or finish your sentences. Not only does it keep them engaged but it's a great way of reviewing their development and understanding.
  • Know when to stop - sometimes it just doesn't work. Know when to stop and either read another story or leave it for another time. Reading should be an enjoyable experience, not a chore.

How does imaginative play link to literacy development?

Children develop early literacy skills such as talking, reading and writing through interacting with others. Imaginative play such as role-playing and small world play links to many areas of development and develops communication by taking on different characters, developing a story and having different roles (characters) in the same story.

Imaginative play also give children the opportunity to:
  • make friends and get to know their peers
  • communicate feelings
  • interact with peers or play independently
  • investigate materials and their properties
  • join in with songs, stories and rhymes
  • re-tell or tell stories

Why not check out my June blog post 'Supporting your child's literacy and mathematical development at home' for more ideas!

For more information and ideas, check out our Facebook page

See you soon!

 Katie is an Early Years specialist in Dubai, where she 
manages an EYFS nursery. She has a special interest 
in psychology and early childhood development. 


Post a Comment