With the majority of the country’s children having spent the best part of the year at home, they’ve not had the opportunity to voice their opinions even if they wanted to.
Whilst children have not been at home on their own, I doubt most parents have had the opportunity to hold focussed discussions or debates to explore and develop their child’s communication and language skills.
There’s no doubt about the link between literacy and language skills. But evidence suggests that poor oral skills and the ‘vocabulary gap’ are getting increasingly worse.
The Oxford University Press (2018) found that children with poor vocabulary at age five are more than twice as likely to be unemployed at age 34.
How do schools support your child’s speech and language?
When your child attends school, without realising, their speech and vocabulary is growing on a daily basis through:
- Rich language environments to explore – going to the library, interactive displays and a range of stimulating and varied rooms to roam.
- Opportunities to develop their confidence by expressing themselves – during class discussions, play with other students and independent work.
- Learn the skill to speak, listen and respond (this is something that even some adults could do with learning) – when children are amongst their peers, they’re able to engage in topics and conversations relevant to them and those that they’re interested in. As a result, they’re constantly building on their conversational skills by commenting on what’s been said and listening to their friends answers.
So, I thought I would come up with some handy tips for parent to use at home, every day, that can support your child’s confidence with speaking:
- Rhyming stories – rhymes really are excellent for progressing your child’s language and literacy skills. They help with sound blending, vocabulary building and are also fun to read! Revolting Rhymes, Oi! Frog, the Hairy Maclary books and the Julia Donaldson books are a great place to start if you need inspiration.
- Exploring new environments – it’s a little trickier to visit new places at the moment but the internet is a wonderful (and vast) place. You could introduce and research things and places that they may not have seen before like oceans, desserts, space or even dinosaurs. Looking these up will spark questions and conversation as well as engage your child’s imagination.
- Ask your child’s opinion, thoughts and feelings – this seems obvious but encouraging your child to work out how they feel about the world or an event is a brilliant opportunity for them to verbalise what’s inside their head. It can open up valuable discussions as a family too.
- Choose books with colourful pictures – as you read, you can point to and remark on the illustrations and get your child to join in or add to what you’ve said.
- Read books with a range of characters and storylines – keeping the reading material varied is essential to developing your child’s vocabulary. It can be hard (especially if they’re a huge fan of one particular thing) but it’s much more stimulating for their development.
- Visit the library or a book shop on a regular basis – obviously this hasn’t been available consistently for a while but if/when you’re able to, take a trip to your local library. Most librarians take so much time and effort to creating an exciting and enriching children’s sections and displays. Plus, some libraries even hold events and story sessions during holidays!
- Read board, touch and feel and cloth books – this is brilliant for the 0–12-month age range. Exploring the different textures helps your child develop their connection with their senses.
- Use different voices and expression as you read – storytelling is a real skill but putting on different voices for characters and animals is a great example to your child about how stories could and should be read.
- Choose fiction and non-fiction books – they provide prompts for discussion and you could even ask simple comprehension questions as you read.
- Get them to tell a friend or relative about what they’re reading/have read – this could be over the phone or in person but try not to plan it in advance as they could get nervous about it. Just suggest in conversation, “have you told Grandad about the book we read last night?” This way it feels like a fun and exciting story they can share with someone they love.