Literacy in the Early Years

One of my fondest memories as a young child was curling up in my Grandmother’s enormous bed and listening to her read Les Malheurs de Sophie (Sophie’s Misfortunes), written in 1858 by the Countess of Ségur. 

Mary Rose, Deputy Manager of Seahorse Term Time Nursery Southfields
By Mary Rose, Deputy Manager Seahorse Nursery
Mary's own childhood copy of 'Sophie'

I remember, so clearly, Sophie being a very naughty little girl who had a lot of exciting adventures. Her friends were all beautifully behaved, Sophie tried to be like them but inevitably she never achieved this!  

Sadly, my Grandmother had suffered a cerebral haemorrhage, she had nearly died from this and was advised to rest every day after lunch for two hours. This was when my opportunity arose to sneak into her bed and listen to her read out aloud the stories of Sophie. When my Grandmother would fall asleep, I would lie in bed next to her and develop my own stories in my head, too young to actually put pen to paper but not too young to allow my imagination to run wild. 

The beauty of early years is the fantastic and endless imagination that children have, this is developed and enhanced by exposure to stories.  My advice to parents is two-fold, find a book that your child loves, for early years this is often connected to current interests and secondly to ensure that you also have an interest in the chosen book. Children are extremely quick at recognising when a parent is not paying attention or is seemingly disinterested.

The quickest way to put a child off a book, in my opinion is trying to force a book on them that either you deem they should have an interest in, or because Mrs Jones down the road tells you it is a ‘must read’ to advance your child’s literacy skills.  No skills can be refined and developed if there isn’t the groundwork to build on. 

Later on in school children will have to read certain books but early years reading should be driven by what your child would like to read.  Before a child can read there are a whole host of different books to capture children’s interests; touch and feel books; lift the flap books; books that make noises; 3d image books; books with mirrors etc. 

Creating opportunities to make reading fun is extremely beneficial, this can be done in a number of ways:

  • Treasure hunts
  • Following clues
  • Dressing up as a favourite character in a book
  • Visiting a library and devouring the shelves for appealing books
  • Attending local story time sessions at the library
  • Going to the shops and selecting a book
  • Making reading part of your bedtime routine
  • Listening to audio books in the car
  • Starting a book sharing club with your friends 

Reading should never be deemed a chore. Children will take their lead from parents, if you are reading a book maybe share your thoughts on the book with your child and vice versa let them discuss their favourite book with you.

Drama can be a fun way of celebrating a book, family can all dress up as characters from the book and then act out the story to grandparents on Zoom!

Drama is a great way to highlight the importance of vocal variety, an expressive energized voice keeps the audience on the edge of their seat! 

 

My cousins, throughout the whole of lockdown, have had Zoom calls with their grandparents at 7.30pm each night and listened to their Grandparent read a bedtime story to them, this has become something they are going to continue when life returns to normal.  It has bought a real closeness and excitement of what story the Grandparent has selected.  If you are reading a familiar story with your child such as Jack and the beanstalk, a great way to keep your child focused is to get them to take part in the story; they could be the giant and each time you get to the giants lines the child will know the phrase “Fee-fi-fo-fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman” and will take over the story at that point.

To summarise, as adults we often want to select books for our child that are educational and littered with rich vocabulary, certainly these books are fantastic and something that, once your child is a competent and fluid reader, they may embrace but I strongly advocate that children’s choice is a priority, to allow children the independence and enthusiasm to discover a thirst for books.  As parents and educators, we all have our own individual genre of interest, there is no such thing as ‘the book’ that we all favour. 

This year, World Book Day was on Thursday 4 March. 

We celebrated at Nursery with a range of activities and stories, as well as trying some new ways to connect with our children at home with live story telling via Zoom! This was a great success and we were happy to see lots of parents join as well! 

You can explore new approaches to reading at home too; maybe a zoom call reading session with a Grandparent, all the family dressing up as a character from a favourite book, making a special reading den to explore books, starting a sharing book club with a friend where you are exposed to different genre of books. If you do decide to try anything new, or have any suggestion that we can share with our families, please do share this with us at Seahorse Nursery.  

Take a look at some of the highlights from World Book Day 2021 in the gallery below! 

You can also check out Sammy’s version of ‘Stone Soup’ below! We shared this live via Zoom on World Book Day and we were so happy with the positive response we received, so we have uploaded this to our Seahorse YouTube channel so you can access the story again and again!  

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