Most parents would feel really chuffed, on many levels, if their preschooler was showing signs of reading simple books. Some children will, but many won’t.
Does this mean that those who are beginning to read are brighter, more capable and will succeed more in life than those who are still not reading by school?
Of course not! Most of us reading this post will not have been reading before school, however we always aspire for the best for our children.
So what do we want from our preschools when it comes to more academic endeavours which support children’s progress?
Today there are high expectations for pre-school facilities to provide children with as much stimulation, engagement in learning and opportunities to grow academically as possible.
The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority website has a comprehensive updated guide to the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care which can be very useful to see those important areas that registered pre-schools will be addressing: Belonging, Being and Becoming.
Young pre-school children are learning so much more than pre-reading, pre-writing and investigating numbers.
They are learning to cooperate, share, control their emotions and behaviour and grow in their skills to become well-adjusted community members. No small task for staff when their little charges are at all levels of maturity and have had, often, very different experiences in their short lives as they are coming from different emotional and social places. Play is the most effective way of learning for young children as they sort out their place in the world and test out their skills, control and power. So guided play will continue to be a fundamental aspect of a young child’s learning.
Academically, pre-school activities are aimed at providing children with preparatory and foundational skills so they are ready to enter the more formal classroom in their first year of schooling. They are developing the skills to sit, listen and concentrate on the business of learning to read and write.
However, early childhood staff are now being asked to teach intentionally. That is there is more emphasis on planning explicit teaching and assessment, so that a good preschool will support your child to be ready for more formal learning.
Good early learning centres will provide parents with an outline of the topics and activities which they will be undertaking over the coming weeks and often have lovely ‘look’ books which you can view with photos of the children enjoying their activities. These give you a great opportunity to talk on a casual basis with the staff to see how your child is faring and what they particularly like doing. A wonderful start for rich conversations at home.
Supporting your child in their learning will greatly please staff.
Ask them what has been the focus for learning and what types of activities have been used help the children practise. Keeping it simple at home with lots of talk will often be enough to reinforce good learning. At the end of the week everyone can be tired – kinder staff, parents and children, so try to achieve balance and keep the pressure off!
Conversations with staff will help you provide appropriate resources at home. That might be borrowing your child’s favourite picture story book from the library, providing cartons for building, talking about the number of cars or dolls in the playhouse. Sing some of the alphabet songs to engage and connect with the kinder learning.
What if your child is in a more informal setting such as with grandparents or friends which does not come under legislation as a registered early childhood facility?
No doubt these children will be receiving great love and attention but it is wise to ensure that there are plenty of resources to keep them engaged and that these carers understand the importance of rich conversations which will expand the children’s vocabulary.