Reading program gaining support
The research is clear that reading aloud at home to your kids is one of the most powerful ways parents can help their child’s success at school.
Just ask former school principal and education researcher, John Walters, who has spent years looking at the impact of very early reading on children’s development.
Children who are read to at home prior to starting school can enter kindergarten with a vocabulary twice that of a child who is not read to, he said, and this can have an impact on their entire school career.
“Those kids that have got that strong working vocabulary cotton on and they launch in and they can go up, but the others are struggling right from their first day in kindergarten,” Mr Walters said.
“So, the read-aloud has been found by researchers as being, certainly, the most powerful single factor in building a child's language.”
Mr Walters has been working with research teams based out of the University of Sydney and the University of Wollongong with a particular focus on very early literacy.
While any reading to kids at home is beneficial, there are also better ways for parents to go about it, he said.
“Most definitely. The research is telling us that if you are reading to the child, that is good, but if you are getting a deeper, richer engagement and the child is joining the conversation and the parent is modifying or building on what the child is saying, well we get comments all the time from schools saying this changed everything.”
To help parents better read to their kids, Mr Walters and his team have developed a process called Parent Assisted Immersive Reading (PAIR). PAIR, which is being adopted by schools around the country, is delivered through a series of visual storybooks, with simple text, that also includes prompts and questions for parents to use, talk about the story and help children link the text and concepts to their own life.
Mr Walters said schools that have adopted PAIR are seeing good results.
“This immersive reading has been available to some schools now for three years and we are starting to get some very nice data coming back,” he said
“We are getting some samples that are over 100 per cent lift and we are not having to train the parents, because it is in the books.”
Mr Walters said there has been international interest in the PAIR program and in particular their more recent work in developing readers for parents with limited literacy.
The Iconic Reading program uses wordless books with strong visual images and icons that allow the parent to tell their child the story rather than read it, but that still engages children is the same way as the written texts.
“If we really want to turn literacy around we've got to bring along the parents who have limited literacy skills themselves,” said Mr Walters.
The program is still so new, that Mr Walters said they don’t have hard data yet, but he said there could be a lot of potential in areas with poor literacy or for people from non-English speaking backgrounds.
Mr Walters was in Orange last month and said they have been speaking to local schools about developing texts for Indigenous communities.
For parents already reading to their children at home, Mr Walters encouraged them to not just read the words on the page but ask questions and get your children thinking about the story.
“Don't read to the child, read with the child. Talk about the images and then start exploring the story. What is happening here? Why do you think this will happen? Then you get this ‘serve and return’ conversation with a child and there are no wrong answers; you just bounce and build and rephrase, so they are meeting new language and broadening the vocab and you are giving them good examples of the language structure of how sentences work and this gradually seeps in and they pick it up.”
You can find out more about Parent Assisted Immersive Reading by visiting www.pairbooks.com or www.pisceanpubishing.com