There can be a general feeling among parents and some secondary teachers that it is the later years in education that really matter.
After all, that’s when the important exams are looming and from early in their secondary school lives, all education is very much focussed on that outcome. People can see nursery and primary education as an inferior stage in this overall goal.
However, this is huge a misunderstanding about educational development. Both the primary years – and even more importantly the pre-primary years – can have a noticeable impact on later success. And language development in particular has the greatest influence.
This is backed up by a item in the news recently about a study by the organisation Save The Children which showed that children with poor language skills when they start school are likely to achieve less well at a later date. And these achievements were not just related to language subjects like English for example, but also affects their success in Maths and other subjects too.
The findings were based on test results which can be inaccurate. And the focus in the report was very much on Nursery provision and how standards could be raised to counteract this problem. And it also suggests that we need more graduates in Nursery provision to develop quality activities.
But parents who have their children at home in the early years – graduates or not, plus those who have to manage working routines, have the opportunity to develop early language skills through simple communicative activities with their children that can take place whenever they are with them. For the child’s progress is greatly influenced by the language they hear around them as much as the written word.
Some simple ways to encourage this early language development are by:
- Listening to the child and encouraging conversation
- Talking, singing and chanting nursery rhymes; this is valuable even before the baby or infant can respond.
- Reading out loud to children as much as possible and sharing the pleasure in books
- Posing questions that will provoke conversation
- Getting into the habit of chatting to them wherever you are or whatever you’re doing
- Encouraging observation of language use around them; written, spoken, digital
- Telling stories to each other
- Including your child as you chat to a variety of others
- Expressing opinions and feelings and encouraging them to do so
- Making sure there is always time for conversation.
Children are never too young or too old for these to have an impact, that’s particularly true of conversation. And although these may seem simple activities they provide essential foundations for real language which will affect the child for years to come.