G8 aiming to bridge the million word gap with reading focus during Book Week
In acknowledgement of Children’s Book Week, which commenced 17 August, G8 Education wants to reinforce the message that literacy learning begins with children having access to books, discovering words through play and most important of all being read to and with.
The theme for Book Week 2019 is “reading is my secret power”, however it’s hard for some children’s ‘powers’ of imagination, creativity, kindness and fun to flourish at school when they start behind – and stay behind – because of the well publicised ‘million word gap’.
Essentially, researchers have found that children who are read five books a day start school with a 1.4 million word ‘head start’ compared with peers who were not read to.
While five books may be a somewhat ambitious goal, even one book a day will make a difference, with children who are read to once per day hearing about 290,000 more words by age five than those who don’t regularly read books with a parent or caregiver.
Lead researcher from the Ohio State University, Jessica Logan, said that children who hear more vocabulary words are “going to be better prepared to see those same words in print when they enter school”, and, as a result, be more likely to pick up reading skills “quickly and easily”.
G8 Education Pedagogy and Practice Manager Dr Melinda Miller said the research underlined the importance of reading to and with children and the role of early childhood educators in setting children up for lifelong learning.
“The research shows how critically important it is that we read to children in our centres and support them to develop a love of learning, reading and speaking. Ideally this practice continues in the home and we do all we can to make books easily accessible while children are in our care,” Dr Miller said.
Reading, she noted, was not just about preparing children for school. Books are critical to children’s learning and development right from the beginning stages of life.
Dr Miller said it was important to “reign in the expectation of pre-school aged children being able to read and write”.
“Ideally reading begins with babies, in fact in utero,” she said. “This continues as children progress in their learning journey beginning formal literacy learning when they begin in primary school.
“We know children learn best, and this is reflected in the research, when they can relate text and illustrations to their play. The best way to embed literacy and an understanding that words are symbols with meaning is for children to experience the joy of stories and engage with texts on multiple occasions.”
While the advantages of reading to children are well documented there are many who miss out because books are not available in the child’s home. To combat this, a spokesperson said, G8 Education encourages parents to take books home to read with their children and augments that with a focus on reading to children when they attend the centre.
Further support is available to G8 families through a partnership with Kinderling Kids Radio. Via a ‘Play & Learn’ program, which is available in all G8 Education centres and accessible for parents to download at home, a core pre-reading skill of sound recognition may be developed.
Dr Miller said the program had been extended for bilingual and multilingual children with a number of well-known books translated into five different languages supporting families where English is an additional language.
“Children are encouraged to take home familiar books in English and via Kinderling their parents can download the book in their home language,” Dr Miller said. “Books should be accessible for all children and where we can, we also support children’s home languages.”
To celebrate Children’s Book Week G8 Education centres around Australia will be engaging in a range of activities such as story retelling, dress-ups, and art to bring the words of authors to life through play.
For more Book Week celebration ideas, please see here.