Recently, NAPLAN has released their 2017 results, showing that despite the small increase in both reading and writing, literacy in children is still a growing concern in Australian children. Some even calling the lack of improvement and preparedness of children’s literacy a “national crisis”.
Literacy skills have a range of benefits that will help your child succeed for both job and university prospects. In addition to additional skill benefits such as critical thinking that can carry over to other subjects. Preparing for your child’s mind for reading in an early stage can both help and prevent them from struggling with new words and so on.
According to Literacy and Numeracy Foundation co-founder, parents need to step up on this role and stop thinking that teachers are the sole figures in teaching children how to read and write. There needs to be an overall push for constant reading and writing outside and in school.
Naplan is an annual national test for Australian children in the Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 in various core subjects; reading, writing, language and numeracy. Although it has had its fair share of criticism for being too stressful on students, it is currently the few tests that has cited proof of where your children start in their academic journey and tracks their progress. In addition to progress tracking it also informs the Australian education system when certain subjects are in need of a shift in difficulty or ease. In short, these tests is less on the individual performance of each children but more so on what their educators can expand and pay more attention to.
Despite the improvement in NAPLAN test scores in reading and writing, Australia is still far behind when compared to other first world nations such as Canada, New Zealand and England. One study shows that despite Australians having potentially more readers on the top of their quadrant who are outperforming, we also have a higher number in students who are struggling. These children who do not pass or who are underperforming in reading are still high in comparison to their international peers. In this study run by Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) shows that we potentially still neglect the Australian children who do not pass the benchmark for their Year 4 reading test. This benchmark includes: figuring out chronological order in text, reading between the lines or making inferences that were not certain in text, finding explicit adjectives and verbs in the text. Although PIRLS have stated that these benchmarks are particularly demanding, these are reasonable benchmarks. These are the skills that your child needs in order to be distinguished from just a reader to a critical reader. The numbers brought in by PIRLS solidifies the claims that NAPLAN has made, thus making the literacy crisis even more urgent to solve.
As we face the older children’s scores, it’s worth looking into closer where language acquisition happens. In one report, more children are coming to school less prepared. According to the Longitudinal study on Australian Children: in 2012 only 48% of the children surveyed are read to at home in their pre kindergarten or kindergarten age. Language acquisition happens as early as six months of the child’s birth, meaning that the more the child is immersed in language, sound and words the more likely they are to master their mother’s tongue. This continues on until 12 years of age, meaning that small disruptions or even unintentionally overlook your child’s language development in reading can have major consequences, a study from Yale found that this gap in reading levels among their peers can be seen as early as first grade, if not immediately intervened with reading programs or additional support this gap could potentially grow and persist into adolescence.
Early identification on the parents or guardian side is key, understanding and spotting potential mishaps with your child’s teacher could help them. When reading with your child see if you can test their ability to sound out words, or otherwise called their phonetic ability. Being able to read aloud fluently can help shape your children’s self-confidence and their ability to read in addition to learning new and familiar words with ease.
As aforementioned, parents also need to stop putting full responsibility on their children’s teacher. As another adult figure in their lives other than teachers, accept that your relationship with their educator more as a partner in guiding your child in learning rather than the sole provider of academic skills. Try to set aside some time to read to your child every night, a short 15 min reading before they enter preschool could help them expand their vocabulary skills. Talking to your child everyday about anything regardless of age, helps them learn new words and comfortability in grammar. As children often mimic the adults that they are close to, show that you read too, it does not necessarily have to be a book, could be a newspaper or even a magazine. Once they start primary school, encourage them to join an afterschool book club or sign them up for English tutoring classes, as this can help shape your child’s reading and writing skills. Together on both parts of parents and teachers we could help close the gap and get children the reading help they need.