Many educational experts agree that the time to start the introduction of reading and writing is in the early preschool years. This includes the reading and writing of English. Over the last ten years the introduction of International Preschools, Kindergartens and English Schools in large cities such as Tokyo has more than tripled due to rising demand from parents who want to give their child the bilingual experience.
Why is reading and writing English so important for the bilingual child? Clearly it is these skills which are at the very foundation of success for future learning in the language. For many non-native children it is the beginning of meaning making in another language besides their own. As their school days progress the reading and writing of English will increasingly come to play a major part of their school curriculum. This is also now a particular educational trend in Tokyo.
While your child’s educational facility, be it Daycare, Kindergarten, Preschool English school or Elementary school, will (or should be) introducing English to your child in some form, it is important to provide extra support and added consistency at home. Parent involvement is crucial in this respect.
Following are 7 tips to get you prepared for support in terms of reading and writing English at home.
· Be a good English role model: The best way to do this is to simply take an active approach. The role model parent doesn't necessarily need to be fluent in English. Just collect a range of simple English books to read at bed time. Point out the letters in the print. “Look here is an H for Harito” (Your child’s name). Answer their questions as best you can. Your child will be interested by the very fact that you are interested too.
· Try and learn one new English word every night. Habit is what makes us all. A child’s mind is like a sponge and over time this can open up to some amazing results, particularly in your child’s attitude and desire to learn more.
· Don't be put off by scribbles. Scribbling is the first stage of writing taking place. If a child does a whole page of scribble and then reads it to you this is a momentous moment! Its their way of telling you that they understand that print has meaning.
· Encourage older kids to write (English) rather than draw. While they have pen in hand this is your opportunity to redirect them. If this is unsuccessful get them to write their name and address in English on each picture they do. Explore and experiment with English print by using upper and lower case letters.
· Create an English reading area for your child. Make sure you have at least one bookshelf in your house with a special, lower, accessible section, for your child’s English books. Collect a wide range of different English books that you, yourself are able to understand. (If English is not your native language) Set up a reading corner for your child. This may include a nice mat, bean bag or cushions by the window. Magnetic boards with ABC’s and numbers are a worthwhile addition to your preschoolers reading space.
· Label everything at home in English. It's a great activity to sit down with your child and create English labels together. How about a pin up board of photographs with English Labels? Or a family album? When young children see their parents writing in English (Even if they have to check the spelling on their smartphone) they then become interested and get a shared sense of enjoyment.
· Don't be afraid to allow supervised tablet use for English. Tablet use can also improve the development of your child’s English. In this day and age parents now need to shift their focus from “screen time” to “screen quality.” Used in conjunction with ideas such as those outlined above, supervised tablet use can enhance conversation, reading and writing. In general its best to carefully select apps and check that they are developmentally appropriate. In Australia, introduction before the age of 3 is now regarded as ok. A 1 hour time limit is recommended for children aged between 18 months and five years. Parental time guidance is recommended for children aged 6 years to 18 years. Consult with your teacher at Daycare, Kindergarten/Preschool or English school to get app recommendations for your child’s English level. Take an interest in playing apps with your child. Getting involved is a great way to bond and it will help you make decisions about the quality of the app. Encourage your child to then apply the English that they have learnt on the tablet to an outside situation. For example write new words on a notepad or verbally practice them in daily situations.