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3 Mar 2021

World Book Day

Jo Emmerson

Now, as much as we are all chomping at the bit for our little ones to get back to school, how many of us are now wishing it was just a few days later. Just long enough to avoid the last minute panic over organising a World Book Day Costume?...

But what's it actually all about? (apart from sending us up into the loft at midnight to rummage through the dressing up/clothes that dont fit yet box).

"Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success – more than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background or their income. We want to see more children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, with a life-long habit of reading for pleasure and the improved life chances this brings them."

It is about making it possible for all children to access books. To access literacy. To improve their chances. From the kids who devour 12 books a week, to the kids who can't sit still for even one page. World Book Day is the time for us all to stop and take a moment, to explore with our kids the kinds of books, characters and ideas that they can engage with.

Literacy - the ability to comprehend and communicate through reading and writing - begins a lot earlier that we think.
When our babies begin to understand and respond to words, they are building the foundations of their literacy skills.

In the mid 1990s, research by Betty Hart and Todd Risley coined the phrase the ’30 million word gap’. Over a period of two and a half years, they recorded the language in the homes of three-year-old children. They found that a child in a family on benefit heard 30 million words less than a child in a professional family.

But it's not just about hearing the words. Children need to engage with words, to play with words, to converse and chat and experiment with words.

And here's why it's important:

A 2 year old’s speech and language is a good predictor of the language and literacy skills they will have at age 11.
Children with a poor vocabulary aged five are more than twice as likely to be unemployed at age 34.

So. Books - how can we harness the power of World Book Day, and make every day one where our child is exposed to and engaging with language?

Making books interactive, bringing the stories off the page and into the hands of our young learners is a simple, effective way to prevent the word gap.

“We found that the most relevant component of children’s language exposure is not the sheer number of words they hear, but the amount of back-and-forth adult-child conversation they experience,” said lead study author Rachel Romeo of Boston Children’s Hospital and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
If it's conversation and interaction that makes the difference, the good news is that we don't have to wait until our children are able to talk. Described as ‘language in motion’ (Marilyn Daniels) signing helps little ones learn, retain and recall language more effectively because they are learning kinaesthetically - by moving. When you read and sign a book with your child, even babies as young as 6 months can engage. Reading is no longer a passive activity, where words are directed one way.

Signing lets children experience what the word 'Lion' feels like, or how the word 'grumpy' relates to their body. (Dear Zoo, anyone?)

ICAN, the children’s communication charity, state that at 2 years of age a child is likely to have 2 word sentences and know around 50 words. However, our experience of signing with hearing babies and toddlers shows us that they frequently have many more words identified by both sign and spoken language, are able to put together far longer sentences (my most memorable example was a 14 word sentence of my son’s at a little over 2 years of age!) and that these sentences are grammatically and contextually correct too.

Baby signing helps little ones put words together so easily and helps with grammatical concepts that most people would think are way beyond their comprehension unless they had experienced it for themselves. In turn, this advanced grasp of language, sentence structure and grammar gives children a head start for all comprehension and literacy activities.

So. Now we know why we're doing it - what's your little one going to as? We're probably reusing the same Gruffalo jumper that O has worn for the last 2 years ;)

Jo x

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