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Nov 09

Why Our Children Need to be Reading and Writing, On and Off their Devices

Rachael Di Bella, Speech Language Pathologist, Catholic Education Services
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We are constantly surrounded by evolving technology. Whether it be in our workplaces, on aircrafts, in the lunchroom or at our schools, we, including our children, are surrounded by technology and have an array of devices at our fingertips throughout the day.


It is safe to say screen time plays a large role in all of our lives, especially for many young children. Many devices are used at school to access apps to typically support reading, literacy and numeracy development for our younger children and websites and video clips for our older children for the purposes of research and assessment. It is important for our children to be able to read and write, on and off, their devices to ensure they develop skills using both mediums.

The good things about digital and the not so good things about digital.
Screen time for young children is about choosing quality programs and apps to support their development while also aiming to develop healthy screen habits that will follow with them into childhood, adolescence and eventually adulthood.

There are many benefits to using digital mediums, including getting them singing songs, copying dance moves, listening and moving along to nursery rhymes and sparking their imagination.


Good-quality apps or games for young children can:

•• Encourage creativity – get children to draw pictures, make up stories or choose characters of their interest.
•• Develop communication skills – expose children to other languages.
•• Encourage problem-solving skills – by asking children to match objects by shape or colour.

On the flip side, too much screen time can also be detrimental to our children’s development. Screen time can be used as a reward for completing a task or good behaviour, however, should be given with specific time limits. Whether this be a daily limit or limited to one day a week for a certain amount of time, it is important your child is aware that screen time is a reward and not something they use all day every day. It’s important that screen time is well balanced with face-to-face creative play and physical active time.

The good things about print and the written word.

Learning about print and the written word is important, on and off devices. Concepts of print involve understanding the difference between letters, words, punctuation and directionality. Using a hardcopy book to teach book and print concepts can assist with the understanding of these concepts.

Book concepts include:
•• That a book is for reading.
•• The function and location of a book’s front, back, top and bottom.
•• How to turn pages one at a time.
•• That we read left to right.
•• The difference between print and pictures.
•• The location of author, illustrator and title.

Print concepts include:
•• What a letter, word and sentence are.
•• That sentences start with capitals.
•• Oral language can be written and then read.
•• That print provides the reader with a message or information.

Ways to help your child master these concepts are by taking the time to point out these book and print concepts during shared book reading. An idea to make this process more engaging is to go on a scavenger hunt whilst reading. This can be done by asking your child to find the letters, words, sentences, punctuation and capitals in storybooks, pamphlets, newspapers and road signs.

How to help with reading at home?
Depending on the age of a child, where and when they may want to read, what they want to read and how they want to read it, may differ. It’s important to be very flexible and find what suits your child best. By taking the time to explore how your child likes to read, this gives not only you but your child an opportunity to experience a range of ways to read and enjoy reading.

Ideas include:
•• Reading during bath time.
•• Pointing out words on signs whilst you are driving.
•• Listening to audiobooks on long car trips.
•• Reading pamphlets when visiting new places and talking about the attractions.
•• Attend Story Time at your local library.
•• Engaging in bedtime stories.

Other ways to engage your child are to read to them and involve them in the book by pointing to the pictures, have them turn the pages, ask them questions about the characters or what they may think will happen next. Let them explore the book without the pressure of having to read the words. Make reading fun and engaging. As your child experiences many positive reading experiences, they will soon see the fun in reading themselves.

How to help with writing at home?

As well as reading, your child’s writing skills are also important for when they enter school and beyond into their adult life. It takes time to develop strong writing skills, and for some children, it can be a tough task.

Things you can do at home are:
•• Play games and activities that encourage writing.
•• Trace letters and words.
•• Practise writing with chalk and paint.
•• Finger painting or salt writing in a tray.

As we live in a world of evolving technology and have an array of devices at our convenience, it’s essential children are still given many opportunities to practice and improve their ability to write.
If you’re looking for more ideas and some resources to start you and your child on a fulfilling reading and writing journey using either medium, why not visit your local library and inquire about their First 5 Forever program or visit www.first5forever.org.au. With lots of wonderful ideas, you are sure to find some inspiration.

It is so important to ensure your children are able to read and write, on and off, their devices. Assisting them with both of these skills and teaching them healthy screen habits when they are young, will ensure that as they progress through adolescence and into adulthood, they will find themselves well equipped with a great range of both digital and non-digital skills.


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