By Stephan J Myers FCIPD, MSc., Oct 4 2017 01:30PM
Assisting with school readiness in your child is a subject widely considered in educational forums. Parents seek the best nursery provision for their children, hoping this will give them the best foundation for school.
However, there seems to be an even more effective 'grass roots' approach that proves even more effective in preparing your childs cognitive ability for school learning. These interventions require no great intellect or training, and are within virtually every parents capability.
Unsurprisingly, research indicates that reading to your child every day increases brain activity. It it essential for good cognitive development because the connectors in the brain become stronger and more efficient through repeated use, developing a pattern for later learning. So rest assured that when you are reading the same book to your child for the tenth time that day, you are greatly assisting in their development and preparation for learning. Rhyming books, with their natural repetition of words, sounds and rhythm are ideal choices, improving cognition.
Studies also confirm that more informal types of repetition are also extremely valuable in preparing a child for later learning. In one such study examining children's continued progress at school ( Hart, Risley, 1995), researchers wanted to ascertain whether language exposure in preschoolers had an affect on ability from school start, and into junior education. Their investigation centred on conversation within the home between preschoolers and their parents, measuring an approximate difference of 300 words per hour, making an accumulative amount of around 30 million more words spoken by the time the child was four years old. On investigation, the children whos' homes benefitted from more conversation made rapid progress at school start, and according to follow-up studies, were generally still ahead at age nine. This indicates that regular and repetitive interaction between parent and child will indeed make their young brain more receptive to learning.
Interestingly, this concept can also be built on by deliberate and pro-active help from a more experienced individual, such as a parent. This is a key ingredient for cognitive growth, with guided participation essential for a young child to learn most effectively. This involvement does not mean the parent should do everything for, or with their child. Vygotskys notion of the Zone of Proximal Development explains how this works, with the child being more successful in collaboration with a more competent individual, but making their own individual and independent steps in cooperation with this approach. A literal example of this type of learning would be how a parent assists their child to ride a bike. Assistance is given up to a point, but then the parent must let go so the child can continue their journey to success alone. In this way, the child is given the chance to scaffold, or build on their own learning. It is easy to see how this can be applied to more academic platforms, such as reading.
It is clear then, that a parent can indeed provide valuable assistance in the home to their childs educational outcomes. The key seems to be to introduce regular routines and repedition, with consistent interaction and help, but also to allow time for the child to build on their knowledge independently. This positive and reliable support with both give their future cognitive development the best chance, and will foster a close and supportive relationship between parent and child.
Till next time and wishing you the very best of dreams.