Sometimes in life you just feel so blessed and grateful for the opportunities that come your way don’t you? Well last week I went to a wonderfully inspirational talk about “ Play” at my friend Kathy Kershaw’s excellent School in Esher, Rowan Prep School with Neil Griffiths the author and inspiration behind the Storysack Play and Perform Box Series.

I just absolutely love his books and in particularly I love “Mrs Rainbow” as rainbows hold a special place in my heart and inspired my logo for Positive Parents.

Mrs Rainbow is about an out of the ordinary lady who sees the world as we would all like to see it; bright, light, fun and unconventional. When the Council make her comply the rest of the village realise how dull their world is. However, they hadn’t bargained on the local villagers, who decided to take matters into their own hands and then things really did start to get colourful!

Neil is away in Oman during half term but I’ve already asked him to write an article for my newsletter about his passion for playing and its vital importance in the lives of children as well as ourselves.

Neil has such warmth, fun and humour around him and his knowledge of learning, his gift of story telling, his passion for teaching, and his love of children have all lead him to producing award-winning play resources and imaginative material for the Early Learning Centre. He has developed and written a nursery curriculum for the Government and has consulted for a highly successful toy manufacturer along his travels since leaving being a Head Teacher.

Neil’s books feature strong storylines, memorable characters, enchanting language, and arresting illustrations and they charm children and parents and have sold in their thousands. Neil just loves to tell a story and a story time with him is a rare and highly entertaining event as he enthusiastically draws you in to his magical world.

As a former teacher myself, I know just how important reading with your children is. It encourages a life long love of books and learning, it’s fun, it bonds you together, it also develops your child’s language and reading skills and is just a magical experience.

I used to absolutely adore the end of the day when I taught Reception and the Early Years as I loved Story Time all sitting on the carpet with a bright colourful book turned outwards to face the children and my acting voices all at the ready to bring a story to life!

Listening to your child read a book for the first time is a golden moment in parenting. After years of reading to your child, it is truly amazing when that same child turns around and returns the gift.

You can support the journey by reading books aloud, encouraging language and vocabulary development, and showing kids that reading is important by enjoying a book on a regular basis yourself.

If you have a child showing signs that he or she is ready to read, by all means, jump in and help them!

Here are some strategies to keep in mind:

Form a partnership with your child’s teacher:

Understand your child’s school approach to reading and show support and enthusiasm at home. Take time to question and learn from your child’s teacher so that you can work together for your child’s reading benefit. Little and often is the key. Be relaxed and playful yourself first …… your children will naturally pick up your energy and mindset first. If you approach it with heavy handedness they will get turned off by it. Don’t say “Well, get your reading book then” in that despondent, resigned to a battle sort of voice!

• Practice and more practice:

Reading is hard work for most young children. Be sure your family timetable allows time each day for your child to read to you without rushing. Don’t do it when you are really thinking about cooking the dinner, putting away the ironing or writing that long awaited report. Practice reading in five-minute intervals, if necessary, giving your child fun breaks in between.

• Break big words into little words:

Help your child recognise the phonetic chunks within big words, such as “en” or “at,” while they are reading to you. This will help them decode the larger word and read more fluently.

• Use the pictures:

Early readers often figure out context and meaning from the pictures on the page. If your child is stumped by a word, remind them to look at the picture for clues. Don’t make it hard … make it easy and fun and rewarding and joyous!

• Ritualise your reading time:

Create a comfortable book nook in your house or your child’s bedroom, read lying on special “story” pillows, or cuddling a special teddy or sip a drink while you read, or come up with other unique ways to make reading special for your child. Ask your child for their ideas this weekend and have fun exploring how you can make the atmosphere special in your house.

• Get creative:

Most children will respond much more enthusiastically to the “work” of reading if more fun is involved. Act out the story, let your child “sing” the words on the page, or invite your child to draw their own pictures to go along with the plot.

Be a reader yourself:

As I’m always banging on about – you are your child’s most important role model so your children will truly understand the importance of reading when they see you absorbed in a book, magazine, or other piece of literature. Show them that reading is part of your everyday world and soon they will follow suit.

Most importantly, try to remember that just like walking, talking, and potty training, most children will learn to read when they’re developmentally ready. Provided you have laid a firm foundation, your child will get there – it just takes a little time.

And isn’t it lovely when we remember our world really is already full of rainbows!
Pass It Forward Month! So if you have found this blog helpful and thought provoking please pass it forward to your friends, colleagues, schools and nurseries……. because as they say
….“Alone we can do so little together we can do so much”