5 activities to support your child’s language development

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Parents play a significant role in encouraging their child’s language development. Most children learn basic listening, speaking, reading and writing skills from birth through to grade three.

Studies show that children who are read to and spoken with regularly during early childhood will have a wider vocabulary and stronger literacy skills overall than those who aren’t. Additionally, there are many fun and simple activities that parents can do with their child to develop and support essential speech and language skills.

1. Storytelling

Storytelling is a great family activity that encourages language development and introduces new vocabulary. Make up stories together with your child including characters, conflict and a happy ending. Sit down to look at family photographs, talking about who is in the photograph, what they were doing and where they were. Ask your child to retell stories and set aside time for regular reading. You can even narrate the day with your child as it unfolds, e.g. “Now we’re going outside to water the flowers. When we finish, we’ll prepare the table for lunch.”

2. Labelling game

Cut pieces of cardboard paper and write the words for common items found around the house. These can include things like furniture, bathroom items, articles of clothing and children’s toys. Read each word aloud and ask your child to place it on top of the correct item. Gradually you can begin writing words for adjectives to describe household items. Include new adjectives that your child may not know and help them find items that can be described using that word. Encourage them to say each word aloud and even think of some of their own adjectives.

3. Picture book spotters

Read picture books with your child and pause to look at and discuss the pictures. Repeat what you have read in the story by pointing out to what is happening in the pictures. Encourage your child to make comments by asking them what else they can spot, e.g. “Big Ted is wearing his red shirt! What else is he wearing on his feet?” “The princess is sitting in the garden. What else can we see in the garden?”

4. Word chain

Building on the words and language your child already uses is an easy way to strengthen their language skills. Cut pieces of cardboard paper and write the words for different nouns and verbs your child is familiar with. Then write the words for different adjectives and adverbs. Help your child to make a ‘word chain’ using one noun or verb and as many adjectives and adverbs as possible. For example, if the word is ‘car’, you may select words like ‘big’, ‘fast’, ‘red’, ‘shiny’ or ‘noisy’ to create a word chain. Building language can also be incorporated into everyday situations. For example, if your child says the word ‘cat’, you can say, ‘soft cat’ or ‘sleepy cat’.

5. Role-playing

Role-playing is a fun and powerful way to expand your child’s imagination and introduce related language and words. Using costumes and props (or imaginary ones!), you can role-play scenarios which involve different characters to introduce related words and stretch your child’s imaginative play skills. For example, if you pretend to be a teacher, include as many related words as possible, e.g. classroom, students, blackboard, desk, books, learning, reading etc.

Reading Eggs is the comprehensive online reading website that teaches children aged 3-13 essential early reading skills, including fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Start your free two week trial today.

10 Empowering Female Characters in Children’s Literature

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In a study looking at almost 6,000 children’s books published between 1900 and 2000, researchers found that they were almost twice as likely to feature a male central character than a female one.

Researchers from Florida State University stated that, “The disproportionate numbers of males in central roles may encourage children to accept the invisibility of women and girls and to believe they are less important than men and boys.”

Parents of both boys and girls often try to expose their young children to strong female characters in books. So we’ve put together ten beloved female characters in children’s literature who challenge the gender disparity in children’s stories, and make a wonderful read for the whole family to share!

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1. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans features one of the most beloved characters in children’s literature. Set in Paris, the series follows the adventures of Madeline, a brave little girl, who lives in a boarding school. Her experiences include getting her appendix removed in hospital, and running away to join a group of travelling gypsies.

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2. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett is about a seven-year-old girl named Sara Crewe. Sara lives under a cruel headmistress, Miss Minchin, who makes life difficult for her ever since her father passed away. But no matter how terrible things get, Sara always has her strong imagination and kindness to carry her through.

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3. Matilda, by the celebrated author Roald Dahl, is the popular tale of a very gifted little girl. Matilda overcomes adversity at home and at school by believing in her inner power.

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4. Rosa by Nikki Giovanni is the real-life story of Rosa Parks, who famously refused to surrender her bus seat in Tuskegee, Alabama. This picture book conveys the powerful message that one person can stand up for what is right and make big changes.

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5. Ladybug Girl by Jacky Davis tells the story of Lulu, who dresses up in a handful of different costumes, including “girl” and “boy” costumes. She is equally happy in a princess dress as she is a pirate! But the costume she loves most is her Ladybug Girl one, because in it she can do anything.

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6. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll tells the classic tale of a girl named Alice, whose inquisitive personality sees her fall through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world of peculiar creatures.

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7. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch is the story about Princess Elizabeth, whose kingdom is destroyed by a dragon that kidnaps her prince and burns all of her clothes, leaving her with no choice but to wear a paper bag. Elizabeth sets off to rescue her prince, but when she does, he is ungrateful and tells her to return when she looks more like a princess. Elizabeth calls him out for his ungratefulness and goes dancing off into the sunset!

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8. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren follows the adventures of an unconventional and assertive nine-year-old girl. Pippi also has superhuman strength, being able to lift her horse with one hand.

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9. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery is a great book for all ages. The novel recounts the adventures of Anne Shirley, an imaginative and talkative eleven-year-old orphan who is mistakenly sent to a middle-aged brother and sister who had intended to adopt a boy to help them on their farm.

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10. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum chronicles the classic tale of a young girl named Dorothy who gets caught up in a cyclone that lands her house in the magical Land of Oz. Dorothy is a forthright and take-charge character, who eventually makes it back home.

Can you think of other beloved female characters from your best-loved children’s books? Let us know in the comments section below.