Speech and Language School Readiness-Speech Matters – October 2010
By Cheryl D. Lindsay MS SLP
The education system in Ontario is moving toward full day, every day, Junior and Senior Kindergarten with some schools already implementing pilot programs this year. “Let’s Learn Clinics” are being held at all area elementary schools. These clinics are an alliance of school boards with other ministries and agencies who come together to help ease the transition from home to school in conjunction with early registration. School staff and other professionals like speech-language pathologists are in attendance to help answer questions regarding preparedness for school entry. With “Let’s Learn Clinics” upcoming or currently taking place, the question on the minds of many parents is, “What do I need to do to help my child get ready for Kindergarten?”
Language acquisition begins long before school entry. Parents have probably been told that they are their child’s first teachers, as well as being the most important people in their child’s life. They provide the speech models and the enriched environment within which a child progresses through the stages of speech and language development.
There are many checklists that describe skills to be mastered before school entry. A wide range of skills including social, gross and fine motor, as well as speech and language are included in most school readiness checklists. When reviewing these checklists, it is important to remember that young children change quickly and often, therefore, something not mastered today, may be mastered a few weeks from now.
Under the speech and language category, the following skills are very important for school readiness:
- ability to follow directions,
- speaking intelligibly;
- identifying some letters, (perhaps letters in their name), counting to ten;
- recognizing groups of items and being able to categorize, identifying beginning sounds of words (eg. “mom” starts with the /m/ sound);
- recognizing and producing rhymes.
(Source: Kindergarten Readiness Checklist Family Education.com)
The Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) website offers parenting tips for helping children get ready for school. Some of these include:
- reading aloud;
- listening when your child talks and ‘reads’, or imitates/pretends to read;
- being generous with praise;
- setting limits;
- modeling good language;
- setting good examples.
In a study done by the University of Western Ontario (UWO) and TVDSB, parents learned that several factors influenced a child’s adjustment to junior kindergarten. These included:
- activities children engaged in at home, like helping with chores;
- being read to, including indentifying and sounding out letters and identifying numbers,
- engaging in literacy based activities on the computer, during crafts and when colouring;
- visiting the library. (For more information about supporting reading, visit the South Grey Bruce Youth Literacy Council website at www.sgbyouthliteracy.org
The importance of language development during play, reading and activities of daily life in the early years sets the stage for success at school. As parents are their child’s first teachers, preparing for Kindergarten entry should be a top priority.
(Next Month: What can be done for “late talkers”?)