Parents In Partnership Evening 1 – Literacy

Last Wednesday, the first of four Parents In Partnership evenings for 2016 was held at Southern Highlands Christian School. This evening, based on literacy, was an informative presentation to help parents understand how literacy is taught at the school and what they can do to help.

If you missed out, below is an outline of some of the items discussed.


Education is a partnership

One of the core underpinnings of the culture at Southern Highlands Christian School is that education of young people is a partnership. A joint effort between teachers AND parents to educate children in all they need to become fully functioning, resilient adults who will make a difference in the world. Yes, teachers have been taught skills in educating young ones, but parents are the experts on their own family and what better way to truly educate children than to use both resources together?


Partnership in literacy

Hence the Parents in Partnership program, which is an event run by staff to bring different elements of education to parents to help them in the education of their children. This term’s Parents in Partnership evening focused on Literacy, with teachers unpacking the myths surrounding this buzz-word and encouraging parents with ways to help with improving literacy at home.


Traditionally, literacy conjures images like this

SHCS Website Image literacy book

But, did you know that reading is also this?

SHCS Website Image literacy evening graphs

And this?

SHCS Website Image literacy newspaper

Literacy is not a term simply referring to skills of reading and writing, but encompasses the ability to read and decode lists or procedures; the skills to interpret graphic and graphed data; the core understanding of effective and engaging public speaking; the fundamentals of critical thinking necessary to safeguard the mind and positively impact society.


Why all the fuss about literacy?

The Board of Studies requires teachers to focus on developing and improving literacy in the younger years in preparation for their final exams and, more importantly, their lives beyond school. At Southern Highlands Christian School, it is our aim to encourage literacy skills to not only develop reading and writing, but also help our students be prepared for the questions asked of them in the Higher School Certificate. This preparation includes mastering comprehension, critical thinking, and group discussion, whilst also developing self-directed learning; all elements which are vital in tertiary study and in the workplace.


How much should we read?

Professors at Wollongong University have recommended that to achieve a greater level of literacy, students need to be reading for 30 minutes a day – a task that even they admitted was a challenge in busy families.


I’m too busy, so now what?

So how do we encourage literacy in our young ones when our lives are already full to bursting? Head Teacher of English, Deborah Brake, challenged parents to find ways to foster a love for learning in everyday life.

“A simple literacy exercise is to take the kids grocery shopping. Get them to read the labels and work out which has the lowest sugar or saturated fat”.

Mrs Brake also has given her children their own recipe book and when they like a dinner she has prepared, they get to write out the recipe “so that when they leave home, they do so armed with a book full of the favourite meals I used to make”.

Fostering literacy needs to be both a lifelong approach, as well as a holistic one, in order to be truly effective.


What is our school doing about literacy?

Head of Junior School, Catherine Leigh, outlined how at school teachers are supporting parents, by working together across the grades, using strategies that cover a multitude of different literacy skills, including modelled reading, public speaking and peer tutoring (secondary students reading to primary students). This is giving students to best and most varied opportunity to gain literacy skills.

“The younger students just love working with their older peers. The Primary students learn while being read to and the older ones remember the joy of reading. It’s fun for both.”


Help! What can I do?

When your child is starting school, mastering literacy can seem like Mount Everest, with the Higher School Certificate at the very peak; a long way off and seeming insurmountable.

Mrs Brake encouraged parents with a few tips to get started:

  • Model reading to your child – let them hear you and see you reading. Read books to them and also read out things of interest in the newspaper or magazines.
  • Read AND write with your child – sit with them and write letters to their friends or relatives. To make it fun, you could leave fun notes for each other around the house.
  • Encourage ALL types of reading across various genres – stories, newspapers, comics and graphic novels (yes, you heard correctly!), biographies or music lyrics.
  • Make it fun – play a board game such as Junior Monopoly or Junior Trivial Pursuit where there is reading involved, or a language-based game such as Balderdash, Scattegories or Taboo
  • Most of all, parents need to help their children find material they enjoy. Forcing them to read something they aren’t interested in can be detrimental to their literacy experience. Work out whether it’s science books, articles on sport or medieval knights that inspire them and find books along those subject areas. Local libraries are a great place to start, and librarians are usually more than happy to help you as you help your children

The word ‘literacy’ can evoke panic in even the calmest of parents, though by using everyday experiences to help foster a love for reading, parents can go a long way in preparing their children, not only for the Higher School Certificate, but also for their life beyond.

If you have any question about your child and literacy, please talk to your child’s class teacher (via the School Office).


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