My four year old daughter has absolutely no interest in learning her letters or sounds. When I point to a letter, she won’t tell me the name. I think she doesn’t recognise a single one. When I show her street signs around town, she won’t look at them, she shows only a passing interest when I read her books and she won’t come anywhere near to writing a letter. At pre-school they tell me that she refuses their phonics lessons and it’s causing them concern. I’m starting to get increasingly worried and wonder if the dyslexia in my husband’s family may have passed on to her. I don’t know if I should be more firm about directing her learning or leave it until school. What should I do?
Books offer a wonderful world of fantasy and fun for many children. They are an incredible source of learning as they offer so many opportunities for increasing vocabulary and linguistic understanding and knowledge. But even more than that, book sharing creates a closeness between that two of you that supports the attachment bond. These feelings of love and togetherness will help in terms of encouraging communication and managing tricky behaviour when it occurs.
While many children will love them, reading and books are not a source of joy for all children. While most preschoolers will pick up the letter sounds of the alphabet quickly and easily, some children will struggle or show no interest. At nursery level, this should not be a great cause for concern. Four years olds have many competing demands. They are expected to be integrating and developing socially in the demanding environment of the nursery or early years’ classroom. They are also expected to sit still and listen with an introduction to the more structured learning required by introducing phonics. Some children may struggle with the demands of more formalised learning and may reject phonics and part and parcel of these changes. They may just not be ready.
School entry is a great point at which to raise any concerns you may have with your child’s primary school teacher. Together you can discuss any strategies which may be appropriate to support your child’s early literacy learning. Some evidence based activities appropriate for three and four year olds, you might like to try, are listed below.
Make a journal together. Enjoy the activity of putting a few pieces of paper together and then illustrate something fun you did together. Write a couple words for your child under her pictures and encourage her to join in (squiggly lines will do just fine).
Learn and recite nursery rhymes. A great, memorable rhyme, which you recite with some hand clapping or jumping about can really encourage awareness of the sounds in spoken language. This is an essential skill in phonics and learning to read.
Practice making letters in foam, sand, paint, anything fun! If your child is not particularly keen on making letters with paper and pencil, try tracing them out in shaving foam, mud, sand or anything that might capture her interest and bring letter formation to life.