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5 ways to encourage an early love of reading

Most of us know the classic quote from Dr Seuss, ‘The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.’ But how many of us truly understand the importance of sitting down to read with our children, every day, from birth?

The fact is, reading aloud to your children is the single most important thing parents can do to encourage language development and, perhaps even more importantly, a lifelong love of reading.

Sadly, however, recent Australian research into parents’ understanding of the importance of reading to very young children has revealed that more than a quarter of parents are not aware of the positive impact of reading aloud.

Reading and positive learning outcomes

Study after study has shown that sharing books with young children before they go to school greatly improves not only their development of literacy skills, but also language growth, and cognitive skills. Furthermore, Australian research shows that the frequency of reading to children at a young age has a direct effect on their learning outcomes, with those who are read to every day performing better in terms of language, literacy, numeracy and cognition later in life. Put simply, children who are read to more frequently at an early age enter school with larger vocabularies and more advanced comprehension skills.

Reading from birth

So why is reading aloud with your children so important from such a young age? Firstly, it’s important to understand that, before a child can learn to read, they need to master a number of emergent literacy skills. As well as understanding how a book works (you read from left to right, then turn the page), research has identified five early reading skills, all of which are essential.

These include building a vocabulary in order to effectively communicate; being able to hear and identify different sounds in spoken words (phenomic awareness); and being able to connect the letters of written language with the sounds of the spoken word (phonics). Reading comprehension and fluency complete the five early reading skills.

A baby’s brain is able to make and create new pathways extremely quickly – they are primed for learning – much faster than an older child or adult, for example. Reading aloud to children every day from a very young age (the American Academy of Paediatrics recommends from age six months) therefore facilitates the early development of these emergent literacy skills.

Benefits other than language development

But it’s not all about doing well at school. Sharing stories together will also spark a child’s imagination and curiosity, with illustrations often providing a talking point between parent and child. As Emilie Buchwald famously said, ‘Children are made readers on the laps of their parents,’ and it’s during this time, too, that bonding can occur between parent and child.

Books and storytime have also been used by parents as a safe means of confronting strong or difficult emotions and scenarios that a child may be struggling with or finding frightening. Welcoming a brother or sister, learning to use the toilet, or starting out at daycare are all examples.

The role we play as parents

Ultimately, a parent plays a huge role in encouraging a child to read, but also in a child’s enjoyment of reading. So what can we do to help our children foster a lifelong love of reading.

  1. Visit the library together: Make a weekly or monthly commitment to visit the library and enjoy choosing new books together. Take a library bag, allow your child to post the old books back through the shoot.
  2. Turn off the TV Ensure you have some rules set around screen time in your home. Turning off the TV and encouraging your child to play with their toys and books has multiple benefits.
  3. Make reading part of your bedtime routine: As parents we all know the importance of a bedtime (and nap-time) routine. Make sure reading aloud to your child is part of this routine. Mem Fox recommends reading for at least 10 minutes each day, which can easily be fitted in after bath time and before bed. It doesn’t matter if it’s the same book or books, every day.
  4. Give the gift of reading: Subscription box services such as BookWormz (bookwormz.com.au) deliver boxes of books to children around Australia every month. Containing age-appropriate, expertly picked new releases, this is a great way to channel the excitement of receiving a gift into a love of reading, and the boxes even come with a parent card designed to help you make the most of each new book. If you’re a busy parent or grandparent, it’s also a good way to discover new classics.
  5. Pay attention to how you read: It’s not just about how often you read, but about how you read to your child – the more engaged they are with the story, the more benefits they will get from the experience. So read with animation and real enjoyment, have fun and laugh along with your child.
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HOW TO WRITE A RESUME (FOR THE HIGH SCHOOL LEAVER) | FREE RESUME TEMPLATE

So you’re finishing up high school or you’ve just finished (congrats!) and now you have to do real-world stuff like writing a resume.

There are already a gazillion resources online about writing a good resume. Why make another? Well this post isn’t going to be another one of those guides. Instead, we will be taking a particular focus on how to write a resume or CV (“Curriculum Vitae” which means the same thing by the way) as a high school leaver and providing you with a template too. We get that not only do you not know how to even begin writing one, but heck! You’re still in your teens! How many skills, achievements or work experience could you have? So here you have it – what really should be called: “How to fudge a resume and look like a boss”.

1) CONTACT DETAILS

Including your date of birth and home address used to be a thing. We recommend leaving it out. By including them you put yourself at risk of identity theft and potential discrimination.

As for the email, make sure it’s professional. You’re probably still using the email you made in year 7. You know…“azn_drag0nslaya@hotmail.com” and “stephisdabest@gmail.com”. Create a new email if you need to. Try to stick with just your name and numbers and keep it as short as possible.

2) EDUCATION

Feel free to also include your subjects, especially if they are relevant to the opportunity you are applying for.

Think you’ve got an impressive mark or ATAR? Definitely include it here. Otherwise, it’s probably best to leave it out. If you’ve had the privilege of studying overseas on exchange, that is something worth including here too.

3) WORK EXPERIENCE

This is arguably the most important section of a resume. The key thing to know here is that your focus should be on your achievements rather than your duties or the job description. You worked at Boost Juice. We get it. You made a large range of healthy fruit-based juices, wiped benchtops, restocked supplies and worked the cash register. You don’t need to tell us that. Instead tell us about how you introduced a template re-stocking sheet for team leaders could fill out which reduced the time taken by 50% and eliminated the risk of stock errors. Or maybe you simply took the initiative to pre-prepare ingredients prior to peak hour which substantially reduced stress on the team, allowed the business to service more customers and increased customer satisfaction by lowering the wait time.

Reflect deeply about this. Focus on achievements, not duties. And be as specific as possible about the impact of your work.

Never worked before? This is where we’ll be interpreting the word “work” loosely. Try to think about whether any of your extra-curricular commitments are appropriate to be classified as “work experience”. For example, playing basketball on the weekends is not going to do it for you. But something like participating in a 5 day business start-up competition would work. The criterion is – would you be able to talk extensively about your experience and show learnings that can be translated into the current opportunity on a professional level?  Still nothing? Here’s a hack – merge your extra-curricular section into your “experience” heading.

4) AWARDS (or ACHIEVEMENTS)

For most of us, this section may be hard to fill. But awards are not just academic and you can include more things here than you may have originally thought. Here’s a list of awards and achievements to consider:

  • Academic: competitions, prizes, awards
  • Certified skill: first aid, RSA etc.
  • Artistic: music performances, competitions, artwork displays, blog features or readership etc.
  • Hobbies: senior dance company, black belt in martial arts, advanced bronze level Toastmaster etc.

You may be thinking “what on earth does 7th grade piano have to do with an accounting cadetship?” What you do and have done with your life reflects a lot about you inherently as a person. 7th grade piano indicates to the reader that you can balance additional commitment outside of study, have the discipline to commit yourself to a practice and have the patience to work through a long and steep learning curve in reaching that particular skill level. And this concept of transferrable skill and attitude should permeate your entire resume.

5) EXTRA-CURRICULAR

For most of you, this is probably where the meat of your resume will currently sit. Even with zero work experience, this section should be enough to wow the reader. Some extra-curricular to think about include:

  • Charity and volunteer work
  • Writing and publications
  • Musical and artistic commitments
  • Sporting commitments
  • Educational, cultural or leadership programs
  • Pet projects

Again, focus on achievements, not duties.

6) SKILLS

This section refers to specifically technical skills. So unfortunately effective communication, organisation, teamwork and leadership don’t count. If you’re desperate, you can include the more impressive Microsoft office tools like Excel or Project. Knowing how to use Word is a given. Otherwise some other skills definitely worth mentioning include:

  • Foreign language skills – Mandarin (bilingual proficiency), Italian (elementary proficiency) etc.
  • Developer skills – html, CSS, php, python, ruby, javascript etc.
  • Creative skills – Adobe Photoshop, illustrator, InDesign, Premiere etc.
  • Industry-specific skills – e.g. metalwork for a construction role or SEO for an online marketing role

If you don’t think you have any skills, that’s fine. Just leave out this section.

7) REFERENCES

Your mum is not a referee. Neither is your dad. Or your older brother for that matter. Maybe you worked at your family business. It’s still best to avoid using family. Instead, find someone in a leadership position whom you have had a working relationship with and who you know will say good things about you. Here is a list for you to consider:

  • Previous employer
  • People you’ve volunteered for
  • School teacher
  • Year advisor
  • Sports coach
  • Tutor

And of course, before including anyone as your reference, ask them! Nothing worse than your referee being called up off guard to which they will probably reply “Who’s James?” Say bye-bye to your offer James.

Oh and here’s another pro tip – if for some reason you cannot fit your references onto your resume, it is acceptable to simply write at the bottom “referees available upon request”.

LAST WORDS AND A GIFT (OR TWO)

Don’t forget that a resume is essentially an early introduction of yourself with a purpose. You are selling yourself so be persuasive. Sell yourself so well that they can’t resist asking you for an interview. Because honestly, at your age, everyone is roughly on the same playing field so it all comes down to how well you write your resume (except if you’re one of those freakishly amazing kids in which case I don’t even know why you’re reading this).

If you’ve gotten to the end of this post and feel worried because you realise that you haven’t really done anything to even fudge upon, then we have one BIG PIECE OF ADVICE FOR YOU. Start picking stuff up. It’s never too late to start. Seriously. There are actually a lot of opportunities out there that don’t require any experience or a resume. Look for skill-based volunteering (not necessarily charity work) or find work that involves connecting you with a mentor. In the process, you’ll pick up invaluable skills and get a great reference as well. If you want to stay in the comfort of your own home, there are many things you can do to beef up your employability like playing around with video editing software or doing a free online course on coding.

To send you on your way, here is a template we’ve made modelled after Hero Education founder Evan’s resume. Because we like you so much, we’ve even included a theoretical example of what we think a great resume would look like for the average high school leaver.

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Tips for reading with babies under 1

As a literary champion and paediatrician, Dr Alyson Shaw believes it’s never too early to start reading with your kids. But while a toddler will hang on your every word (and if you miss a word, you’ll be sure to know!), it’s not always easy to know whether you’re engaging your newborn or child under the age of 1.

Dr Shaw began from birth with her eldest daughter – now a teen and, of course, a bookworm. Rather – her husband did. “As I was navigating the transition to full time milk supplier, my husband found that what he could give our baby, apart from clean diapers, was storytime,” she writes in a recent article on the Huffington Post. “By the time her umbilical stump had fallen off, they had finished Harry Potter, everything by Barbara Reid, and fifteen rounds of One Gray Mouse.”

As you may have experienced, and as Dr Shaw points out, in those very early days, your child may not offer much encouraging feedback.”But at birth an infant’s vision is focused enough to see her parent’s gaze from breastfeeding distance, and it was often clear that she was studying our faces as we spoke, sang, and read to her,” she says. “Newborns can recognize their mother’s speech patterns at birth, too, and she would pause in her sucking, as if to say, “I’m listening. Tell me more.”

We’d all love to raise readers, and we’re becoming increasingly aware of the importance of doing so, but if you’re struggling to engage your newborn or young baby with books, these tips may help.

  1. Babies under 7 months react best to books with little to no text. An ideal board book for children aged under 1 would include one object per page – you will find as they become older (between 7 months and 1 year) hearing something they recognise will reinforce their vocabulary.
  2. Choose books with high contrast, bright and bold illustrations to capture their attention. Babies under 6 months will respond particularly well to black and white books -black and white images with sharp outlines are much easier for a baby to see in the first few months of life when it is hard for them to focus, and hard for them to differentiate colour.
  3. Opt for books with manipulatives (lift-the-flap, puppets and peepholes). Research suggests that giving a young child opportunities to get involved in book reading by unfolding pages and lifting flaps may aid engagement and interest.
  4. Remember to use the tone of your voice to inject animation into the book. As well as repeating the book over and over again, try using the same voices, each and every time.
  5. Don’t replace reading time with screen time – something Dr Shaw is passionate about. “In my clinic, it’s infrequent that a parent shows up with a book in their diaper bag, though I try to ensure they all leave with one,” she says. “What most parents do have is a hand-held screen. I’ve even seen babies with their own smart phone MacGyvered to their pacifier lanyard. While these devices haven’t been around long enough for us to know their long term effects on young children, it’s clear that the best Facebook for babies is their parent’s face and a favourite book.”
  6. Finally – and most importantly – cuddle your child whilst reading to them – in these early months, reading is much more about reinforcing the bond between parent and child than it is about raising a reader.
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What makes a child a frequent reader?

We all know the positive influence reading can have on literacy and academic outcomes. However, research is also telling us that Australian children’s literacy performance is in decline.* So how can we raise a child who devours their books? How can we go about raising a nation of readers?

Late last year, children’s book pubishers Scholastic, in conjunction with YouGov, conducted a survey to explore family attitudes and behaviours in Australia around reading books for fun. Known as the Australian Kids and Family Reading Report, the research engaged nearly 2,000 individuals, including parents of children aged between 0 and 17.

The survey revealed that there are three dynamics that are among the most powerful predictors of reading frequency for children age between 6 and 16. These are:

– how often a child is read books aloud;
– a child’s reading enjoyment;
– and child’s understanding of their reading level.

For those aged between 6 and 11, additional predictors included parental involvement in encouraging reading, and how early they started being read books aloud, whereas for children aged between 12 and 17, having parents who were frequent readers was flagged as an influencer.

Clearly, as parents, there are a number of things we can be actively doing to encourage our children to become frequent readers – defined as those who read books for fun 5–7 days a week.

We can start by setting a good example. Have books accessible around the home, and let your children see you reading – and enjoying it.

We can read aloud to our children, every day, from as young an age as possible, introducing them to a wide range of books and stories through visits to the library, bookstore, and subscription book services.

Most importantly, perhaps, we can ensure this reading time is fun, engaging and never ever forced.