Parents can help reverse New Zealand’s child literacy decline

Parents can help reverse New Zealand’s child literacy decline

Parents can play a major role in their children becoming capable readers and helping reverse New Zealand’s distressing slip in the latest international literacy scores, says Dr Libby Limbrick, chair of the Storylines Children’s Literature Trust of New Zealand.

‘The situation now is simply unacceptable that about 27 percent of New Zealand children did not meet the "intermediate benchmark" for reading, compared to an international median figure of 18 percent,’ says Dr Limbrick.

In a major international reading literacy study of fifty countries involving 319,000 children, New Zealand has dropped to 33rd, well behind the highest ranked nations Russian Federation and Singapore, and significantly lower than other English-speaking nations, Australia, USA and England.

‘It’s easy to say the reason is how children are being taught at school, but literacy learning is complex,’ says Dr Limbrick.

‘Many factors influence children’s achievement in reading such as language knowledge, engagement in reading, access to support and resources within and outside school. There is evidence today that children are coming to school with lower levels of oral language and vocabulary and are reading less. Conversations between parents and children, storytelling and reading-to, prime sources of oral language development, are not occurring as frequently as in the past, possibly due, partly, to the pervasiveness of digital devices and ‘time-poor’ parents, as well as the economic struggles of many families represented in the survey.’

The Storylines Children’s Literature Trust, set up in 2005 to promote good books for children, recommends parents take these positive steps to help their children by:

  • Talking to your under-fives – the best preparation for coming to school with a head start. (Meaning: put away your cellphones during family time)
  • Making time after tea to share the books they bring home from school
  • Getting books from your local library – they’re free!
  • Reading bedtime stories nightly– through stories, children !earn to love language, become good readers
  • Keep reading to your children as they go through primary school.

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