Barnardos: Child’s Play is Vital to Building Literacy and Numeracy

06 Mar 2012 in Press Releases

Tuesday 6 March, 2012 – The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn, TD, will launch Barnardos latest publication ‘Early Literacy and Numeracy Matters: Enriching Literacy and Numeracy Experiences in Early Childhood’ today, highlighting the importance of providing challenging and interesting literacy and numeracy experiences for babies, toddlers and young children so as to enrich and develop their knowledge potential.

Early Literacy and Numeracy Matters shows how the beginning of literacy and numeracy development is embedded in the everyday actions, drawings, thoughts and communications of babies, toddlers and young children. Play is one of the key contexts for children’s early learning, helping children to develop and demonstrate verbal communication, social and interaction skills, imaginative thinking, and problem-solving capacities.

Targeted at those working with children from birth to six years in an early childhood setting like a crèche or pre-school, Early Literacy and Numeracy Matters supports the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, launched in 2011. The Strategy outlines that one of its key target areas is to improve the oral-language competence of very young children in early childhood care and education settings and their readiness to develop early mathematical language and ideas.

In recent years, findings show that Ireland has slipped from near the top of the OECD rankings to less than average for reading and mathematics. The scores are measured among 15-year-olds in about 30 developed countries as part of the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests run every three years.

Fergus Finlay, Barnardos Chief Executive said: “Helping children to develop the skills of reading and writing and to use mathematics to solve a problem is giving them a most essential toolkit for life – these are the tools which enable them to engage confidently in learning, to break generational cycles of poverty and disadvantage, and enable them to fully participate in society. In short, improving literacy and numeracy skills carries wide-ranging benefits not only for individuals but also for families, communities and society. And a time when we, as a nation, need to rely so heavily on Ireland’s knowledge economy to attract international investment and jobs, it has never been more important for us to get education right from early on.” 

Anne Conroy, Barnardos Training and Resource Service Manager said: “Children are born communicators – from birth they communicate with us by their facial expressions, body movement and sounds. They need educators who will enliven their natural dispositions for wonderment, excitement, curiosity, perseverance and who have high expectations for their learning abilities and who will make children aware of their own unique talents and abilities.”

Ruairí Quinn, Minister for Education and Skills, said: “We welcome the publication of Early Literacy and Numeracy Matters and applaud Barnardos leadership in helping to inform and guide educators working in early years settings to deliver on the National Strategy for Literacy and Numeracy, underpinned by Aistear and Siolta. It is the government's belief that no child should leave school unable to read and write and use mathematics to solve problems. This publication, coupled with the training that Barnardos is delivering, adds real value to our vision that all children, from early childhood to the end of second level, master the key skills of literacy and numeracy.”

Early Literacy and Numeracy Matters provides guidance to educators in early years settings to enrich their pedagogical practice and develop their confidence to capitalise on the many naturally occurring learning opportunities where such development happens. It explains the important link between the development of language, early literacy, early numeracy and the importance of sharing information on children’s learning with their families. It highlights the invaluable role of early year’s services in encouraging parents to become involved in their child’s education, and to support parents to recognise that they are the first educators of their children.

The publication gives practical guidance to early childhood educators on how they can enrich young children’s literacy and numeracy through ‘questions for reflection’, sample planning and evaluation sheets, case studies, examples of practice and summaries of the key points.

Early Literacy and Numeracy Matters is available to purchase from www.barnardos.ie for €25. It is just one of many Barnardos publications available to support parents and educators.

ENDS

For further information, contact:
Irene Lawlor – 01 7080 423; 086-3980441
Rachel Boyce - 01 7080443; 086-3683071
Barnardos Press Office - 01 7080442

Notes to the Editor:

  • The National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy outlines that one of its key target areas is to improve the oral-language competence of very young children in early childhood care and education settings and their readiness to develop early mathematical language and ideas. (Department of Education and Science, 2011)
  • In recent years, Ireland has slipped from near the top of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) rankings to less than average for literacy and maths. Findings show that Ireland’s reading levels slipped from 5th place in 2000 to 17th place in 2009, while mathematics has dropped from 15th to 25th. The scores are measured among 15-year-olds in about 30 developed countries as part of the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests run every three years. 
  • Research has shown that children who do not learn to read or communicate effectively are more likely to leave school early, be unemployed or in low skilled jobs, have poorer emotional and physical health and are more likely to end up in poverty and in our prisons. (KPMG Foundation, 2006)
  • Barnardos will host a full day training course on 10 May, 2012 in Dublin. Early Literacy and Numeracy Matters: Enriching Young Children’s Literacy and Mathematical Experiences. Visit www.barnardos.ie or email training@barnardos.ie for details.

Tips for Parents and Educators:

What Babies like in books:

  • Board books with photos of real babies.
  • Books with bold, real, clear pictures of familiar items in the baby’s world.
  • Books with rhythm and repetition.
  • Books with textures or touch and feel books.

What Toddlers like in books:

  • Small books to fit small hands.
  • Books with simple rhymes.
  • Books with familiar items – shoes, toys, pets.
  • Books with familiar routines – bedtime, bath time, meals.
  • Lift the flap books.
  • Books with very few words or with repeating words – books little ones can learn by heart.
  • Goodnight books for bedtime.

What young children like in books:

  • Books that tell stories.
  • Books that generate laughter.
  • Books with simple text that can be memorised.
  • Books about children that are like them and books that introduce children who are different from them.
  • Books about going to school and making friends.
  • Books that have playful or rhyming language.
  • Alphabet books, counting books and vocabulary books.
  • Books about the real world – trucks, dinosaurs, insects.

Ways of providing early numeracy experiences through play:

Children are natural mathematicians and problem-solvers who demonstrate their abilities through play.

  • A baby reaching out and grasping a toy involves spatial awareness.
  • Ensuring the blocks fit on the shelf involves geometry.
  • Singing a song ‘one, two, three, four, five once I caught a fish alive’ involves counting.
  • Putting beads on a necklace can involve pattern making.
  • The early childhood educator’s role can support children’s learning by for example: Dividing a problem into a series of steps (first we’ll gather the materials, then we’ll follow the recipe and make playdough, then make shapes out of the playdough and bake them, paint them and finally decorate the tree with them) which involves ordering and logic, similar to algebra equations.

About Barnardos
Barnardos supports children whose well-being is under threat by working with them, their families and communities and by campaigning for the rights of children. Barnardos was established in Ireland in 1962 and is Ireland's leading children's charity.

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