There are a number of skills required in order for children to be successful with literacy. Apart from the ability to decode and encode sounds, children need critical thinking to read between the lines and understand the stories they hear. Critical thinking includes skills such as problem solving, predicting, explaining, and evaluating. These skills allow readers to determine information not actually stated by the author in the book.
Here are a few ways to encourage the development critical thinking skills in early literacy:
1. Practice explaining topics by talking to your child about why things happen.
Encourage children to use their existing knowledge and reasoning skills to produce their own explanations and reasoning to draw accurate conclusions. Encourage this by engaging them in topics that they are interested in, at a level that they are able to understand. For example you can join in a game of pretend play with your child’s toys and ask questions about the toys such as: “Why doesn’t the elephant have a moustache?”, or “Why can’t the elephant fly like the plane?”.
2. Encourage your child to give their opinion about their preferences for different objects, events, and experiences, and why they have these preferences.
You can encourage this by playing games such as pet shows where you both pretend to judge stuffed animals in a contest based on merit. You can say things such as: “I think this one deserves to win as it has the longest fluffiest tail.” Similarly, this activity can be played 1.with pretend food items, where you offer up your opinion and explanation regarding each item, then encourage your child to do the same. For example: “I like this pasta because it has lots of sauce and I really love sauce.”
3. Give opportunities for your child to make predictions by making comments, and asking questions about stories you have read and told.
Ask your child after reading a book, to think about what might happen next in the story if it continues. For example, in “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” you can ask what food the butterfly might eat at the end, and why they think this might happen.
4. Develop Theory of Mind
This is an understanding that other people’s thoughts and feelings may be different from your own and your child’s projection and empathy skills by getting them to imagine they are in the other person’s mind. You can do this by asking questions like: “How do you think the other character feels?”, or “Why would they want to do that?”. Encourage this during pretend play by taking on roles and showing your child that you’re thinking about how your pretend character feels by making comments as if you were voicing their thoughts. For example, you can play with a bear at a tea party that hasn’t been invited to the party and make comments such as: “I feel sad because everyone is having fun at the tea party and I wasn’t invited.”
5. Use opportunities throughout the day to encourage your child to problem solve.
Help your children to describe the problem, and use their knowledge and experience to come up with alternative solutions as well as decide what the best option would be. As issues arise, draw your child’s attention to them to provide these opportunities to come up with solutions. For example if your child’s lunch box is missing you can ask them what else can be used to carry their lunch and come up with alternative ideas.
Encouraging these skills and forms of thinking early on, prepares children for a deeper understanding of literacy and a true appreciation of literature.
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This article was written by our Speech Pathologist Ashleigh Fattah who is a Speech Pathology Australia member. If you have speech pathology related questions, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with simple and effective therapy targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.