For other than HSC students, the end of the year means not only a break from school but also from tutoring. Yet most parents feel a little insecure about such a long break and worry their child will fall behind in the New Year. They often want to schedule some tutorials during the break (not such a bad idea) but still feel anxious about all that free time. So as a tutor, I often get the question – what should they be doing in the holidays?
The answer is surprisingly simple. The two most important activities for developing literacy skills are reading for pleasure and keeping a journal. Reading widely and reflecting on experiences in a journal are habits that lead to better literacy and lifelong learning. And the long Christmas break is the perfect opportunity to start developing these habits.
Forming Good Reading Habits
Most parents foster the habit of reading from a young age by reading to their children at bed time, and encouraging them with their home readers. There is a point however where children are expected to read independently and this is often when the habits die off.
If you have a Primary aged child, support all their reading and reward them for functional reading (lists, instructions, recipes etc) as well as reading for pleasure. Keep them excited about reading by going to the library regularly but also give books as presents, read the weekend papers and let them buy and trade magazines and comics.
If your pre-teen or older student has become a reluctant reader then reinforcing the joys of summer reading – long lazy days spent with a book or any other reading material – can help to put them back on track Enjoying reading is the key and if they are used to reading in the holidays this will make it easier for them to tackle the large quantities of reading required for the HSC. And the good news is that seeing you read is the best model they can have – so enjoy your holiday reading without guilt!
It is one thing to model good reading habits however few parents feel competent to help their children to write. A holiday journal or diary is a great place to start and encourages students to record not only their experiences but also their reading. Reflecting on what they read and making judgements on what they like and don’t like helps develop analytical and essay writing skills – so definitely a worthy activity for primary and middle school students. HSC students can also get a lot of benefit from journal keeping and many subjects require this skill.
As well as journal writing, again encourage young students with lots of functional and personal writing – such as cards, lists, menus and letters and emails to relatives for Christmas. Using the PC there is no end to the writing they can do they can keep a photo-memoir complete with captions – another good literacy skill. But the pen is still the best and easiest way to record thoughts ( and still necessary for exams ) so keep your child interested in handwriting by giving them a nice new journal and Smiggles pen for Christmas and watch them go!
So to keep your child on track for the New Year just keep them reading and writing and enjoying it. It really is that simple. (But you may want to lose the Wii remote and use the iPad for reading only!)
Written by Christina Greenlees
Christina is a former teacher of English and Drama and a freelance writer.
She is one of our English tutors specialising in the HSC and creative writing.