How to Improve Your Child’s English This Holiday?

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School holidays present the common dilemma: to allow your children to have unbridled fun at the expense of losing precious time to catch up on studies, or bury them with work and wring their childhood dry of happiness. Thankfully, it doesn’t necessarily have to be either extreme.

The holidays present a perfect opportunity to shore up language foundations. Instead of completing a dozen standardised exercises, efforts should be made to enhance the basics through reading and writing, listening and speaking. This article would share a few simple ways to engagingly improve your child’s English language capabilities.

1) Read Fiction & Write for Fun

Fiction is an excellent starting point for reading as it is generally more enthralling to children. Reading novels and stories can go a long way in inculcating a love for the language and increasing your child’s confidence in it. When one reads, he or she also inevitably soaks in the writer’s style and vocabulary. A helpful tip would be to get your child to jot down notable phrases, recurrent unfamiliar words and personal thoughts on a notebook. This can help to expand your child’s vocabulary. Be careful not to strictly enforce this though as it may turn what is supposed to be enjoyable reading to another form of studying.

Below are certain book recommendations categorised based on the reader’s language ability. Those underlined have been adapted to film. Watching the corresponding film can help to spark your child’s interest in reading the book.

Junior (7-9)

  • The Rock and the Bird by Chew Chia Shao Wei
  • Peter Rabbit (series) by Beatrix Potter
  • The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
  • The Famous Five (series) by Enid Blyton
  • Geranimo Stilton (series) by Geranimo Stilton
  • Charlotte’s Web by EB White
  • The BFG, Matilda, Witches, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • The Story of Tracy Beaker, The Werepuppy, Cliffhanger, Dustin Baby by Jacqueline Wilson
  • Bookworm Short Stories (series) by Bookworm Publishing House

Intermediate (9-11)

  • The Lord of the Rings (series) by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Chronicles of Narnia (series) by CS Lewis
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events (series) by Lemony Snicket
  • Ramona (series) by Beverly Cleary
  • My Midnight (series) by James Lee
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Advanced (11-12)

  • I am David by Ann Holme
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • Marley & Me by John Grogan
  • Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
  • A Hakka Woman’s Singapore Stories by Lee Wei Ling
  • One Man’s View of the World by Lee Kuan Yew
  • Freedom from Fear by Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Kite-Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Helpful resources

  • Epigram Books (http://shop.epigrambooks.sg/collections/kids-and-teens)
  • An established local publisher that publishes and promotes noteworthy local literature.
  • NLB Catalogue (https://www.nlb.gov.sg/Programmes/ProgrammesforChildren.aspx)
  • It is definitely more economical, as well as environmentally friendly, to borrow rather than purchase.
  • GoodReads (https://www.goodreads.com/genres/childrens?original_shelf=children-s)
  • The social media site for bookworms.

2) Read Widely: Current Affairs & International Issues

Within the curriculum, reading material largely consists of the textbook, a few supplementary resources and maybe the school’s written announcements. Reading widely is crucial in honing Reading & Reasoning skills, which are tested in Comprehension. Reading the newspapers is a tried-and-tested method to improve language as well as increase general knowledge. It is advisable to encourage your child to read at least 3 articles a day spanning different sections such as international news, domestic affairs, and lifestyle & entertainment. It is crucial that your child reads different publications so as to be exposed to a broad range of news and diverse viewpoints.

Local Publications

  • The Straits Times
  • The Middle Ground (themiddleground.sg)

Overseas Publications

  • The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com)
  • BBC News (http://www.bbc.com/news)

Ted Talks are relatively short presentations that are available online for free, where distinguished speakers are invited to present on various issues or share inspirational stories. The quality of speech is good and can provide a model example for aural tests. When perusing online resources, parental guidance is strongly advised as there can be inappropriate material lurking about, even on the reputable websites themselves.

Ted Talks (www.ted.com/talks)

  • Do schools kill creativity? by Sir Ken Robinson
  • Talks by brilliant kids and teens (https://www.ted.com/playlists/129/ted_under_20)

3) Always Write, Always Discuss

You can encourage your child to write book reviews and thoughts after reading newspaper articles or watching the TED talks. Templates for book reviews are easily available online. If your child isn’t too keen on writing, try holding discussions over dinner on what he or she has read or watched that day. Having debates over meal times helps to stimulate critical thinking, not to mention improving verbal expression. Of course, as with all things else, this should be done in moderation as too much work would cause your child to loathe these activities.

Child’s Learning during Holiday

The school holidays should be a fun time for children, in play or work. Building up your child’s language ability does not need to a tedious and exhausting process, but if done well can help to develop a passion for the language which would organically provide him or her with the drive to strive for improvement.

Wishing you and your child happy holidays in advance.

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