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Education & Development

Reading and child development: The Our Story app: Making learning personal and shared

Updated Thursday 19th May 2011

How does the app accomplish and fulfil the requirements of successful early reading instruction?

There are two main parts to the app: the personalised Icards and the personalised storyboard. Here we explain both:

A selection of images within the Our Story app Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University

Personalised icards - what can they do?

The personalised flashcards (icards) are a great way to introduce new vocabulary, alphabet and sounds to your child. As a learning tool, flashcards become truly helpful if used in a meaningful context- and this can be easily achieved with our apps.

Take for example the first building block of communication - vocabulary. You could, for example, show your child a picture of their teddy bear and say ‘teddy’. Clearly, you could show them a picture of any teddy bear and hope they will make the association.

However, if you show them a picture of their own teddy bear, the teddy they know and play with, you maximise their chances to rapidly acquire the new word. This is achieved by decreasing their mental load and ‘making space’ for a new concept.

Similarly, if you show your child a picture of their teddy bear and the letter ‘T’ written next to it, you are drawing on their existing knowledge, allowing them to make meaning of it in a way they find most meaningful (and probably entertaining too!).

Another reason for the importance of presenting your child with relevant and meaningful pictures is its usefulness in decreasing memory load, which is known to lead to better learning results.

Personalised stories - what can they do?

By creating a personal story, the whole learning process can be turned into a very fun and enjoyable activity. For example, with the app, you could take a few pictures of you and your child having a fun day in the zoo and tell him a story about an animal living there. You could ask your child various questions about this animal and include some of his ideas in your story. You can add simple drawings to your story too, so there are truly no limits to your and your child’s imagination!

There are various reading skills you can easily foster in this way. For instance, the personalised stories greatly facilitate the process of introducing new vocabulary. By inserting some new words in your story will help your child to acquire these faster and better than heard in isolation or without context.

Moreover, your child’s understanding of the new words will be deepened, if they hear them in a context personally meaningful to them.

So, for example, when teaching your child the word skipping don’t just say ‘A girl was skipping outside’ but rather say your child’s name and say how happily she was skipping while outside with her granny and include a picture of her swinging her skipping rope.

If you add some writing to your pictures, you give your child the opportunity to make a link between spoken and written word and to see how reading can tell them about the life around them.

So, if you notice that your child can recognise individual letters on the icards, you can move onto showing him how letters build words and sentences in your stories. Again, if you keep it meaningful by building on words and letters your child is already familiar with, you will make it easier for them to recall more quickly and more reliably the knowledge he already has.

Another important reading skill which you can develop in your child and include in your story is learning the individual sounds of a language (phonological awareness).

For instance, you could play a few rhyming games with your child. With the recording facility, you could save your spoken or sung rhymes with individual pictures or stories, and play them whenever you like. Again, remember that good rhymes are fun rhymes, and fun rhymes are rhymes made about people we know and love!

Another thing to think about is the type of stories you make. Children’s stories and books include new concepts, words, pictures, other people’s stories and imagination. When children enter this rich world, they broaden their horizons and harness the benefits of written communication.

It has been found that different types of books can foster different skills in children. For example, narrative books are likely to lead to more story telling and plot movement, whereas expository books (books based on facts) foster more ‘free talk’ parent-child interaction, encouraging adults to teach their children specific skills.

Again, this will vary depending on children’s age and parents’ and children’s interests.

Whatever story aspect you choose to focus on, bear in mind that the more stories you tell, the higher the likelihood they will be of better quality (practice makes a person perfect!). You can easily store and share your stories with our apps, gradually building up your own library of good stories.

As we said, the criteria for a ‘good story’ are up to you and your child. All we suggest is to make the story relevant to you and your child’s life. We promise you will see how much you both enjoy and learn from it.

Next: Want to know more?

Using the Our Story app

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

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