Natalie Bassingthwaighte is the new ambassador for ABC Reading Eggs, an online program that helps engage families and makes learning to read fun, interactive, and highly rewarding for ages 3-13 – and it’s based on solid scientific research. Natalie has also launched a children’s clothing range, Chi Khi.
Children’s Literacy Expert Sara Leman, with over 25 years in childhood education and literacy consultation, writes the lesson content for both ABC Reading Eggs and Mathseeds online programs. Sarah has also written a variety of fiction and non-fiction books for young children.
Here both Natalie and Sara explain their passion and interest in ABC Reading Eggs.
Does reading play a significant role in your family’s life?
We read to our kids everyday – it’s an important nightly ritual. We’ve read to Harper daily since we she was 4 months old and she has always been very engaged.
Why are you passionate about promoting children’s literacy?
Reading is an important life skill, we all need to read to get through life. I’d love for my children to love books and reading the way I do, so I try to engage them as much as I can.
What attracted you to the ABC Reading Eggs online program?
I really love that it is a fun and interactive way to learn to read. I’m always looking for ways to engage my kids in books and Reading Eggs is a winner .It helps that my kids genuinely love the program! We love the rewards element which also keeps them motivated.
What impact has the ABC Reading Eggs program had on your children’s literacy skills?
Hendrix (3.5) is really starting to recognise letters and the sounds they make and is much more interested in books, while Harper’s reading has really improved during the course of using the program. Her reading is more fluent and I have noticed a huge improvement with her sight words.
Can you tell us a little about your new children’s fashion label?
Chi Khi is an online fashion clothing label. We sell cool urban monochromatic clothes, made primarily from Bamboo. We just started wholesaling which has definitely taken it to another level. It’s been amazing seeing celebrity fashionistas around the world wearing Chi Khi including the children of Fergie, Jessica Alba, The Kardashians amongst others.
How can parents promote an early love of reading?
The best thing any parent can do is to read with their child and to be a positive, reading role model. It is never too early to start reading to your child. Surround them with books as soon as you can and make your home a print-rich environment. Take your child to the library regularly and offer them a choice. It’s often tempting as a parent to steer children towards books we liked when we were young, but don’t be disappointed if your child wants to look at something completely different. Allow them the freedom to look at a variety of fiction and non-fiction books so that they can broaden their reading repertoire.
Reading with your child helps them to engage with stories and to make the connection between words on the page and the spoken word. Eventually they will begin retelling their favourite stories which is an important early literacy skill.
Sharing a book with your child also teaches them book handling skills – how to hold a book, turn a page, read from left to right, and use picture cues to gain meaning. It also models reading aloud skills such as expression, intonation and pace.
What are some of the challenges children and their families face in learning to read?
Probably the greatest challenge is the fact that learning to read is extremely difficult. It’s actually made up of 5 key skills that are complex and not easy to quickly master.
These skills are phonemic awareness (the ability to hear individual sounds in words), phonics instruction (learning how to break words apart into sounds and put them back together in order to read them), vocabulary (learning new words),fluency (the ability to read words quickly without needing to break them into individual sounds), and finally comprehension (the ability to think critically about texts and develop deeper meaning).
Like any new skill, learning to read takes a lot of practice. It requires patience and repetition, and many young children lack the motivation to practise skills over and over again. It can be very frustrating for them and their families as parents often feel pressured to get children reading early on.
Luckily Reading Eggs takes the pressure off families. The program is based on best-practice, educational research into how children learn to read. It teaches children the fundamental skills they need whilst working at their own pace and in a relaxed, familiar environment. There are no negative repercussions if a child gets something wrong, and they are rewarded when they get it right. Reading Eggs allows parents to cheer their children on and celebrate their child’s reading success.
What are some of the key elements of the ABC Reading Eggs program and what specific literacy skills does it develop?
Reading Eggs is an online subscription to two websites. Both are packed full of ways to motivate children to learn to read and to have fun in the process.
Through 120 carefully structured lessons, the program addresses each of the 5 key skills: phonemic awareness, phonics instruction, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Additional activities practice and consolidate what has been learnt, allowing children the opportunity to revisit things without it seeming boring or repetitive.
Reading Eggs also teaches children grammar, spelling and writing. We have a designated spelling program in the Skills Bank section – with 96 carefully graded lessons. There is also the Story Factory where children can write and publish their own stories. We also have grammar skills running throughout the program and in our Storylands area. There is a more detailed focus on grammar and reading comprehension for older children in the Reading Eggspress site.
The Reading Eggs library has over 2000 fiction and non-fiction e-books that have been carefully levelled. Each book comes with its own quiz to keep children focussed and motivated.
Reading Eggs also comes with a pack of reading books which is exciting for children who may not have read a book before. The first book they ever read is a milestone for both them and their parents. There are also workbooks, activity books and flashcards available so that children can practise and consolidate the skills they have learned whilst online.
In what ways does ABC Reading Eggs engage children as they learn to read?
Learning to read is a series of complex skills that require a lot of practice. Motivation is key, and Reading Eggs has fabulous motivational elements and a reward system in place that actively engages young learners.
Most young children are extrinsically motivated; they love verbal rewards, certificates, and things that they can see that prove they’ve done a great job. Reading Eggs rewards their hard efforts with a cute hatching critter at the end of each lesson. Children earn golden eggs that can be banked and used to buy items for their online house. They have an avatar that they can create, there are reward games to play, fun songs to sing, stories to write and certificates to earn.
Does Reading Eggs track and chart a child’s progress?
Keeping parents informed of their child’s progress is essential. It enables parents to see how well their child is progressing, as well as which areas still need further practice.
At the end of each map, your child will have to complete a quiz. Once the quiz is completed, you will receive a personalised email, describing your child’s reading progress and the skills and concepts covered. Each child also has an individual, web-based dashboard which displays an overview of the reading skills covered and number of books read.
As a published author, why do you choose to write books for children?
I am passionate about reading and feel very privileged to have the opportunity to write for children. Whether it’s a storybook for fluent readers, a phonics workbook or a bath book for babies, I hope that I’m sharing my own love of books and in some small way, helping to create confident and happy young readers.