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Early Childhood Conference emphasises importance of literacy learning from birth to age 8 years

With Early Childhood Education now a strong focus around the world, the importance of literacy development in the early years was the centre of the SPARKLE Early Childhood education conference held by GEMS Education recently. The over 300 attendees of the conference are all connected to early childhood education and came from countries such as the UAE, India, Malaysia, USA, UK and Switzerland.

Providing the roots to grow and the wings to fly, the core blocks that need to be built from birth to around the age of eight for success across the school years and beyond were presented by Dr Rhona Stainthorp and Dr Kenn Apel.
It is never too early to begin learning to be literate. Young children who have many stories read to them at home and at school; who learn to sing rhymes and to play with words; who learn all about the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they stand for develop the roots to literacy which will support them when they begin to be taught to read, said Dr Stainthorp, Research Professor for the Institute of Education at the University of Reading, UK. Dr Stainthorp focuses her research on the development of literacy, mainly in the early years, with published work including over 50 research papers, literacy tests, books and manuals for teaching.

Dr. Kenn Apel, said, The importance of literacy in students lives cannot be over-emphasized. Reading and writing are language skills. Not only do literacy skills support students in all academic areas, literacy also provides them with the tools for their future careers. Dr. Apel is professor and chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of South Carolina in the USA. Kenn has provided professional development workshops on developing strong early reading and spelling skills for all elementary students to education professionals across the USA and internationally, including China, Germany, New Zealand, and Canada. As an outgrowth of his research and his work with children and their parents, he and his colleague, Dr. Julie Masterson, published Beyond Baby Talk, From Speaking to Spelling: A Guide to Language and Literacy Development for Parents and Caregivers.

Professor Pat Preedy, GEMS Chief Academic Officer for Early Childhood, emphasises the importance of hosting conferences such as this. The SPARKLE conferences are extremely important, as they enable leaders and practitioners to have access to world class speakers and empirical research. Most importantly, this knowledge can then be applied to raise standards across the region and indeed the world, she said. The team behind SPARKLE, , Philippa Bodien, GEMS SEN Advisor, Aminah Evans, GEMS Early Years Advisor, GEMS Wellington International School staff, and myself have worked together to ensure that this conference is not only successful, but that it will continue to focus on those issues important to early childhood education.

The Little GEMS International (LGI) and GEMS Education Early Years approach to education is based on more than 30 years of research evidencing what works well in the classroom. As a result, there is much evidence supporting practical, effective and enjoyable ways to develop language, reading and writing so that children can confidently read and write by the time they have completed their primary years education. Teaching literacy so that no child is left behind requires knowledge and expertise. and is at the heart of the LGI educational programme. The LGI programme can be found in the Little GEMS International pre-schools around the world, and is now being implemented in the primary years programmes throughout the global network of GEMS Schools.

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