The first five years of a child’s life are critical for their development. In fact, your child’s brain develops faster in the first five years than at any other time in their life. During these important early years, parents are their child’s first educator. So how can parents help their children prepare for a life of learning?

Here are some suggestions that are easy to adopt into your daily routines, talking and reading with your newborn or toddler. From birth, immediately commence reading to your newborn. I would strongly encourage every parent to buy Mem Fox’s book, Reading Magic – How your child can read before school – and other read aloud miracles. This is a thin paperback book that is easy to read and is such essential reading for parents. In her book, Mem recommends that all children need to hear 1000 stories before starting school. She has a list of suggested classics to read to babies.

Plan outings to the local library and participate in their activities of guest readers and story tellers. Use your library card to borrow stories and continue the joy of reading at home, at the park or in the garden. Local libraries’ ‘First 5 Forever’ offers newborns and toddlers up to the age of two a free library bag, DVD, pamphlets with reading strategies, nursery rhymes and a picture book to celebrate joining the library. Remember to pack small picture books into your handbag or nappy bag so that at any opportunity you can share favourite stories together. Enjoy these special times together in the knowledge that YOU are your child’s first educator.

Alison Fitzsimmons is a teacher at MacKillop Catholic College, Mount Peter