Monday, June 30, 2014

Interview: Sarah Toh, Principal of Kidz Literacy Cove

In March this year, we did a review of a phonics lesson at Kidz Literacy Cove.

Today, I'm very happy to introduce Sarah Toh, principal of Kidz Literacy Cove. She will share with us the story behind Kidz Literacy Cove, and give tips on how parents can reinforce literacy learning with their kids at home. 





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Please tell us more about Kidz Literacy Cove. What is its focus?
Kidz Literacy Cove (KLC) is an educational centre specialised in carrying an Australian-based English literacy program that teaches phonics, writing, word recognition and early spelling skills in a fun and interactive way. Our programmes are specially written by Victoria Carlton, director of the International Centre for Excellence (Australia) and crafted to meet the needs of children in Singapore. At KLC, every child is respected as a unique individual and parents are valued as our teaching partners. We provide a cosy and conducive environment for children as we believe they learn best when they feel comfortable.

Why did you set up Kidz Literacy Cove? What inspired you?
I used to be working in the preschool sector and see the need for children to have an allocated time for learning literacy with a structured curriculum. I see the importance of having passionate and committed teachers too.

What is your view of preschool education and the correct literacy standard? Should more be done?
I strongly believe that all teachers must be well trained in phonics and have an understanding of how children learn language and literacy. Preschool sector should also have a more structured literacy curriculum as a guideline for all teachers to make use of.

There are so many enrichment centres that focus on developing a child's literacy, what is Kidz Literacy Cove's strength? How do you differentiate yourself from others?
Kidz Literacy Cove engages local and well trained professionals who have experiences working in the Early Childhood sector. We only engage teachers who are passionate and have a strong interest in working with children. Our group sizes are kept very small to a maximum of four children for the younger age groups and a maximum of six children per group for children five years old and above. We cater one-to-one sessions for children who require special attention and lesson plans are customized for them. We are running Victoria Carlton's Literacy Programme and it is a researched and well proven programme that helps children perform at least one year ahead of their academic level.

Literacy is more than just learning to read. Do you agree? Why or why not.
Literacy is more than just learning to read. Young children start learning literacy through listening to what adults are saying. They look at our facial expressions to make meanings of what we are trying to say. Then they start making sounds to communicate with us and subsequently learning to speak with words and sentences. Environment plays an important role in teaching young children literacy (e.g children look at letter 'M' and they go Macdonalds. Children observe symbols and prints on the roads and they learn what these are used for.)

Do parents really need to send their children for literacy classes? Can't they reinforce what their children learn at home?
Definitely home teaching is important and learning languages takes place anywhere, anytime and with anyone. While shopping at the supermarket, parents can communicate effectively by having discussions with what they see around. Parents can teach at home, but it is more of a reinforcement of what children have learnt in school. Parents send their children to us as they would want to make use of our proven and structured curriculum and at the same time having well trained professionals to guide their children in learning. Children learn differently in a home environment and in a school environment with peers. I see the need for parents to engage their children with literacy classes while parents can do follow up activities to extend their children's learning. Fun activities can be initiated by parents or children during this family bonding time.

How should parents reinforce and extend their children’s learning at home? Can you give 5 tips?
1. Reading a book together before bedtime
2. Doing an art and craft activity together to reinforce what child has learn (e.g. learning how to write letter 'a', parents can do finger painting together with child, writing letter 'a' with different colours of paint)
3. Watching a youtube video on a topic that was taught in school
4. Having an outdoor trip (e.g. going to the zoo to learn more about a particular animal according to the theme of the curriculum in school)
5. Playing hands on games (not electronic ones)

As a mother, what would you say is your parenting style? What is your belief when it comes to helping a child learn?
As a mother to my infant daughter, I believe I will adopt the authoritative parenting style as I believe in 2 way communication. I would set clear and reasonable limits and at the same time allow my child to develop autonomy, Spending quality time and communicating effectively with children, even if is to just sit down and play with them, would consider quality time spent. I belief in giving adequate time for a child to learn. Avoid rushing to teach or to get things done - a little difficult to achieve but I will try.

What three things do you think is most important for kids to learn in today's world?
Respect, morals and filial piety.

What is the one thing that parents should know, but don't?
Parents these days spend a lot of money buying toys/materials/electronics for children but what they need is to have parents spending time "playing" and discovering with them.

Please tell us more about yourself. What were you doing before Kidz Literacy Cove?
I began my career in the field of early childhood education at an early age and pursued my Diploma in Early Childhood Education with Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Knowing where my strength and passion lies, I quickly attained my specialisation in the field where I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (with honours) in Early Childhood Education. Upon graduation, I was engaged by a preschool that admired me for my outstanding performance during my service at the school as an assistant teacher. With strong determination and a natural flair for teaching, I quickly rose to the position of a senior teacher within 2 years and undertook leadership roles where I was tasked to mentor new teachers as well as student-teachers. I then moved on to an international preschool where I maintained my position and continued to teach for several years. I was again promoted to be a vice principal of the preschool.
I set high standards for myself when it comes to the planning and implementing of curriculum as I believe that education is about providing meaningful learning experiences for children to learn and develop at their own pace, and should never be forced on an unwilling child. “All children have the ability to learn, we should figure that out and teach the way they learn.”. Most importantly I also believe that a happy child is one who learns the most and will continue to yearn for more knowledge. This love and passion for teaching subsequently led me to establish Kidz Literacy Cove (KLC) where I aim to further reach out and touch the hearts of the younger generation.

Promoting fun, joy and excellence, I ensure that KLC will be a haven where parents are more than welcome to be part of their children’s education and where children’s torch for learning burns bright and strong.
I am currently the principal of KLC. Together with my team of teachers, I also conduct classes at KLC and constantly monitor the progress of the children.

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Thank you, Sarah.

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