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How to Encourage Reading in Early Years - SE2EP4 Abigail Mader

Abigail Mader is originally from England, she moved to Australia at 20. She's always had a love for children and has been working in the early childhood sector for over 15 years. Abigail is a wife and a mother to a 10-year-old boy.
Abigail is passionate about teaching and combining that with her love of reading. She's currently completing her teaching degree and works at a daycare center. Her expertise lies in child development and understanding children.
Abigail believes that to help children, it all starts with the parents. They are their first teachers. Her two goals are to encourage reading in the early years and to help parents in their early years' stage. We're excited to have Abigail on the show today to share her insights and experience with us.
You can reach Abigail Mader through:
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/AbbieMader 
Get her books at https://abigail-mader.square.site/

AI Generated Transcription

Speaker 1 (00:08):
Welcome to the Parenting in the Digital Age podcast. Many parents are concerned that their child might be falling behind. Others are just looking for ways to help their children thrive, not just in the classroom, but socially and well into their future careers. Each episode we explore the challenges facing parents in the modern world, from behavior, education, and nutrition to device and gaming addiction. We interview a range of leaders in the area of childhood development to help you successfully navigate parenting in the digital age. Here is your host, Jamie Buttigieg.
Jamie (00:46):
Hello parents and welcome to Parenting in the Digital Age, where we explore the challenges and opportunities of raising kids in a world filled with technology. And today I'm joined by Abigail Mader. Now Abigail's originally from England. She moved here, uh, to Australia, uh, at around 20 years of age. She's always had a love for children and has been working in the early childhood sector for over 15 years. Abigail is a wife and also a mother to a 10 year old boy. Abigail is extremely passionate about teaching and combining that with her love of reading, she's currently competing, completing her teaching degree, uh, and works at a daycare center. Her expertise lies in child development and understanding children. Her Abigail believes that to help children, it all starts with parents. They are their first teachers and her two goals are to encourage reading in the early years and to help parents in their early stage, early year stage. We're excited to have Abigail on the show today and to share her insights and experience with us. But before we begin, Abigail, welcome to the show. Please share with our listeners a bit about who you are, what you do in your own words, and uh, what you are passionate about.
Abigail (01:54):
Hi everyone. So, um, nice to be on the show. Thank you. Um, yeah, so I'm Abigail. Um, work in the early years I've worked there for yep, over 15 years. Um, I've always been wanting to be a teacher, so, and I love the younger ages, so I was always drawn to that and found my way into childcare. Um, and loved it and never left <laugh>. So yeah. Um, I also very passionate. I loved to read, uh, loved books and that's one thing I love to share with the kids is story time. Uh, yeah, they love books as much as it, thankfully. And um, for those of you, yeah, obviously have kids, we'll know that, you know, they have favorite and they'll read the same one over and over again. And it's, yeah, great. I love just to watch the joy in the excitement in their faces when we read together.
Jamie (02:45):
It, it's true, isn't it? I've got a granddaughter, she's, uh, one and a half years old, and she walks in the door, she walks straight to the book. Well, that's a toy box and she pulls out the Brown Bear book and she walks around the house with this particular book and uh, we have to read it to her. And, uh, she loves, uh, actually she's got a couple of favorites, but, uh, and you've, uh, we were talking just before the show. You've written a book recently, is that right?
Abigail (03:05):
Yeah, yeah. I've wrote a little book, uh, in the Deep Blue Sea. So it's about finding a mermaid, but being that we're on the coast, it's lovely to, cuz you're sort of teaching the kids as well. So each page has another sea creature. So we have a bit of a discussion, you know, have you found this one before at the beach? And we talk about where they've found it, what they've seen, and, and also, you know, if they're safe or not. Being that we're on the coast. So, you know, would we touch a jellyfish? Would we touch a, would we touch a starfish? You know, if that kind of discussion. So it's nice cuz it's a bit of learning as well. But it's fun cuz they, they love mermaid <laugh> and they love to go find the mermaid at the end.
Jamie (03:46):
Absolutely. Okay, that's great. And and what age would that book be? Uh, uh, pitched at,
Abigail (03:51):
Uh, sort of naught to six, yeah, birth to six years.
Jamie (03:54):
Yeah. Okay. Interesting. And so, uh, I suppose the obvious question to start our, uh, conversation about kids and reading, you know, what are some of the benefits of reading to kids in their early years and perhaps how can parents incorporate reading into their daily routines?
Abigail (04:09):
Yeah, so I think the biggest, obviously, you know, it develops language and it helps them with their speech as well. It learns them how to connect, how to put words together and develop sentences. But I think the biggest thing is, is the connections with the parents. Cuz it's starting those early bonds and they, they start to associate reading with positivity, like it's violence engaging and they get to be with the person they care about. So once it's that connection, I think that follows through cuz they feel that love of reading from reading with mom and dad or whoever. And yeah, it just instills that love of reading for parents. Um, I think just making it fun as well. You know, don't just read the book, you know, make the funny voices and ask them questions and, you know, let them try and read when they'd all It's good having sort of repetitive words in books because they pick it up and the kids learn to read with you that way. Yeah.
Jamie (05:08):
Yeah. It's, it's really important. And, and you mentioned, uh, you know, fostering that love for reading, but it all also fosters a wider love of learning and uh, what you talked about earlier was interesting about, you know, uh, the books of mermaids and, and it encourages other questions about other subjects, whether that's biology or ocean life or marine life or mathematics. Uh, it doesn't really matter, but it, uh, you know, just the, the act of reading a book to your child or grandchild as I uh, now have is, um, it encourages, uh, I I think a, a a wider love of learning, which is so, so vital in today's digital age.
Abigail (05:43):
Yeah. It's so organic, it doesn't feel like they're being taught. It's just a natural occurrence. So they enjoy it more and take more in, cuz it's not like forced on them, like, you will learn this. It's a, oh, just a just natural learning curve.
Jamie (05:57):
Yeah, that, that's a that's a great point. Uh, it's a definitely a great point Abigail. Um, and so, uh, the next question that sort of leads me to is, uh, you know, we're talking about the digital age, you know, children are increasingly exposed to screens and technology. You only have to go to a shopping center to see kids in prams with Yeah. Tablets and breaks my heart a little bit. Uh, but uh, you know, what are some of the ways that parents can create a reading friendly environment, perhaps? Like how can they encourage their children to maybe choose books over the digital alternative?
Abigail (06:26):
Yeah, it's a hard thing. I see a lot at work as well. You know, we, we do incorporate technology as well to a degree, but it's that line of, like you said, what's, especially for the younger years, it's too much for their brains. But for parents particularly at home, it's more your, it's more you and your enthusiasm as well. They'll follow you and create, you know, it's nice to have that little corner that you call the book Nook and, and make it fun. You know, oh, what can we read today and make it exciting. I know people, budgets aren't always bright these days, but, you know, just, just the way it's set up as well. Make it inviting, put in the tattoos, you know, the little if little roof decorations. Make it, make it that special time as well. You know, your wanting time, make sure you are there cuz they'll follow you as they follow the adults. Really, you know, what you are interest in as well at that age, they'll, they'll do cuz they like to, to be with you really. So I find that as well, you know, at work I do the whole, let's read a book and they, they know where they are, they go straight to them cuz they know what it it is, it's that bonding time. It's just the connections I think.
Jamie (07:32):
Yeah, yeah. Look, uh, it's, it's um, an interesting thing there cuz you know, kids will model what we do, right? And, and if we're constantly, you know, on our devices and, and head down at the dinner table and whatever, they're gonna think that's normal and therefore that they will migrate to those, uh, perhaps tablet devices as their source of entertainment or learning, um, uh, or distraction I suppose. Uh, but, uh, you know, I think you just make a simple but elegant point there. An important point is just parents, we need to get excited about reading. You know, when a kid picks up a book, we need to get excited by that and sit down with them and engage with them and ask questions and read to them, uh, at such an early age. And, and you're right, it, it, although books cost money, it doesn't have to be expensive, you know, every community still has a library where we can go and uh, uh, borrow books, you know, which is, uh, almost an old-fashioned notion, but still
Abigail (08:21):
Important. It's
Jamie (08:23):
It is, it is. And you know, uh, down at some of our local shopping centers and, and even in communities, you walk past these little, uh, book exchanges and they're free and you just put one book in and take one book out. How
Abigail (08:34):
Ones where you just, the little nook, you swap a book out. It's amazing. Yeah. Yeah.
Jamie (08:39):
And kids love it. Like, it, it can be a walk to the book, uh, exchange and they can say, you know, which one have you read to death? Or, which is your least favorite? Let's go and find one. In exchange. It could be like a, it's like a half day activity, right?
Abigail (08:50):
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jamie (08:53):
Okay. Uh, alright. Is this, um, earlier I asked about the age that your book was written towards and, and I think some par like I, this is the challenge that I'm faced with. I'll go to the bookstore to buy something for my granddaughter or a gift for another child or my nephews and nieces. And, uh, the question I'm sort of coming to here is that some parents may find it challenging to find age appropriate books. Yeah. You know, or perhaps feel unsure how to select books that may match their child's interests and or reading level. Um, so I don't know, what are some resources or strategies that you recommend for parents to find engaging in appropriate books for their kids?
Abigail (09:27):
Yeah, I say, um, trial and error really <laugh>, um, every child's different, you know, they all, but the key thing I find is all kids love pictures in the book. So regardless of the level of text, you know, because pictures help them create their own version of the story anyway. They see the pictures and they bring the story to life that way. So in the early years it's, yeah, less text, more pictures really. And then you'll see yourself how, how they're developing with the reading and you know, you can, you'll learn yourself from watching them read to what level you think they need. But yeah, I always say start with less text, more pictures. Yes. Cause then they, they make that connection to the words of the pictures as well. And that all helps with their brain and their wiring and figuring out how storytelling's told, really cuz they're making the connections.
Jamie (10:19):
Yeah. Uh, def definitely important. Would you recommend, like, um, you know, you're, you're in childcare, uh, asking your child's teacher, you know, what, what are they reading or what are they, uh, what did you read in in school today? Were they engaged by, can I buy that book? Or what, what are like, I don't know, um, are there, are there other ways that we can maybe, uh, tap into that?
Abigail (10:40):
Yeah, yeah, definitely. So like you said, definitely the teachers and also just looking in general at their interests. Like at the, you know, what shows are they into on the telley, what's their favorite characters, um, what are they interested in their toys, you know, follow those interests. So, you know, if they're always with the trucks or they're always with the dolls or they're always with the blocks, you know, make those connections with the books and find stories around that.
Jamie (11:05):
Abigail (11:06):
Yeah. Back their imagination. And if it's what they're interested in, they're gonna read more about it.
Jamie (11:11):
Yeah, most definitely. Good points, Abigail. Um, so almost taking a step back for a sec, what, what was it that drew you to childcare originally? Because it, it, it's quite a tough space and, and it's a, it's a demanding space both mentally and physically and, you know, I think, uh, certainly, uh, our teachers and and childcare educators need to be paid way more than they currently do. Um, so what, what is it that drew you to that space in the first place?
Abigail (11:37):
Yeah, I'm just very passionate about the early years. Like I said, it's sadly a very paid industry. So many of the people working in there, they're there because they love the job, they love children. And it's, it's where it all begins. So that first five years are the most important, you know, it's where they're learning to be who they are. And I just love working with children and seeing them go from being babies and, and growing. And you watch the changes in them and you watch them learn and develop in all the ways. And yeah, it's what drew me to the younger age definitely is just watching them learn and become little people. It's amazing to watch them.
Jamie (12:17):
Yeah, definitely. And is there anything, uh, interesting or, uh, uh, special that you're currently working on at the minute?
Abigail (12:24):
So, at the moment I'm working on little project call parents first because I've, um, found that, you know, working with kids it only takes you so far. Parents are the first teacher and, you know, there's a lot of par there's so much information as you're prob probably aware of, you know, there's different people tell you different things of how it's teacher, uh, kids are meant to be taught and race and, um, it can be a mind feel for parents and they, they don't know what to do themselves. So Parents First is being created to help parents in, in the beginning, help them understand child development a little bit and learn about how to help their kids in the future and how to help themselves as well. Cause um, as parents, you know, you lose your way a bit and you forget who you are as well. And it's just, it is a struggle as a new parent. So the aim is also to, you know, help parents find time for themselves and remember they're important too, and just help them Yeah. Navigate the minefield of parenthood really in the, in the, in the beginning.
Jamie (13:29):
Yeah. It's a worthy pursuit. And is this, would, would this be a, a course, a book? Uh, what what format will this take, uh, and, uh, and maybe when do you hope to release this?
Abigail (13:38):
Um, hopefully in the next few months it's, um, an ongoing project, but I'm hoping to have a workbook and, um, definitely with my local community, be able to meet more in person, but I'm hoping to do it online a bit more like on Zoom and, you know, really get to know parents and what they're struggling with and actually work with them more one-on-one and help them navigate
Jamie (14:00):
Ge. That, that, that's a great format. Yeah, great format. And, uh, and, and it gets you, gets you close to, uh, understanding and, uh, finding some of those unique challenges as the world evolves up. But I think, you know, no matter how the world evolves, the pep parent parental challenges, uh, I think, uh, tend to remain fairly constant. Yes. Um, well, an interesting, uh, we are just, just a fun question to, to get off track a little bit. Um, and, and a question we like to ask all of our guests. Um, if you had an imaginary time machine and you could travel back in time, uh, to your 10 year old self, what is one piece of advice, and I, I suspect I know what this is gonna be already, but what, what's one piece of advice that you would give your 10 year old self,
Abigail (14:41):
Uh, to be yourself? Yeah. Um, I myself, um, know over the years, you know, you, you too often try to please everyone else and you, you lose yourself on the way. And I think with kids these days as well, there's a lot of pressure, um, to be someone they're not. So, yeah, I see it with my, the kids at work all the time. Like, they're so open at that age and they're just who they are. They, they dunno how to be anything else. So yeah, I always encourage them, be yourself and just be, be who you are. I think that's something I would go back and tell myself <laugh>, just to remember as you get older. Yeah. Just be who you are.
Jamie (15:20):
Yeah. There a way to teach kids that it's such an early age because it's not till we get a little older in life that we start to realize that's actually an important thing. But, uh, uh, yeah, it'd be a wonderful and unique skill to teach with our kids and often and, and a great piece of advice. Um, so if parents wanna get in touch with you, where can we get in contact with you and, uh, you know, particularly those interested in, uh, keeping up to date with parents first?
Abigail (15:44):
Yeah, so I'm on both Facebook and Instagram and it's under Abigail Ma author, so yeah, you can let me up on there and I'm on both platforms.
Jamie (15:54):
Super. I'll stick those in the show notes so, uh, people can reach out. And, uh, lastly, before we conclude, is there anything that I, uh, perhaps should have asked or any piece of information you wanna share with parents that I, that I didn't get to or didn't ask?
Abigail (16:07):
Um, so I suppose, uh, one piece that I'd advice for parents is, um, something that I always try and tell parents is that whole work with the child, not against them. Um, yeah, I find, um, a lot of parents forget children's minds work differently to them and, you know, they get stuck in the you need to do this, but children don't understand. So I always try and follow that principle myself and encourage my parents to do the same and try and talk things through. I think parents sometimes forget, and adults in general, forget that, you know, that Yeah. Children think differently and they learn differently. So we've gotta talk to them about why we do things and then when they understand nine times outta 10 children go, oh, okay. And they, they'll work with you <laugh>.
Jamie (16:57):
Yeah, absolutely. That's, uh, that's, uh, great advice, Abigail, I appreciate your time and generosity. Generosity today. Um, certainly there were some, uh, great actionable, uh, simple and uh, usable tips that parents can take away and use, uh, immediately. And I hope this, uh, uh, discussion inspires parents to, um, take a, a, a deeper love of reading and, uh, nurturing their kids in their early years. Thanks for being with us today and, uh, I hope we crossed paths again down the track.
Abigail (17:24):
Yeah, thank you for having me. Brilliant. Enjoyed it
Jamie (17:27):
<laugh>. You. You're welcome. Have a great day.
Abigail (17:29):
You too. Thanks.
Speaker 1 (17:35):

If you enjoyed the show, please connect with Jamie on LinkedIn or Instagram. You'll find links in the podcast description. Parenting in the Digital Age is sponsored by Skill Samurai Coding and STEM Academy for Kids. Skill Samurai offers afterschool coding classes and holiday programs to help kids thrive academically and socially while preparing them for the careers of the future. Visit www.skillsamurai.com.au.
This episode is sponsored by Skill Samurai - Coding & STEM Academy www.skillsamurai.com.au