The new Federal Education Minister Jason Clare has thrown his weight behind a campaign to improve children’s spelling.
He said the skill was critical for setting children up for their future.
He said it was important to choose the right kind of book in an era where screens are the preferred choice of entertainment for kids today.
“Learning to spell, learning to read, those foundation skills are what sets you up for the future,” Mr Clare said.
Mr Clare said his own boy Jack, aged 5, loves the series Ninja Kid and WeirDo, both by Anh Do, because they are “funny” and the characters “have lots of adventures”.
On a visit to Marrickville Public in Sydney he read the tale of a stinky pug that needed a wash from his “ears to his butt”, to the delight of kindy kids.
He was also there to promote the Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee, another tool to help encourage a love of learning. The competition is open to kids in Years 3 to 8.
“If you can make it fun and exciting and a bit of a competition then it makes learning easier as well,” Mr Clare said.
Last year more than 21,000 students and 500 schools across the country signed up to Spelling Bee. More than 20,000 students are registered so far this year.
“It’d be fantastic if even more schools get involved in the competition again this year,” Mr Clare said.
The father-of-two, who also has a 10-month-old boy Atticus, said his son Jack’s literacy skills have gone “through the roof” in his first year of kindy.
“He’s gone from not being able to recognise a word on paper to being able to read books,” Mr Clare said.
“It’s beautiful when your little boy can write your birthday card.”
At the other end of primary school, Year 6 pupils showed Mr Clare how they use white boards during their spelling lessons to write out words.
When they’re done they hold the boards up, a quick way of showing the teacher that they have done it right.
Children in this class said they are keen to sign up for the Spelling Bee to further their skills.
The free online competition is run by Kids News and News Corp Australia.
Students are given 30 random words from their competition level word list. They have 25 seconds to spell each word.
The competition will be held in three rounds, with the School Round from August 15-26, the State/Territory Finals on September 1-2 and the National Final on September 8.
The national champion in each age group will win a trip to Canberra to meet the Prime Minister, an iPad and a HarperCollins book pack. Each national winner’s school will also get a $1000 voucher to spend on books, technology or other equipment.
Registrations close at 5pm (AEST) on August 19.