Natalie Bassingthwaite is used to glitzy red carpets, TV cameras and the glare of the spotlight. However at heart she admits she’s just an everyday mum trying to do her best with the juggle of work, life and family.
“Oh my goodness, being a mum is crazy sometimes!” laughs the popular entertainer. “Sometimes I’m screaming ‘put your shoes on, I’ve asked you ten times!’ and it can feel overwhelming. But you also want to do such a great job and I feel like I owe it to my kids to encourage them to be the best they can be – that’s a big ask.”
Natalie, 41, says she’s always looking for ways to enrich the lives of her kids Harper, 6 and Hendrix, 3, which is why she jumped at the chance to be the new ambassador for ABC Reading Eggs – an educational program for kids aged 3 to 13 focussed on learning to read, the easy way.
“I love this program because I want my kids to not only be able to read, but to really enjoy it and develop a life-long love of books,” says the former X-Factor judge and Neighbours star.
“This makes reading so much fun for them, it’s sped up their interest and ability and has really enhanced their interest in books overall.”
The ABC Reading Eggs online reading program – which can be used on desktop and tablet devices – combines a progressive sequence of instructional learning activities with motivational elements such as fun animations, music and rewards. The program is grounded in solid educational research and covers the five pillars of reading – phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency.
Natalie says reading books with her kids has always been a big joy for her and her husband – Rogue Traders bandmate Cameron McGlinchey. “Our daughter Harper was always so engaged whenever we read to her and still is – she loves Enid Blyton and the Dr Seuss books,” the performer says. “Reading Eggs has been great for her as it’s really extended her vocabulary and recognition of sight words. Meanwhile our son Hendrix is engrossed in the letters and loves the rewards. They’re actually quite competitive about it and always want to get more eggs than the other one!”
As far as screen time goes Natalie, who also runs her own kids’ clothing line Chi Khi, says she uses her judgment to keep things in balance. “I feel there is a time and place with TV and screens for kids,” she says. “I try to keep it in check – we don’t do TV in the morning before school and I watch how much they’re spending on the Ipad after school. I’m so happy when they do Reading Eggs because little do they know they’re actually getting better at reading at the same time!”
Australian children’s literacy expert and former primary school teacher Sara Leman, who helped devise the program which has been used by 3.4million children worldwide, says whilst it’s vital that children develop reading skills through books and parent involvement, these skills can greatly be enhanced by an engaging online program.
“Learning to read online is the next step up from traditional reading programs,” she says. “Reading Eggs offers children the opportunities to work at their own pace in a safe environment. It makes learning to read fun and motivates young children to repeat new skills which can otherwise seem dull and repetitive.”
Sara agrees that responsible parenting is needed when it comes to screen use. “Parents really need to know what works for their own child and to use their discretion. Interestingly, one of the most popular reasons why parents decide to take up a Reading Eggs trial is because they are looking for something educational for their child to do on a screen, rather than just using it for gaming.”
Natalie, who will next be seen on screen in the telemovie Brock, says that with her son in particular the program has been a great motivational push. “My daughter has always loved to learn and always had a natural interest in books from early on. However my son has been more difficult to engage in reading. I sometimes feel a bit guilty because I feel like we didn’t read as much to him in the early stages – the whole second child less attention thing! However now at age three he’s so much more interested in it.”
Sara says that in general children should start learning to read sooner rather than later. “Research into early brain development has revealed that 75 per cent of the brain is developed by the time a child is five years old with most of that happening by the age of three years,” she says. “The years between birth and eight years are the optimum learning time for children when their brains are still developing and are highly receptive. This is the reason why it is so important to harness this willingness and natural enthusiasm to learn that young children have. It really is an ideal time to introduce new vocabulary and early literacy skills.”
Parents can register online to start a five week extended free trial of ABC Reading Eggs before 30th September, 2016.
ABC Reading Eggs is the multi-award winning online reading program for ages 3–13. See how your child’s reading can improve in just weeks with a 5-week free trial today! Sign up at www.readingeggs.com.au before 30/9/16.