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Life is full of distractions that hinder learning – but the simple act of conversing with family can profoundly influence a child’s language and academic journey, according to experts.

According to a report by the Australian Education Research Organisation, students’ persuasive writing skills had declined last year.

The report, Writing development: what does a decade of NAPLAN data reveal?, found younger students (Years 3 and 5) struggled with how they organised their writing and use persuasive techniques.

Older students (Years 7 and 9) faced challenges with punctuation, sentence structure, and vocabulary. Only spelling showed improvement. The AERO said this highlighted the need for strong family conversations to improve word use and writing skills.

Gogglebox stars Kerry and Isabelle ‘Izzy’ Silbery – celebrated for their insightful TV commentary – have generational proof family talks are more than heartwarming exchanges, they’re linked to improved linguistic and spelling skills.

Kerry, with more than 40 years of teaching experience across various education sectors, now volunteers with a school refusal team, dedicating her expertise to helping students reintegrate into the school environment.

She said conversations in the home not only established secure connections between children and caregivers but also laid the foundation for a lifetime of effective communication, significantly boosting academic achievement.

“If kids are feeling out of their depth in the classroom, they’ll lose concentration, they won’t listen, they won’t learn, and they’re more likely to drop out of school and not follow through with any kind of tertiary (or) even getting Year 12 education,” she said.

Kerry, Izzy and their family matriarch, Emmie Silbery – a pivotal member of Gogglebox Australia who, due to her dementia diagnosis, will not return when the new season airs Wednesday on Foxtel – have jointly authored the book Out of The Box.

“The book is about … issues pertaining to women’s lives – so subjects like money, education, sex, marriage, bringing up children, education and all those kind of things – through the lens of three generations of women,” Kerry said.

“Mum’s experience was very different to mine, and my experience was very different to Isabelle’s, although I tried to continue the kinds of habits, routines, traditions and values that I was brought up with … and I’ve handed that down to Isabelle and now she’s following through with bringing up her child and soon to be next child the same way.”

For Izzy, working on the book with her mother and grandmother was a continuation of their family’s love of language.

“Mum was raised by her parents to sit down and share a meal around the kitchen table every night, read the paper and discuss the current issues of the day, and so she raised me that way,” Izzy said.

“I was an only child, I didn’t want to sit down with my parents every night but I was made to and I’m very grateful that I was.

“It gave me the space to be open and vulnerable if I wanted to (and) I really think I developed my communication skills and language and confidence in speaking.”

Kerry’s dedication to fostering language development began even before Izzy’s birth, as she read aloud during pregnancy and continued this practice throughout her daughter’s formative years.

“I think in terms of my spelling ability now, (it) comes down to the books I read and what Mum inspired me to read and really helps both Mum and (me) with the writing process, writing our book,” Izzy said.

Director of Andrell Education and a consultant for Big Write and VCOP programs, Samantha Taylor echoed the crucial role of in-depth conversations in a child’s development.

Her motto is: “If they can’t say it, they can’t write it”.

She said it was paramount caregivers understood the impact of in-depth conversations in broadening a child’s vocabulary and social awareness.

“A really big point to try and get out is the importance of conversations, both when they’re little and then the ability to continue that when they’re older, so that they know how to change their language and their formality to suit the audience,” Ms Taylor said.

“So if they’re going for a job interview, they know they can’t talk the same way as if they were talking to their mates out in the playground or down at the pub, they have to change those structures to suit.”

Teachers can register students in the school round of the Prime Minister’s Spelling Bee until August 18 at spelling-bee.com.au

Originally published as Gogglebox stars Kerry and Izzy highlight family conversations’ impact on kids’ writing skills

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