By Christine Davis
Saturday, Jan. 27 is Family Literacy Day.
Created by ABC Life Literacy Canada in 1999, it is a national initiative to provide awareness of the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family.
Taking time every day to read or do a learning activity with children is crucial to a child’s development, improving a child’s literacy skills dramatically, and can help a parent improve their skills as well.
Canadian author and illustrator and honourary chair of Family Literacy Day, Barbara Reid, offers the following tips to learn at play with her artistic medium of choice, modelling clay:
• P is for PJ Party: Families can share their favourite stories at a PJ party – any time, anyplace.
• L is for List: Write a list of your favourite things, places to go or things to do. Or write a letter.
• A is for Animal Alphabet: Take a picture of your favourite animal with the first letter of its name.
• Y is for Yum: Read a recipe and make something tasty.
Reid also encourages families to find 15 minutes of fun each day during which they can improve their literacy. “Read a book, play a game, share a story, draw a map, visit your favourite website or sing a song. Or my personal favourite, make your own plastercine alphabet…Make family time learning time. It’s fun if you do it together.”
According to ABC Life Literacy, children begin learning about language and experience words as soon as they’re born. As such, babies need to hear and experience language and books to become readers later on.
It’s never too early or too late to talk, sing and read with a child. Rhymes, chants, songs and storytelling create a rich environment for language development. Using rhythm, rhyme and repetition is a great way to help children learn. Speak to children rather than at them and don’t forget to listen to what your child has to say, whether it is first words or even baby babbling. By reading, talking, drawing and scribbling with children you’re helping them develop skills they’ll use forever.
Other fun family literacy activities can include:
• A neighbourhood scavenger hunt. Create a scavenger hunt to complete while travelling by foot, car or public transportation. Ensure each item to be found includes a picture and the written word to help with reading skills. The first person to find all the items wins.
• Finger play. Fingerplays are songs, stories or rhymes that use hand actions to practice following directions, learn more words and improve dexterity and are recommended by learning experts to help develop children’s literacy skills. Itsy-Bitsy Spider is a great example.
• Cook together. Using a recipe to cook together is fun and a great way to practice reading, math and language skills in addition to learning how to cook, appreciating new foods and building confidence. Children also learn to follow directions while practicing counting and measuring skills.