Literacy. Defined simply as “the ability to read and write.”
Shouldn’t everyone have these skills? I think so. I think so with every ounce of my being. And it’s alarming how many people never learn to read and/or write. I felt shocked recently when my mother told me one of my uncles never learned to read and write.
And it happens all the time. Kids are passed on to the next grade level, never quite grasping these skills. Some of these same kids eventually drop out once they reach high school. It’s incredibly depressing.
So let’s talk about some ways to promote literacy. Here are some little (big) things you can do.
Read in front of your kids. Showing them that you enjoy reading- be it a book, a magazine, the newspaper- you’re modeling not only the skill of reading but also the importance of it in your life. Sure, some of my friends are thinking “Amanda just wants to read a book.” Playful eye roll. Well, yes…yes, I do…but I am conscious of the fact that I’m modeling this behavior to my boys. I truly do think about this.
Now, an important note, I don’t read ALL the time while my kids play around me. Of course not. And if you have children under the age of three, making time to read for yourself is a challenge. I get it. But I believe it’s one worth making- even if it takes a couple months to finish a book you could “normally” read in 5 days.
Instill “silent reading time.” I try to do this every day with my 7-year-old when my little guy naps. Sometimes he grumbles but most of the time he just grabs his latest Pokemon graphic novel or Diary of a Wimpy Kid book and curls up next to me on the couch. This is the routine and he accepts it. Those moments are heaven.
Use writing prompts at home. I love hearing the stories my older son tells. But I love it even more when he writes his stories down. He’s practicing his writing skills while also exercising his mind creatively. He enjoys creating “books” and it’s so simple for me to staple a few pages together to help finish a project that he can be proud of.
Pick up a summer workbook. Amazon was created for parents. Okay, not really, but it’s one of the greatest tools in my life currently. There are many helpful workbooks that will strengthen the skills your kids have learned over the last school year. If you’re feeling ambitious, go ahead and get the next grade up and get a head start for the next year. Some people call workbooks/worksheets “busy work” but I disagree. Used sparingly, they can be important tools to reinforce concepts taught in the classroom.
For younger students, you may even consider purchasing a handwriting workbook. My son was really interested in learning cursive, so I ordered one of those as well. You’ve probably seen the Facebook rants about how cursive is no longer taught in schools. I’m not sure if this is true in Los Angeles, but if my child is going to show interest in learning something, I’m going to jump on it and teach him.
Turn ON the subtitles. Now, a moment of honesty here- my kids watch TV. They do. And I don’t mind admitting that at all. I need a break sometimes and I feel like I choose really educational, wholesome shows for them. (My older son now enjoys fishing shows but I digress…) Anyway, I began turning the subtitles on a couple of years ago to further their exposure to the written word. They may not always read it, but at least it’s there. And since doing this, I’ve noticed if I turn them off, my older son will turn them back on.
Go to a local story time. Most libraries offer story times for children. Some have age specific times, while others may be for a broader audience. I’ve recently begun reading to kids at a couple of businesses in my community. (One a market where I noticed many SAHMs and nannies frequenting and the other a boutique that sells children’s clothing and accessories.) I try to adapt my stories to the audience by bringing a big selection of books because it’s summertime and most kids are out of school. I realize an 8-year-old probably doesn’t want to hear Dear Zoo or I Love You Stinky Face. I totally get that. But I maintain that story time can still be fun for all…well, almost all…ages. And it’s a bonus for parents and kids to meet new people.
Read together. This may seem like I’m stating the obvious but I read an article recently that said 1 in 5 parents stop reading to their kids after age 9, while many of these kids wish their parents would still read to or with them. Have an older child read to you or take turns reading. Read an old favorite book or start a chapter book together that they may not be quite ready to read on their own. I treasure nightly story time. It’s a bonding time for me and my boys and a great opportunity to reflect on our day. And the snuggles rock.
Start a reading buddy program or have siblings read together. I’ve been contemplating doing this in my neighborhood for awhile now. When I was teaching, we used this program called DEAR- Drop Everything And Read. I loved this idea although, yes, it can be hard for a kid to segue from being absorbed in their Legos to reading. It doesn’t always have the intended outcome.
With a reading program, there are benefits for all parties involved. The older child develops more confidence and maybe even a bigger desire to read. Most kids thrive when they realize that a younger child is looking up to them. And, of course, the benefits to the younger child can be huge.
I still have some research to do but think it’s time to give this a try. If it sounds like something you’d like to do in your community, I encourage you to do it too! Below are a couple of helpful sites I found.
If you live in L.A. and would like to come to one of my story times, please follow me on Facebook and Instagram!