Families play an integral role of developing literacy skills in children. Though schools are an important component in teaching reading and writing, parents and other family members can lay a foundation for lifetime literacy through actively including literacy in their daily lives. Family literacy activities help develop an appreciation for, and comfort with, reading and writing in the entire household.
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Families can help young children develop the skills necessary to learning literacy through working letters, words and rhymes into everyday activities. Point out letters on signs and other places and talk about their sounds. Read rhyming stories or make up rhymes and sing participatory songs with young children as often as possible. Examples include making letters out of modelling dough, forming simple words with letter magnets, singing rhyming songs and reading books together.
Reading books is one of the most important literacy activities that parents and children should do every day. Read picture books to children starting at birth. As they begin developing pre-reading skills in school, help children read words and sentences themselves. Later, simply spending time reading your own materials together in the same room is a wonderful activity. Incorporate reading into daily activities with children. For example, cook a favourite meal or treat together and have children help read the recipe. Parents should read in front of their children often. Whether they are reading a book, magazine or newspaper, when children see their parents read, they learn that reading is part of everyday life.
The ability to write is an important component of literacy. Writing skill development begins with the mechanics of forming letters and words and develops with the ability to use writing to convey information effectively. Activities to encourage early writing skills include making letters in fun materials such as writing in the sand, mud or snow or making a thin layer of salt, sugar or corn meal on a baking tray in which to write letters. Later writing activities include making a book with children that you write and illustrate together, writing letters to friends or family members, having children write a shopping list or any other activity that requires children to write.
Comprehension is a crucial component of literacy. Reading comprehension involves constructing meaning from written material. Asking questions about the story, the characters and the author's message helps develop reading comprehension. Theme-based books provide a starting point for discussion and practice in reading comprehension. Families can read books based on holidays or seasons to discuss with their children. The National Center for Family Literacy (see Resources) provides an activity guide for families based on historic events and a Celebrate Literacy calendar that offers seasonal activity ideas throughout the year.
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