Parents and caregivers are the first and most important teachers in a child’s life. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to spend as much quality time with our children as we’d like amid the hustle and bustle of today’s world. That’s why we’re offering tips and tricks for literacy-based family time that is fun, engaging, and easy.
Research has shown that children pay attention to, and are strongly influenced by, parent and caregiver attitudes toward books, reading, and learning. Caregivers who have books available around the home, enjoy reading, read by themselves, and read with their child establish a strong foundation for reading, learning, and success in school. The positive or negative associations a child makes with reading and learning at an early age heavily influences their future literacy skills. Kids take their cues from you.
The activities below will help you engage with your child and build their literacy skills while having fun. Kids at all reading levels may enjoy activities from any section. For example, middle-schoolers capable of reading novels on their own may still enjoy having a caregiver read aloud to them, or taking turns reading a novel aloud with their caregiver. Sharing a love of stories is an excellent way to bond with kids of all ages.
Pre-Readers to Beginning Readers
Play rhyming games. Think of a word and help your child come up with words that rhyme with it.
Sing songs and nursery rhymes together. Dress up or act out the nursery rhymes for more fun.
Read books to your child. Board books are great for babies because they can play roughly with them. Picture books are great for toddlers, as they often have engaging stories and eye-catching illustrations.
Ask your child to “read” a book to you. Beginning readers will enjoy taking turns reading an Easy Reader (they read a page, you read a page, etc.). Help pre-readers practice turning the pages and tell you what’s happening on each page by looking at the pictures. It is okay if their story is different from the actual story on the page.
Play I Spy games with your child while on the go. Point out and describe the things you see. Choose a color or a category of objects to describe, for example, “green things” or “cars and trucks”. Use colors, numbers, and other descriptive words to help build your child’s vocabulary. “I see a blue truck going slow. How many wheels does it have?”
Use a mirror or a reflective surface and take turns making faces and naming emotions; like happy, sad, frustrated, mad, surprised, silly, etc.
Play guessing games with letters to help your child learn sounds associated with letters. “I’m thinking of something that starts with an A, (make short “a” sound), that is green and has sharp teeth and lives in the water.” Keep giving clues until they guess the word (alligator).
Novice Readers to Strong Readers
Read books to or with your child. Choose a chapter book that they cannot read on their own yet and read a chapter or two per sitting. Alternate who gets to choose what book to read once you’ve finished one and are ready for another. This simple activity creates positive associations with reading.
Set aside a specific time of day or day of the week as Family Reading Time/Day, where everyone dedicates that time to reading their own books. The physical proximity creates a comfortable and safe space for children, while caregivers, siblings, etc. model how to read for fun.
Ask your child to read one of their favorite books to you. Ask them about their favorite part. Ask them why the book is their favorite. Talk about any themes you notice or parts they seem to identify with. Be careful not to ask too many questions in a row – this is not a quiz but an opportunity to learn about your child’s feelings and interests.
Start a family book club. Choose books that appeal to all family members, and that will work for readers at all skill levels. Set a date to discuss the book over dinner, or make it a themed event with food, games, or activities related to the book.
Make a recipe with your child and have them read the steps aloud. If your child cannot yet read, show them how the recipe provides step-by-step instructions and let them help with preparation.
Readers at All Stages
Read books to your child while holding them in your lap or snuggled together on the couch. This simple activity creates positive associations with reading as the physical contact makes kids feel safe and comfortable while the reading engages them cognitively. Pro-tip: picture books are for everyone! You’re never too old for a picture book.
Play scrabble or another word-based game like hangman (you can easily change the drawing to be a superhero, a house, an ice cream sundae, etc. instead of hangman).
Write notes to give to family, friends, and neighbors. If your child cannot write on their own, have them “write” the note themselves and then you write out a translation underneath their writing.
Look at family photos together and make up stories to go along with them. Tell stories about when you were growing up, or traditional stories about your culture. Tell your child stories about when they were born.
Read a picture book together and then go back to your favorite part and act it out. Get everyone involved- parents, siblings, family pets – the more people participating the more fun it is.
Designate a specific place for your child to create their own library and help them pick out books, or designate a special place to keep books they’ve checked out from the library. You can also work together with your child to create a reading nook – it doesn’t have to be fancy, just a cozy space your child likes.