Celebrating Family Literacy Day
By Michelle Kolobutin
January 27th is Family Literacy Day, a day to raise awareness of the importance of reading as a family. The message of Family Literacy Day for 2020 is “Let’s Read Together!”.
Research has found that hearing a variety of words consistently helps prepare young children for
reading later in life and builds their vocabulary. However, it isn’t just reading that can help build vocabulary and a love of learning. A study in the Journal of Music Therapy found that singing correlates with increased language development, math ability and improved school grades. Research aside – reading is enjoyable. If you think about your memories of reading as a child, there is so much more about the experience that you likely enjoyed than just the story.
For children, reading is a time for bonding, something special they look forward to and cherish. Think of the setting, likely a calm and collected time of the day, a time for warming up or calming down. Time paid attention to a story, an assuring voice guiding you through the pages of the story, adding cadence to the story and enthusiasms that make us raise our shoulders in excitement, laugh out loud, or wonder about what’s going to happen on the next page. Creating that setting early on will translate into a positive association with books and reading later in life.
Parents tell us they’ve read the same books with their children so many times, they’ve memorized it. But that repetitive looking at, and hearing the same words over and over again and associating them with pictures allows children to gain confidence in words, spelling, enunciating and trying to put words and sentences together. Sometimes the biggest challenge getting children to read is finding something they are interested in. For children who need more encouragement to read, finding the right book or subject matter will be key in sparking their interest - maybe it’s a comic, or a manual for building something, looking at cook books, reading recipes or flipping through catalogues and flyers.
Reading is a great way to increase literacy, but we are living in busy times. Many adults spend a lot of time on the go with children, getting errands done, getting to and from school, appointments and commitments. It’s the reality of life for most folks, and it can be tricky to fit in time to ready every day. Here are some other ways you can Read together and create those bonding moments when books aren’t close at hand:
1. Sing-along: Singing together helps a child to increase their language development, math ability and overall school grades. Children learn through rhythm, rhyme and repetition and songs offer this type of learning just as much as reading a book does. You can sing anywhere, in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, on the bus or at dinner!
2. Play pretend: Don’t recycle those cardboard boxes just yet! They make great pretend play props. Participating in symbolic play (where an object is used as a stand-in for another object, such as a cardboard box as a fort for a teddy bear or wooden block representing a car) is associated with cognitive and language development.
3. Make up a story: Make up a story and instead of writing down the words, draw a picture to go with it. Show the picture to a friend or family member and see if they can tell what the story is about.
4. Go on an adventure and draw a map: Treat outings and regular commutes as an adventure. Read the street signs or shop names while you are walking, taking the bus, or driving somewhere. Try to draw a map of where you go, maybe it’s your neighborhood, the route you walk to school or a map of an imaginary place. Try to rhyme words with a word you see on the street and identify the different buildings, green areas, signs etc. you may see when you’re on your adventure.
5. Play a game of cards: Can help with identifying patterns, numbers and counting.
Michelle Kolobutin is a Harm Reduction Coordinator and Health Promoter with the NorWest Community Health Centres.
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