To conclude this series, I want to talk about creating genuine opportunities for reading and writing at home. I always encourage parents of my students to make reading and writing a part of their families' every day lives in a way that is real and authentic. In other words, rather than having your child work on worksheets or reading phonics books (though there can sometimes be a time for those activities, too), have them share in reading and writing activities that are real and necessary for you as an adult. This helps your little one understand that reading and writing are important and valued and(hopefully) helps them develop a lifelong love and appreciation of literacy!
While there won't be a whole lot an infant or a toddler can do to contribute to reading and writing activities at home, there are definitely ways to include them in order for them to see and understand the necessity for reading and writing even from a very young age. Here are a few ideas...
In addition to regular story times and reading together, here are some ways to include your child in other types of reading:
- Cook or bake with your child and read the recipe to your child pointing out the ingredients and steps
- As you're driving, read street signs, exit signs, etc. If your LO can identify letters, have him "help" you look for a particular street or exit -- "I need to get off on Braddock Rd. It starts with a B. Can you help me find it?"
- Similarly, read signs at the store -- "Will you help me find the pasta? It starts with P. Let's look at the aisle marker signs."
- Read food packages together -- read the ingredients and nutrition information, especially if you're looking to avoid or add something in your child's diet and he knows it. (Lil' CB and I often check packages together to check the item's sugar content! )
- Read birthday and holiday cards to your LO, especially ones that are addressed to him!
- Do "research" together. Lil' CB is all about asking, "Why? Why? Why???" lately, and when I have no more answers, we'll sometimes turn to Professor Google together and I'll read him the answer to his question.
- Check things like the weather, TV listings, event listings, etc. together -- read them and talk about how it might affect your day or plan ahead based on what you find.
- Institute a Family Reading Time. Even if your LO can only sit and look at a book on his own for 5 minutes, carve out some time to sit and read as a family. Let your LO see you enjoy your own books or magazines as he "reads" his books. Help him understand that reading is something you can enjoy forever!
(sidenote: one of the reasons I've been a bit quiet around here...I'm in the middle of Insurgent and it's SO good. Any other Divergent fans in the house?)
- Write lists together: shopping lists; library book lists; party guest lists; gift wish lists; goal lists, etc. The possibilities are endless!
- Write letters to loved ones -- if your LO can talk, dictate what he says and put power in his words by writing them down just the way he says them.
- Write cards -- we rarely buy birthday cards anymore. We just get a plain piece of paper and let Lil' CB go to town drawing and decorating and then we write his words of birthday wishes. He is always so proud to share his card with the recipient!
- Write reminders -- last week we left a note on the garage door for ourselves -- "Take out the recycling!" because Lil' CB noticed the bin was overflowing and we had forgotten to take it out the previous week. Worked like a charm!
- Write signs -- on the day before Mother's Day, I found a sign of Lil' CB's door that he and Mr. Cowboy had made. It said, "No Mommies allowed! Boys at work!" Lil' CB thought it was hilarious and kept the sign in his work box for a while. My morning cup of coffee was extra quiet and enjoyable that day.
left: writing a letter to his cousins in Chicago -- dictated from his words, right: jazzing up a congratulations card for the Wagon family (holla at Waggy and Lil' Miss Wagon!!) and a thank you card for a friend
What are some genuine opportunities for reading and writing in which you have included your little one?
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Though most children won't learn to read and write actual words until they are about 5-6 years old, there are many things you can do to prepare them to love and appreciate reading and writing from the start, long before they can actually do it themselves. After all, isn't developing an interest in something always the first step to learning how to do it? Here's to developing a new generation of lifelong readers and writers!