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Building Literacy Skills at Home


There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now as we transition to new ways of not only living but learning. Families and teachers are scrambling to adjust. There is information everywhere, and it can be hard to understand as well as overwhelming thinking you need to do it all.

Where do you even begin? First, take a deep breath. We are here to make this more comfortable for you. There are so many options for enrichment and learning outside of school time, and the best part about it is that they are fun and easy!

A big reason why many of our students in our Reading Intervention program are behind is that they lack the vocabulary and background knowledge needed to understand what they are reading.

Think about the word garage. A beginning reader is reading a book, and they come across this word. They look to the pictures for clues and see a man standing in a garage fixing a car. They look back to the word. They are puzzled. This student lives in an apartment and does not have a garage, so they are unable to figure out the word.

Next, we have a more fluent reader that CAN sound out this word, but they pronounce it gare-age. They also live in an apartment and have never seen a garage, so although the word is close to being right, they don’t have the critical background knowledge to know that the word is garage and not gare-age.

Building oral language is also essential. Developing language means developing the skills and knowledge that go into listening and speaking, all of which have a strong relationship with reading comprehension and writing. The best way to do this is by talking to your child.

Talking and building learning opportunities around communicating with your child will not only help develop their literacy skills but also strengthen your relationship with them.

So let’s dive right in! How can you do this at home?

Create and implement a routine so that this becomes a habit. Kids thrive on routine, and now that they aren’t in school, they will be missing that. Does that mean you need to recreate their school environment? Absolutely not! You need to do the best you can with the resources you have and reach out to the community for additional support.

The activities below are small things you can incorporate into your routine, and they are suitable for all ages and the entire family. There is no need to do all of them every day – pick one or two to focus on each day.

Morning

Morning is the best time for learning. Kids’ minds are fresh and ready to absorb knowledge.

  • A Moment in Time – Talk to your child about yourself. Tell them something funny, embarrassing, crazy, or fun about yourself. Ask them to do the same. Ask questions while they are telling their stories to help them expand on what they are saying and to help you better understand what they are saying. You want to encourage full sentences.
  • Silly Sentences – Make up silly sentences together. Start with one word and have your child add another one. Repeat. For example, the parent might say “The,” and then the child might say “boy,” and another sibling might say “ate.” Keep doing this until you have a funny sentence. Try to use some vocabulary words your child might not know and then talk about what they mean.
  • Storytime – Pick a few objects from your house – a child’s toy, a kitchen utensil, anything you can find, and have your child develop a story using only those items. Ask questions while they are telling their story to help them elaborate. Switch! Now you tell a story using the same materials. Compare how your stories are different and how they are the same.
  • Word of the Week – Pick one new word for your child to learn. Here is a list that you can use or pick your own! With each new word, you can:
  • Brainstorm other words that have a similar meaning
    • Make connections between words and your child’s life
    • Listen to music and see if you hear that word in the song
  • Conversation Time – Have a detailed conversation with your child. Choose any topic and just run with it. For example, the question might be, “How do you think ice cream is made?” Encourage them to figure out the ingredients based on how it tastes, looks, and smells. From there, you could also go into types of ice creams, where ice-cream is made (Bluebell is right here in Texas!) and do more research by looking at their websites. Some other questions might be:
    • If you could change your name, would you want to, and what name would you choose instead?
    • If you could wake up with any superpower tomorrow, what would it be and why?
    • If you wrote a book, what would you name the main character, and where would he go?
    • If we had an airplane to take us on vacation right now, where would you want to go?
    • Why do you think polar bears are on the endangered species list?
    • What do you think is the easiest job in the world? Hardest?
  • Explore the World – Pick one new place in the world to learn about each week. Start with Texas and see what new information you can find out. Talk about the state bird, flower, and other things Texas is known for (good food, lots of diversity, and hot weather!). Next, you might want to move onto where your family originated. The possibilities are endless!

Afternoon

  • Guessing Game – Write on a piece of paper “We are having something that rhymes with lickin’ for dinner. What is it?” (Chicken). You can do this with new vocabulary words. For example, “We are having poultry for dinner. What is it?” (Chicken) Expand by talking to your child about things such as other types of farm animals, meat people eat, different dishes that include chicken, different ways to cook chicken, and what their favorite way to have chicken is.
  • Lunchtime Jokes – Tell jokes, and if you don’t know any, have your child look some up and write them out to tell. You can also find some here. See who can make who laugh first!
  • Letter Writing – Help your child write a letter to a friend, family member, teacher, or someone else whom your child misses. Don’t worry so much about spelling. As long as your child can read it, that’s what matters.
  • Dance – Learn a dance together. Choreography really helps with memory and sequencing, which are crucial early literacy skills!
  • Song Lyrics– Have your child write down the lyrics to their favorite song. See if they can find any rhyming words or vocabulary words with which they are unfamiliar.
  • Virtual Field Trip – Take a virtual field trip. You can find one on our resources page here. After completing the field trip, ask your child one new thing they learned, one thing they didn’t understand and wanted to know more about, and one thing they liked.

Evening

  • Bedtime Story – Read a story for 15 minutes before bed every night. If you don’t have books, try Scribd and Audible on a phone or any wifi device. They are providing free children’s books! You can also view our Daily Storytime read aloud videos here.
  • Themed Dinners – Have different themed dinner nights. Children can make a menu and play restaurant. What will be on the menu? Drinks? Appetizers? Dessert? Talk about the different components of the menu and have them create their own. They can also set the table and practice their manners!
  • Cooking Together – Get your child involved in the cooking. While in the kitchen, encourage your child to name the utensils needed for the meal. Discuss the foods you will be eating – their colors, textures, and tastes. Where does the food come from? Which foods do you like? Which do you dislike? Who will clean up? Emphasize the use of directional cues by asking him or her to put the napkin on the table, in your lap, or under the spoon. Identify who the napkin belongs to: “It is my napkin.” “It is Daddy’s.” “It is John’s.”
  • Cleaning – Have your child work on putting things in categories. If they need to clean up their toys, see if they can put similar items together, whether it’s big toys vs. small toys, soft toys vs. hard toys, or toys of the same colors. Take it one step further and see if they can put a group of toys in ABC order.
  • TV Time – While watching TV, talk about what the child is watching. Have him or her guess what might happen next. Talk about the characters. Are they happy or sad? After the show, ask your child to tell you what happened in the story. Act out a scene together, and make up a different ending.
  • Coloring Time – Wind down the night with some relaxing coloring. Turn on gentle music and let them decompress from the day. You can do all sorts of things to include literacy like asking them to draw a picture of their favorite thing they did that day, or by writing down sight words and asking them to color two-letter words blue, or three-letter words green. Use your imagination! You can also each color a story, swap papers, and tell the other person’s story.