I have two small children, who are just learning the building blocks of reading and writing. They have a keen interest in what mommy is doing, typing away at the keyboard all day, putting letters together to make words, and to tell stories. Reading and writing are critical skills; I want to do everything I can to make sure they love what reading and writing can do for them.
“We shouldn’t teach great books; we should teach a love of reading.” — B. F. Skinner
Here are my favorite ways you can encourage your children to play with words. Please add your ideas in the comments below. What has worked for your children, and what hasn’t?
Of course, before kids can learn to write well, they need the fundamentals of the alphabet, and reading. I try to read every day with them. Right before bed is the traditional reading time, but don’t be surprised if they come running to you with their favorite story in the middle of the afternoon. Anytime is a good time to share a story with your kids.
Be sure to take them to the library as often as possible, to expose them to the wide variety of books available. Many libraries have summer reading programs that encourage children to read (or be read to), with many rewards along the way. You could also join (or create) a parent-child book club to encourage the sharing of books and stories. Keeping track of the stories your child has read will let you know when it’s time to expand your personal reading library.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” — Dr. Seuss
Literacy Videos, Flashcards, and Games
Today there are a variety of materials geared to young children to encourage their reading and writing capabilities. Videos and television shows are often designed for preschool age children, exposing them to a wide variety of words and phonics sounds. Flashcards encourage letter and word recognition, which is suitable for the beginning reader.
Websites with children’s games are a unique way to encourage reading, without making it feel like study time. With both written and spoken instructions, kids will learn how to play the games and how to read at the same time. Always supervise your kids when they are on the computer, and don’t let computer time cut into book reading time.
Material games, such as word jumbles, rhyming sounds, and even board games also enhance your child’s reading skills, showing them how letters form words, and what sounds are created with different letters. You could even play an oral version of round robin, where you start a story and let your children come up with the next scene. Your children will learn the basics of plot and character creation, even when it sounds very similar to the stories you already read to your children.
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends: they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” — Charles W. Eliot
Give Your Children Their Own Writing Tools
Budding writers will need their own writing materials, so they can work alongside their writer-parents. Even if they haven’t mastered writing their letters yet, the practice will encourage them to keep trying. My kids have their own notebooks, where they can draw, scribble, and write to their hearts’ content. They also have small kids’ laptops, where they can type away while I’m typing.
Besides your growing library of children’s books, consider getting them their own subscription to a children’s magazine. Kids love receiving things in the mail that are just for them, and they will learn the value of the written word, as it becomes a special monthly treasure. They will also associate the words with the pictures, and may even make their own story books! Give them construction paper and crayons, and let them create their own magazine, scrapbook, or cards with a little help from you.
“Happy is he who has laid up in his youth, and held fast in all fortune, a genuine and passionate love of reading.” — Rufus Choate
What other ideas do you use to promote literacy with your children? Do they share your love of reading and writing?
Photo Credit: Genista