Michele Mobley, Literacy Outreach Coordinator Dawson Creek
Literacy isn’t just about reading and writing! It encompasses the arts, finances, technology, and the way communicate and interact with other people.
Studies have shown that during a child’s early years, a foundation is laid for their educational, emotional and social success. Preschool aged children are more curious than ever about the world around them; they like to taste, touch and smell everything within their reach.
Young children learn so many basic skills through everyday play and interaction with other children and adults. Through play young children get better at understanding and using language, learn how to interact with other children, and they learn to individualize themselves from their parents and caregivers.
Literacy skills are something that we continue to build throughout our lifetimes. Children who are brought up in homes where reading is encouraged by parents or caregivers are far more likely to become fully literate adults. Children also tend to develop a better sense of security, and it helps them expand their imagination, language and vocabulary skills.
Family literacy takes place when a trusted adult spends time with a child doing activities such as reading, writing, storytelling, singing, active play, following a recipe or respecting a family tradition. Family literacy happens all around us – we just need to grasp the opportunities. Making a grocery list, matching socks, playing games, or talking during mealtime are all examples of family literacy activities.
Family Literacy activities provide an important foundation for acquiring literacy skills such as listening, speaking, reading and writing. This groundwork paves the way for future success in learning. Children who are raised in a home where reading is encouraged, will start Grade 1 with thousands of hours of one-on-one reading, are far more likely to become fully literate adults.
When we read to our children, we give our kids the gift of security, comfort and a sense of belonging. Storytelling and/or reading is not only enjoyable for kids, but it also helps them understand foster their own creativity and imagination. Play is also a very important tool in literacy. There are two types of play: Structured play ie) stacking certain coloured blocks, board games, memory card games etc… Free play is also important, as it gives children an opportunity to role play, which helps them understand their place in the world and how others fit in to the ‘big picture’. Having strong literacy skills helps us to understand information and gives us the skills to make better decisions. Literacy allows people to have a voice in their community, and gives them the tools to shape their lives.
Family literacy isn’t something that takes a lot of time or money. All you have to do is communicate with your kids about the world around them. You can teach children about colours and shapes by watching road signs. Talk about different animals you see in your neighbourhood, or help them explore a topic they are curious about on-line. Developmentally, preschool aged children are progressing in leaps and bounds. Understanding and fostering these leaps and bounds in development can help children build a confident base on which to play, socialize and learn.
Did you know that spending just a little bit of time engaging in activities with your family can increase your literacy skills? For example, pick one night a week when everyone in your home can get together for a board game, cards or dice. Many family games involve reading, problem solving, numeracy or all of the above. Get together with other families and decide on a book to read, then get together and watch the movie version after you have finished the book.
Families with younger children can have an indoor picnic and story-time, with snacks themed from their favourite books. For example, Winnie-the-Pooh books would make a nice companion to honey cereal or honey toast. Make a family journal by having everyone draw names and then write a story and draw a picture relating to that person. When all the stories are complete your family will also have a wonderful memento! Be creative, have fun and get everyone involved in family literacy. Above all else, set a good example!
Try something new or do what you love! Get active and go sledding, skating, swimming, or take a nature walk. Be a tourist in your own town by visiting your local museums, art gallery or theatre. If you prefer to stay closer to home, consider hosting a ‘games day’ with neighbours or friends. Whether you decide on a serious game of chess or a fun ‘snakes and ladders’ tournament, everyone in the family will enjoy spending a little extra time together!
Having higher literacy skills can open doors to personal opportunities including: better health, a greater understanding of social and political issues, increased communication skills and greater confidence. But still, roughly nine million Canadians struggle with low literacy. It is in everyone’s best interest to realize our personal potentials, not just for ourselves, but also for our families, and our communities.