Thursday, November 19, 2009

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Friday, November 6, 2009

National Family Literacy Month

November is National Family Literacy Month.  So, this month, I’m going to take some time to post about ways that families can incorporate literacy into their everyday lives.
What Can Families Do Together To Promote Literacy?
1. The number one thing, in my opinion, that families can do together to promote literacy is to read aloud.  Consider hosting a family reading night once a week.  Each week rotate family members to choose a book to read aloud.  If you have children who aren’t of reading age, allow them to pick out the book and have a reading family member read it aloud.  Make it an event! Make snacks, create crafts, or make a game up related to the book.  Need some inspiration?  Check out: Fairy Tale Feasts:  A Literary Cookbook for Young Readers and Eaters by Jane Yolen  

Susan at The Book Chook recently posted Ten Ways to Involve the Whole Family in Reading Aloud.  Check it out for additional ways to incorporate reading aloud into the fabric of your family.   

Jen, from Jen Robinson’s Book Page, posted Tips for Growing Bookworms: #1 Read Aloud this week at PBS Booklights.  She discusses the importance of reading aloud to our kids from birth or even before!

2. Have older siblings read to younger siblings.  I love hearing my son read to my daughter.  And she loves it, too!  I’ve also had my older child record himself reading two or three favorite books.  This helps him practice fluency and my daughter can listen to the recordings when he’s not around.    

Along the same lines, Terry from The Reading Tub wrote Bedtime from Afar: Sharing Books When You Can’t Cuddle Up Close at PBS Booklights last month.   In her post she talks about ways to continue a bedtime read aloud tradition, even if you can’t be there in person, by recording yourself reading aloud. 

Which made me think about this:  when I was a child, my father was in the military and often spent six months or more out to sea.  One of my fondest memories was my mom, brother, and I sitting around the kitchen table recounting our day into a cassette tape for Dad.  Mom would mail the tapes off and in a month or so we received several cassette tapes from my dad telling us about his travels.  Taking this idea a step further, wouldn’t it be fantastic if the children of deployed military men and women recorded themselves reading aloud books to send to their moms and dads overseas?  United Through Reading provides books and recording equipment for deployed parents to read aloud to their kids on DVD, but I’m sure parents would be delighted to hear (and even better, SEE) their children read books to them as well! 

3. Play literacy games, such as Boggle or Scrabble.  Boggle, Jr. is perfect for kids 3-6.  Break your family into teams and make it a game night!  Or make up your own literacy games.  My children enjoy playing Go Fish with a twist.  My three year old goes fishing for letters and my six year old goes fishing for sight words.  Simply create pairs of letters or pairs of sight words on index cards.  If your child already recognizes capital letters, make lower case letters or create a mixture of both and have your child match the capital letter to the lowercase letter.      

4. Make regular family outings to the library, book store, or yard/garage sales to find new books.  Libraries and book stores often showcase new books each month based on seasons, holidays, special events, etc.  Both also often provide story times for young children and special events.  Often you can find special treasures at sales. . . if you really look. 
5. Pay it forward!   As a family, donate books you don’t read anymore to local hospitals, homeless shelters, etc.  Volunteer your time to read to patients in hospitals, nursing homes, etc.  Nothing beats sharing a love of literacy as a family than sharing it with those who can use a little extra attention.  So as the holiday season approaches, consider reading aloud holiday books at your local children’s hospital or nursing home.       

Additional Resources
Since it’s National Family Literacy Month, several organizations are posting ways to incorporate literacy into family life.  Here are a few I found this week: 

The National Center for Family Literacy has free, interactive activities for families to complete together.  These activities are based on events that instill pride in our nation’s history.

At First Book, guest blogger, Tina Chovanec, wrote Adventures in Family Learning, a post about ways “parents can jumpstart reading and learning together.” 

What ways do you promote literacy as a family? I’d love to hear how other families incorporate literacy into their lives.  

Monday, November 2, 2009

What is Literacy? describes literacy as "the quality or state of being literate, especially the ability to read or write."  I would go further to say that literacy also includes speaking and listening.  But, literacy isn’t just about the physical act of reading, writing, speaking, and listening; it includes the enjoyment of and the engagement in reading and writing.  Literate children find reading fun and exciting.  They use reading to learn about a wide range of subjects and they use writing to share what they learn. 

As a teacher, it was my goal that students left my classroom better readers and writers than when they first stepped in.  In order to accomplish that, we immersed ourselves in literacy.  We read, we wrote, we spoke, and we listened.  But, we also immersed ourselves in books.  It wasn't just about academics, it was about becoming engaged readers because we wanted to read, not because we had to read.

I have done the same at home.  My children have been immersed in books since they each joined our family.  I've read to them every day since they were born (and really before, if you count the reading I did when they were in utero).  We talk about the books we read.  We look forward to and enjoy our reading time together. 

It is my belief that parents are children's first teachers.  If we don't entice our children with literacy in the first five years, it makes it a lot harder for children to become engaged readers when they begin formal schooling.  It is so important that we model for our children the importance of reading every day.  We can do this by being readers ourselves.  But, we can also do this by reading to our children.      

Two fantastic resources to guide parents (and teachers) when reading aloud to children are: The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease and Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox.

In future posts this month, I hope to share some ways that my family incorporates literacy into our everyday lives.  In the meantime, what ways do you incorporate literacy into lives of children from birth to age five?

Happy Reading,

Monday, October 19, 2009

Welcome to Literacy Toolbox

Hello! I hope to get this blog up and running soon. My plan is to create a resource for educators and parents to provide literacy tips, tools, and book reviews. This blog may be a bit more personal, as I bring snippets of our daily literacy lives into it. I have a 6 year old son and a 3 year old daughter and literacy is a big deal in our house. First, I have to come up with clever names for them!
If you are interested in ways to make literacy come alive for your child or the children you teach, please check back soon!