January 27 is Family Literacy Day in Canada.
In honour of this occasion, I thought I’d share what we’ve been doing on the family literacy front.
I’d like to preface this by saying I had pre-parenting panoramic images of literacy wonder.
I mean, I like to read.
And I spent ten years volunteering, then working for, then volunteering (once funding ran out) for a literacy organization running reading circles for young kids [Hi Frontier College! You rock!].
My husband also likes to read.
Sometimes we even both do it in front of the kids.
Then there’s my mother, also a major influence in their lives, who tells of reading Dickens in her single digit years.
Of course that was pre-TV and she is “prone to exaggeration” (which I’m told she knew how to spell by age three). But still. To this day, she is a voracious reader.
So I figured my kids would just, well, soak up the literacy awesomeness of us and take to reading.
Well, verdict is still out on the two-year-old, but the five-year-old ain’t reading Dickens.
Instead, I’ve now have 1.5 years of teachers telling me she’s behind and offering me helpful tips to urge her along.
The type of tips I use to give parents of the kids I tutored.
Because she’s five and just now, midway through Senior K, can ID all the letters in the alphabet, identify most of their sounds, ID numbers to 12 (including eleventeen), and is beginning to write her name.
Which are skills to be mastered in Junior K.
Despite the seemingly continuous concerned commentary from teachers that she’s behind, I see the vast improvements. And her extra interest in now figuring it out.
My child doesn’t have special needs beyond the fact that she’s always struggled with fine motor skills – a fact I pointed out to her school affiliated preschool when she was a few months shy of three and have repeated at every introductory parent-teacher meeting since.
I’m aware and we’re doing stuff to help at home.
[TO ALL HER TEACHERS EVER]: I swear.
Aside from the fine motor challenge, which makes her less inclined to try because she doesn’t want to fail, she’d also rather be playing in the kitchen.
Or coordinating her friends into performing some multi-part role-play where everyone has defined roles and plot developments she’ll explain to them in intricate detail and hold them to account if they deviate from script.
I’ve watched it in play group. And at bedtime as I’ve tried to follow along with dolls.
So I know the problem isn’t comprehension, but fine motor and concentration.
My current plan is to make her realize that if she can write and read, then she can record the stories she creates.
I know this is months if not a (couple) year(s) off.
But the goal is to make the “click” for my kid and make her want to work past that uncomfortable “I’m not good and others are better so I’ll just coordinate pretend play over here” moment and make her start wanting to write letters and figure out sounds and then blends and then words and then … reading.
So with that back-story, here’s what we’re doing now chez-nous:
1. Board and Card Games
The world opened when my five-year-old figured out board and card games. We are big Candyland and Go Fish! fans (my two-year-old, who always insists on playing too, calls it Go Shish!) and also play with alphabet flashcards.
2. The Reading Stuff
Both kids have been big story-time fans from the start and we try to read most nights. Here’s my youngest’s two favourites at the moment:
If you want to check out what else we read, I keep a list of their favourites here:
Because this is about family literacy, I’ll also mention I’m reading books again myself for the first time since motherhood. I think it has to do with hitting the stage that I a) have the energy again and b) my kids leave me alone long enough to do it. Regardless, I’m excited to be excited about books again and figure showing my kids I like reading helps too.
Here’s three I’m reading now:
I wrote more about the Book of Awesome here last week. I’ve also previously posted about my guilty pleasure love of V.C. Andrews. As for Roxane Gay, she won me over with the essay in the book about her love for the Sweet Valley Twins and how she’s TEAM JESSICA 4 EVA! (pg. 68) However, the chapter on competitive Scrabble scared me.
3. The Writing Stuff
As mentioned above, my eldest is now making inroads in printing. So we’ve been doing our best to help.
I posted a couple weeks back about our phonetic letter tracing and was thrilled to discover my blog is followed by many lovers of Victor Borge.
A few of you also gave me tips in the comments of that post. Regina, from Vintage 1973 suggested tracing letters in the air while in the car, or through bubbles in the bath.
We haven’t done that exactly, but are now tracing letters on the wall at bedtime by unicorn starlight. ABC Life Literacy Canada has been encouraging people to tweet literacy ideas with the hashtag #15MinutesofFun. So I did.
And they’re sending us a prize pack! It should show up this week.
This is also starting to translate onto paper and we’ve pulled out some of the previously ignored workbooks to practice in.
Hoping we’ve hit the turning point for printing and that my eldest is on her way! Either way, it’s getting exciting to see how they both learn and fun to think up new ways to help.
So Happy Family Literacy Day!
What activities do you do in your family? Please let me know and share any tips you have for young kids.