Family Literacy: It’s all in how you read it

Ever since I was little I’ve loved school — I love to learn! Literacy was a priority in our home growing up; it was all about the importance of education.  I’m first generation Canadian; my parents immigrated to Canada from India, and the most notable memory for me was the importance of education.  I’ve always been a huge advocate of books. The one routine that was consistent growing up was reading before bed and honestly, it was one of my favorite parts of the day — enjoying a good novel and letting my imagination soar!

I believe the future of literacy in Canada is being threatened because of all the technology and social media we have at our disposal: ipads, iphones, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.  Everything seems to promote and push instant gratification!  All the slang, all the acronyms, all the abbreviations — they doesn’t push our brain to expand and navigate. I believe they’re making our brains lazier.  Don’t get me wrong; I do it myself and I see the changes that have taken place in my formation of sentences and my language-building skills.  Just think of auto-correct. We don’t even need to know how to spell anymore — our phones do it all for us. So what are we doing?

I have two little boys. My son Shae is 4 and my son Aavi is 2, and they are still at the age where I can help mold their decisions and, to be completely honest, make most of their decisions for them.  With the little kids it’s all about playing literacy games with them to keep them motivated, engaged and wanting more.  We have a routine of milk and books before bedtime — I started this when they were only 6 months old — and I’m hoping to continue this for as long as I possibly can.  My boys are still at the stage where there are just as many pictures as words in a book, but that works to our advantage at this point.  We play games where I ask them questions and they tell me the answers as we read:  “How many bees do you see?  Let’s count them together.The bees are yellow, what else on the page is the colour yellow?  What letter does the word ‘bee’ start with?  What are your other favorite ‘B’ words?” and so on.  They love all these literacy games and it makes the book reading experience different for them every time.  Also, allowing them to pick their books gives them a sense of control and gives them more motivation to learn while at the same time keeping them engaged.

I also try to incorporate literacy, even when they least expect it.  I bought bowls and plates that have numbers and letters on them, so while they’re eating I can ask them about the different colors, letters, and numbers on their dishes — it distracts them just enough for me to get few more mouthfuls into them as well. Perfect!!

Colouring books are fantastic for the imagination. As they colour, you can ask your child about what they are colouring.  Get them to colour a few different pages and put them together as their own storybook.   “Is this Mickey Mouse?  How old is Mickey Mouse?  Where does Mickey Mouse live?”  “Mickey Mouse is 7 years old, he lives in the forest where he builds his own home, and he has to build a strong home so that the wolves don’t blow it down.  Then Minnie Mouse came for a visit and brought a basket of flowers, they decided to go for a picnic and Goofy saw them and wanted to play with them.”   I know it’s simple, but it gives your child a sense of empowerment when creating and building their own stories with their own words and imagination.

If we, as parents, can take the time to encourage children to make literacy a priority, it may just stick. Just remember, it’s one word at a time.
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