5 Activities to Boost Literacy Skills
By Dawn Marie Barhyte
Teachers agree that young children don’t have to know how to read and write before kindergarten, but boosting literacy skills from a young age is extremely beneficial. A basic understanding of the relationship between letters, words and reading is helpful in promoting school readiness. One way to do this is by reading aloud to your child. Encouraging their early attempts to read and write will unlock a world of information and imagination.
Boost Brain Development
You have already heard how vital it is to read to your children every day, but do you know why? You might be surprised to learn that doing so boosts brain development, stimulates language skills, and gives your child an edge once they go off to school. In fact, studies show a correlation between reading and higher scores on standardized tests and better grades in school overall.
Strengthen Your Bond
Reading does not just happen. Literacy skills need to be nurtured as early as possible, and the easiest way is to read aloud to your child. This not only builds a foundation for literacy, but gets kids to actually enjoy it, too. Studies show children will develop more positive attitudes towards reading if they experience a close bond with you while reading aloud. Reading aloud also has the following benefits:
- Sharpens listening skills and increases attention span
- Vocabulary matures and kids acquire new words
- Learns about sequencing, space and time, the flow of stories and what comes next
- Increases comprehension and gains a deeper understanding of the world
- Strengthens and refines language skills, and forms more complex sentences
Pssst…check out How to Foster a Love of Reading in Children
Boost Literacy Skills
As a parent, you can do a great deal to nurture your child’s literacy development aside from reading books aloud. Here are some other fun activities to build literacy skills
- The Nursery Rhyme Effect: Research has found that children who are familiar with nursery rhymes when they enter kindergarten learn to read more easily. With each nursery rhyme, thousands of connections are formed, introducing your child to the patterns of sounds as the brain separates words into syllables and hears similarities between words that rhyme. They not only boost literacy skills, but they also increase motor coordination and listening skills. Try fun, familiar finger rhymes such as the Itsy-Bitsy Spider or Five Little Monkeys. Then extend the activity by writing down the rhymes and have your child draw pictures to illustrate the words.
- Make a Book Together: Have your child make up their own story, and write it down for them, word for word. Write one sentence per page in capital and lower case letters, so it looks just like the print in a storybook. If they aren’t quite ready for that then try a more personal approach—themes like “All About Me” or “My Favorite Things” are a big hit with little ones. Ask them questions to get started like, their favorite color, favorite food, who their friends are, who they live with, etc. Then prompt your child to either draw or cut out images from a magazine to illustrate each page. Make sure to write the title and your child’s name on the cover.
- Art as Reading: The next time your child creates a work of art, whether it’s in the form of a drawing, painting, or even a scribble, as them to tell you about it. Write down what they say and read it back to them. This will demonstrate how words and ideas can be written down and repeated as stories.
- Go Fish: You will need index cards and thick markers. Recite the alphabet together, writing a letter on each card. Make two cards of each letter using large upper-case letters. Deal four cards to each player then put the remaining cards in a pile, face down. Pull one of your cards out, placing it face up on the table and ask your child if they have the match. If they don’t, say “Go Fish” and have them draw a card from the pile. Take turns until all the cards have been matched.
- Turn the Tables: During story time flip the script and have your child “read” their book of choice to you. This will encourage creativity, challenge them to list a sequence of events, and even build their confidence as they realize how much of the story they actually remember.
Pssst…check out 5 Ways to Support Skill Development in Young Writers
Few can argue the benefits of boosting literacy skills during the early years. Even just 10 minutes a day of reading or other literacy-building activities can have a huge impact. It will enhance language development, increase the ability to form more complex sentences, and solidify the understanding of the relationship between words and objects. Reading opens up a whole new world to children as they gaze at the colorful pages of books, so let’s help them get there.
Dawn Marie Barhyte is a former early childhood educator & co-director for childcare centers. She is now a freelance writer with over twenty years experience specializing in topics like child development, education, and parenting. Her work has appeared in publications like Hudson Valley Parent and Girls’ Life. She loves to sail, is an avid reader and crafter, and resides in the scenic Hudson Valley, NY with her beloved husband and rescue pup.