by Natasha Price
A couple of weekends ago my son and I were walking through the mall. We decided to take a break on a bench and people watch. Jack, age 3 and a half, was absorbing his surroundings. “I see a F, O, O, T,” he said as he looked up at an athletic shoe store sign. I took this as an opportunity to help him sound out the word he had just spelled aloud. “What letter makes a ‘fff’ sound?” I asked him.
November 1 marked the start of Family Literacy Month, a nationwide initiative to encourage families to read together through community events and at-home activities.
"When parents and children come together to learn, relationships among family members, neighbors and communities are all strengthened," said Sharon Darling, president and founder of the National Center for Families Learning.
There are myriad opportunities around us to help our children learn. You don’t need an iPad, a lot of time or special teaching materials to motivate kids to learn to read. For my family, all it takes is consistency and an open mind.
Here are some of the ways we incorporate reading into our everyday lives:
Read at bedtime – We’ve been reading to Jack since he was just a few weeks old. Whether it’s a book about colors and shapes or an Eddie Bauer catalog, the activity of sitting down with your child and engaging with her through reading is impactful.
According to Reachoutandread.org, “reading aloud is widely recognized as the single most important activity leading to language development.” If your child can’t sit still through one small picture book, that’s ok – just read a couple of pages and move on. Creating a routine at bedtime helped our son become more interested in reading.
Subscribe to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library – The day my son was born a volunteer nurse came into our hospital room with a sign-up form for the Imagination Library. This program mails your child a free book every month for the first five years of his life. Jack looks forward to getting his book in the mail every month. Our local chapter has monthly learning events around the city that are free and open to the public.
Buy books second hand – There are several thrift shops in town with great children’s book selections. They usually cost less than a dollar apiece. It’s a wonderful way to find out-of-print books and the classics for a fraction of the cost. I usually wipe them down with a water and hydrogen peroxide spray to disinfect them.
Read while running errands – When we go to the grocery store, I’ll point out words and letters on the items we put into our cart. While we’re driving in traffic I’ll ask Jack if he sees any letters on road signs. I look for letters everywhere I go and ask our son lots of questions. This not only helps him with letter recognition but it’s a way for him to interact with the world around him.
Visit the library – We love the library! We’ve been taking Jack to our local library since he was able to sit up. There is a special area for little ones and lots of early learning programming. We aren’t able to attend the story time sessions during the week, but we try to participate in weekend events. Our son has his favorite library books and he doesn’t hesitate to ask a librarian to find them for him when we visit.
Find a Little Free Library – Little Free Libraries have been popping up all over the country since 2009 and Anchorage now has them everywhere. Community members construct outdoor bookshelves where people are invited to take a book or leave a book. You can find them in neighborhoods and public parks. Jack loves to visit our neighborhood little library. I’ll occasionally drop off books he’s outgrown and he’ll pick out whatever suits his fancy.