Literacy Begins in the Home

Parents have the gift of being the first teacher of their children. Literacy begins in the home. The rhythms of reading that you establish with your child will be carried through with them over the years. Teachers in schools find again and again that those who have been read with at home enjoy reading more than their peers. Perhaps this confirms the importance of what you and your family already do in regard to reading. I hope so! If this information seems a bit intimidating, there are a few ideas I would love to share. Don’t worry! These are fun, stress free ideas (and you have probably already started doing them).


1. Read to your child.

- Talk about things you notice in the words and pictures.

- Retell the story after you finish reading it.

- Have your child retell the story. Here are some questions to help guide your child’s retelling of a narrative (these can be adjusted for the age of your child):

* Setting: Where does the story take place?

* Characters: Who is in the story? (If there are many, simply ask about the most important ones) What are they like? (Are they kind and thoughtful? How do you know?)

* Problem and Solution: What was the problem at the start of the book? How was it fixed?

* Beginning: What happened at the beginning?

* Middle: What are three key things that happened in the middle of the story?

* End: How did the story end?

* Heart: What can we learn through this story? (What is a key theme? Why did the author tell this story?)

- Reread books. Hearing something again helps us take in more meaning. You can reread books you find fun or with messages your family values.


2. Read with your child.

- Sit beside each other and share the same book. If you happen to have more than one copy of the book, great! Sitting beside each other is still a wonderful way of communicating to your child that you are enjoying this together. Children long to be with their loved ones.

- Take turns reading with your child. He can read part and you can read part. For the youngest ones that could just mean reading a familiar word or two. With older children, this can mean taking turns reading paragraphs, pages or chapters.

- Your support enables a child to read from books that are beyond their own reading level. If they happen to come across a word that is not familiar to them, encourage him or her to sound it out – breaking it into parts. It takes more time than just telling your child the word, but it will help him or her grow as a reader while feeling the security of you being right there. When a word’s meaning is unfamiliar, you’ll be there to explain it or to help her or him look it up.



3. Be consistent.

- Consistency communicates importance. You don’t have to read to your child every single morning and evening; simply make room in your family routine for things you value.

- You are crafting your family culture as you make these decisions.


4. Model what you want to see in your child.

- Let your children see you reading the types of things you want them to be reading. If you want your children to be interested in something, demonstrate that you are. Whether you are reading social media, the news, or your family’s religious book, you are showing your children what you value and therefore illustrating what they should value.

- Writing letters and cards to people can be a family activity. Perhaps someone in your circle of friends and family needs a word of encouragement. Writing notes together demonstrates the importance of writing and the beauty of kindness.

- Listening and speaking are key to language as well. Showing your children how to listen well will help them be able to take in more and is a skill that is necessary throughout life. Speaking is not so intimidating when you have spent time retelling stories with your family. Oral history, especially family history, can be a great way to practice listening, speaking, and retelling. Grandparents often have stories to tell!

- Tell creative stories and try making up stories with your child. This is a fun activity when driving or taking a walk. One fun way is to take turns adding a sentence or two to the story. There can be many plot twists!


5. Keep reading time fun and engaging.

- Use different voices for the characters!


- Invite family members to read the lines for various characters. Younger children can read along with someone else or help with repeated phrases (“I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow the house down!”). Early readers can be given shorter lines with simple words to read.

- Ask questions. These can be questions with specific answers (Who blew down the house?) or open-ended (If you were the wolf, what would you do? Why?) Asking questions and engaging with what is read makes it more memorable. Demonstrate asking the types of questions your family values.

- Read in your own family language or languages and try some others! If you can, check out picture books from the library that are in other languages. Can you tell what the story is about using the pictures? Think of a familiar book and find an audio copy to enjoy listening to in a different language. Ask a friend to read a book or retell a story in another language. Learn key words of the story in that language. Take turns retelling the story, having your friend check to be sure your family understands. There is so much to learn through others and their stories. This demonstrates the importance of caring about others.

- Take “picture walks.” This means opening a picture book and looking at the images but not the text. Infer what the story is about as you “walk” through it. Then go back and see if you and your child could tell from the images what the story was about.

- After reading, rereading, and retelling a story, invite your child to make a play out of the book. Have simple costumes available.



Reading, writing, listening, and speaking are skills we want for all people, everywhere. It begins in the home. I was blessed to have parents who read to us every night. That structure helped craft our family culture and encouraged us to read. When we were young, they read to us. Then we helped read to the family. Our family reading time grew with us. You can start making literacy part of your family at any time.


Parents have received the gift of being teachers. They have the privilege of watching their children grow, and learn throughout life. The consistent things moms, dads, and grandparents craft into their family culture have a rippling effect for generations.


Reading helps us grow smarter, and learn more about others. You have the power and privilege of teaching your children. What you choose to do as a family is shaping their value of language.




Literacy Begins in the Home:


1. Read to your child.

2. Read with your child.

3. Be consistent.

4. Model what you want to see in your child.

5. Keep reading fun and engaging.





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