Top Four Literacy Tips for Parents
From Reading at Home with your Child (Ministry of Education Booklet) Available online in 33 languages.
TIP ONE: TALK WITH YOUR CHILD
Make sure your child has time to think. It sometimes takes time to think of what to say next. Be ready to wait for what your child has to say. If he or she says, “I don’t know what I think,” wait for a better answer – there’s one in there somewhere!
Talk with your child in his or her first language. Children transfer their knowledge of one language to another very well. Speaking in your first language will help your child with English and French and other languages as well. It will also give your child opportunities to learn more about his or her own cultural history.
Ask questions that will lead your child to talk about his or her ideas. Instead of telling your child something, try to ask a question that will lead your child to talk about what he or she thinks. For example, instead of telling your child how you are planning to celebrate a family event, ask for ideas about making a plan. (Be ready for creativity and to help your child follow through with the plan!)
TIP TWO: BUILD HABITS OF UNDERSTANDING
Asking questions. When reading with your child, ask such questions as “Why is this happening?”; “What might happen next?”; “Does this make sense?”; or “Was it fair when …?” Such questions help children make connections between parts of a story.
Reading “between the lines.” To make inferences – to discover meaning that is not directly stated – your child needs to learn to use information both from the story and from his or her own knowledge and experience. This strategy of reading “between the lines” involves gathering clues and using them to “create” meaning.
Putting it all together. You can encourage your child to put it all together first by talking about all the information he or she has read, then summarizing the important points and putting those points together like pieces of a puzzle.
Figuring out difficult words. Allow your child time to figure out what a word might be or to recognize a mistake. If a mistake doesn’t affect the meaning, let it go. Your child can use various tactics to figure out a word he or she doesn’t know:
- Sound out the word.
- Look at the pictures.
- Divide the word into smaller parts.
- Reread the words before and after the difficult word.
- Skip over the word for the moment and read on further.
- Talk about what he or she has read so far to check understanding.
- Ask a brother or sister for the answer.
TIP THREE: READ EVERY DAY
Try to read with your child every day. All family members can help. (It’s like breakfast – it shouldn’t be skipped!) It is the single most important thing you can do to help your child learn to read and write and to succeed in school. Children who are read to when they are young are more likely to love reading and to be good readers when they are older. Start reading when your child is very young.
Here are some reading and writing activities that you may want to share with your child in your busy daily schedule:
- Read traffic, store and restaurant signs.
- Read food labels, schedules, maps, instructions, advertisements, flyers and brochures.
- Browse online for recipes, the meanings of words and places on a map.
- Write shopping lists and telephone messages.
- Write the date and time of appointments and activities on a family calendar.
- Read and write greeting cards, thank you notes or letters (printing, cursive handwriting or using a keyboard are all fine) and email and text messages.
TIP FOUR: MAKE IT FUN, MAKE IT MATTER
Cracking the Code
When children enjoy reading, they read a lot. And in reading a lot, they become good readers. They also read to understand things and to learn more about themselves and the world. (Or maybe they’re motivated to read up on that video game they’re stuck on!) They don’t get bogged down by the mechanics of language because they have cracked its code. At that moment, a whole new world opens up for your child.
Choose what you’re going to read together:
- Look online for ideas, perhaps based on themes that interest your child.
- Make a trip to the library or bookstore to browse for titles.
Choose all kinds of books, all kinds of reading material:
- All kinds of non-fiction – perhaps early reader books about Canada or other places in the world, wild animals or dinosaurs
- Books or articles that contain positive or powerful ideas about the world
- All kinds of fiction – action, fantasy, science fiction, funny stories
- Stories that reflect how they see themselves: adventurer, hero, princess, animal lover (early veterinarian in the making!), detective, caregiver and more
- Books in a series (children like to identify with familiar characters)
- Newspapers, magazines, e-subscriptions
- Comic books and graphic novels, cartoons, jokes, baseball cards, game scores, brain teasers
- Song lyrics or scripts that appeal to their musical and artistic tastes