How to ignite your daughter’s passion for literacy
In this article Vicky Gemmell and Jacqui Sidaway, Heads of Junior School, give you some great tips to ignite your daughter’s passion for literacy.
Simply put, literacy is engagement with the written word in everyday life. And it is essential.
Think of how often you use your own reading skills. Literacy is far more than just reading books. It includes reading signs, food labels, emails, text messages and more. The same is true when it comes to writing. It involves far more than writing a narrative or a business letter.
Beyond the functional level, literacy is the tool whereby students are transformed into socially engaged citizens. Being able to read and write means being able to keep up with current events, communicate effectively, and understand the issues that shape our world. And at Shelford we want to help raise women who will shape the world!
For some children, reading isn’t hard, but it isn’t interesting either. They may not have found stories or books that interest them. For many children, however, reading doesn't come easily. Some have trouble making the connection between letters and their sounds. Here are some tips to help you encourage and support your child’s reading.
1. Read with your children often
If you read one book a night to your child, after a year you will have read 365 books. If each book takes 10 minutes, you will have spent 60 hours sharing books with your child. Children crave that kind of parent time, attention and interest. And it is a sure-fire way to get them to love books.
2. Make time for reading
If your child has a busy schedule and reading is jammed between gymnastics and band practice, it may seem like an unwelcome chore. Try to allow reading to be a relaxing and enjoyable time, free from pressure.
3. Read aloud – reciprocally
Set aside a regular read-aloud time with your child. Reading aloud helps build their vocabulary, introduces new facts and ideas, and helps them connect sounds with letters on the page. Reading with your child also shows them you enjoy reading for fun! When they can read, encourage them to read to you, a sibling, pet or toy. When children read aloud, their comprehension increases exponentially.
4. Play reading games
Another tactic is to make reading fun. When you’re out and about, in the car for example, play word games that build language skills. You might try ‘I Spy’ or games where you pick a category such as ‘food’ and everyone has to name foods that begin with a certain letter.
5. Support reading confidence by building enjoyment first
To inspire a passion for literacy means beginning where your daughter is at. If reading is a struggle, she probably won’t find it enjoyable. Find short stories to get past a fear of a story being too long. Or stories linked to a hobby or special area of interest, such as dinosaurs or netball. Reading material that piques her interest and draws her into reading will give a motivational boost.
Remember it is not up to parents to teach their children to read, or to fuss about fundamentals. It’s best to simply read with your child and keep it light and fun. However, if your child is open to it, ask her to explain the strategies she has been taught if she struggles to read a word, and support her in decoding it.
6. Ask questions
The most crucial factor in reading is your child understanding what she reads, or what she hears when you read to her. It's no fun if she doesn't get what is going on. Asking questions about the story enhances comprehension and enjoyment. Ask which characters your child likes best, what she thinks will happen next, what she would do in that situation.
7. Make it magical and encourage interest subjects
Books should make you laugh and smile, transport you to faraway lands, and transform you into dragon-slaying sleuths. By treating books like they are magical, children will grow up feeling that too.
Reading is reading – it doesn’t pay to be overly discriminating about what your daughter reads. There is value in almost any text. A comic book, for example, can help children understand that events take place in order, because stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They also help build vocabulary and show books can be fun to look at.
Once your child is comfortable with reading, you can encourage other genres and more challenging content. Great non-fiction options include joke books, cookbooks, how-to books, graphic novels and biographies. Children’s magazines can also be a great way to encourage your child to read.
8. Read and reread
Many children reach for the same books again and again. That's not only OK, it is a good thing! Repetition helps children learn the text and in time read it with confidence. Each new reading of the book may help them notice something new and understand the story a little better. And that positive experience can inspire them to try new books.
9. Get cooking
Reading ingredients and instructions slowly and repeatedly improves comprehension, and children love helping to cook. Ask your child to read the recipe out loud while you chop. Maybe even go further and make this a writing exercise, by encouraging her to write out a menu. Incorporating writing bolsters reading skills.
10. Turn your library visits into adventures
Lean on librarians – they are paid to make reading magical for children. Libraries run a wealth of literacy related activities. Bookmark your library’s website so you can see upcoming events. Getting your child a library card will help them take ownership of their reading experience.
11. Start a club
Reading can be a social activity – all it takes is two people reading the same book. Help your child by providing discussion questions to get things going (What do you think is the best part? Who is your favourite character? How might this story have ended differently?). Book clubs are a great way to share reading with friends or family and can be a wonderful grandparent–child experience. For distant relatives, this can take place on FaceTime.
12. Theme a book nook and make books available
A special reading space may be all the encouragement your child needs to settle down and spend time with a good book. Entice your reader into a book nook or fort (just drape two chairs with a blanket).
Equally, surrounding children with books at an early age gets them hooked. Ensure books are available for little children to touch, carry and play with, and even take waterproof ones into the bath.
13. Be a role model
Children can’t be what they can’t see. They take cues from adults. When they grow up surrounded by books, they like books. When they see the people they love reading, they grow up to love reading. Talk to your children about your own reading. Show them that books bring you joy, and books will bring them joy too.
14. Create opportunities to read beyond book pages
Encourage reading at every opportunity. When asked for birthday present ideas, suggest books! Have your children give books to their friends too, with an inscription about why the book is special for her. This way you teach your child that books are a way to connect with others.
Feel free to resort to rewards! For every ten books your child reads, allow her to choose a prize from a tub of discount store goodies. Buy your older reader a headlamp so they can stay up ‘past bedtime’. It helps remind them that reading is a treat and a privilege – and they'll feel grown-up.
Write notes and leave them on your child's pillow or in their lunchbox. Ask friends and relatives to send postcards, letters, emails or text messages. Leave magnetic letters and words on the fridge to encourage your child to create words, sentences and stories.
Whether writing an email or a novel, it's vital to understand the craft of telling a story and telling it well. Children may not understand that writing can also be fun. There are many things parents can do at home to get children excited about writing.
1. Use what they love
Your child needs to know there's more to writing than book reports and information texts. Encourage them to write about what they love. Every child, even the most reluctant writer, has something they're excited and passionate about – from superheroes to girl power to basketball.
2. Talk first and make it visual
Literacy acquisition begins with oral language. Children learn to talk before they learn to read, and they learn the basics of reading before they begin to write. Beginning writers need support to articulate their thinking and order their ideas, and this should be done orally. All writers, but especially reluctant writers, enjoy and greatly benefit from talking about their writing before they begin. Unquestionably, the best writing results come when children ‘rehearse’ their story orally before picking up a pencil.
Many children who say they ‘hate’ writing are visual learners and see the world in pictures. So it’s a good idea to look at visual forms of writing like comics, advertisements and cartoons. Allow your child to start the writing process visually with graphic organisers, story boards, or even pictorial essays. You might simply encourage your child to draw a quick sketch of a memory or event and to use it to guide her writing a story.
3. Find allies
Whenever possible, harness the power of the peer. If children are exposed to work produced by other children, they may feel more motivated to think, ‘I could do that.’
Also, show yourself as a writer. Sitting down to write beside your child can be a powerful technique to demonstrate grown-ups get excited about writing too. Share stories you have written, experiences you want to write about and struggles you have as a writer.
You can also use mentor texts – picture books or a great short story. Talking with your child about what you both love about the writing helps them get excited about writing, and they learn new writing styles and strategies.
Make writing fun and a natural extension of everyday life. Be an ally to your child – celebrate whatever they're writing. If children feel heard and excited about their work, they will want to do more. Make a fuss of what they write – hang it on the wall, print it off or turn it into a ‘book’.
4. Focus on creativity first
The most important things in writing are creativity and confidence. Confidence can be eroded if your child feels she is held back by spelling and grammar challenges. When your child is working on creative writing, what’s important is her ideas and the way she expresses them, rather than her spelling and grammar. In fact, spelling and writing don't have a lot in common. Spelling is mechanical, while writing is a process of thinking and creating.
5. Demonstrate that the pen has power
Excitement grows when children understand they can use writing to make a difference. Exposing your children to motivational speeches and inspirational songs will demonstrate how good writing can communicate powerful messages. This will help them understand that the real purpose behind writing is to share ideas and effect change. To truly persuade someone, you must have passion. The next time you and your child are battling over a change, new privilege, etc., ask her to write her argument in a speech and deliver it.
6. Reducing reluctance
Children will write if they understand the benefits and are interested in the topic. So, make writing about them; their interests, hobbies and life. Take out the formality and insert the fun.
Point out writing whenever you can and imitate it. You’ll be surprised how much fun writing cereal ads can be. Play games – there are lots of enjoyable writing games to help you hook reluctant writers. Mad Libs, story starters, and riddles all encourage creativity and critical thinking skills.
Take the writing fun online – let’s face it, children love technology. Hook them into writing with appropriate apps or websites. This will not only stimulate their interest but help prepare them for their future where technology will be an integral part of daily life. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could help your child start a blog or even design a webpage.
Igniting passion for literacy
We hope you are feeling inspired and armed with new knowledge and ideas to ignite a passion for literacy in your daughter.
You can read about how we teach literacy in Prep to Year 2 at Shelford in this article by Prep teacher Bec Walker.
If you would like to discuss enrolling your daughter at Shelford, you can contact our Registrar, Marie De Sousa:
- Telephone: 9524 7413
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Head of Junior School Student Wellbeing and Development
Head of Junior School, Curriculum and Innovation