This week is CBCA Book Week with schools and public libraries all around Australia celebrating books and Australian children’s authors and illustrators to highlight the importance of reading, as well as literacy in general.
Literacy is the ability to read, view, write, speak, and listen in a way that allows us to communicate effectively and to make sense of the world. It is the foundation to all other learning and an essential part of a child’s overall development.
Here are a few tips on how you can use books to support your child’s literacy development at home.
Create a cosy reading space
Creating a comfortable, quiet, and calming space in your home for you and your child to read can enhance your child’s love of books. Make sure that the books are stored at child level and, if possible, display them with the covers facing outwards to make it easier for your little one to find the book that they are looking for. Having books accessible to them at all times will encourage children to read.
Read to your child
Reading to your child is the best way to help them develop literacy skills and a robust vocabulary. Choose books that link to their current interests and read to them often to help them develop their interest in books. If you had a favourite book as a child, track it down and share it with your own child – this is a wonderful way to build a bond and an interest together around reading.
Interact with books
Reading the story in the book is great for literacy development, but you can also play games with your child when reading a book to make it more fun and engaging. For example, you can ask your child to find elements of the story on the page (i.e. “Can you find the frog?”), describe actions (i.e. “What is the dog doing?”, “The cat is climbing the tree!”), or play “I spy” (i.e. “I spy something green”, “Yes! A green car”).
Reading together with your child also allows you to explore and introduce new vocabulary. For example, “The wombat demanded oats and carrots (Diary of a Wombat, Jackie French), can you demand oats and carrots?”
Infants and toddlers usually enjoy touch-and-feel, lift-the-flap or pop-up books, and books with rhymes or repetition, as they create a more interactive and fun experience.
Extend storytime with sensorial activities and imaginative play
Extend on stories by setting up a sensory tray with characters and elements from the book and invite your child to interact with them. You can also use puppets, figurines, or dolls to retell the story.
This activity can be set up as in Montessori-style activity: put the pieces that are used to retell the story in a basket with the book, then show your child how to follow the story by turning the pages, finding the figures you need and retell the action on the page. Turn the page and continue. Leave the basket with its contents by the bookshelf and watch and see what your child does. Turning pages, identifying characters, recalling and retelling the story are all skills indicating literacy development in young children.
Sensory activities are also crucial for the development of fine motor skills needed for writing.
Book inspired arts and crafts
Book inspired arts and crafts are another great way to extend on stories. They will bring the story alive and make it easier for children to relate to it. Crafts and activities based on a book will also help children understand, recollect, and enjoy the story.
Invite your child to dress up as a character from their favourite book and act out scenes with them. Dressing up and acting out will encourage creative thinking, build communication skills, foster imagination, and cultivate empathy.
Encourage your child to review their books
After reading a book, ask your child to sum up the story in a few sentences. Then, invite them to review the book by asking them:
– what they liked and disliked about the book,
– what their favourite or least favourite part was,
– who their favourite character is and why, or
– how the story made them feel.
Reviewing a book will help children improve their reading comprehension and critical thinking skills, as well as encourage them to share their opinion.
Come up with an alternative ending
A great way to support your child’s literacy development is to ask them to come up with an alternative ending for their favourite book or imagine what might happen next. This will nurture their creativity and imagination, and build their storytelling skills.
Use books for writing prompts
With older children who can write, you can use books as writing prompts to encourage creative writing. Use parts of the story, the illustrations, or the characters, and invite them to come up with their own story.
If your child is not yet writing, you can use the book as prompt for oral storytelling. Alternatively, invite them to create a drawing or painting of the alternative story.
Follow your child’s interests and experience with different types of books and stories to see what they like, as having fun while reading is crucial to develop a love of books. It is also important to remember to mix nonfiction and poetry in with the range of wonderful children’s story books that are available. You can also model good literacy behaviour by regularly reading yourself and sharing your reading experiences with your child to support their own literacy development.