Did you know that January 27 is Family Literacy Day across Canada? How are you going to celebrate? For me, there are snowmen to be built, stories to be shared, games to be played, songs to be sung, baking to be done and so much more! And what does all of this have to do with family literacy – absolutely everything! Each of these activities has some component of literacy built into it. Gone are the days when literacy only referred to the ability to read and write – it is so much more!
Although the term family literacy is fairly new, the concept has been around a long time. Family literacy includes all the ways that parents, children and family members use literacy in their everyday lives to “get things done”. It’s important to note that it’s an approach that looks at the whole family as a learning unit and builds on the strengths of each member to develop the skills needed. This includes many activities we do without thinking about the literacy embedded in the activity itself.
When we do everyday tasks with our children or family members, we are developing many different components of literacy:
- Trying out a new recipe that you found on the internet - numeracy, document and digital literacy
- Skyping with Grandma on the weekend – digital literacy
- Going to the zoo – numeracy, document and prose literacy
- Playing a game of “Go Fish” or Dominoes – numeracy, reading
- Keeping the family schedule on the fridge up to date so nobody misses a class or event – writing, document and critical thinking
- Listening to the stories of when Grandpa went to walk two miles to school – oral communication and storytelling
And let’s not forget other skills that support literacy development. Did you know that having a strong language foundation is a precursor for success as a reader and writer? You are building vocabulary and an understanding of how language works by talking about how you get ready to try that recipe, looking at the flyers before heading out to pick up the weekly groceries, asking “what if” or “I wonder” questions about animals at the zoo, or just the conversation that happens when playing a game. Communication is a big part of literacy. Chances are you are already doing much more than you thought in supporting early literacy.
So the next time you:
- Take a walk around your neighbourhood, read all the signs and numbers. Play a game by finding four stop signs
- Build a snowman, talk about the number of rocks you need for his eyes or smile
- Share a story, make it interactive by asking and answering questions during the story
- Go grocery shopping, let your child help you make the list and then find some of the staples you need
And as for Family Literacy Day – go out and celebrate it anyway that you see fit. Just make sure that everyday becomes a day full of family literacy activities!
The Centre for Family Literacy has tons of useful resources for parents online. Check them out!