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The Importance of Family Literacy

Dear Debi,
What can I do so that my older kids get involved with the younger kids when it comes to reading?
Hee-mah, Child care provider and mother of 2 kids
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Use everyday activities to help kids learn
  • Make the library a regular family destination
  • Encourage older kids to share books
  • Provide props and materials for dramatic play
Expert Advice
Lucia Palacios
Lucia Palacios
USC School of Early Childhood Education
Family literacy is the concept of family members enhancing literacy skills with things they do together. Some of the components of a good family literacy program involve the entire family, irrespective of the literacy levels. It also incorporates various mediums (books with words, picture books, art, and dramatic play). Most importantly, family literacy should include story-telling and be inclusive of children of different ages.

I would express to Hee-mah that literacy is more than just reading books to children. By making literature fun (through stories, reading signs, encouraging older children to read), children learn to love books. One thing parents and child care providers can do is make fun activities that involve reading. For instance, if an adult is cooking, she can make scavenger hunts around the kitchen for things that start with different letters. Or she can encourage children by showing them how to follow recipes, line by line.,

Reading should be an every day activity. It should be done for at least 10-15 minutes. But reading is not only a sit-down activity, one can also teach reading in the car (signs, words, license plates), in the store, just about anywhere. Children learn a lot of things from environmental literacy. If parents don’t know how to read, they can open up a book and pretend to read to children. The most important thing is for them not to be afraid – just open up a book and invent the story.

One of the benefits of having older kids teach young ones is that the older ones learn more, because they have to teach the concepts of reading to the young ones and answer the young one’s questions. For instance, when the older one reads by him or herself, he or she reads fast. But when reading to a younger one, the older child needs to explain vocabulary words, concepts, and story lines to the younger child. This also makes the older child confident.

To include everyone in the family in a reading activity is great. One of the things a family can do is to have family members act out different roles in the book: this is an activity that helps children understand narrative. Another activity I like to recommend is to have children create masks, puppets and other material relating to the books.
Child Care provider Comments
Kathy Kim
Kathy Kim
Mother of Two
I spend as much time as possible with both of my children. But when I get home after work and I’m busy with dinner, I try to get Andrew to sit down and read to his younger brother. He helps him with pronunciation and definitions. Because my 5-year-old, Alex, has been exposed to the older one reading from a very early age, he’s actually been reading since he was 3. Andrew feels like a proud big brother because Alex tries to imitate him and be a good reader like him.
Ginny Aragon
Ginny Aragon
Child care provider for 34 years
I encourage the older kids to help the younger ones with reading. That way, both kids learn from the experience and they respect each other more. I really like the way the older kids feel mature when they’re reading to the young ones.
Darlene Patterson
Darlene Patterson
Family child care provider for 22 years and mother of three
Let the older ones feel like they’re in control. Let them be the “teachers” during story time. Tell them they’re going to “teach” the younger ones today. I have magnetic letters on my refrigerator. Often the older kids will show the younger kids how to spell their names. Or my older kids will use magnets on the fridge, scramble them, and ask the younger kids to find an object first and then try to spell it out with the magnets. It’s so much fun, and yet they don’t even know they’re learning.

Storytelling Pajama Party Featured Activity:
Storytelling Pajama Party
Kids Teaching Kids to Read Featured Video:
Kids Teaching Kids to Read
Topic: Early Learning Areas
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