One of the most important and enjoyable ways to raise kids who are passionate, successful readers is to create a literacy-rich home environment.
A literacy-rich home environment makes it easy and natural for children to learn how to read. It also makes it easy and natural for kids to learn to love books and reading.
The following tips will give you plenty of strategies for designing and creating the very best literacy-rich environment for your family.
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Make Reading Aloud a BIG Priority
Read aloud several times a day. You can read aloud while your kids eat breakfast and lunch, and then as a transition between various activities throughout the day.
If you have older kids who can read well, have them read aloud while you cook dinner. And of course, make the bedtime read aloud routine a treasured part of your day.
Create a Family Library
As your kids begin to learn to read, add easy readers and early chapter books. For kids who are solid readers, help them follow their interests as they choose books.
Keep books easily accessible by placing baskets or boxes of books throughout your house. Always keep books in the car, and stash a few in the diaper bag or a tote bag that you take along on outings.
Visit Bookstores and Libraries
Visit bookstores and libraries regularly to choose books and see what new books have been published. Set a weekly schedule to visit the library, perhaps just before or after a “story hour.”
When you get home, choose a special place to keep your library books. I speak from experience on this tip! I can’t even tell you how many library books I’ve let get mixed in with our family books, and then had to pay a fine.
Stay on the lookout for summer reading programs, or other fun activities such as plays or author events. My kids and I once met Laura Joffe Numeroff, the author of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, at a book signing hosted by a local bookstore. Later, when my daughter was a teenager, we met Cassandra Clare, the author of the young adult series, The Mortal Instruments at our city library.
Keep it Cozy
Provide plenty of cozy places to read throughout your house, such as a beanbag or rocking chair in a corner, with a basket of favorite books. Or, line the floor of a closet with blankets and pillows and provide your child with a flashlight and a few books.
Of course it’s also tons of fun to create a fort or a tent with blankets and pillows under the dining room table. Even just setting up one end of a sofa with pillows and a blanket can make reading an appealing and comforting activity for your child.
Create a Writing Box
Fill a special box or tub with a variety of writing supplies. Include colored pencils, thin markers and fat markers, crayons, glitter pens, whatever you think will excite your young writers.
You’ll also want paper in a variety of colors and sizes, both lined and unlined. You can even staple paper together to make little books – kids love to write stories and publish their own books.
Offer your child time with the Writing Box every day.
Provide Literacy Related Toys, Games and Puzzles
A fantastic way to bring literacy into every aspect of your family’s life is to provide literacy-related toys, games and puzzles. This reinforces and highlights the idea that reading literacy is fun and pleasurable.
Provide Magnetic Letters and More
It’s great to have a variety of physical alphabet letters available. This includes foam letters for the bathtub, foam stickers, plastic bead letters, and of course, magnetic letters on the fridge. Use the magnetic letters on the fridge to spell your child’s name or leave short messages for each other.
Let Your Child See You Reading and Writing
Include your child in the ways you use reading and writing every day. For example, have your child help you write a grocery list, or send an email to a friend or relative. And definitely make sure your child sees you reading for pleasure!
Decorate with Books
Create a collection of children’s picture books for each holiday. Or, check out holiday books from the library. Instead of keeping these special books in a basket or box, stand them up on bookshelves and end tables as part of your holiday décor.
Label Your House
Use index cards to label items all around your home, such as doors, windows, appliances, and furniture.
Point out Environmental Print
When you are out and about in your community, point out environmental print such as street signs and names of familiar stores.
Other Quick Tips
Keep a family calendar together in a place where everyone can see it.
Subscribe to children’s magazines or book box subscriptions.
Include at least one book as a gift for birthdays and holidays. Encourage family members to do this also.
Keep a globe nearby and use it to locate settings of books.
Have your children read with distant family members over Skype.
Make Literacy the “Norm”
Creating a literacy-rich home environment helps your children see literacy as a “norm” in your family – like good nutrition, cleanliness, kindness, or anything else in your family that they can count on.
A literacy-rich home environment will support any reading curriculum, and it is a powerful strategy to support struggling readers.
Kids who are surrounded by literacy are far, far more likely to develop into passionate, successful readers.
And isn’t that something we all want for our children?
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