It is so important to read aloud to children of all ages. We know it. We've heard it. We want to do it. But sometimes life just gets in the way. All parents want to prepare their children as much as possible for future academic success. But often there is barely enough time to eat dinner together! Well, there is something that can be done, when reading a book with your child just might not happen today.
The literary experience™ is a short reading or language event that happens during the course of a family's busy day. Injecting a small learning nugget here and there during children's daily routines builds a foundation of communication, vocabulary, independent thinking, and word recognition in so many ways. One of the best examples of a literary experience is the quote below from Hart & Risley, who researched the impact of talking with children throughout the day:
"The most important aspect of parent talk is its amount. Parents who just talk as they go about their daily activities expose their children to 1000-2000 words every hour."- Hart and Risley (1999) The Social World Of Children Learning ToTalk
Pretty easy, huh? Well … it is. The challenge is recognizing when the opportunity presents itself and calling attention to it so that your child reaps the benefit. So, how can we parents add "looking for teachable moments" to our never-ending list of "to-do's" when we keep forgetting to take the coffee off of the car before we drive away? Here is a list of simple literary experiences you can begin using today to boost your child's language and reading skills.
1. Just talk to them. Talk about your day, their day, the weather, some exciting news, the family dog, something new that you've learned, etc. Just talk! The simple act of conversing boosts listening skills, improves communication skills, and expands vocabulary.
2. Read the signs you pass when driving somewhere with your child. Even the youngest learner will quickly begin identifying common words. Challenge older learners to identify store signs that use incorrectly spelled words like "valu" instead of "value" or "chek" instead of "check." Discuss why the stores might choose the wrong spelling to represent their brand.
3. Using washable markers, write spelling words or quotes on your child's bathroom mirror or kitchen window. Challenge them to read the words, and then spell them from memory. They can do their spelling practice right on the window before or after dinner! Talk about each family member's interpretation of a quote that you share.
4. Sing songs as you change a baby's diaper or during feeding. Say the names of the foods you are eating or read the newspaper to baby while having your morning coffee.
5. There may not be time to read a story together at home, but keep books in your car for "reading on the run." Kids can read while getting a haircut, running errands, traveling in the car, or waiting for a sibling to finish a school-related activity.
6. The grocery store has an abundance of reading opportunities. Very young children can touch the items you put in your cart as you identify them. Older learners can locate specific items for you and read the labels for more information. Challenge your elementary learner to write the shopping list, read it to you as you shop, and cross off items as they are found. Kids that need additional stimulation should be charged with finding the best value of a product that you need.
7. Aim for a five-minute reading block. Reading together for a small amount of time is better than no reading at all. So what if you don't finish the book or chapter? Just pick up where you left off the next day!
8. Challenge your learners to a timed scavenger hunt at home while you are doing chores. Younger children can be tasked with finding objects that begin with the letter "B," for example. New readers can write the words of household items on sticky notes and affix them to each object. Encourage them to try and spell challenging words too. How many can they write in 5 minutes? Independent readers should look through the books in the house and choose five they want to independently read soon, five books that they want to donate, and five books they'd like to read to a younger child.
9. Give your children flashlights and allow them to read a story in bed for five minutes before they go to sleep. Feel free to join them! Collect the flashlights to enforce bedtime.
10. Pick a book and have each family member take turns reading two sentences from the story while passing it around the dinner table.
11. Have your child help you cook dinner. Their job is to read the recipe to you.
12. If something needs to be fixed in the house or you don't know how to work an appliance, enlist the help of your older learner to read the manual to you as you work out the problem.
13. Tell your child to collect the mail and separate the letters by the addressee or by the type of mail it is (ad, bill, personal letter, etc.)
14. Use the daily newspaper as a springboard for multiple reading activities. Children can read the ads for items your family needs to buy; highlight college (challenging) words and find their meanings; read an article and tell the whole family about it; read the comics to a family pet; write a letter to the editor; and so much more!
As you try some of these literary experiences with your children, you are going to begin recognizing more and more reading opportunities throughout the day. Go with the moment and focus their attention on the learning. They will become more active participants in their world and better thinkers over time.
"When I say to a parent, "read to a child", I don't want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate. "-Mem Fox
Diane DiMemmo is a former elementary teacher and current tutor for struggling and advanced readers. She developed many hands-on reading games for her active classroom learners that worked equally well during home tutoring sessions. The parents of her students noticed the positive results so they began using the same strategies at home with their other children.
At their request, Diane compiled all of her reading games and routines into a book titled THE READING HOUSE, which is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble Booksellers. A new companion edition, filled with reading activity sheets for parents to use at home with their children, is currently in development. Sign up for the Reading Blueprints Blog to receive the latest engaging and interactive reading activities!