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Literacy and your child; 8 simple steps for the holiday month

Parenting with Joanne


Literacy is simply explained as the ability to read and write. In my opinion, a very persistent challenge in a child having good literacy skills, is the lack of vocabulary in a given language. This concern with literacy is a cause for many of the issues children face with performance in a given language at school. As the holiday month rolls into the agenda, parents and caregivers have the opportunity to assist in the overall language development of your child by following a simple 8 step activity that can greatly enhance your child’s literacy skills.

  1. Choosing a book

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Most children enjoy reading in form or the other. Yet, the fact remains that very often, they aren’t reading age appropriate books. Comics and other such similar forms of writing, although interesting, don’t really serve the purpose of enhancing language or literacy skills.

When in school, children are usually prescribed a novel of a classic that is used for the language lessons. However, while at home, it becomes our responsibility as parents to help them choose readers that facilitate learning. Choosing the right book is crucial and this decision must be made whilst bearing in mind both interest of the child and goal of language development.

  1. Create a reading schedule

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When a child is asked to read a book during holidays, the task can seem overwhelming at times. A book contains ‘many’ pages and ‘much’ information and reading it, takes ‘time’; precious time away from ‘playing’ and having ‘fun’. This is the general idea.

Parents can help by creating a schedule with the children with achievable targets for each week. For instance, it the book has 20 chapters and the month has four full weeks, you could target to finish 5 chapters each week. When children are shown that this can be done with ease and that they can still have time for ‘fun’ and outdoor activities, they are less likely to resist reading on the whole.

  1. Personalizing the book

Invest money and buy the book, whenever possible instead of borrowing. If that isn’t an option, at least make a personal copy for your child’s reading purpose. When a child is allowed to personalize the book, by having the freedom to label the book with his name, draw or write on the margins of the pages and paste notes on the pages, the reading process becomes a personal journey instead of a ‘task’. This way you ensure that the child receives the maximum benefit from reading that particular book and that his long term memory of the lessons learnt through each page is secure.

  1. Making inferred meanings

Very often, for a child, the reason why reading an age appropriate book seems unappealing, is the presence of unfamiliar and ‘big’ words that often tend to ‘scare’ or ‘discourage’ the child. The question is what does one do when he or she is faced with such a word. Do you pretend that it doesn’t exist and move along? Or do you run to a dictionary and spend time flipping through its many pages looking for meaning? Or do you use an online dictionary to look for the meaning of the word?

In any of these cases, the flow of reading can be interrupted and thus the joy of reading robbed of to a certain extent. Children, should be instead taught to guess a meaning based on the context of where the word is placed. The meaning guessed by them, should be carefully noted down for later review.

  1. Finding dictionary meanings

The fifth stage of this reading process, is when a child actually seeks the assistance of the dictionary. But, by this time, the child has been encouraged to make a guess regarding the meaning of the unfamiliar word, which in most cases will be a meaning very close to the actually dictionary meaning. When, children finally look up a word, they also realize that most words can have a denotation (dictionary meaning) and a connotation (meaning based on context); thus expanding their vocabulary base.

  1. Making a word wall/ vocabulary bank

The next step in this process is to encourage the young readers to create a word wall, word bank in the form of a book, catalogue etc of the new words that he has learnt. The word wall can follow a particular order or design (chapter wise, in alphabetical order, organized by category etc) and can include inferred and dictionary meanings as well. The child can be given the freedom to organize the words in a way that best suits his learning, while parents can help guide this decision.

  1. Creating sentences

This step focuses on helping children use these words to make sentences that bring out the meaning. The child, at this point needs to be encouraged to create a new sentence than the one that he or she has read in the book in order that he can experiment with the usage of the new found word. Encourage children to use the word in as many forms as they can. For instance, the word ‘harness’ can be used as a noun  and a verb and the manner in which it is used will differ based on the form.

  1. Creating a paragraph

The final, yet very important step, is to encourage children to create a story, poem or paragraph using all the words he has learnt. New words in each chapter can be used to create one paragraph each or the child can choose ten words that he wants to use for a story. The idea here is to use the words with good understanding of their meaning. Once this step is completed, your child is sure to have gained a boost in his vocabulary that can in turn strengthen his literacy skills in school.


Joanne Sathyadass has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Journalism, Psychology and English Literature from the University of Bangalore now serving as a Special Needs Educator

For any queries please email Joanne on joanne.parenting@gmail.com