Improving Literacy Skills: 6 Ways to Promote Literacy at Home

October 4, 2021

For the last year and a half, students have been adjusting to new ways of learning. And these adjustments have brought light to many learning gaps that were created or worsened during the pandemic.

A recent study by the Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE) found that "students' development of oral reading fluency – the ability to quickly and accurately read aloud – largely stopped in spring 2020 after the abrupt school closures brought on by COVID-19."

In general, literacy levels have been affected dramatically – especially with students in early grades. Not being able to read, write, or comprehend can affect how the student learns and negatively impact other aspects of the student's life. 

Why Should Parents Take an Active Role? 

Ben Domingue, an assistant professor at Stanford GSE said "Reading fluency is fundamental for academic development more broadly, because problems with this skill can interfere with students' ability to learn other subjects as they make their way through later grades."

There’s no question that reading and writing are fundamental for academic success. Without proper reading comprehension skills, students will have a tough time in other subjects. For example, problem-solving in math class will be far more challenging and students will certainly struggle to form strong hypotheses and questions in science. 

But without prioritizing literacy skills – especially in early developmental years – the challenges would extend far beyond the classroom.

Did you know 73% of employers favor employees who have strong writing skills? 

Written communication was the third most desired quality overall. This skill ranked only behind leadership skills and the ability to work as a team member according to Inc.com

"Writing is an essential part of everybody's life," shared Elizabeth Willingham, a former teacher, instructional coach, and Head of Literacy Instruction. Without basic literacy skills, we would lack the skills necessary to take on everyday tasks and social interactions like texting. To help ensure we’re laying the groundwork at home, Willingham shared six tips to strengthen literacy skills for early learners.

6 Tips to Promote Literacy at Home

During remote instruction, many students had less exposure to: 

  • Independent reading
  • Practicing handwriting skills
  • Forming thoughts and transforming them into proper messages

Mainly due to the nature of how these skills were taught before the pandemic, virtual classrooms made teaching them far more challenging. It was also hard for students to focus and practice such skills because there are just too many distractions at home. If we want to improve our kids’ ability to communicate and comprehend, we must do more to encourage these activities. And this doesn't mean it should be complicated.

  1. Read with your kids. Find topics that your kids are interested in and read books about them. If your kid struggles with focus and stamina, practice reading independently while sitting beside your kids. Kids mimic what parents do.

  2. Practice storytelling. If you have a bedtime routine, include 10-minutes of storytelling. It will help students think and communicate their thoughts into proper messages.
     
  3. Meet children where they are. Start with simple tasks to build their confidence. Then, keep challenging them gradually. Try reading books with short words, for example. You can also ask your kids simple questions about the context. Once your child is acing such level, start including more challenging tasks.

  4. Use real-life examples. Literacy is not only used in books. It is everywhere. Use billboards, notifications, text messages, or recipes to show kids how important reading and writing are.

  5. Be authentic. Children are smart; they'll be able to figure out when you’re not being authentic. If you are a person that doesn't read frequently, and all of a sudden you start reading, your kids will notice. Instead, try to include your kids in the things you like doing. For example, if you like cooking, ask your kids to help you write or read a recipe.
  6. Don't compare your child to other children. It is often not talked about, but many parents compare their children to others. Comparing will only discourage you as a parent, and eventually, negative emotions will arise between you and your child. Instead, be aware of the other areas your child is great at. Maybe your child is struggling with handwriting but his reading level is above average – that's something you should be proud of!
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