Literacy development is essential to future success. Improving literacy skills in your child can help them get ahead and can lead to success in math, science, history, career development, health and many other areas. For some students, literacy success might look different and may consist of more life-skills such as sign or number recognition. In other students, they may be preparing to enter college or the workforce and will need to read at an eighth grade level at least. Read on for some recommendations on improving literacy skills at all levels.
Life-skills literacy is defined as the ability to recognize and read important signs and numbers that will increase and promote safety or functional living. This includes reading a subway map, reading a picture recipe, recognizing bathroom signs, reading a grocery store price, recognizing important words and much more. Some resources for parents to use include:
Visual recipes: Picture recipes with steps for students to follow along. Most of these are free to download and print or use an iPad to view. It’s so important to include your student in the kitchen with you, especially if you want to prepare them for independent living.
Grocery shopping: Taking your student with you when you go to the grocery store can help them learn to match items with words. Creating a visual grocery shopping list can also help your student be more independent at the store.
Metro or bus map: Teaching your student how to ride public transportation can drastically increase their independence. Look for a free map on your metro’s resource page and practice riding the metro with your student. Help them learn how to put money on their card, how to swipe to enter and exit and how to look for which train or bus they should get on.
Community and safety signs: Recognizing important community and safety signs is crucial to maintaining a safe environment for your student. You can teach these while out in the community and then review them with flashcards. You can create online flashcards or physical cards using pictures you print out from google. Creating your own flash cards could be more beneficial as you can pick and choose (or even take your own pictures of) signs that are around your house or community. Think about adding police and fire stations, emergency phones, hospitals, bathroom signs, poison and other warning signs, traffic signs, crosswalk information, etc.
Frenalytics: Create picture based lessons that you and your student can do together to help learn about safety, travel, food and other important visual signs. You can sign up for free!
For students who are just beginning their reading journey or are working on sound, letter or word recognition, reading with them is extremely beneficial. When reading with them, choose books that have sight words or words that can be easily decodable (sounded out). You can read part of the page and then point to a word or two for them to read. When they are able to read full sentences, you can read one page and they can read the next page.
When listening to your child read, periodically ask them these three questions:
Did that look right?
Did that sound right?
Did that make sense?
Doing this will ensure that your child is not relying on you to tell them if they’ve made a mistake. By asking these questions when they have read the sentence correctly as well as when they have made a mistake will help them learn to self-correct. Self-correction is when a child is reading and realizes on their own that they’ve made a mistake, and they go back to reread the sentence in order to correct themselves.
Learning to Read vs. Reading to Learn
Once your student is able to decode basic words (usually past a 3rd grade reading level) and has a firm grasp on their sight words, they start to transition from learning how to read to reading to learn information. At this point, comprehension of what they’re reading becomes the most important task. When this occurs, the best way to improve performance is to provide frequent and varied access to books. Having your own library at home is great, but it’s not necessary. The public library has an abundance of resources for you and your student to enjoy. Library cards are free and most libraries do not have a limit on the number of books you can check out at once. Additionally, larger libraries have online access where you can download ebooks right to your phone, tablet or kindle. This is a huge time saver, especially if you have an avid reader at home. Also remember, no one is too old to read with their family members! Kids of all ages enjoy being read aloud to and they also enjoy reading aloud to their family members. Encourage family reading nights where you all read together and then talk about what you’re reading.
Looking for more resources? Reading Partners has a great comprehensive website of resources for parents!