I strive to create a literacy-rich environment at home to show my children that we prioritize reading, writing, and words. There are so many ways to do this. Below you’ll find some of my favorite ways to create a culture of language and literacy in your home.
- Have mini-libraries around the house. Don’t get caught up in what these look like or how you store them. Just having a few books in each room on a shelf, container, or even a shoe box will promote reading.
- Cycle books in and out. I once created a numbered system for book rotation, but it didn’t work out perfectly. However, we have continued to cycle books in and out. There’s no perfect recipe here, but my main tips are to allow your children to keep their favorite books out, don’t cycle too quickly since it may take your child a while to get into all of their books, and keep holiday and seasonal books in the rotation. I am looking forward to bringing out the Christmas books post-Thanksgiving!
- Go to the library often. During each season of your children’s lives, this is going to look a little different. But going to browse books together at the library will always be enjoyable. Sometimes I’ve had particular books and authors in mind and other times, it is just fun to search the shelves or check out the latest librarian-curated titles. Library books are also a great way to gauge your child’s interests in certain books or genres before you purchase.
- Write labels, sentences, or stories with your children. Nothing fancy here. If your child draws a picture, ask him what it is and write it down with him. You can ask your child the beginning sound he hears, how to spell a familiar sight word, or even share the pen if he is ready. Try labeling items around the house or record your child’s stories in a notebook and have him illustrate it. Our thoughts become our words become our stories become our memories. Record his thoughts so you don’t forget and to show the value you place on them.
- Use magnets. An unexpected way to build vocabulary can be magnets. Of course alphabet magnets are great for building letter and word awareness, but the magnet you have from a special beach vacation (or whatever else is currently on your fridge) also provides ample opportunities for language development. Here’s an example, “Oh, that magnet reminds me of when we went to Florida last winter! Look at the sand on it. It was so much warmer there and the sand was really soft. I hope we can go back someday and look for shells together.”
- Look at magazines and ads together. Leaf through your latest circulars together before you recycle. Talk about what you might buy at the grocery store this week or what could go on your Christmas lists.
- Encourage your child’s interests and passions. As adults, we find the books, hobbies, and media that suit our particular interests and tastes. We should do the same for our kids. Go ahead and check out that Thomas book alongside a more classic text. Talk about your child’s favorite animal, character, or show with him and extend that passion to the reading, writing, talking, and playing you do together.
- Read boxes and labels together. What does your cereal or pasta box say? What is that logo on the back of the potato chip bag? Use these everyday experiences to build vocabulary and understanding of our world.
- Write on leftover blank cards and envelopes. If you’re like me and still have whale stationary from fourth grade or even a few extra envelopes or Christmas cards around, give them to your kids and let them go to town. Snail mail may be diminishing, but nothing will ever replace the feeling of getting a special message in the mail. Children love the physicality of letters and envelopes. Plus, the process builds language, social, and fine motor skills!
- Be flexible. This is probably my most important tip. My children like to bring their current favorite books all around the house. There are letter magnets under our refrigerator. Our playroom functions as an artist’s studio and post office. And since words and stories are so important to us, I let it go. It may not always be neat and organized (or follow a magically tidy system I once imagined), but it shows that we prioritize language.
I’d love to hear from you! What are some ways you create a literacy-rich environment at home?