Building a Culture of Literacy

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“We need our kids to fall in love with stories before they are even taught their first letters, if possible, because everything else—phonics, comprehension, analysis, even writing—comes so much more easily when a child loves books.” 

Sarah Mackenzie, The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids

If we want our children to perceive reading as valuable, we must provide an environment where literacy is cherished. 

Back when Maggie was tip-toeing into the world of reading, I began to take a good look at my own habits. I was sharing with her, through words, about the beauty of being taken to another place through a book, about seeing the movie in my mind while I read and all that jazz, but then it occurred to me that…I, 

myself, 

was not reading. 

I had deemed reading unessential in my whirlwind life, so how could I expect my child to see it as anything other than a distraction from instantly gratifying sources of entertainment. How could I expect our kids to see reading as valuable when I prioritized so many things ahead of it myself? 

So I began to read again.

 

At first, I read out of obligation, and I have to admit, it was hard to sit when there was always something to be done. So much of my own value was coming from the impossible ideal of keeping our home in balance (I’ve since denounced this). 

 I read magazines to combat my lack of patience.

 I began to borrow them from the library only to discover how papery thin modern day magazines have become and how their life span would inevitably be cut short in our house, so I used my mad money (cleverly named by a dear friend…the spending money Ty and I stash away, even on a small budget, week after week just for our own personal needs) to purchase a subscription to Taproot…a visually appealing magazine filled with longer articles (on lusciously thick paper) but something I could read while I enjoyed a cup of tea. Something for my own education.

As my comfort began to grow with my frequent breaks and newly rekindled joy of the written word, I gradually moved onto novels, though I have to say, there are many sprinkled throughout our home for easy access, but for longer finishing times. 

I never want to fall into the category of “do as I say, not as I do”, even though it involves a lot of work and personal reflection. So I began to read again for myself and for my children. 

I also began to prioritize reading aloud to my kids.

I had always read picture books to our kids and occasional novels, but reading from a novel, daily, was a different experience. It came with a steeper learning curve than I had expected. One can’t simply open a book for children who have been accustomed to open ended play, day after day and expect that they simply listen without noise and fidgeting. I knew this with my head, but every other part of me wanted them to be still and quiet in order for me to believe they were listening. 

 I wanted this to be pleasurable, and I knew that a constant shushing would steal away the joy I was hoping to fabricate. So now when we sit to read, I provide my kids with a specific activity “for your hands” I tell them.

 It’s like magic. 

A spread of play dough, beads and wire, finger knitting, blocks, or stamps and a pad of paper are our go-tos. Even our three year old picks up some of the story line with this method. 

 

And lastly, a simple, hands off approach to inspire a love of reading are… audio stories. I’ll use any opportunity I can to plug our favourite audio story resource Sparkle Stories. They have such a brilliant catalogue of stories of all lengths and for different ages. There are so many endearing stories that tie into real-life learning for children and can help with emotional well-being and the development of empathy. We also listen to many classics via audiobook since it saves my frustration of trying to convey different voices while keeping up with the flow of an older style of English. One might not be quick to think of an audio tale as educational, but besides the knowledge of the story alone, learning about how words sound, our intonation as we read, and the sounds and rhythms of words are just a few things we overlook as part of reading itself.

 And who doesn’t love being read to?

It’s even relaxing for us mums. 

Insider tip:

so we can sneak in a shower during breakfast!

jacquelyn

jacquelyn

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