By April Hawkins, marketing manager
Literacy skills can be fun for parents and caregivers. I learned this firsthand when my spouse and I signed up to be foster parents. Before we knew it, we had three kids in our care, including a first grader who had not yet learned to read. We taught her literacy skills in tiny ways, by pointing out letters on her favorite JoJo Siwa poster, and having her “read” us the pictures from story books. She would come up with amazing, creative stories about what she thought was happening in the book.
I was surprised by how fun these literacy skill building activities were, and by how quickly she began pointing out letters herself. These moments went a long way in developing her literacy skills, which I know are critical for school and life. But there was something else happening in these moments. We were bonding, and she was taking major steps towards building comfort in expressing herself. As these skills have grown, they have helped her share how she feels and what she’s thinking. Through these everyday literacy activities, we were building our relationship.
It turns out that I’m not alone in this experience. We recently conducted a survey and discovered that many parents were seeing social emotional benefits in literacy activities. ParentPowered’s content director Rebecca Honig recently shared insights about this during her presentation on Early Learning and Literacy at the Institute for Educational Leadership National Conference.
As you probably know, ParentPowered sends messages to parents and caregivers which contain a fact, a tip, and a growth activity. The FACT orients parents around a skill, for example telling the time. The TIP message builds on the skill of the week through an everyday moment. The GROWTH activity takes the skill even further.
This model is based on research which shows the effectiveness of this method. In a series of randomized controlled trials, the ParentPowered approach has been shown to increase family engagement at home and school, and increase child learning by 2 to 3 months over the course of a school year.
The activities that help build literacy skills also help caregivers communicate and bond with their children. When going through parent surveys, Rebecca found some literacy skills that parents really loved — including reading comprehension strategies, fluency in reading, and more. We want to share their five favorite activities with you to spark ideas for continued summer learning:
1. Questions and Conversations for the WIN!
Parents and caregivers sent a lot of positive feedback about activities that invite them to ask open-ended questions. They loved receiving prompts that tell them how to start and continue a conversation with their little one. Here is our favorite quote from a parent sharing how these conversations boosted their time with their children:
“My favorite activities are things like asking ‘what if…'”
“My favorite activities are things like asking ‘what if…’ or ‘what is like…’ and just general conversation tips. It helps our relationship develop. Keeps it from just being ‘I’m an adult and you are a child’ into ‘we can talk about anything.’”
We know questions and conversations build language skills. Parents and caregivers are calling out these incredible gains for the simple connections they build.
2. Self-Talk to Spark Literacy
Educators understand the important role self-talk plays in child development. Teaching kids to pay attention to the words they say inside their heads and share them with you is a very valuable tool for helping them develop a great self esteem.
Reflecting on their thoughts helps children identify the values that will help them become self-sufficient, and good citizens. Parents and caregivers shared that they really enjoy these types of activities because everyday moments, like doing chores, become an opportunity to talk to each other.
3. Books and Stories are a Blast
We know books are important, but right now they really serve as a window into a whole new world. This is especially true for children who are spending more time at home than ever. Parents love reading books and telling stories with their children.
They shared that reading together and asking children questions while reading brought them closer to their child. Here are a few of our favorite parent and caregiver quotes about reading activities:
“We love to read books together. Since I work full time, it is a great way to snuggle in and get some one on one time.”
“We are busy, I love listening to him read out loud. Hearing his confidence grow is my favorite thing!”
“Reading books together [is my favorite activity]. Fun for both mom and toddler and time to slow down and connect during busy days.”
“[Reading books together] is a great way to snuggle in and get some one on one time.”
Reading and telling stories together are powerful activities. Make sure to check out this post about the power of a story.
4. Family Fun with Phonics and Phonemic Awareness
As educators, we understand the importance of phonics as the building blocks of reading. From a parent perspective, the best part about phonics and phonemic awareness can be the fun they add to everyday moments.
Parents and caregivers shared that phonics activities make the trip to the grocery store easier, help kids get dressed faster in the morning, and make chores go by faster. One caregiver shared that she loves to play phonemic awareness games with her child like making up songs and rhymes while doing chores. Another parent invites his children to talk like robots while cleaning up the house. It turns out that a trip to the store can be a lot more fun when kids are looking for letters while parents and caregivers shop.
5. Building Writing Skills is the Best!
Parents are so proud to watch their children form letters, and start recognizing their own names. Writing was one of parents’ favorite literacy skills because it makes learning visible. Here’s our favorite parent quote about writing:
“Our son is into recognizing his name and practicing writing it! It’s perfectly imperfect every time! And that’s what makes it so precious because he picks up more of it each time we do it. Also the breathing helps BOTH of us immensely!”
“Our son is into recognizing his name and practicing writing it!”
Market Those Skills!
One common thread was clear in parent survey responses: they love activities that make the day easier and bring them closer to their children. As a marketing professional, I see the excellent opportunity this gives educators to engage parents in literacy activities. When educators talk to parents about the importance of literacy skills, they may consider painting a bigger picture. For example, you could send an email that has ten ways to connect with your child, and all ten of these activities could be literacy building skills. Texting is often the best way to reach families, and has 400% more engagement than email.
These survey results are a huge win for literacy. At a time when we are all seeking to provide students with learning gains and social-emotional support, it is refreshing to see that both are possible.
What are your thoughts, educators? Which literacy skill is your favorite? We would love to hear from you!
BONUS: We’ve also included some tips for parents straight from our curriculum below. Reading these simple messages can empower parents to feel confident that they’re helping their children’s growth and development when they read together. Download all these tips for your families.