I remember my mom reading with my sister and I every night. Our favourite book was “The Big Book of Stories” and we read a different story each night. My favourite was about animals joining the circus. Our imaginations ran wild with the images of puppies swinging on a trapeze, chimpanzees flying up and down on a trampoline, and piggies walking on a tightrope. So of course I wanted to share books with my daughter when she was born, and I was lucky enough to inherit a whole collection from my sister whose children were older. We had so much fun and the tradition with my daughter lasted for many years.
Eventually I had to part with some books and offered the best of them to a neighbour with a toddler. I was so shocked when she refused them, saying “no thanks, he doesn’t like books”! My mind was racing with thoughts like “what, he doesn’t want to fly a spaceship or go on a jungle adventure?” I felt bad that the boy was missing out on the experience of cuddling with a parent and sharing a book, or the fun of acting out the story of a trip down a crocodile infested river on couch cushions, with wooden spoons for paddles/weapons. But I didn’t say anything. I just wondered if it was the parent more than the child who didn’t like books.
After many years, I did learn that my neighbour had difficulty reading. Teachers hadn’t had the extra time to spend with her and she was embarrassed to keep asking. It still happens. I wonder if her son is sharing books and creating memories with his children?
Winter holidays provide an excellent opportunity for families and friends to spend time together. There are many fun learning activities that families can do.
Literacy is one of the greatest gifts that adults can share and benefit from with their families.
Try the following activities to encourage family literacy over the holidays:
- Make a list, check it twice: As a family, write out lists together – wish lists to Santa, shopping lists, or even New Year’s resolutions!
- Watch a book: Many classic holiday stories have been adapted for the big screen. Read these stories with your kids first, then watch the movie; Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas are classic favourites.
- Signed, sealed, delivered: Do you have a stack of holiday cards that need to be prepared? Ask your family to help you write out greetings and addresses, or stamp envelopes.
- How many shopping days left? When shopping for gifts or holiday party supplies, ask your kids to count out the change required to make your purchase. You can practice numeracy skills by keeping track of spending before you reach the cash register.
- Dear Grandma: The holidays are a great time to write a letter or email to a loved one. Have everyone in your family contribute at least one paragraph on what they have accomplished over the last year.
- Holiday scavenger hunt: Create a list of holiday and winter-related items around your home. Give the list to your family and have them find all the items on the list.
- Jack Frost nipping at your nose: On cold winter days, snuggle by the fire with a good holiday book and a cup of hot chocolate. Don’t forget the marshmallows!
- Make reading a key ingredient: Following a recipe is a great way to practice reading, comprehension and math skills. By baking holiday cookies or cakes, you can get the whole family involved.
- Sing Christmas carols: Get together with your neighbours and go door-to-door singing carols. Singing encourages learning patterns of words, rhymes and rhythms, and is strongly connected to language skills.
- Play for Literacy! Put on your pajamas and have a family game night. Each family member chooses a game, such as a board game or card game, then have fun playing all night long!