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Creating Opportunities for Family Literacy, Part 2: Suggested Skill Areas to Target for Children Ages 0–6

By Jeanne Smith
 | Nov 07, 2018
Creating Family Literacy Opportunities

This is the second installment of a two-part series about creating opportunities in adult education to address family literacy. It addresses skills areas to target where parents and children can work together to achieve progress.

Read Part 1 here.


Beginning school with a strong vocabulary is a necessary component for school success. Research shows that engaging children in conversation and building their oral language capacity supports the learning of new words. Both adult students and their children can enjoy simple books with rich language and pictures to enhance comprehension. 

For example, after reading about colors entitled, Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh (Harcourt), one adult student and his daughter looked in and around the house while referring to the book and located different objects with the same colors. Another favorite title in this category is Quiet, Loud by Leslie Patricelli (Candlewick), which demonstrates the meanings of opposites, has delightful illustrations, and is fun to read.

Facilitating parents’ confidence with extended activities after reading a book in order to build vocabulary is a priority. Books and other tools that teach the basics such as numbers, shapes, animals, and the alphabet should also be included.

Response to literature

Parents can encourage their young children’s reactions and ideas about situations while reading and talking about books. This helps set the stage for response to literature or constructing meaning from what they read.

Speechsound development and the speech-to-print connection

It is a magical moment when children make the connection between the sound /m/ and reading the actual letter “m.” Parents can learn the sequence of speech–sound development, watch for developmental milestones, and begin to teach which letters represent what sounds. Parents can teach their young children how to write their letters and numbers.

Phonological awareness including rhyming

Good phonological awareness skills are foundational for literacy achievement, and parents can learn to foster phonological awareness in their children using nursery rhymes and songs. All young children enjoy reciting nursery rhymes and singing while clapping or tapping out the beats in single and multisyllable word combinations. Phonological awareness includes awareness of three things: single sounds or phonemes, rhyme, and syllable/beat awareness. Rhyme and beat awareness is precisely where students turn their attention when they read and recite nursery rhymes.

Beyond learning the alphabet, teaching letter-sound association is essential. Parents who are working to improve their own basic skills will give their children a great advantage by helping the children learn the distinction between letter names and letter sounds. This may circumvent a stumbling block teachers in elementary schools often observe in children who are struggling to read when children do not know the difference.

Phonemic Awareness

After adult students and their children learn the letter sounds, they can move to blending sounds to read/decode words. One way to reach this goal is to use books that come with sound cards such as Bob’s Books: Rhyming Words  (Scholastic) to teach matching beginning sounds with ending sounds (d-an, p-an, m-an). In the plots of the stories, the books include both the same words learned with the sounds cards as well as common sight vocabulary.

As a result, both the blending of sounds to decode and the building of a sight vocabulary is combined, and the parent and the child can practice together reading a simple story. Creating opportunities where parents and children can learn and practice together is a key element in developing effective and exciting opportunities for family literacy.

Moving ahead

As progress occurs, practice reading longer children’s books such as The Sunset Pond by Laura Appleton Smith (Flyleaf Publishing) is the next step. Incorporating select titles such as this one, where previously learned syllable types, multi-syllable words, and sight words are used to create longer stories is highly supportive of adults who might be still be learning to read or read better themselves.

The goal is to offer parents reading practice with well selected books during instructional time to help them feel confident reading the same books out loud, at home, while their children follow along. As a result. children will enjoy reading longer books and stories with their parents, and the creation a solid foundation for further education will be fostered.

Jeanne H. Smith is a literacy specialist at the Community High School of Vermont (CHSVT) and a member of the Special Services Support team. CHSVT serves students 18 years of age and older.

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