Family Literacy

November is Family Literacy Month!

By Jennifer Van Pelt

A graphic that features a quote from one of our Family Literacy Program Participants: “ Before, my kids did not treat their books with respect. They used to flip through all the pages and mess them up but the books we get from the program are like magic. They take care of them and hug them and cuddle with them before bed. ”

A graphic that features a quote from one of our Family Literacy Program Participants: “Before, my kids did not treat their books with respect. They used to flip through all the pages and mess them up but the books we get from the program are like magic. They take care of them and hug them and cuddle with them before bed.

What is Family Literacy Month?

November is Family Literacy Month, a time to bring awareness to the importance of reading as a family. Family literacy can be more than reading together, it can also include engaging in other activities that focus on reading, writing, spelling, or storytelling. In a publication by the National Literacy Trust, they cited parental involvement as the most important determinant of language and emergent literacy. Bringing these activities into the home in a one-on-one environment can mean much higher interest  in reading as well as higher learning rates.

What Does Family Literacy Look Like?
The most important aspect is that family literacy should be a family activity. This means children should be interacting with parents, grandparents, or siblings when taking part in these activities. It’s also important to make it fun -- children don’t necessarily need to know that they’re learning while you partake in these activities! Some examples to “gamify” your day to day are:

  • Ask them to name every item around them that starts with the same first letter as their name

  • Ask them to read street signs, or infer what the signs mean from the drawings on them

  • Switch off telling stories about your days

  • Read the book version of their favorite movie

  • Take family outings to the library where reading is the main activity

Words Alive’s Family Literacy Program

Words Alive offers a Family Literacy Program for parents and preschool-aged children to attend 7 workshops together. The program includes a weekly information session for the adults, then together the children and parents partake in a group story time as well as guided activities. Our Family Literacy Program focuses on three goals:

  1. Parents develop an internal commitment to reading -- develop sustainable family reading habits

  2. Parents and children become lifelong learners -- expand knowledge of how to best develop and support their child’s development

  3. Parents become advocates for their children and their futures -- embrace role as their child’s first and foremost teacher

Working towards these goals gives parents the right tools to have deeper engagement with their children when reading together. When asking for feedback from the Family Literacy Program participants, one parent wrote:

Before, my kids did not treat their books with respect. They used to flip through all the pages and mess them up but the books we get from the program are like magic. They take care of them and hug them and cuddle with them before bed.

These positive changes and relationship to books is what Words Alive hopes to achieve. Our program has demonstrated an 87% increase in the percentage of families who look at books together at home by the end of the 7 week program. By providing this program to families, we are giving them the tools that they need to understand the power of reading and what it can mean for their lives. If you would like to learn more, you can visit our programs page here.

Sources:
https://www.gettingsmart.com/2017/11/national-family-literacy-day/



Annual Report: Family Literacy Program

What happened in our Family Literacy Program in the 2017-2018 school year? Well…a lot!

To start, 437 families came through the door, taking home 2,511 books and clocking 1,310 hours of shared learning time. Let’s dive in and share what else happened in the program this year!

Meet Sheena

An image of Sheena Burks. She is standing in front of a bare wall and smiling at the camera.

An image of Sheena Burks. She is standing in front of a bare wall and smiling at the camera.

In our sixth year of the program, our expanded facilitator team included Sheena, a talented mother and preschool teacher who attended the program the past two years with her young boys. She is the first parent participant to go on to lead the program with other families. Sheena has been able to use her experience as a participant in the program to shape her leadership style. Over the past year, Sheena has inspired 72 families through the Family Literacy Program, while sharing her own stories and experiences to help strengthen their connection to reading. Through this unique perspective, Sheena has been able to see the incredible effects the program has on children and families.

“I had a parent say that they couldn’t get their son to read at all because he thought it was boring,” said Sheena. “But after the program, they’re saying that he wants to read more and more...he’s comfortable now — he’s not feeling forced to read!”

Reporting Out

An image of Sheena facilitating a Family Literacy session. She is sitting on the floor with guardians and children while they all look at books together.

An image of Sheena facilitating a Family Literacy session. She is sitting on the floor with guardians and children while they all look at books together.

To engage returning families, Words Alive introduced new curriculum, including new book titles and supporting activities — and it was a huge hit! What’s more, parent knowledge in understanding child development, implementation of literacy-building activities at home, and book sharing behaviors continue to increase for our families during their time with us. With the increased knowledge and skills that come from our programs, parents are empowered in their role as their child’s first and most important teacher. By the program’s end:

• 68% more families reported having a routine for looking at books with their child.

• Families reported an average 38% increase in the size of their home libraries, growing on average from 11 to 16 books.

• Families that completed our program reported a 40% increase in understanding how their preschool child learns and have created a language-rich environment for them.

Moving Forward

Parents play the most critical role in developing skills and abilities within their children. Parent engagement is one of the key factors in a quality childhood program. At Words Alive, we know that our Family Literacy Program is engaging parents in a meaningful way and making an impact on the families who participate each year. We have successfully collaborated with a variety of partners like the Fullerton School District, who offered four sessions of our program in their schools after we trained their staff and provided curriculum.

“Words Alive has empowered parents to support their children acquire valuable literacy skills, engage families in discussion about meaningful literature, and connect our parents into our school community.” —Dr. Robert Pletka, Fullerton School District Superintendent

We continue to see the same results in the families through this training model and through direct services. Going forward we want to continue to diversify where we can offer our Family Literacy Program by reaching out to families through classes located within their communities.

Learn more about our Family Literacy Program here!

What is Kindergarten Readiness and Why Does it Matter?

By Jennifer van Pelt

In the years leading up to a child’s first formalized schooling experience, parents play an important role in laying the foundation for future schooling success. With kindergarten being required in 30% of all states and 52% of all states requiring a Kindergarten Entrance Exam, making sure children have the cognitive skills to prepare them for kindergarten is an important step in ensuring early literacy success and continued development.

A picture of some children in our Family Literacy Program! They are posing with puppets they made during the FLP session.

A picture of some children in our Family Literacy Program! They are posing with puppets they made during the FLP session.

What is Kindergarten Readiness and Why Does it Matter?

“Kindergarten readiness” is a term that outlines what many education experts tend to agree will help a child succeed in kindergarten. With kindergarten being the first schooling experience for many children, it is important that they are comfortable, confident, and eager to learn in the classroom in order to set the tone for what the next several years of their life will revolve around: school.

Recently, Common Core Standards have been introduced into classrooms nationwide. These standards establish clear guidelines of what a student needs to know at the end of each grade. These standards have been fully implemented in 41 states and help to establish expectations for what your child should be prepared to learn in kindergarten. A few notable literacy-related Common Core Standards for kindergarten are:

  • Identify major characters, setting, and basic plotline of a story.

  • Recognize different types of text, including poems and storybooks.

  • Recognize what an author's and illustrator’s roles are in a book and how to identify them.

  • Identify the parts of a book including the front, spine, and back.

  • Understand the way in which we read and write: From left to right, in strings of sentences, and spaces between words.

  • Identify the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they make.

By understanding what your child needs to know by the end of their year in kindergarten, you can work backwards, determine where the biggest gaps are, and ensure that your child is prepared for school.

How Can You Help Your Child Become Kindergarten Ready?

As summarized in the  “Early School Readiness” report by Child Trends, the following four skills are indicators of early literacy and cognitive development: ability to recognize letters, count to 20, write their first name, and read words in a book. While these are not an official or universally agreed upon measure for determining if a child is “kindergarten ready”, these competencies appear to be referred to most frequently in literature surrounding the topic and they are also supported by the Common Core Standards.

Children in our Family Literacy Program practice skills like counting, rhyming, and color recognition by participating in fun activities!

Children in our Family Literacy Program practice skills like counting, rhyming, and color recognition by participating in fun activities!

You can  prepare your child for kindergarten by integrating the following into your family time:

  • Practice reading/writing the letters used in their name. This helps develop both the motor skills used to hold a pencil and their familiarity with the alphabet.

  • Start counting with them. This can include animals in a book or carrots on their plate. Focus on incorporating numbers and counting into their daily life.

  • Point out numbers that surround them. This can be page numbers, office numbers, road signs etc.

  • Expand their vocabulary by using diverse language during conversations. Marianne Hillemeier, PhD, completed a study on 8,700 two year olds and the amount of vocabulary they knew. Those who used more words at age two had better math and reading skills and fewer behavioral problems when starting kindergarten.

  • Teach them about books -- the front, back, spine, and how we read from left to right. This initiates a knowledge of books and prepares them to read books themselves.

At Words Alive, we understand that parents are their child’s first teacher because they have the best opportunity to prepare them with the tools needed for success in school. Our programs at Words Alive not only aim to instill reading and literacy habits in young children, but we also hope that parents leave our programs with the foundation and motivation to build these habits at home!

Learn more about our Family Literacy Program, in which we teach parents how to prepare their children for school and introduce literacy education into their homes, by checking out this page. If you are interesting in supporting these efforts, please consider donating here.

Sources:

https://www.education.com/magazine/article/kindergarten-readiness-secrets/

http://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/t2k_schoolreadiness.pdf

https://www.ecs.org/kindergarten-policies/

http://www.corestandards.org/wp-content/uploads/ELA_Standards1.pdf

https://www.childtrends.org/videos/big-vocabulary-equals-kindergarten-readiness/

https://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/07_School_Readiness.pdf

The Importance of Family Literacy

By Jennifer van Pelt

What is Family Literacy?

Family Literacy is a type of literacy education that emphasizes bringing reading and writing into the home and making it a family activity. According to a study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, children with a “richer home literacy environment displayed higher levels of reading knowledge and skills than did their counterparts with less rich home literacy environments.” Family literacy is imperative in creating a foundation for children’s learning experiences, and it all starts with the parents.

Illiteracy in today’s children can be traced back to their parent's literacy experiences in their early lives. When parents do not feel comfortable around books, they don’t read to their children and they likely don’t have many books in the house for their children to look at or read themselves. This is why family literacy programs emphasize teaching families together and ensuring that the parents understand the importance of reading outside of a school environment. It’s not just about reading though -- in the same study by the NCES, singing songs and telling stories to children can also lead to early reading success.

A picture of a parent and child working together on an exercise in our Family Literacy Program. The child is sitting on top of the table while working, showing how we emphasize play and comfort in literacy education!

A picture of a parent and child working together on an exercise in our Family Literacy Program. The child is sitting on top of the table while working, showing how we emphasize play and comfort in literacy education!

Parents: A Child’s First Teacher

As mentioned by the Urban Child Institute, a child’s brain develops at a rapid rate during their early life. By age 3, the brain has reached 80% of its adult size. Developmental experiences in these years determine the organizational and functional status of the mature brain. This is an important time in a child’s life to talk to them, look at pictures, and read books with them so they get as much exposure as they can before they begin formalized school. Parents teach their child how to navigate the world, and when parents take time to do these things, they are teaching them healthy reading habits for life.

In the earliest stages of a child’s life, the parents don’t need high literacy to teach their kids a love of books. Just asking the child to use their imagination and create a storyline for the book themselves, teaching them various sounds, and asking them questions can help develop important habits surrounding literacy. When the families make this a routine and enjoy these activities together, the building blocks of early reading success are being set up.

Another example of teaching with play! Two students learn terms like "through" by crawling through a tunnel at one of our Family Literacy sites.

Another example of teaching with play! Two students learn terms like "through" by crawling through a tunnel at one of our Family Literacy sites.

Healthy Reading Habits At Home

Now that we understand the importance of family literacy, here are some ideas to help build reading and literacy components into your family’s daily life. These are based off some of the key indicators of our own Family Literacy Program:

  1. Let your child see you reading.

  2. Read more than books together -- read road signs, nutritional labels, etc.

  3. Let your child pick out the books you read together.

  4. Visit the library together.

  5. Ask your child questions about the books or pictures.

  6. Relate the book to your child’s life.

  7. Sing songs and rhymes together with your child.

The Family Literacy program that Words Alive runs has demonstrated an 87% increase in the percentage of families who look at books together at home by the end of the 7 week program. This incorporation of books into the home is important when looking at future reading and literacy success. If you are curious to learn more about our Family Literacy Program and what it has to offer, the program is running right now! Head to our main website to find out more about volunteering with us or joining our Family Literacy workshops.

Sources:

http://www.urbanchildinstitute.org/articles/research-to-policy/practice/parents-are-a-childs-first-teacher

https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2003/2003067_6.pdf