Family Literacy means focusing on learning together as a family. For adults, it’s a way to bond with children and share what they know or want to learn. For young children, the bond is much deeper. Beginning as babies and continuing into teenage years, listening is the best way to increase comprehension and vocabulary.

One long-term study of reading comprehension showed that when reading, word recognition decreased from 27% in second grade, to 13% in fourth grade, and only 2% in eighth grade. In contrast, when listening, word recognition increased from 9% in second grade, to 21% in fourth grade, and 36% in eighth grade.

Listening to family members read, talk, play games, and sing help children understand more than words, though. Listening helps hone sequencing, story types, and critical thinking skills.

Reading together as a family makes print materials inviting, exciting, and accessible. In an age where much of what we do, including writing, is online, sharing printed material makes reading inviting. Without that, children will see a book and feel intimidated. With more association of printed material to enjoying a story, that fear decreases and interest and excitement build.

What should adults who don’t have time or interest in reading do?

You’re not alone if you haven’t read a book recently. While an average of 74% of people say they read, on average, Americans aged 20 to 34 spend a mere 0.11 hours reading daily, which amounts to less than seven minutes per day. Family literacy doesn’t have to be about just reading books or manuals together. Learning together could mean reading a family recipe and talking about the people who wrote it. Sign up for a library card and ask a librarian for help. With younger children, share the shapes of street signs and read what they say. Go even deeper when sharing and talk about directions, store signs and various homes in the neighborhood. Make a story about any adventure.

An adult who struggles to read can listen to the radio and sing along to build listening skills. Practice reading together, and ask a child to read aloud. Put on a podcast and discuss what they are saying. Ask a family member or friend to read aloud via Face time or Zoom or talk about a book or story over family dinner.

Finally, ask for help. In Shelby County, 62% of adults read below a fifth grade level, and 80% of children read below a third grade level. It takes some hard practice, but there is help available.

Statistically, a mother’s reading level is the greatest way to determine a child’s future success in school.

Other ways to celebrate Family Literacy:

  • Build a reading or thinking spot with books, papers, arts, and crafts

  • Set aside time each night to read the newspaper, book, or magazine

  • Make a weekly or monthly library day

  • Visit a Little Free Library in a neighborhood and try a book

  • Watch stories online together – many websites have readers

  • Decide to learn something together! Want to learn how to change the oil in the car? Change the curtains in the living room?

What ways do you celebrate Family Literacy? Let us know in the comments.

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