BookShark curriculum is based on this knowledge that natural exposure to books, words, and reading is the best foundation for early literacy. All of our programs are literature-based. Take a look at our PreK, Kindergarten, and Level 1 Programs to see how we structure our curriculum around great books.
As homeschool families, we know the importance of play for in a young child’s social, emotional, and academic development. The skills so integral to early literacy—observation, critical thinking, questioning, and evaluation—don’t need to be taught through flash cards or workbook lessons. Hands-on, family-based learning is key to developing a culture of literacy at home, and fortunately, the process is fun and easy.
Here are five creative ways to encourage early literacy, suitable for the young and old alike.
1. Build a Box for Picture Stories
Younger children can write their own stories, even if they’ve not yet mastered reading or writing skills. The key is to choose a medium your children and enjoy and use it to practice the elements of narration. Gather a set of plain wooden blocks, small tiles, or round, flat river stones. Make a list of nouns (stuff) and verbs (what stuff does) you’d like to include in your box, then draw, paint, or glue pictures onto your surface. Keep the objects in a resealable plastic tub and pull them out when the children feel inspired. Use the objects to model the creation of sentence patterns and stories a few times, then let them take it on themselves.
2. Explore the World Around You
Children are drawn to the mysterious and magical. Combine this sense of wonder with literacy skills by visiting places likely to encourage creative storytelling. Botanical gardens, historical properties, train stations, and even local cemeteries offer opportunities for conjecture and speculation. Ask questions about your surroundings, imagine who or what might have lived and worked there long ago, and write, draw, or record the stories you create.
3. Read Wordless Picture Books
Sometimes less is more when it comes to storytelling, especially when you’re talking about books. Check out a few wordless picture books from author/illustrators like David Wiesner, Bill Thomson, and Jeannie Baker and use them as a springboard for your own creative retelling. Narrate the story in your own words, add dialogue, and try your hand at Reader’s Theater or grab your narration on video.
4. Tell Photo Stories
Wordless picture books and conventional wisdom prove a picture is worth a thousand words. Let family photos and images from the web inspire your imagination. Talk about what’s happening in the photo, then lead into a discussion of the elements of plot:
How might our story start?
What is the problem or conflict?
How might the problem be solved?
What lessons should our characters learn?
Ask your child to tell the story she’s created, then write it down or record her narration.
5. Experiment with Memes
Memes go viral for a reason, and it has to do with inference. Our brains are designed to gather presented information, evaluate the message, and determine what information is left out. Good memes are funny precisely for that reason: the right combination of witty text and engaging images leads us to fill in our own understanding. Practice inference skills by making your own memes, choosing or drawing fun images and discussing any information the picture implies. Ask questions like:
What could the dog be thinking?
Why does that giraffe look tired?
Have you ever felt that way? Why?
Use those responses to add text to the images, then share with family and friends.
It’s true that early literacy skills are vital to academic success, but learning through play trumps flashcards any day. Teach your children the foundations of literacy, but let them be kids while they learn. You’ll not only have fun and develop skills in the process. You’ll build lasting memories as well.