Thursday, December 29, 2011

Literacy Routines in the New Year

It’s almost a new year which means it’s time for fresh starts. For many parents that means getting organized and renewing those helpful family routines that keep the home running smoothly. I don’t know about you, but I tend to let things slide during the crazy holiday season.

We all know that establishing literacy routines at home is just as important as an early bedtime or regular teeth brushing. (And kids will agree that playful, family literacy activities are WAY more fun than going to bed early or brushing teeth.) Reading, writing and playing with words at home is key to supporting skill development, and of course, lots of family bonding happens when we snuggle up to read a bedtime story or play word games during family game night. So this January, consider all you’re already doing to build literacy into your home routine, and maybe even add something new to your line up. Here are our family favorites… 

  • Bedtime Reading: I’m guessing that's a favorite for you too. We try to save the last hour before bed for some kind of reading. Sometimes we all sit together and read our own books, sometimes we listen to an audiobook, but most of the time we read aloud to the kids. It’s the perfect way to help everyone wind down for sleep, and daily read aloud time benefits children in so many ways. It helps improve attention span, problem solving, vocabulary, imagination and self esteem and tons more. It's the best, most important literacy routine on our list.
  • Reading, Reading and More Reading: We often read during lunchtime because it keeps everyone at the table long enough to eat a whole PB&J. And a bucket of books in the bathroom is key to potty training success.
  • Storytelling: As we tuck our boys in at night, we often tell stories. Our favorites are the “Brave Stories.” The main characters, named after my sons, use their brains and talents to get out of tricky situations. We use these to help our kids visualize themselves solving problems, but the kids just think they're fun adventure stories. My husband also tells the best scary and gross stories, and he does the most hilarious version of The Three Little Pigs. (At least it's hilarious if you're 2, 4 and 7.)
  • Daily Writing: I have a goal to find little opportunities to write to or with my kids at least once a day. It can be as short and simple as a note in the lunchbox, scribbling with my three year old, or showing my kindergartener a way to remember the difference between lower case d and b. We write in nightstand letter notebooks and our family list notebook. We compile sports stats, create new books in the Harry Potter series, and write about anything and everything else my kids are into at the moment.
  • Little Literacy Surprises: Last year at this time, I used a water soluble marker to write the morning schedule on the bathroom mirror to help my kids get back into the school routine after Winter break. The kids were pretty shocked to see that I would actually write in marker on the mirror! (It didn’t occur to them that it was washable.) Before school started in September, I got out a little chalkboard and wrote messages before school each day. When one of our kids does something especially wonderful like cleaning up without being asked, we sometimes surprise him with a little note of thanks. Jokes in the lunchbox and an extra book after bedtime are other fun ways to surprise kids with literacy fun.
  • Play with Words: We have magnetic letters on the wall, foam letters in the bath, and letter and word blocks in the toy bin, so the kids can make words and messages as they play.
  • Read and Write in the Car: Sometimes you need an activity to pass the miles. This free printable is full of quick and simple games and activities that support literacy and keep the passengers happy on the way to ballet lessons or grandma’s house. These are also handy while you’re waiting for food to come at a restaurant or waiting for big brother at soccer practice.

We definitely don’t do every activity on this list every day, but by including them in the lineup on a fairly regular basis, we’re able to squeeze in a little fun reading, writing and word play into even the craziest days.

What are your best tricks for making literacy routines part of your family’s busy schedule?

Erin Wing writes about creating a print-rich home at


  1. What wonderful ideas, Erin! And I love your Read and Write on the Road free printable ... thanks so much for sharing! I pinned your post to my Literature-Based Activities Pinterest board at


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