15 minutes of fun

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

January 27th is Family Literacy Day, initiated by ABC Life Literacy Canada in 1999 and held annually to raise awareness of the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family.  This year ABC Life Literacy Canada is encouraging families to take time each day to have “15 Minutes of Fun”.  Learning together can develop a shared culture of lifelong learning. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) encourages families to participate and take time for “15 Minutes of Fun”. The Museum will have great public programming for families after the official opening in September 2014. 

As an Education Specialist in the Learning and Programming Department of the Museum and as a former English Language Arts teacher for 28 years, I am particularly passionate about literacy.  Reading skills are key to a child’s educational success.  I never met a child who didn’t want to be a good reader—even if he or she didn’t like reading.  And becoming a confident reader can help a student become more self-confident in other aspects of his or her life as well.

In keeping with the theme of this year’s Family Literacy Day of “15 Minutes of Fun”, I am providing some strategies that I have shared with parents to help them support their children to become better readers.  Learning together with your child for 15 minutes a day, five times a week can make a significant difference in your child’s reading ability.  It’s worth the investment of your time. 

Two girls holding books in front of the Museum. Photo: CMHR

Following are some reading strategies that you may use as you and your child read each day.  Don’t attempt to do them all—pick and choose the most appropriate for the selection and the age of your child.

1. Before you begin to read talk about such things as the title, pictures (if there are any), and try to guess what the selection will be about.  Good readers make predictions about what they are reading.

2. While you are reading, encourage your child to continually make predictions about what will happen next and why he thinks that will happen.  Also make predictions about the motives of the characters.

3. If the selection is more factual, talk about what she already knows about the topic.  As she reads make connections between what was previously known and the new information learned.  In order to build comprehension, new information needs to be “hooked” or connected to what is already known.

4. Encourage your child to guess the meaning of unknown words and explain why he thinks it may mean that.  If knowing the meaning of a particular word is important to understanding the selection, provide him with the meaning or look it up in the dictionary together.  (If you have to look up too many words you may have chosen a selection that is too difficult.)

5. Talk about why the author might have written the selection.

6. Encourage your child to make pictures (or images) in her mind about what she has read.

7. Compare/contrast what is being read to something else that he has read, or watched on TV, or experienced, etc.  How are they the same?  How are they different?  Developing these comparisons and articulating them to someone else, helps him become a better reader.

8. Encourage your child to ask questions based on the material read.

9. You could ask questions about the selection to focus her understanding.

10. Ask your child to summarize, in his own words, what he has just read.

11. What part did she enjoy most or find most interesting?  Why?

Be careful not to overdo the strategies.  It is important to keep this collaborative reading time as relaxing and as much fun as possible.  I hope these ideas help you support your child to become a better reader—and maybe even develop a love of reading.  For more ideas check out ABC Life Literacy Canada’s 15-minute activities.

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