9 Ways to support Early Literacy in your community.
Have you got any New Years Resolutions? Every January there is a surge of people attempting to have a fresh start, kick old habits and start new, more meaningful ones. Most of these; eat healthily, exercise, save money, commit to a new hobby, tend to focus on the individual and what we hope to achieve for ourselves in the coming year. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this, I thought that it might also be fun to try to come up with some ways in which we might be able to help those around us, namely, children in our local community, to develop their early literacy skills. I’ll be trying some of these, too!
Donate books which your children have outgrown.
There are different ways to do this; some pre-schools and children’s centres will gladly accept good-quality pre-owned books, or a charity shop will be grateful for some new titles to add to their shelves. Books are meant to be used and enjoyed, if they are gathering dust on your shelves, let them go to a new home.
Make a story sack or basket to give as a present.
Story sacks, bags and baskets are an excellent way of giving a meaningful and unique present to a child. They can be adapted and tailored to the specific interests of the child they are for, whilst being flexible enough a resource to ‘grow’ with the child as they develop into new phases of learning. A gift which keeps on giving!
Take a fine motor toy to the foodbank.
Not all foodbanks accept toys, but if you ask the volunteers there, they will be able to point out a local charity which does. By thinking about the toy you give and choosing one which will boost fine motor skills, you are able to contribute to the child’s development beyond just that gift; you are helping them to build necessary skills for their future.
Research and share local events at museums and visitor centres and share with your social network.
By clicking that you are ‘interested’ in an event on Facebook, for example, a notification will pop up in your friends’ feeds, letting them know about the event. There are so many free or cheap events organised locally by libraries, stately homes, visitor centres, art galleries and museums. Often, they are underused and need visitors to retain their funding. Even if you cannot make the event yourself, by sharing with others you give other families the opportunity to get involved and go as well.
Create opportunity to have a conversation with your child and their friends.
This might be done as part of a shared activity together; baking, gardening, washing up or craft. In some ways, what you choose as the activity is not particularly important; it is the chance to speak and listen to young children, to encourage them to join in with conversation and feel that their voice is being heard, which is the most valuable thing.
Volunteer to help at the library for story and rhyme time.
Granted, this does take a time commitment. However, there may already be a designated leader for this session, but the library may need someone to pop in to cut out some templates for the craft, or offer relief cover when their usual reader knows they are not going to be available. There are lots of ways to get involved, why not talk to a librarian about what availability you have and take it from there?
Support other parents- talk to them, ask about their children, get to know a new person.
Ultimately, the best placed person to raise a child is usually their own parent. By making a concerted effort to support other parents, perhaps those who are new to the area, you help them to support their own children. This is also a great way to make new friends and receive support yourself, the more we share with others in a meaningful way, the more we realise that none of us are alone, we are all part of a wider community.
Listen to children read at the local primary school, or read the class a story together.
Most local schools are crying out for volunteers to come in and listen to readers for one hour a week. This can usually be done around your own commitments and is a great way of supporting the local school and getting more involved. If you are confident enough to take it further, reading a picture book to a whole class on occasion would probably be welcomed by teachers, especially towards the end of a busy day!
Read a book to your own child, everyday.
There is a famous quotation by Mother Theresa: “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” This doesn’t mean that looking outwards and supporting those around us isn’t important, but our own children need to be our priority. If we are supporting them in their early literacy, as well as all the other ways we look after them, it will stand them in good stead for the future and help them to develop into young people who are both willing and able to change to world for good, too.
This coming year I have at least two story sacks to make, as well as having a go at some of the other suggestions above- how about you, any ‘early literacy’ resolutions?