Julie McIntyre Apr 20 2022

The Importance of Family Literacy

This week’s Tuesday Tip addresses the topic of “Family Literacy” and highlights the great opportunity we all have at this time to explore and develop Family Literacy in our homes right now.

The good news is that you have an opportunity to participate in the development of your child’s literary skills.

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Family Literacy is not a new term or concept. Family Literacy was a term first used by Denny Taylor (1983) to describe the rich and diverse uses of literacy within homes and communities. Today, literacy within the home is also referred to as “home literacy” (Family Literacy, A Short Overview, Prof. Dr. Sven Nickel, University of Bremen, Germany).

Below, I have shared some of Dr. Nickel’s research findings which he wrote about in his overview, highlighting basic important features of understanding “family (or home) literacy”. Here are some of his research findings which help us gain understandings: He writes;

  • “Of all the locations where emergent literacy takes place, the family is the most important. The family is “the social group in which the parents’ and the children’s literacies meet, within which they use literacy, develop their literacy, and interact in literacy activities” (Hannon 1995, 103).
  • “Literacy is a part of the very fabric of family life…(and is) deeply embedded in the social process of family life” (Taylor 1983, 87).
  • “Children learn from exploring, observing and taking part in literacy activities at home” (Teale and Sulzby 1986).
  •  Activities such as book reading, shared reading, storytelling, language games, children’s rhymes and children’s songs are oral and, at the same time, make children familiar using an oral form with a “new” language.
  • “These home literacy activities are the expression of an atmosphere of emotional connections between a child and adult as they engage together playfully with language (cf. Hurrelmann 2004).

You can read Dr. Nickel’s publication here.

What does this mean for you as a Tuesday Tip? It means that you have the perfect opportunity to have your child curl up in your lap, or lay across the bed and read together and understand the power of that in your child’s literacy development. In fact, Dr. Nickel goes on to claim that family literacy (may) have a greater impact (on developing literacy) than most educational interventions.

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As you read books (physical or online) together, be sure to “stop and talk” about the characters, events, problems, and plots of the story. The more you talk to your child about what is going on in the book, the more their brains develop metacognition (thinking about one’s thinking) which is one of the most critical literacy skills needed to comprehend text. Simultaneously, you are supporting your child’s English language acquisition.

See kindergarteners demonstrate reading comprehension in creative ways.

Mostly, family literacy is fun! Often, a story can open avenues for sharing feelings, talking about our worries or drawing out laughter - all of which we need to do more of at this time. Reading as a family, no matter if it’s with a parent, grandparent, or sibling is a bonding and healthy activity.

At Concordia International School Shanghai, we are blessed to share many online resources with you to support you during Distance Learning and reading from home. All parents have links to MackinVia which is our warehouse of all of your online resources in one location.

Blessings to you and your family for continued health and happiness and fun reading times together at home.