Activities for Enhancing Literacy Skills

For children without a long attention span

What books to choose – Choose books with lots of colors, pictures that are not cluttered with too many items, repetitive phrases, and not a lot of words. Books that have flaps to lift or pictures your child can touch and feel are also good. Examples are as follows:

-Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? (Bill Martin Jr)
-Where is the Baby’s Belly Button? (Karen Katz)
-Where’s Spot (Eric Hill)
-The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle)
-Moo, Baa, La La La (Sandra Boynton)
-Rattletrap Car (Phyllis Root)
-In the Small Small Pond. (Denise Fleming)
-Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown)
-That’s not my Dinosaur (Fiona Watt)
-Touch and Feel Pets and Touch and Feel Farm (D.K. Publishing)
-Crocodile Beat (Gail Jargensen)

Activities you can do while reading and after reading

As you read to your child, make comments about the pictures (i.e., “Look, I see a dog.” and “The dog is eating.”).

After reading the book, draw pictures about the book you just read. Drawing pictures is a precursor to writing and helps your child’s early literacy skills develop. Children are never too young to be introduced to reading and writing. As you draw the picture, talk about the story you just finished reading to your child. For this age, you will be drawing while your child scribbles.

You can also act out the story with your child. You can do this with toys (i.e., have a toy caterpillar eat fake food just like the caterpillar in the story “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”) or without actual toys (i.e., pretend to be the animals in the book “Brown Bear Brown Bear” by growling like a bear or quacking like the duck).

How to improve your child’s attention span– If you child does not have a long attention span and does not sit through books, take a short book and quickly flip through the pages while saying only one word for each page. If your child has difficulty, skip pages in the middle and end the book quickly. Then praise your child for completing the book (i.e., The book is all done. Good job listening to the story). Do not force your child to sit through a long book as your child will learn to not like reading. The goal is to make the experience enjoyable for your child. A good time to read to your child is when he/she is tired and wants to sit on your lap (possibly right before bed).

For children with a good attention span

What books to choose – You can use the same books listed above; however, talk more about what is in each picture.

You may also want to use books that have specific language concepts (i.e., prepositions, descriptive words, actions, etc.) Some examples of books are as follows:

-Spot’s Birthday Party (Eric Hill) – who questions, prepositions
-Is Your Mama a Llama (Steven Kellogg) – describe animals
-We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Michael Rosa) – prepositions, adjectives
-Bear Feels Scared (Karma Wilson) – feelings, rhymes
-Bear’s New Friend (Karma Wilson) – who questions, why questions
-Swing (Rufus Butler Seder) – actions
-That’s not my Dinosaur (Fiona Watt) – adjectives, negation
-What Am I (Sterling “Look and See”) – describe animals
-Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothes (Judi Barrett) – negation, why questions
-Mr. Cookie Baker (Monica Wellington) –sequencing
-Go Dog Go (P.D. Eastman) – colors, prepositions, quantitative concepts, size

Also you may want to use books that have characters go places (i.e., the Park, Beach, Aquarium etc.). Some examples are as follows:

-Curious George books such as “Curious George at the Aquarium” (Margret and H. A. Rey) – aquarium, movies, snow, train, beach, zoo, chocolate factory, makes pizza
-Little Critter books such as “Just Grandma and Me” (Mercer Meyer) – camping, park, beach, store

Activities you can do while reading and after reading

Ask questions and comment while you read. During a storybook reading activity, an individual can ask a hierarchy of questions, which pertain to the story. Some examples by Westby (1994) include:

Literal questions
– Labeling (e.g., What is this?)
– Item Elaboration (e.g., What kind of animal is that?)
– Event Description (e.g., What happened? or What is ____ doing?)

Inferential questions
– Reason/Cause (e.g., Why is ____ doing that?)
-Reaction (e.g., How does ____ feel? or Isn’t that silly.)
– Real Word Relevance (e.g., Remember when we went camping?)
– Predictions (e.g., What do you think will happen next?)

(Make sure your child can answer the literal questions before progressing to the inferential questions.)

Make references to the print while you are reading (i.e., That word says “cat” while pointing to the word.)

Draw pictures about the books you just read. Drawing pictures is a precursor to writing and helps your child’s early literacy skills develop. As you draw the picture, talk about the story you just finished reading to your child and encourage your child to talk about the story as well.

Act out the stories. Read a book about going somewhere (i.e. the beach, grocery store, doctor’s office) or doing something (i.e., making cookies after reading “Mr. Cookie Baker” or making pizza) and then pretend to do what the characters in the book did. For example, if you read a book about going to the doctor’s office, act out going to the doctor with your child. Have your child choose to be the doctor or the patient. Revert back to the story if your child does not seem to know how to act like a doctor (i.e., You can say “Remember how the doctor in the story checked his patient’s heart beat.”).

After reading a book where the characters went somewhere such as the beach, go to the beach and remind your child of the story while you are at the beach. Then later read the story again and refer back to what your child did at the beach (i.e., look Little Critter is playing in the sand. Remember how you played in the sand.)