This week included an amazing conversation with a friend about her son’s literacy learning; we’re all trying to figure it out. As parents and teachers we are so passionate about reading success and wondering how to best champion the potential of our children. We brainstormed together.

It became clear during our conversation how capable her little boy is and we became convinced the best course of action is to follow his lead!

Follow the child’s interests.

In this second part of the Learn Forward Literacy Learning blog series, I hope you’ll keep in mind this overarching principle: children are capable and you can follow their interests. Here are some practical suggestions of how to enhance literacy learning.

Begin in the Library (or used bookstore)

If I need fresh inspiration, I always begin in the library! And, school breaks are a great time to visit local used bookstores. A child will almost always light up around a topic, a theme, or a book cover. That’s a place to start. From there, we check out stacks of books and take them home. Natural enthusiasm is created by just allowing the child spaciousness to choose titles. We harness the energy for read-alouds, explorations of new topics, or discussions on literacy learning. Children love to have their own library card and a basket of fresh books and they love a date with you!

Play with Literacy Learning in Unconventional Spaces

A song in the bathtub, bathtub crayons, a letter hunt in the car, a notebook in a restaurant: infuse literacy learning into normal rituals and routines of your week. I can remember playing with words with my big kids during our many car rides on Southern California freeways. Simple games like segmenting words into sounds or offering sounds in sequence and asking them for the word, gives children an experience upon which reading is built.

While technology is captivating, we don’t always have to resort to it. Children can learn to focus on other quiet activities. I highly recommend a quiet bag that is packed with engaging toys, books, and crayons. Now, my little girl is five and she packs her own quiet bag for church or a dinner out.

One idea is to make it thematic. If your son is into big machines, put a colouring book, easy reader, and non-fiction book around the theme with the toys in the bag. The interest expands from a few toys to a literacy learning opportunity.

If you were following your child’s lead, what would you pack in your child’s quiet bag?

Make Literacy Learning Playful in Your Tribe

Word games, reading together, discussing current events, and board games are all great family activities to make literacy learning joyful! For example, never underestimate the powerful experiences of a family game night. It doesn’t have to be Scrabble to be literacy learning. Sequencing, conversation, problem-solving, and patterning are all literacy learning skills children can learn through game night. We already discussed family meals in Part 1, but that fits here too! If everyone is involved, everyone benefits.

Play in Nature

Transforming a hike or a ski day into literacy learning is a great way to expand the experience for a child because children love to respond to experiences. You can re-tell, draw, or write to respond.

Consider a scavenger hunt or asking great questions about what you see in nature. Everyone can learn. For instance, you may hear an owl or find a feather that can transform into an inquiry that extends well past the outside time.

Currently, my 5-year-old is keeping a daily digital diary. The outside experiences offer possibilities for writing. Creating content on her LeapFrog tablet is a powerful use of her screen time, rather than just consuming or playing.

When will you be outside next? How will your playful adventure offer opportunities for literacy learning?


child w book



Literacy Learning for Special Events

Whether it is a birthday or Valentine’s Day, you can always use a special event as an opportunity to create, read, write, speak, and listen. Learning to interact in social situations, empathize at the birthday party, or create a special gift offers new energy to children’s literacy learning. So, don’t miss the opportunity to write names or notes.

In closing, every life experience can be playfully transformed into literacy learning.

For the sake of the children,


P.S. If you’d like to design more intentionally for literacy learning, please subscribe at Learn Forward for your free designing template this month. Every teacher and parent can continue to refine his or her focus on giving the gift of reading to our children.