Family Literacy Habits

While one would think that a trip to Sunny Central Oregon would include lots of outdoor time, my favorite part of each day happens inside.  On a trip to visit my parents, I relived a part of my childhood.   One of the Clemens family ‘s literacy habits was developed long ago when we had a very thin Bend Bulletin newspaper delivered each evening, I hated washing dishes and we had just three channels on our black and white television.  Each evening after dinner, my brother and I got out of doing our chores if we were engaged in reading.  When we’d hear the paper delivery person during dinner, one of us would run out to get paper then everyone would take a section or we’d pull out a book and spend time after dinner reading silently.  While this wasn’t an unusual habit, our family’s behaviors while reading were a bit odd.  Each member would sit silently until they had a response to the text.  If someone would gasp, chuckle or comment on what they were reading, everyone else would stop and ask for more information. The reader would summarize the article then explain their response.

When I visited last winter, the family was just finishing breakfast.  The fire was crackling,  snow was falling and flakes whirled and twirled outside without sticking, and each member of the family had something to read.  When my mom started to laugh and everyone asked, “What?” she had to explain the article and why she thought it was funny.   This took me right back to my childhood.   This continued over the next hour as readers in my family made text to life connections, text to text connections and we learned about everything from the weather in Viet Nam to distant relatives of presidential hopefuls.  During this hour of family time, we practiced summarizing, comparing and contrasting, and defending our thoughts on particular topics.  I realized that my own children could benefit if we continued this family habit at home.

At home, we read our news on devices.  My own grown up children read for a range of purposes each day but I wonder about the other children in my life.  My great nephew loves books but what about the other kids?

Am I modeling the joy of reading as my parents did for me?  Do I explain my thinking when I share my thoughts or opinions on a topic to show that I read crucially?  Do I provide a wide range of materials for them to read?  Do I offer incentives (like getting out of doing the dishes) if they read for sustained periods of time?  My mom would laugh or cry as she read and by doing so, she modeled a passion for reading.  Am I showing kids how much I enjoy reading?

What are you teaching your children about developing literacy habits?

kids sitting on green grass field
Photo by Victoria Borodinova on

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