The kids who are successful in school are those who remain curious even after the last bell rings, who notice the world around them, and who make connections among subjects and ideas. There are millions of ways to keep minds of all ages active and engaged outside the classroom.
The following article is part of a Noodle series about how to integrate learning into everyday life in order to instill a love of knowledge in your kids.
Storytelling is as old as time, and our capacity for language goes far beyond simple communication. Humans are wired to love and play with words. Look through these suggestions for new ways to ignite a passion for reading and language in your kids.
Keep something interesting in your purse or her backpack for wait times or in-between moments you find throughout the day. Many adults just pull out their phones, which is simultaneously a missed opportunity for connection with your child and a cue to her to reach for her technology as well. It doesn’t have to be fine literature — anything that gets her excited to read is a good book. Teach her to turn to books — not to a screen — as a default.
There are literacy-building games for every age group. Think of words that rhyme. See if you can find every letter of the alphabet on passing license plates or street signs. Name an animal (or food, or city) for each letter of the alphabet. For example, name an animal and find another that begins with the last letter of the previous suggestion. So, if your contribution was “zebra," the next one could be “alligator," followed by “raccoon." Word games encourage creativity and make it fun to think outside the box.
Turn off the TV, the computers, and phones, and sit down with a book, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. For younger kids, snuggle together under some blankets and make it a special bonding time. For older kids, make hot chocolate or tea to set a cozy mood. Your kids will learn to associate positively with books, and will begin a reading habit for life.
Have a word of the day to tuck into conversation. Challenge yourself and your child to see how many times you can use it throughout the day. Bonus points if you can get someone else to say it. Your child or teen will build vocabulary and learn how to use the right word in the right situation. But remember, your kids will be more likely to jump on board if you learn it with them.
Drawing on familiar examples or ideas from books is a great way to incorporate literature into your child’s life. It’s natural to make comparisons to stories you are familiar with, such as “This reminds me of ‘Little House in the Big Woods,’" or “I feel just like Alexander on his ‘Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.’"
When kids forge personal connections to books, they are better able to build comprehension and think critically about literature. This is a skill that they’ll use throughout school and college. Encourage your child to make connections with what she’s reading in class or at home, and make comparisons yourself so she can have a broader knowledge of literature.
The fun part about classic books is that they’re classic for a reason — those stories are timeless and infinitely relatable. How many times has a sharp girl been snubbed by a guy, like Elizabeth Bennet was by Mr. Darcy, of “Pride and Prejudice"? How many times has someone broken a rule to see if he could get away with it, only to be overwhelmed by guilt, like Raskolnikov, of “Crime and Punishment"? It’s OK if you make a connection to a book your child is unfamiliar with. That is the perfect moment to pique her interest in it by telling her what it’s about.
An easy game to play to make connections is to try to guess which actor should play the characters in your teen’s favorite book.
Imagine what would happen if your pets could talk, or if the kids were in charge of the parents. Tell a story from your childhood, but stretch the truth a little to really engage your child’s imagination. Or you can build a tale together, taking turns contributing an idea to the plot. This is a great activity for younger kids, who will be thrilled to create their own story, and may even be inspired to write it down later.
For teens, who are more interested in their identity, tell family stories about the time Grandpa broke into an abandoned hotel as a child, or your grandmother’s days working in a German sausage restaurant. People have been sharing tales for thousands of years — reignite some of that magic for your kids.
For older kids and reluctant readers especially, discussing the plot points of their favorite show can be another way to connect them with the story and to relate to fictional characters. Ask your teen questions about the characters and motives. Just keep your tone casual for an enjoyable conversation. A tone that is too interrogative can be off-putting for a kid’s downtime.
Jokes are full of clever, out-of-the-box wordplay, and are fun for everybody. Check out Dumb Jokes That Are Funny for clean jokes that will even make teens snort a little.
Want more ideas on how to cultivate a love of learning in your child? Check out other parts of this series:
Sneaking Learning Into Everyday Life: The Civics Edition
Sneak Learning Into Everyday Life: The Geography Edition
Sneak Learning Into Everyday Life: The History Edition
Sneak Learning Into Everyday Life: The Math Edition
Sneak Learning Into Everyday Life: The Music Edition
Sneak Learning Into Everyday Life: The Nutrition Edition
Sneak Learning Into Everyday Life: The Science Edition
Sneaking Learning into Everyday Life: The Visual Art Edition
Burton, E. (2013, January 1). Parent Involvement in Early Literacy. Edutopia. Retrieved from Edutopia.
Integrating Reading Into Everyday Life for Reluctant Readers. (2014). Scholastic. Retrieved from Scholastic.
Strickland, D., & Riley-Ayers, S. (2006, January 1). Early Literacy: Policy and Practice in the Preschool Years. Reading Rockets. Retrieved from Reading Rockets.