Building Literacy One Activity at a Time

Apr 15, 2018 | Posted by Jessica Walker


The days of spring are here, which for many parents and teachers is a time to think and reflect on the past school year as well as prepare for the new year to come. Maybe like some parents you have a soon-to-be kindergarten student, and you are worried if they are going to be “ready.” Or maybe you have a kindergartener right now who could use some help developing his reading before next fall begins.

Perhaps you are overwhelmed with all of the different pieces: Do they really need spelling and reading and phonics and letters and all these little bits in order to be successful? While all of these pieces are important, building literacy skills in the littlest learners is so much more than a structured “language arts” time or a step-by-step curriculum that teaches reading in “x amount of steps.” As the end of the school year approaches and summer looms on the horizon, here are a few tips and fun activities that you can use to help build literacy skills in your student or child through the summer and into next year.

One impactful way to build literacy is by reading aloud in huge quantities. Read to your student a wide variety of material in copious amounts, making sure to include some quality literature that is above the child’s current reading level. If you need some suggestions, here is our IEW Booklist to get you started. Need even more suggestions or encouragement? Sarah Mackenzie at Read Aloud Revival has an abundance of recommendations for you. Spread a blanket outside, and spend some time reading at the park this summer. Grab a few audiobooks from the library for your next family road-trip. Even just fifteen minutes a day adds up to seven hours a month and ninety hours a year!

Building vocabulary and sentence structure is another important pre-literacy skill. Nursery rhymes and other rhyming songs are a great way to practice those skills and an easy activity to do on the go. You likely have heard such favorites as “Down by the Bay” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Kids love rhyming and songs! Download a few classics to listen to while running errands, or start a family sing-along in the car. Another great option is poetry memorization with IEW’s Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization course. Listening to and memorizing poetry helps produce a strong and powerful language database!

Here are some other short and simple, yet powerful ideas for building language in your students.

  • Name Game: While you are out running errands, playing at the park, or driving on a cross-country road trip, ask “What is this?” or “Where is he/she going?”

  • Everyday Words: As you are folding laundry or making dinner, dialogue out loud about the steps of the process. Show your children the ingredients for dinner, for example, and point them out on the recipe as you cook together.

  • Rhyming Riddles: Make up riddles and guessing games, using words that rhyme or words that start with the same sounds. For example, “What kind of cake would a snake make? He might make a lake cake.” The rhymes can be silly and fun and will get the child thinking about words and listening for rhymes.

  • Letter Search: Point out words on signs and in stores. Begin a search for the letter that begins the names of those your student would know. Read the stop signs and the other traffic signs aloud when you are out driving. Find letters on products, on signs, and on television. Match the letters with first or last names. Play “Letter of the Day,” in which you decide on a letter and go on a hunt for it.

  • Word Maker: Make magnetic letters available and play with them on a surface such as the refrigerator. Spell simple words and have your child repeat them.

As the breezy spring days move past into the warm days of summer, let me encourage you with this. Building literacy and reading skills does not always have to be a structured, everyday, expensive curriculum-based type of approach. With some intentionality and the foundation of a love for learning and language as your goal, enjoy this time! Spend your days soaking up lots of good books, memorizing poetry, singing lots of songs, and above all, having fun! You might even find yourself singing the songs and learning the poems right along with your students.


Jessica Walker was homeschooled in Southern California and graduated from CSULB with a degree in Liberal Arts with an emphasis in Elementary Education. She moved to Oklahoma after getting married to Mikael Walker. Before Jessica began working for IEW as a Customer Service Agent, she taught kindergarten and first grade for two years. Jessica enjoys working with the IEW team, spending time with family, and making crafts.

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