|Link reading and writing to boost kids' literacy|
An excellent way to do this is to use picture books as models with primary school age kids. Good picture books have it all - a start that grabs our attention, active and interesting writing, rich language, a clear structure and a satisfying conclusion. Ask children to look for and comment on what makes a book successful, and encourage them to apply those same features to their own writing.
Kids in most western countries are tested in language arts (and maths). From my observation, these tests are looking for proof of advanced skills in writing. I figure a young writer who has reflected on reading and can demonstrate that in his own writing is more likely to score well in such tests. Hey, I don't much like our current obsession with testing, but it's a reality that kids must face. The fact that kids also are learning lots about being a real writer is the true benefit.
So how do we boost children's literacy by linking reading and writing?
- Ask questions that involve higher order thinking skills. Not literal comprehension questions like "How many bears lived in the cottage?" but questions that get kids to reflect on what you're/ they're reading. "Why do you think Goldilocks tasted the porridge?" "What would you do if you came home to find Goldilocks in your house?" "If you were Goldilocks, how would you apologise to the bears?"
- Model a writing activity as a follow-up to shared reading. No, I don't mean the dreaded book report. But be alert for natural and spontaneous activities. "I'm making a list of all the things the caterpillar ate. Can you help me?" "Bear wrote a letter to his grandma. Let's write one to our Granny." "I wonder if we could write a different ending for this story."
- Observe and discuss things that work well in a book. Ask your kids' opinions. Look for great starts in books and try to write some of your own. Comment on interesting words and uses of language. See if everyone can find the beginning, middle and end of a story.
- Browse writers' sites. Many have useful information, generously given to young writers. It's good for kids to work things out for themselves, but if you have youngsters hungry for knowledge, or ready to take their writing to the next level, an adult writer makes a great mentor.
- Help your child make connections with other readers and writers. Check out writing courses, literature conferences and contests for young writers. Hanging out with other kid writers makes a real difference to kids who might be isolated through distance or feeling different because they're the only one in their class who loves to write.
- Make use of some of the great free websites like the BBC's Bitesize. For instance, if kids play Viral Vinnie - Gut Instinct at BBC Bitesize KS2, they'll participate in a quiz game with questions about word meanings and their contexts. A great follow up would be to have your kids write their own quiz questions based around literature you're currently reading.
If you're interested in helping children to read and write, you might like Help Kids Become Readers and Writers, or Nurturing Readers and Writers. Have you downloaded your copy of the free pdf ezine, Literacy Lava, from my website? No sign-up, no ads, just great articles on children's literacy!