You’ve been building your child’s little library since your baby shower, but you may be wondering what else you can do to actually make an impact in your little one’s growth and development when it comes to reading. Enter: creating a literacy-rich environment at home. It’s not all just about having books in your house, but you can take everyday items or decor and turn them into a literacy opportunity. After reading this post you will:
- Know exactly what a literacy-rich environment is
- Understand why creating this environment is important
- 10 simple tips to creating a killer literacy-rich environment at home
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What Is a Literacy-Rich environment?
So what exactly does it mean to create a literacy-rich environment?
This means to surround your home strategically with literacy. Where you place your books to what is hanging on your walls…it all can serve a purpose when it comes to your child’s growth and development.
No, I’m not telling you to redecorate your entire home to make it a literacy oasis. But you can definitely use what you have to develop a love and appreciation of literacy in your home.
The purpose of this sort of environment is to nurture and support the beginning understandings of literacy.
Why Should You Create a Literacy-Rich Environment at Home?
The environment you create introduces your child to early literacy. From they day your little one is born, they are trying to make sense of their surroundings. And as they grow older and become more aware, they look to both you and their surroundings to understand the world.
It makes sense then, that you would want to ensure that what they see and hear is helping them to grow and develop.
When you purposely surround your child with literacy, you are sending the message that it is something you value. It’s an important part of your life and your family.
You can make it purposeful and strategic so that your child is absorbing the importance of literacy from day 1.
10 Simple Tips to Create a Literacy-Rich Environment at Home
The following 10 tips are simple, yet effective ways to create a killer literacy-rich environment at home without having to redesign your space. Just a few little additions and adjustments can make a tremendous impact on your child’s ability to grow as a reader.
You already know how crucial the books in your home are to your child’s literacy development. You probably have cultivated a pretty awesome library of children’s books perfect for your little one to peruse with love.
The key to creating a literacy-rich environment at home with your child’s books is all in how you display them.
Make sure that they are accessible to your child. Your child should be able to walk right up to a shelf and pull them down to play with them or look through them whenever they want. Having them readily accessible gives your child a sense of ownership and confidence around books.
All around the House
I want to encourage you to spread your child’s library out to different rooms around your house. Especially in the rooms your child spends the most time in.
As a mama whose motto is “A place for everything and everything in its place” I understand how hard this can be. But you can still have all of the books in a special place despite having these places in different rooms around the house.
Here’s why: You don’t want to limit the idea of reading to just a specific location. Reading serves different purposes and this should be encouraged along with being able to enjoy reading in different places in the house.
I have my child’s books spread out in the three rooms he is in most: his bedroom, his playroom, and our family/living room. He knows where they are and can easily pick up a book for play or for reading whenever he chooses.
Another tip for your books is how you display them. A couple of my child’s bookshelves are displayed traditionally with books facing spine out. He knows his favorite “go-to” books on those shelves and will grab them as he pleases.
However, one way to expand your child’s list of favorites is to have a special bookshelf or area where you can display books with the covers facing out instead of the spine using something like this or this.
Seeing covers can be enticing to young children and can help them choose new books to look through.
This is also a great strategy if you want to pull special books out at certain times of the year (think holiday books around a certain holiday) or interest-based books for an interest study.
Your child should also see your books displayed around the house too. You are your child’s reading role model so your books shouldn’t be hidden in a cabinet or closet. Display them proudly and read them while your child is around so that they can personally see just how important reading is to you (and should be to them!).
So that tip #1 was a big one! Now onto the next tip.
Your child’s name is a pretty big gateway into getting your child to understand that letters can convey meaning.
Their name is also fascinating to them. They know that it is part of their identity and is something that represents who they are.
Take advantage of this fascination and find opportunities to display your child’s name around their environment.
You can use block letters on their bedroom wall, have it embroidered on a blanket, or even on their favorite chair.
Take time to point out their name with them and give them opportunities to find it in other places. They will love looking for their name and trying to recognize it on cards, in books, and more.
Print Around the Home
There may be other places that you have print around your home that you may not even realize contribute to your literacy-rich environment.
If you have wall decor like words, monograms, initials, or quotes in frames, those make your home “print-rich”. These are things that you can point out to your child as they are learning about print.
Surrounding your child with this type of print signifies that it has a special meaning to you and your family. That print represents something of value and can help your child understand how letters and words can come together to make meaning.
An easy way to make a literacy-rich environment at home is to add labels to items in your home.
This temporary addition is a powerful way to demonstrate how items that your child encounters every single day can be represented by letters/words.
Be a Role Model
One of the simplest ways that you can provide a literacy-rich environment is to explicitly be a role model.
You can do this by playing up how much you use and value literacy in your life. Don’t just think about read alouds. Think about how you read recipes, the news on your phone, how you write a grocery list, and so much more.
You are constantly modeling literacy in the everyday tasks that you are doing. You can supercharge these tasks into learning experiences for you child just by talking about and showing them what you are doing.
Communication is Key
Your child builds their language and vocabulary through communication so it is a critical aspect of nurturing a literacy-rich environment at home.
Remember that your child is absorbing the world around them from birth and can even hear you in utero. Communication and language are the very basic foundation for literacy and learning to read.
You can add more communication into your environment by allowing them opportunities to explore their thoughts through language. Just like they ask you questions about the world around them, don’t be afraid to ask the same as them. A simple “Why are you doing that?” can produce a lot of language describing complex thoughts.
Also, don’t be afraid to use big words with your child. As they are learning new words, there is no reason why they can’t learn more complex words too. Don’t underestimate your child’s ability! Provide new words repeatedly in context so they can learn their meaning and begin to use them.
Create Interest Studies Using Literacy
So I mentioned interest studies a little bit earlier, but let’s dive a little deeper into what an interest study actually is.
Interest studies are a deep dive into a topic that your child really really loves.
Let’s say your child is obsessed with dinosaurs or kittens at the moment. Take them to the library to grab a couple of books on these topics to create a little area at home where this interest study can take place.
Read books and do literacy activities that engage around the topic. For example, if you are studying dinosaurs, do a fossil hunt of alphabet letters. I give more examples in my Grow Your Reader book.
The important part is to capitalize on your child’s interest in this area so that the learning is fun and retention is maximized!
Literacy Tools are a Part of Play
So you may have some magnetic letters or bathtub letters lying around the house, but don’t always constrict their use for just literacy.
Exposure to these letters are just as important, especially at a younger age. Free play can invoke creativity and imagination within your child. It’s okay to let loose an allow them to find ways to enjoy using literacy materials outside of literacy.
Maybe they are carting letters back and forth in a play dump truck at their imaginary construction site or the letters are creating a mote around the castle.
The magic comes when you narrate what your child is doing, helping to expose them to the letter names as you label them.
Writing Materials are a Part of PLay
Just as you read above about making literacy materials a part of play, we can get more specific and find ways to have children explore writing as a part of play too.
Think about having a notepad and crayons in your play kitchen so that your child can take orders and whip up a nice meal for you.
Having these materials handy expands play even more and allows for a bonus literacy booster.
Create a Reading Nook
Finally, reading should be a special and magical time.
Create a special, sacred place for your child to take their favorite books when they want to explore the pictures or snuggle up and read with you.
Having a special space of their own that they can retreat to will create some excitement around reading, which is just the feeling you want to create a lifelong reader.
Final Thoughts on your Literacy Environment
So there you have it. 10 super tips on creating a literacy-rich environment at home that will help supercharge your child’s growth and development.
But there is one thing I left off this list…and it is actually THE number one most important component of a literacy-rich environment…
YOU! The power you hold to develop your child’s literacy skills during these young critical years is the most important tool of all. Your love, support, and encouragement make your child feel safe and valued, allowing them to open up to learning.
The conversations you have, the snuggly read alouds you do, and being the favorite play partner all are magical when it comes to literacy development.
Give yourself some love, mama…and a new pair of shoes. You deserve it!
What are some literacy items you already have in your house? Let me know in the comments below!