Everyday family literacy




By Caroline Coté and Monique Collin on behalf of the Family Literacy Committee of the Ottawa area

Did you know? Family Literacy Day® is a national awareness initiative created by ABC Life Literacy Canada in 1999 and is celebrated each year on Jan. 27. It was created to highlight the importance of reading and doing other fun literacy related activities together as a family.

However, why wait until January to start thinking about how you can incorporate literacy in your daily activities?

“By reading to children and engaging in fun literacy activities, parents are actively keeping their own skills sharp while at the same time strengthening the relationship between the family which, in turn, encourages lifelong learning.” ABC Life Literacy Canada

Literacy is everywhere!

As a family, you can make literacy a part of your daily routine by looking at words and symbols in your surroundings. Environmental print is everywhere – it can be a street sign, a label, a store name or even house numbers.


Encourage your child to find shapes and letters while enjoying a healthy walk: a branch becomes the letter L; a cloud turns into a long rectangle. Noticing print and talking about surroundings can have a lasting impact on your child’s development. It is how children first learn to read.

And let’s not forget about math! Simple things such as counting your steps while walking up the stairs, cooking a recipe together, discovering your neighbourhood while on a math walk, and increasing mathematical vocabulary in your daily interactions will provide early math experiences that will encourage children’s natural curiosity and help develop a love of learning.


It’s all about the time you spend together that counts. Setting aside time every day to enjoy being together as a family, and creating a strong sense of security and attachment, sets the foundation for family learning.

As a family, you already engage in various literacy activities every day without knowing it. Here are additional examples to make literacy part of your normal routines, focusing on the five early literacy practices of talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing:

Talk a lot!

  • talk, talk and talk to your child;
  • tell your infant what is going on while you cook or visit the doctor;
  • label magnetic letters as you put them on your fridge;
  • point and name objects as you interact with your child;
  • choose a special time during the evening to share your favourite moment of the day.

Singing and rhyming

  • borrow a new music CD from the library to play in your car or at home;
  • sing while you and your child dress for the day;
  • visit a concert or festival to enjoy the music;
  • discover a fun tongue twister;
  • borrow musical instruments from your local Early Years Centre toy lending library.

Sharing books

  • fill a scrapbook with pictures of your favourite things;
  • host a StoryWalk® and invite friends and family (visit the PRC website to access the free StoryWalk® lending library);
  • listen to a grandparent talk about times when they were growing up;
  • use an album of family photos to tell your own story;
  • change the ending to a favourite storybook.

Drawing and writing it out

  • use foam letters to spell words in the bathtub;
  • use fingers or toes to play with paint on a mirror;
  • cut and paste a thank-you card for a gift you got;
  • trace shapes in the sand to create a masterpiece;
  • stick a large piece of paper under the kitchen table and draw together.

Playing together

  • go on a math walk and find as many shapes as you can;
  • make a play dough recipe together;
  • build snow angels, then measure to see which one is biggest and which one is smallest;
  • plan a family game night;
  • play a game of I Spy while waiting in line.

Think outside the literacy box

You can create your own literacy tool box that you can use at home, or bring along with you when you go out to the park, on the bus or for a visit. Think of this as your literacy resource box that you can use anytime or when you need ideas for a rainy day.

Get the children involved and ask them to decide on what items they would like to add to the literacy box. Find a medium-size box — the more ideas, the bigger the box! You can add:

  • A favourite book
  • A board or card game
  • A blanket
  • A small note pad and pencil (to write down your thoughts or your child’s)
  • Different items you collect, i.e. a feather, a rock, a picture
  • Dice
  • Crayons

By talking about your day and what you are doing, waiting for your child to respond, and introducing new words, you will be contributing to your child’s early literacy development. These important interactions and moments shared with your child support early learning and lifelong success. What will you add to your literacy toolbox?

For more resources and information on family literacy and ABC Life Literacy Canada, visit http://abclifeliteracy.ca/family-literacy

For information and resources about mathematical vocabulary and the StoryWalk® lending library, visit the Parent Resource Centre at www.parentresource.ca