Reading and writing cultivate critical thinking, communication skills, and creativity. Children who read well tend to do better at school and later on think and work professionally. As technology continues to grow, so does the demand for high literacy. Yet, these skills are not only crucial for English class and school — they also lead themselves to a variety of career fields such as engineering, law, medicine, and more. Given the importance of literacy, what is the best (and cheapest!) way to help learners grow their literacy skills?
Developing a Love for Reading
For both adults and children, books with illustrations and stories are easily the most appealing. Who doesn’t love a good picture or illustration? Luckily, these books make learners to love reading easy. It is worth trying to choose illustrated books in different styles, related to students’ favorite topics. Having a familiar platform for unfamiliar styles and words can help learners increase their literacy skills without being intimidated. For example, if your learners like Marvel comics, let them try graphic novels with a science fiction background! If they prefer medieval historical novels, they can try non-fictional books about the Middle Ages. It all comes down to the subject matter. Once a learner is interested in the subject matter, they are more likely to read new books in new styles.
Sharpening Writing Skills
When it comes to writing, supplemental courses seem to be the most common option. This means considering one-on-one teaching, tutoring, and small-scale writing classes. These options all offer personalized feedback that is critical in language development. But, when choosing a program, pay close attention to whether it provides:
- Opportunities to interact directly with the teachers and classmates.
- First-hand writing practice.
- The opportunity to receive personalized feedback.
Only programs that meet the above qualities are effective to help develop writing skills.
However, these extracurricular programs also require extra time and energy. For students who do not have the availability to take these courses, they can try writing in a “fun” way, as in family activities. Many parents have the experience of telling bedtime stories. Next time, try turning the time into a writing activity by asking them to write down the story in their own words. Parents can create a story with the kids first by speaking, and then encourage them to write it down. Once the story is written, kids can read it aloud or perform it. By participating in the creative process, kids can cultivate a sense of responsibility for their work, develop their skills, and be more motivated to write on their own.
Focusing on the Process of Writing
Even professional writers encounter writing blocks. It’s important to remember that not writing a lot does not mean that someone has poor writing skills. Children generally have a short attention span, especially for things that are not interesting to them. If your learners are having a difficult time concentrating on a writing piece, one suggestion is to set a timer for 15 minutes. Having a set amount of time helps students to focus on the task at hand. Set the time. Direct the learner to work for only 15 minutes, writing down everything he/she can think of. It could be a short story, a poem, or a journal entry…as long as it’s something written, it counts.
With the increase of online classes, many young students have started using computers, tablets, and keyboards in addition to pen and paper for their writing assignments. Too many options can cause confusion and distraction, especially for newer and younger writers. One way to help your learner feel productive and in control of their writing is to find the right medium for them. If they are currently using more than one writing tool, let them spend some time to familiarize themselves with the tools and find the most appropriate medium. This medium can be whatever they gravitate towards or the medium where they are most productive. The goal here is to get them to focus and write in whatever way is easiest.
Using Writing Prompts
Unfamiliarity with the genre is another reason children may not be able to focus on their writing. To solve this issue, there are two approaches: One is to acquaint the child with the style through reading as we discussed above. The other is through guided writing and writing prompts. Guided writing means that learners are directly introduced to the genre through a variety of writing prompts. Many free writing prompts can be found online, in every type of genre you can think of. Even parents who are not native speakers of English can guide your learners to think through the prompts. Ranging from fictional stories to analytical articles, writing prompts help with learners’ critical thinking and promote sound reasoning.
Raising Stronger Readers and Writers
There is a proven relationship between reading and writing ability. The knowledge of a certain genre can effectively improve one’s writing quality. While the above tips help to improve literacy skills overall, sometimes students need an extra push. To help students on their writing journey, Harmony Plus offers five writing courses — focusing one five different genres: Non-fiction, creative writing, analytical writing, research writing, and playwriting. Each course takes students on a nine-week discovery where they read selected samples and produce their own works. Head to the Harmony Plus website to find the “write” class for your child.