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Back to school literacy warm ups

File photoPage-turner: Education officer for the Reading Recovery Programme, Darnell Wynn. Ms Wynn also publish a regular feature in the Royal Gazette called Literacy Matters.

Return to school is about two weeks away or sooner for most students. The summer has been long, hot and lots of fun. For most kids, the summer holiday does not involve a lot of reading and writing — after all, these are school activities, right? Given that as a common unspoken thought, the time has now come to brush up on literacy skills essential to getting back on track.

What can parents do in these last few weeks to prepare their children for literacy at school?

Purchase writing and reading journals (a blank lined book). Journaling is both a child and adult activity that can be done anytime and anywhere. With your child, read a series of short stories, newspaper and magazine articles. A piece of text that is brief and can be read in one sitting is good to get reading engagement back. Record the title of what is read daily.

Include short written entries about the day or even something of special interest can be one way of getting those fingers back into penmanship and crafting of one's thoughts. Decorate these journals together and have them ready for presentation to the teachers on the first day of school.

Join or renew memberships at the local library and find out what special promotions are being offered to support school literacy. Organise for your child and a few of their friends to meet at the library to check out books together. Peer pressure like this is positive and can be extended into the school year as a weekend activity. Explore Internet sites with a group of your child's friends so that they can see this source of information as another vehicle for researching school topics.

Model the fluency of reading to your child so that they can have a model to follow when reading their own books. Select books together that can be read repetitively for fluency. Emphasise how to use the punctuation while reading, altering the voice to show emotion. Talk about how this helps us understand what we are reading. When your child encounters difficulty with a word, ask what would make sense and look right. You may even have to ask if the word sounded right in the context of the reading.

Relying too heavily on a sounding out strategy can lead children into thinking that is their only option for figuring out the words.

Select picture books and do a walk through by talking about the pictures. Have your child make predictions about what may happen. Point out common known words and explain unusual vocabulary. Slide your finger along the text to reinforce the left to right and return sweep of reading text.

Take time after the story to question what was the favourite part of the story or even how the ending could be changed. You can even relate books to personal experiences (text to self) or other similar books (text to text) previously read.

Make use of your digital cameras by creating your own family storybooks. This can be easily done at home on the computer or at the library. Pictures taken on vacation travel, cup-match holidays or family picnics can be put into a shared family story.

Create a family tree picture book and let your child fill-in the names of family members. Take a night to share the books where everyone can add written comments under the pictures. Your child can read each family member's entry. They would not even know they are practicing their literacy skills.

Talk, talk and more talk is essential to development of oral language. Turn off the television and phones one evening a week and spend time outside looking at the stars, listening to the tree frogs and reminiscing about the past and future. This is a time to listen to each other and extend on oral language in ways that are genuine and void of technology disruptions.

Children need to be able to use language conversationally and to practice language structures and new vocabulary that can only be reinforced by caring, listening adults. The ability to speak and listen in conversation is good preparation for the classroom.

At the end of summer, with journals in hand, our children will begin their first day of school ready to share authentic literacy activities with their teachers and friends. What a great start to the school year.

Next month's Literacy Matters:

'The Literacy Survival Kit for Parents'

Email: literacymatters@logic.bm