November is National Family Literacy Month. As librarians, we know the benefits of reading together as a family. We know that it assists in language development, enhances comprehension, and fosters the joy of reading. But, literacy is so much more! According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,
Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts.
We can support family literacy by providing time, space, and a range of literacy activities for families to experience. When school librarians and children’s librarians collaborate and plan a Family Literacy Night, everyone wins!
School librarians work with children and families as do children’s librarians. Both professionals serve the same patrons–just at different points and times in their lives. When all members gather together, it is an amazing experience!
Such an event will more than likely take place outside of school hours, so why not host it at the public library? This may be a familiar and comfortable place for some of your patrons and it may be an introduction to a wonderful new world for others. It would provide a great opportunity for the families to become aware of the wonderful resources and programming available at the public library. Maybe a few new library cardholders will go home that night.
Plan for a whole different group and independent family experiences. Be sure to include reading, writing, and listening activities!
Here is an example plan for a successful Family Literacy Night:
- Gather as a large group at the beginning of the event.
- Begin with a whole group read aloud and model read-aloud strategies.
- Introduce the other literacy experiences available. For example:
- Play word-based board games like Scrabble and Bananagrams
- Brainstorm and write a list of foods for every letter of the alphabet
- Make-and-take literacy games
- Write a poem
- Cozy up and read a book together
When school and public libraries work together to meet the needs of our children and families, we provide the foundation for a strong reading community.
While many of us are living and learning in the virtual world right now, there are a few simple ideas that you can do to celebrate Family Literacy:
- Host a virtual read aloud! Invite the family to put on their pajamas and tune in for a bedtime story hour! The school librarian and the public librarian could take turns reading to the families.
- Host a Poetry Night virtually! Share some poems and nursery rhymes with the families! Encourage families to write a poem together and then give them some time to share their poems with everyone.
- Create some digital breakout rooms for families to do at a time that best fits their busy schedules! When creating these literacy-based breakout rooms consider creating puzzles based on phonological awareness, rhyming, syllabication, or even story elements!
Whatever you choose to do, make sure your families have fun! Spread book joy and build a positive reading culture in your community!
Cynthia Zervos is the School Librarian at Way Elementary School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Cynthia has worked in public libraries, school libraries and academic libraries. As a school librarian she focuses on building a strong culture of reading in her school community. Previously at ALA, she served as the Chair for the Interdivisional Committee on School and Public Library Collaboration, the Chair for the CS First Crosswalk Task Force, a member of the AASL American University Presses Book Selection Committee, and as a member of the AASL Legacy Committee.
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