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Fun indoor activities during the winter months to teach reading skills

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During the cold winter months, it is harder to find activities to do with younger children. It seems all too easy to allow a child to spend more time on the computer or in front of the television. However, these activities can get in the way of time together as a family and can even impede development of important kindergarten readiness skills. What are some ideas that families can do instead to help young children learn reading skills?
q Build a reading spot together in the house. No items need to be purchased. Just use items you already have in your house. For example, a tent can be built in just about any room. Tents can transform even the smallest spaces in your home into hours of fun story time activities together.
q Go to the library together. Winter is the perfect time to go to the library. You can borrow books for yourself and your child. Many libraries offer story times and other free events for parents and children together. Libraries offer many free ways to beat boredom during the winter months.
q Read yourself. Your actions really do speak louder than words. When your child sees you reading the newspaper or a book, he or she will want to follow your example.
q Read out loud to your child and read every day. Reading, like playing piano or basketball, is a skill. It gets better with practice. Research shows that reading aloud to your child is the best thing a parent can do to help your child become a better reader. Reading every day helps children to develop the skills to be better readers at school. Try to set aside some time every day. Even if it is just ten minutes at breakfast or just before bed, it can have a big impact.
q Have a newspaper scavenger hunt. Write a list with your child of things to find in the newspaper. Some ideas might be maps, words that begin with the same first letter as your child’s name, or words of the day like they do on Sesame Street.
q Give books to your child as gifts. This helps to make books feel like a reward to a child. Help find a special place for your children to keep all her books. Make reading those books a reward. For example, allow your child to stay up 15 minutes later if she is reading in bed. Tell her that if she helps you with the dishes after dinner, it will give you extra time to read an extra story that night with her before bed.
q Use “Tot talk.” When you talk about everyday experiences, you help your child to connect their world to language. Talk to your child about things that are happening as you prepare dinner or take a walk around each room of your house. Which pot is biggest? What colors are in a room?
q Talk about stories and books. Talking about what you read to a child helps to teach both language and thinking skills. Ask questions about what the child thinks will happen next. Ask your child to link the story to everyday life. Answer your child’s questions about a story if there was something the child didn’t understand.
The next time you find yourself trying to think of fun indoor activities to do with your young children when it is cold outside, just think about books. Books can serve as so much more than just a way to help your child learn reading skills. They can help you write new endings to stories together. They can help you pretend to be different characters and try out new voices together. Reading offers endless possibilities to use your imagination and creativity. Together, you can travel to whole new worlds together without ever evening leaving your home.
References: The Center for Parent Involvement (1999). School Readiness Series, Parent Tip Sheets, #18: Promoting Reading at Home. Tampa, FL: Florida Center for Parent Involvement, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, and University of South Florida. Retrieved October 2016 from http://cfs.cbcs.usf.edu/resource-centers/fcpi/_assets/file/schoolready/1....
Kameenui, E. J., & Simmons, D. C. (1997). Read*Write*Now! Activities for Reading and Writing Fun. A Joint Project of the U.S. Department of Education, the American Library Association, Pizza Hut, Inc., Scholastic, Inc., Reading Is Fundamental, Inc. Retrieved October 2016 from http://www.readingrockets.org/article/25-activities-reading-and-writing-fun.
Source: Kerri Ashurst, Senior Extension Specialist for Family and Relationship Development, University of Kentucky; College of Agriculture, Food and Environment
Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.

Jane Proctor is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer services.