How to Engage Children in Literacy

“Literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen in a way that lets us communicate effectively and make sense of the world.”

– National Literacy Trust

Did you know that 16.4% of adults in England (that’s about 7.1 million people), can be described as having ‘very poor literacy skills’?

With the continuing growth of digital platforms on social media, never has engaging young children in literacy been so important. Digital services such as texting, messaging and blogging all encourage the obvious literacy sins; bad grammar, misspellings and a misunderstanding of words. The National Literacy Trust found that over 55% of children between the ages of 8-18 didn’t write letters because they preferred to write emails or text messages.

In the grand scheme of things spelling ‘great’ as ‘gr8’ doesn’t seem that crucial to a child’s life. Unfortunately though, this distinction becomes more imperative in later life when children progress further into education, and eventually finish school and head out in to the world where jobs are both competitive and scarce. Having good literacy skills is not just a bonus, it’s a necessity.

Bad habits gained in childhood are often more embedded and harder to break as adults, and can have a significant impact on the quality of life as an adult.

We know why literacy is important in terms of education, but why is literacy important for children in day-to-day life?

Social media has grown exponentially over the last decade, and shows no signs of slowing down. Though popular services such as Facebook provide many benefits to its users, including children, it also presents many dangers. Among these dangers is what’s known as ‘Fake News’. ‘Fake News’ refers to stories that are shared on social media platforms that are fiction presented as fact; stories that can end up influencing people in life.

In a study conducted by The Commission On Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills, it was found that only 2% of children have the necessary critical literacy skills needed to tell whether a news story online is real or fake. This frightening statistic shows just how crucial grasping the basics of literacy must be to a child, and the adults responsible for that child’s well-being.

Over 60% of teachers believe that ‘Fake News’ is harming children’s well-being and increasing their anxiety levels. Over 50% believe that the national curriculum does not equip children with the literacy skills needed to identify false stories.

It is a well-known fact that children have a much larger capacity for learning than adults. This is why it is so important to instil a love of literacy early on in a child’s development, and recognise a need for improvement if required. The key to improving literacy seems to be fostering an enjoyment of it. Whether it’s writing letters, poetry, stories or reading a book, there are many ways children can be engaged to develop their literacy skills. Children and young people who are the most engaged with literacy are three times more likely to have higher levels of mental wellbeing than those who are least engaged [National Literacy Trust, 2018].

So how can this love of literacy be encouraged?

Literacy games such as Brainbox English and Story Spinners provide an element of fun to learning that even the most reluctant child won’t be able to resist; developing their literacy skills in an enjoyable way.

For budding creative writers, Really Random Story Bags are a great way to harness children’s natural storytelling abilities and imaginations. Plus, they’re a fantastic speaking and listening resource as well.

Or, for the more active children that can’t seem to sit still, an active game might be preferrable. Alphabet cones and the Alpha Catch Game provide a fun, physical way to practise literacy skills. Alternatively you could make use of your Tuff Tray and use one of our Segmented Mats to create your own literacy-based game.

Sometimes, it’s something simple like introducing a new learning tool, like the Story and Picture Boards Class Pack – A4 whiteboards and pens with lines for writing and space for pictures that make reading and writing that extra bit more interesting.

But one of the best ways to improve literacy skills is to encourage a love of books, and maintain that love. The award-winning Engage Literacy book banded reading program is a great source of engaging literature that allows children to progress consistently. Our new range of Story Time Sets are also  great ready-made resources which help develop all areas of literacy, and with a range of themes to choose from – there’s something for everyone!

Looking for more inspiration on how to improve literacy? View our full range of english resources using the link below.

link to literacy resources

You can also read more about the Engage Literacy Scheme here.

Work in an early years setting? Read about the Importance of Literacy in the Early Years and How can parents boost their child’s vocabulary?


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