Parents urged to provide gift of literacy

Literacy Week may be over, but families are encouraged to keep their kids tuned out of TV and turned onto other activities year-round.

The Peters family won the Junction Literacy Centre’s contest celebrating Family Literacy Week.

The Peters family won the Junction Literacy Centre’s contest celebrating Family Literacy Week.

Literacy Week may be over, but families are encouraged to keep their kids tuned out of TV and turned onto other activities year-round.

Thanks to a number of submissions to the Junction Literacy Centre’s contest, families have shared a number of great ways to Play for Literacy (this year’s theme of Family Literacy Week, which wrapped up Jan. 27).

“They were all terrific,” said Debbie Schiller, Junction Literacy and Youth Centre executive director.

Several of the entries were published in The Morning Star and all submissions were part of the draw for prizes.

Rachel Peters’ list of activities won her the contest’s top prize – a one-year season pass to Vernon Science Centre.

“I thought the list of activities that Rachel sent in were very practical and fun,” said Schiller of the list that ranges from practising printing letters and numbers to making trains by linking empty egg cartons. “She uses the basic things that are in most homes (and we usually throw out) that kids love to build, create and play with.”

The Howe family also took home a prize – Bookland gift certificate – for their submission about how they engage all five senses in the great outdoors: “we walk, stop, look, talk, touch, smell and listen to the amazing beauty around us.”

Peter and Michelle Howe also offered some advice about managing screen time: “the number one thing we can do to manage our children’s screen time is manage our own.”

Since children learn by watching people around them, especially their parents, Schiller says it is excellent advice.

“It’s not always what parents say, but what they do that children pick up on. If parents spend quiet time reading, writing, building, cooking, making lists, playing card games, etc – their children will too.”

Gift certificates to Teeter Totter Toys were also awarded to Wendy Penner and to the Kotschner family. Erika and Kaylee Peters picked up a certificate to Vernon Teach and Learn.

Other entries gaining mention included one from four-year-old Janessa Henke.

“Janessa’s e-mail about writing letters to her family is priceless,” said Schiller. “This activity that she clearly loves, develops her knowledge of the alphabet, the fine motor skills she needs to learn how to write, and the language skills she needs to continue to learn about and explain her world.”

Schiller also liked Brandy Hooker’s message about making family time a priority.

“The key message is: TV and other screens should be just one small part of your child’s day,” said Schiller.

“That day should also be rich with physical exercise (running, jumping, climbing, swinging), reading time, unstructured play and lots of special time with parents or other loved ones. Moderation is the best motto!”

Families can also reduce screen time by:

– Moving the TV to the basement – using the out of sight, out of mind concept.

– Remove TVs and computers from children’s bedrooms.

– Try to watch programs with your children and talk about them afterwards.

– Turn the TV off as soon as your program is over, don’t keep it on or use it for background noise.

– Instead of TV, host a family game night. Invite another family over for some friendly competition. Kids can participate in reading the rules and keeping score.

“When they play games with adults they learn a lot about you and how you have fun,” said Schiller.

– Turn off the DVD in the car and get tuned into your kids. Play games involving signs, billboards, licence plates, what’s going by as you drive.

– Tell family stories

“Kids love to hear about what life was like when you were a child, or when a grandparent was little,” said Schiller.

“Oral story telling helps children learn to sit and pay attention, develops their memory skills and helps pass on family values and traditions.”

With these suggestions and their own creative pasttimes, it’s believed that more families are finding ways to tune out the TV.

“I think families are becoming more aware,” said Schiller, adding that while it can be hard to change routines, the payoff is huge.

“We have heard from many families that they are trying and it works. Kids are happier, they sleep better, eat better, spend more time reading and playing outside. Parents feel better too.”