School holidays are a great time to enjoy a break from routine. There’s no school uniforms to wash and iron, no school lunches to prepare and pack, no missing library books to track down and no homework to supervise! But, while enjoyable, this break in routine can also mean a break in the development of your child’s literacy skills. There is an abundance of research that suggests that children often lose some of their academic skills over the holiday breaks. How can you, as a parent, prevent this slide and ensure that your child continues to develop literacy skills during the holidays?

The dictionary defines literacy as the ability to read and write. The WA Curriculum broadens that to include “the knowledge and skills students need to access, understand, analyse and evaluate information, make meaning, express thoughts and emotions, present ideas and opinions, interact with others and participate in activities at school and in their lives beyond school.”

Developing literacy sounds like a difficult and complicated task but parents can have a very positive impact on their child’s literacy during the holidays in some simple but effective ways.

  1. Talk a lot with your child.
    Spend one on one time with them. Ask them what they did during the day. Children need to hear it and speak it before they can write it. Research has shown that vocabulary has a significant effect on literacy skills. Holidays are a great opportunity to introduce new vocabulary to your child as you spend time with them. Visiting the beach, shops, zoo or park can provide many teachable moments. Explain the meaning of new words. Playing games together is also helpful. This can range from chanting silly rhymes together with very young children (dads are often particularly good at this) to playing board games such as Taboo, Scategories or Pictionary. These all help develop vocabulary in a fun way.
  1. Read with your child.
    Have a novel that you read aloud each evening together as a family or have a set time during the day where everyone in the family finds a comfy spot and reads. Your local library is a great resource for books. Each family member can borrow up to 10 books!
  1. Encourage your child to read to you, purposefully!
    Strong literacy skills include the ability to comprehend a variety of texts. If you’re going to the movies, encourage your child to read the session times and even the blurb about the movie. Bake together and encourage your child to read a simple recipe with you – older children could be encouraged to do this independently (though allow for extra ingredients in case things go wrong!). Play games, build a model or do some craft together and encourage your child to read the instructions or read them together. If you’re out for a meal, allow your child to read the menu to make their choices. If you visit a museum or theme park, encourage your child to read the signs, interpret any maps and choose which attractions they want to visit first. Great opportunities to read purposefully are all around (and are often more engaging and exciting than can be provided in the classroom)!
  1. Provide opportunities for your child to write
    It is important to
    accept and celebrate their attempts. If you’re going shopping, have them write a shopping list (or allow them to type it on your phone if that’s more exciting). Ask them to make cards for family members or friends and encourage them to write a short message inside. Older children could write short emails instead. Keep a holiday journal – doing this digitally may be more motivating and fun for your child. Use an app (a good one is Book Creator) which allows your child to take photos, add text and even add video or sound to make a digital holiday journal. These can then be emailed to friends or family. Puzzle books are also fun for children of all ages and always keep a supply of pens, pencils, textas and paper ready for writing.
  1. Have fun
    Helping your child to develop literacy skills is based on encouraging meaningful interactions, whether spoken or written. What better time to do that, than in the holidays! Your child and you will benefit.

All too soon it will be back to the uniforms and packed lunches so make the most of your time together – enjoy the holidays and the opportunities they provide to help your child with literacy.

–         Alison Fallon, Deputy of Curriculum Primary School