5 Halloween Activities that Increase Reading Skills

Halloween reading for kids

The spooky season has a tendency of sparking the imagination, creativity, and sense of wonder in young children, which sets the perfect environment for refining important early reading and writing skills.

If you’re celebrating Halloween this year, here are five fun activities designed to increase your child’s literacy skills and help you get into the spirit of the festivities.

1. Find costume inspiration in books

If your child hasn’t decided which character they’d like to dress up as for Halloween, search for some inspiration from a variety of children’s books, rather than television shows and films. This will give even the most reluctant of readers some extra motivation to read and explore new titles and genres. Sit down together and help them write a simple list of ideal character traits and features, for example: funny voice, dresses in green, owns a pet, kind to people, wears glasses.

Once you have your list, visit the local library and choose a few different picture books you can read together. Ask the librarian for advice on where to look, or do a bit of research online beforehand. After you read each book, your child can make a tally of how many desired traits each new character exhibits.

2. Halloween word list

Creepy. Ghostly. Eerie. Enchanting. There are so many interesting and exciting words associated with Halloween! Holidays and traditions are a great opportunity to introduce new words into your child’s vocabulary. Take a large sheet of construction paper and write the heading ‘Halloween Words’. Divide the paper into three columns and label each column with a category, depending on your child’s age. You may choose simple categories such as foods, costumes, and characters, or more complex ones such as sounds, emotions, and adjectives (words that describe nouns).

Brainstorm a list of words for each category and add some new ones, too. Once you’ve completed your word list, help your child decorate it with drawings that represent each word (e.g. pumpkins, lanterns, witches, ghouls, cauldron, cobwebs, haunted).  Display it on a wall and use it as a guide for activity number four.

3. Trick-or-treating prep through role-play

One of the most exciting things about Halloween for young children is trick-or-treating. But trick-or-treating is more than just stocking up on candy (although that’s definitely a big part of it!). Children love dressing up, getting into character, doing funny voices and reciting their lines.

Children gain so much from imaginative play, and Halloween provides the perfect opportunity to spark your child’s imagination and build important literacy skills through role-play. Help your child refine their trick-or-treating routine and get into their character with a bit of preparation. Do they have a funny laugh? What does their voice sound like? What is something they would say? Invite your child to try out their routine on you, and don’t be afraid to improvise! You can even help them reenact stories if their characters are derived from books. This will help build their comprehension skills and understanding of narrative structure. Choose books that include new words that will help expand their vocabulary in a fun and motivating way. For example, if your child is dressing up as a teacher, include as many related words as possible (e.g. classroom, students, blackboard, desk, books, learning, reading).

 4. ‘When I think of Halloween’ writing exercise

Encourage your child to sit down and think about all of the things they associate with Halloween (use your word list from activity number two). Write a poem titled ‘When I think of Halloween’, made up of three stanzas that include six lines each. Write the beginning of each line for your child and have them fill in the end by inserting specific words.

Begin the first line for your child with ‘When I think of Halloween, I think of’ and have them write two special features of Halloween. Then begin the following lines with prompts such as ‘I see’, ‘I feel’, ‘I pretend’, ‘I wonder’, ‘I try’ and so on. Close the poem by repeating the first line.

For younger children, try writing an acrostic poem by putting the letters in ‘Halloween’ down the side of the page. Then go back to each letter and have your child write a word, phrase or sentence that begins with that letter to describe Halloween.

 5. Spooky story starters

This is a fun activity that the whole family can play together. Have one person start an original Halloween story by saying one line (e.g. “There was a thump in the middle of the night…”). Then go around in a circle so that each person contributes a sentence to the story. This activity can be done orally or by taking turns writing a sentence and folding the paper so that the next person can only see the last few words (this usually results in a nonsensical plot line that’s guaranteed for laughs!). As a great memento, you can also create a home-made book about Halloween and encourage your child to add their own illustrations too!

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Raising a Reader through Pretend Play

dramatic-play-benefits

If you have an imaginative preschooler at home, chances are you’ve seen how easily children can transform the living room into an elaborate jungle, turn paper scraps into currency, or re-purpose the remote control as a navigation stick for a spaceship.

Pretend play (or imaginary play) refers to a type of play where children accept and assign roles, and then act them out. For a long time it was considered fun but with limited educational value. However, more recent studies have found how pretend play can support early childhood development, including early literacy skills.

Here are some ways you can support your preschooler’s early literacy skills through pretend play:

Add functional print into the mix. Functional print includes things like newspapers, menus, signs, coupons or labelled items. By surrounding your child with functional print during pretend play, you are creating an environment in which your child can interact with print as adults do. Your child will see how texts are used in a variety of different ways. One study showed that classrooms rich in functional print material inspired more literacy-focused pretend play, which resulted in children achieving higher literacy levels.

Re-enact stories. When your child acts out or retells the stories you’ve read together, they’re demonstrating and enhancing their comprehension skills. Encourage your child to act out a story in the right order and take on different roles. This will help them gain an understanding of narrative structure, and consider how different characters have different personalities and motivations.

Choose books that enhance pretend play. Observe what your child likes to do in pretend play. Do they like to pretend to be a doctor, a firefighter, a dancer, or a dinosaur? This gives insight into their interests, which will help you choose books that not only capture their attention but also their imagination, equipping them with more knowledge, vocabulary and material to use in pretend play.

Provide a variety of symbols. During pretend play, a doorstop could become a slithering snake. A slip of paper could become money. By assigning a purpose to different props, your child develops an understanding of symbols. Opportunities to create and use symbols will help your child use other symbols, such as letters and numbers. As they get older, provide writing materials like pencils, crayons and paper to help them create their own symbols to which they can assign meaning.

Role-play with your child. Role-play is a fun and powerful way to expand your child’s vocabulary and encourage their language development. Role-play scenarios involving different characters can introduce new related vocabulary words and encourage your child to use expressive language. For example, if you pretend to be a teacher, include as many related words as possible (e.g. classroom, students, blackboard, desk, books, learning, reading).

The most important thing to remember during pretend play is that it should be fun. Fun matters. It’s what motivates your child to stay engaged, curious, and inventive during play, which enables them to reap a wealth of educational benefits in the process.

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Techniques to Build Your Child’s Vocabulary

build child vocabulary

Building a large vocabulary is an essential part of learning to read, and as your child’s vocabulary grows, the easier it will be for them to be able to read fluently and comprehend the meaning of text as a whole.

As your child adds more and more words to their long-term memory, they will start to develop rapid, automatic word recognition skills, allowing them to recall the pronunciation and meaning of words, and eventually apply this meaning to the context of the story they are reading.

The more words that they understand and retain, the easier it will be for them to be able to develop fluency in their reading, and be able to comprehend these words together in the context of a story.

As they build up their word bank, your child will be able to use their working memory capacity to comprehend the text rather than trying to decipher every single word. So, the more words committed to their long-term memory, the greater will be their ability to comprehend written text.

Your child can then focus their mental processes to read for meaning, gain information and enjoyment from text, as well as add to their word and concept knowledge.

Some effective ways to help your child build their vocabulary include:

Using visual aids

Reading stories that feature pictures is a great way for your child to increase their word bank, helping to provide context to understand the meaning of these new words, as well as aid in their retention.

When a new word is introduced with a matching picture, associating the picture with the matching word can not only help your child understand the context in which the word appears, but aid in their retention of the word.

Reading from different sources

Reading a wide variety of stories will also help expose your child to an increasing amount of new words. Much vocabulary acquisition comes from reading a wide variety of texts and reading storybooks is one of the most powerful means to expand vocabulary. The more children read, the larger their vocabulary.

Role-playing

Encouraging children to role-play in a variety of situations helps them to learn about new words in context. Playing with simple hand puppets is a great way of encouraging your child to re-enact scenes from a favourite story. They can take on the role of the characters and role-play scenes for fun.

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