Five Ways to Build Connection AND Literacy Skills During Shelter-In-Place

Right now, it’s safe to assume that just about everyone is living in a shelter-in-place community and that your children are now learning from home for a bit. Today, I’ve got five easy ways to keep connections with neighbors, friends, and family strong while also growing some literacy skills at the same time. These are wins all around!

  1. Facetime “book clubs” — In our first week at home, my older daughter and one of her oldest friends started a Facetime “book club.” They’d Facetime each other sometime in the afternoon and read a book together. They started with a few picture books that both families had in our home libraries (two of the books they read together were The Relatives Came and A Hat for Mrs. Goldman) and then moved to Magic Tree House #1: Dinosaurs Before Dawn. They’d take turns reading pages and helping each other with tricky words, and their motivation to read was incredible! Both girls loved being able to connect with each other when they couldn’t see each other, and we loved how excited they were about reading.

2. Marco Polo bedtime stories — This week, my dad has started to read the girls a story each night over Marco Polo. They love checking in to see what book he’s chosen, and their faces light up while they listen to him read. They have also started reading books back to him! I’m not sure he’s quite as excited to get a bedtime story read back to him, but the girls love reading to him and sharing their favorite stories with someone special in their lives in this fun and different way.

3. Making happy signs to hang on our porch — Y’all, our “Have a Great Day!” sign that hangs on our porch has gotten so much positive feedback from our neighbors walking by! We’ve seen strangers stop to take a picture of it, people have called to us (from their safe distance away, of course), “Thanks! You have a great day too!” and others have stopped us to tell us that they are going to make positive signs for their porches, too. For writers, the literacy practice here is fairly small, but for pre-writers, this offers a lot of opportunity to talk about identifying letters and their sounds, important skills for beginning reading and writing. Our girls decorated the sides of their sign with pictures they drew following Art for Kids Hub on YouTube.

4. Writing positive “chain mail” messages for neighbors — Our girls also decided they wanted to spread some specific love to our neighbors in their mailboxes (our neighbors will “Boo!” each other at Halloween, so they’re used to this kind of thing going around) to be copied and spread down the road, so they dictated a kind message to me. Our older daughter then typed it up, which gave us two added bonuses– typing practice, and this took FOREVER since she still hunts and pecks, so it bought us a good chunk of time one day! They then drew happy pictures, put the notes and the pictures in an envelope, and set out to deliver happiness.

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5. Good old-fashioned letter writing — Our first grader is thrilled to have some official “pen pals” with whom she can write back and forth, and both girls have sent many, many letters and pictures to friends and family near and far. You can’t go wrong with fostering these written communication skills! And, everyone gets excited to get something besides junk mail and bills in the mail, right?

I’ve also seen lovely sidewalk chalk messages as we’ve walked around our neighborhood, and once it stops raining here, we’ll do those too!

How else have you fostered connection in this time of social distancing? Do you have any ideas that also build reading and writing skills to share???

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