I came across the concept of Literate Classroom almost fifteen years ago. it is a simple idea. The classroom should have a variety of books. They should touch a wide variety of subjects and they should range from simple books all the way up to books that are outside the age range of the kids in the classroom. The books should be in all parts of the classroom and children should have time over the week to read in class. They can either select a book from the bookcase or they can bring one from home. it is a simple idea, and it promotes literacy.
The students can choose books that meet their needs and since the books are in the classroom, it encourages every child to pick up a book of some kind. It can help kids who are not at grade level get used to picking up books, and it lets kids who are reading above grade level find things they like. There should be rules about books. Nobody can criticize what anyone else is reading, that sort of thing to encourage children to pick things that they like.
I liked this idea and wondered if this concept could be instituted in the home. How would one go about creating a Literate Household? It wasn't hard, but it requires a certain amount of upkeep on the part of the adults early in the process.
1) The first rule is that anyplace the children might play or sleep or just hang out should have books.
2) There should be a bookcase in each child's bedroom.
The bookcase in the child's bedroom should contain a variety of books. When the children are little, board books are most appropriate. As they get older, play with the contents. Put books about a variety of subjects, both fiction and nonfiction that are age appropriate. Don't get rid of the board books just yet! You should also put books on the shelf that are beyond your child's current reading level. As your child gets older, supplement the books. You might also pick up a few books and slip them onto the bookcase without telling your child.
3) The adults need to read as well. You can read newspapers or magazines if books are not your thing, but modeling the behavior helps children to understand that reading is something that people do.
I instituted this in my home. It worked very well except for one thing. I don't read mysteries except for Agatha Christie. It never occurred to me to put mysteries on my son's book case. I am not a horror fan either, so I don't know much about that genre. it turns out my son loves both mysteries and horror. it took me a while to learn enough to pick good ones for him. The only way I found out about the mysteries came when I was desperate to get him into some fiction. He only read nonfiction about dinosaurs until he was about eight years old. He was born on Halloween, so I already knew he liked spooky things, but I wasn't sure how far I could push the spooky just yet. I got him one of the A-Z mysteries. He loved it. From then on, he was less wary of fiction and luckily, his bookcase was stuffed with things that caught his eye. At sixteen, he loves Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King, Fox Trot, Calvin and Hobbes and nonfiction biological and scientific texts.
On the other hand, my daughter was reading on an eighth grade level when she was five. That proved to be quite a challenge. Her bookcase had everything from Judy Moody to Septimus Heap before she was six. By the time she was nine she'd devoured the Dragonriders of Pern, Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Giver. Last year, at twelve she read Animal Farm, 1984, the Portrait of Dorian Gray and Bitter Blue. We are forever scouring our libraries looking for things to engage her.
It is not uncommon for one of them to pick up a book they loved when they were little like Yertle the Turtle, and read it aloud to each other.
As the kids get older they will pick their own books, obviously, but it doesn't hurt to slip a few things in every now and again.
My kids still get books for all holiday celebrations and one of their absolute favorite things to do is go into a bookstore.
If you are looking for ways to stuff more literacy into your child's life...surround them with books. If nothing else, a title or two might catch their eye while they are sitting in the family room with the boob tube blaring.