Monday, October 25, 2010

Beyond Reading: 15 Literacy Activities for Parents with Boys

Reading to your baby boy is the first and most important way to raise a son who does not lag far behind their female counterparts when it comes to reading skills. Start reading from birth so that boys have a better chance of developing a natural love of books. But aside from reading, there are some other fun activities that you can do to further enhance literacy skills in young boys. Knowing that boys are active learners, it's a good idea to present literacy activities that encourage movement.

  1. Label containers and drawers in your child’s room or play area. When it’s time to clean up, the trucks should go in the container marked “trucks,” blocks go in the container marked “blocks,” and action figures go in the container marked "action figures." Functional reading is still reading!
  2. Combine sensory activities with writing activities: Put shaving cream on the table or on a tray (or on the bathtub wall) and practice writing letters and words. You can also use sand, flour, finger paint, etc. You can also try crayon soap for the bathtub!
  3. Use alphabet molds for sand and play dough – encourage children to identify and spell with the letters that they create in sand or play dough.
  4. Find interactive books – pop-up books, books with buttons, I Spy Books, etc… that might be appealing to boys. Keep them in the car or in your bag so that you can take advantage of any opportunity to read a page or two!
  5. Boys are physical and tactile learners so instead of traditional flashcards, make letters out of sandpaper (or other sensory material like cotton, corduroy, felt, etc) so children can feel them.
  6. Make letters with hands, fingers, and body parts. Ex: cross two fingers to make and X or a T. Again, any time you can combine physical activity with literacy learning, boys will be better off! 
  7. Put large letter cards on the floor and have children “hop,” or “jump” on the letter you call out.
  8. Don’t underestimate the power of everyday moments. Talking and singing help build important brain connections.
  9. Infuse literacy into other types of active play: Playing baseball? Let your child write down the score. Playing with the train set? Make signs for the train stops. Got cars? Add real road maps. Look for meaningful ways to infuse a literacy element into your child's favorite activities.
  10. Freeze letters into ice "cubes" (ex: put a few letters in a paper cup of water, when the water is frozen, peel away the cup). Give your child a safe space, a crab mallet or play dough tools and a pair of goggles. Encourage them to chip away to get to the letters. For older children, add letters that spell something (like your child's name or other familiar words) and once they've uncovered all of the letters, they can unscramble the letters.
  11. Go on a treasure hunt: bury plastic letters in the sand box and have your son dig them out.
  12. Find blocks with letters and build words with them (they often have them in the Dollar Stores – you might need 2 or 3 sets to successfully spell some words).
  13. Visit the library - most local libraries have free programs for kids that involve story time, arts/crafts, and special performers.
  14. Celebrate male authors! Boys need to see that men are writers too. When books have the author's picture inside, read this to your son. Look online and visit websites for male authors. Visit Guys Read!
  15. Use technology to your advantage. We shouldn't ignore the fact that boys are attracted to technology, so choose websites and video games carefully. Choose and sites that encourage interaction and language use. Visit Best Sites for Preschool and Kindergarten. and Software for Early Childhood.  
Books for Parents on Boys and Literacy

Boys and Literacy: Practical Strategies for Librarians, Teachers, and ParentsBright Beginnings for Boys: Engaging Young Boys in Active LiteracyConnecting Boys with Books 2: Closing the Reading Gap

Related Posts:

Six Not-So-Secret Tips for Encouraging Literacy Development in Boys
Beyond Reading: 15 Literacy Activities for Parents with Boys
•Literacy Challenges for “at-risk” families (coming soon)
Should We Give In to the “Yuck Factor” When It Comes to Boys and Books?

•25 Books Boys (and girls) Might Enjoy (coming soon)


  1. Great Post! I love the wide range of ideas - all of which sound useful.

    Especially, 1, 2, 7, 11 and 12!

    I will incorporate them in my day to day.

    Read Aloud Dad

  2. Great list. I especially like the idea of making letters out of body parts. My little ones would already like that. I also think boys can be very "busy" and get engaged in projects better than writing a lengthy story. I love the idea of making road signs, etc for cars and trains.

  3. Read Aloud Dad and Jackie,
    Thanks for your comments! I know many girls who would like these activities too. But we cannot deny that boys are more active learners and we have to meet their needs.

  4. The literacy game that I play with my son involves street signs because we are usually on the road. What we do is we stop at road signs, the ones fastened to posts using galvanized steel strapping and stainless steel banding, and then I teach him how to read and pronounce the words and symbols correctly. That way, he also gets familiarized with local geography.



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