Helping Your Child Develop Literacy Skills

In today’s information-based society, literacy—the ability to read and write—is a more important part of life than ever. In the early grades of elementary school, your child will be spending a good part of his time just learning how to read and write. But as your child moves up in grades, they will be reading to learn. They’ll read science and social studies textbooks, for example, and essays and stories, and do math problems. Eventually, your child will need to use their literacy skills to function as an adult in a work environment and daily life. Making sure your child gets a firm grounding in these skills is, therefore, essential.

How Will Your Child Read and Write?

Depending on your child’s visual condition, they might be learning to read standard print like their classmates or need to use an alternate medium such as braille. To determine whether using vision or touch is the best way for your child to read and write, their teacher of students with visual impairments will conduct a learning media assessment. If your child is blind or low vision and has some usable vision, they will also need a functional vision assessment.

The results of these assessments will determine the most effective way for your child to read and write—in print or in braille. In addition, the use of aural methods (such as listening to recorded textbooks), although not considered literacy, can supplement your child’s access to written information. Most likely, your child will use a combination of methods. These assessments will also detail the formats in which your child’s texts and other materials need to be presented, such as what size print is best if your child reads print. Your child’s needs can change over time, so the assessments should be repeated each year to see if any changes have to be made in the materials or tools used.

Depending on your child’s needs and visual condition, there are a variety of devices and tools that can help (see “How Students with Low Vision Read and Write” and “How Students Who Are Blind Read and Write”). It is important to determine not only how your child will do near tasks but also distance tasks.

Getting Books on Time

If your child uses an alternate medium for reading and writing, the TVI will need to arrange to get his textbooks and other classroom materials put into that medium. It may require ordering a textbook in braille or in a recorded format, or the teacher may need to enlarge or braille the worksheets the classroom teacher hands out in class or for homework. Preparing those materials takes a lot of coordination on the teachers’ part. However, it is crucial to your child’s success at school that your child receive books at the same time as classmates. Sometimes this may not be possible, for example, when there isn’t enough preparation time. In such cases, someone will need to read the material to your child so that he still gets the information on time.

Keep in mind, though, that listening to someone read and being able to read a text yourself are not the same thing. It’s important to monitor closely whether your child is receiving materials on time and in a format that is accessible. If this is not happening, consider raising this issue with the TVI or educational team to talk about how the situation can be remedied.

How You Can Help Your Child Develop Literacy Skills

You can help your child develop strong literacy skills by ensuring access to the same reading and writing activities as your child’s classmates and siblings at home. It’s also important to ensure that your child understands the importance of reading and writing as activities all people engage in—out in the community and in school.

If your child is now reading and writing in school, don’t stop providing opportunities to read and write at home. Continue to point out how you are using your own literacy skills throughout the day, from reading a recipe, directions on a medication bottle, or a magazine to writing out checks, shopping lists, and directions to a friend’s house. Provide your child with opportunities to take what is being learned in school and use it outside the classroom, such as by making part of the family shopping list, taking a telephone message, or reading the directions as you travel to a new location. Write notes to them in their literacy medium, print or braille.

Opportunities to Practice

  • Develop a chore list in print or braille for your child to complete each week.
  • If your child has a savings account, help keep a list of the transactions that can read
  • Play games that are accessible to your child. Many board games are available in braille or can be easily adapted. If a scorekeeper is needed, make sure your child has an opportunity to take on this role.
  • Finally, continue to share family reading time. If you can’t read your child’s braille books, try letting your child read them to you!
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