Man reading to baby

The 3 biggest impacts of family literacy

Singing, talking, writing, reading and playing with your family may be activities you do regularly without much thought. But did you know that these activities play a huge role in improving the literacy skills of your entire family?

Family literacy – a type of intergenerational learning that occurs within the family – helps build language skills and sets the foundation of literacy. Together, adults and children learn phonics, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension and writing.

Family literacy can take place in several ways – not just through reading books together. In fact, literacy can be found in many daily activities, whether it be following a recipe, writing an email or calculating a payment.

Improving the literacy skills of your entire family does much more than advance family members’ reading and writing skills. Below, we’ve outlined three additional impacts of family literacy on adults and children.

Family literacy encourages lifelong learning 

During a child’s early life, when their brain is developing rapidly, developmental experiences help determine the overall status of the mature brain. Practising family literacy allows a child to receive maximum literacy exposure before starting formalized school.

When a child has support from adults in their family, they’re more likely to be successful and engaged at school. They’ll be more prepared to go to school, attend more regularly, and be more likely to finish their education. Children raised in families that prioritize family literacy score ten points higher on standardized reading tests and are more likely to attend a post-secondary institution.

According to the National Institute of Health, a mother’s reading skill affects her children’s future academic success more than other factors such as neighbourhood and family income. Plus, children are more likely to become frequent readers if their parents are avid readers. According to a 2017 Kids and Family Reading Report, 57 per cent of kids who read regularly have parents who read five to seven days per week.

A parent doesn’t need a high literacy level to positively impact their child. Teaching your child a love of books, taking with various sounds, asking them questions, and telling them stories are all ways in which you can help form a foundation for lifelong learning. 

Family literacy helps everyone build a variety of skills 

When families are more involved in their child’s education, children are more likely to have stronger literacy skills. They are also much more prepared when they start school; in fact, children who have highly literate parents are exposed to 30,000,000 more words than children of low-literate parents.

Additionally, a child’s math and science skills improve when family literacy is a priority. Family literacy is not only important when a child is young, either – it continues to make a difference over the entire developmental continuum. It helps expand a child’s social skills, self-esteem and attitudes toward education, which can support children throughout their lives.

While helping our children build stronger literacy skills, we as adults enjoy increased reading, writing, math and science knowledge. And as a parent’s competency improves, their child’s is more likely to as well.

Our level of social awareness and self-advocacy also increases. We become more confident and recognize our capability to foster positive development. We learn how to communicate and interact better with our children and become more involved with their education. We gain enjoyment from the learning experience and value education more highly.

In addition, improving our own literacy skills through family literacy helps provide greater options for employment and job satisfaction. Literacy achievement can also influence broader economic and social issues, including nutrition and health problems, civic engagement, and income.

Family literacy strengthens relationships 

Family literacy is a way of having fun with your family while establishing deep emotional connections. Sharing learning experiences presents a way to talk about feelings, discuss worries or draw out laughter.

Doing literacy activities together as a group offers a sense of belonging and security for all family members while building stronger family bonds. Learning and practicing literacy together helps families become emotionally closer, which forms a more supportive home environment. Furthermore, we can use literacy to share our family history, values, customs and culture with our family members. 

Examples of family literacy 

Literacy is inclusive of all ages and surrounds us every day. To practice family literacy at home, you could:

  • Act as a positive role model by reading in front of your child
  • Encourage your older children to share books with their siblings
  • Visit the library regularly and allow your child to select books for reading together
  • Ask your child questions about books and pictures
  • Identify everyday opportunities for learning, such as reading road sign advertisements, product labels and license plates
  • Provide props for creative play
  • Sing songs and recite rhymes with your child
  • Play board games, build block towers and use modelling clay
  • Learn an easy, inexpensive instrument and learn to play as a family
  • Complete an outdoor scavenger hunt using either a written list or pictures of treasures to find
  • Plan a road trip by researching streets and landmarks on your way to your destination
  • Have your child choose a recipe, then follow the instructions together and make any notes necessary in the margins
  • For older children, engage in conversations, play word games, talk about word meanings, and offer a literacy-rich environment 

Celebrate Family Literacy Day!

It’s never too early or too late to spark literacy in your family! Family Literacy Day is held annually on January 27 to raise awareness about the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family. Take part in this fun initiative for an excellent opportunity to establish regular reading and literacy-related activities with your family.

Visit to access free literacy activities and resources.