Reading is a family affair for Palliser students

 page image
Posted on:

Corporate News

The Poor Eagle family from the Siksika Nation get into a good book during Family Literacy Day activities at Milo Community School.

Even the most ardent of hockey parents know their child isn’t going to make the NHL by watching others play. They get better by playing hockey – and lots of it – and Bev Smith says the same goes for reading.

“You get to be a better reader, by reading. Kids have to be reading every day and they need to be read to everyday,” says Smith, Palliser Regional Schools’ literacy coach.

Schools across Palliser celebrated the written word on Jan. 27 Family Literacy Day. Southern Alberta teacher and children’s author Tanya Elliott visited both Milo and Arrowwood schools to read to the younger students and talk about creative writing and publishing with the older ones. All the students then joined staff, family and community members on mats in the gymnasium to read aloud together.

There were plenty of smiles all-around, but there was serious work going on. Studies have shown reading aloud is the single most important activity that can be done with children and sets their future success in school.

Not only does reading aloud increase a student’s background knowledge but also their vocabulary, including exposure to words they will find in other subject areas.

“You need to know how to read the math question and what it is actually asking you,” says Smith. “You might be able to solve the numbers but if you can’t figure out what it is that you are supposed to do with them, it’s pretty hard.”

Family Literacy Day was also recognized at the Akram Jomaa Campus of Calgary Islamic School with a book study and celebrity read-aloud sessions for the younger students.  Their older counterparts did a short story study while some created short videos on why literacy is important.

At Champion School students were kept entertained with various reading activities and word games. Those were followed by a “Book Tasting” in the library, where students were encouraged to sample books they might not normally try and possibly put them on their to-read list for the future. The activity wrapped up with tasty treats and refreshments.

Dorothy Dalgliesh School celebrated the day on Friday, with a school-wide spirit day and students dressed as their favourite book character.

Smith says it’s never too early for parents to read to their children, with the day they come home from the hospital a perfect place to start. Not only does it expose them to new words, making a practice of reading together creates a positive memory and positive experience for the child.

“And that’s what we all want, to build positive relationships with our kids,” she says, adding children who see their parents reading regularly are also more likely to place a greater value on literacy themselves.

Not every parent saw their mother or father modelling the importance of reading, and some may feel uncomfortable  reading to their children because of their own struggles in that area. Smith suggests taking turns reading lines with your child or making it fun by reading lines in the voices of the different characters in the story.

“You’ll get to be a better reading by reading with your child too, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone,” she says.

While too much reading isn’t possible, she points out even a small, regular time investment can pay huge dividends. A student who reads 20 minutes outside of school hours each day will have read 3,600 minutes a school year, or the equivalent of 60 whole school days in a year’s span.

There are also many literacy opportunities throughout the day. Parents can get their child to read a recipe to them while preparing meals, or write out the grocery list. Playing Scrabble, doing crossword puzzles together or playing rhyming games with younger children during long drives also improve reading skills.

Researchers know children are more likely to read when they have greater access to books, but Smith says that doesn’t mean parents have to invest in an extensive home library when there’s options like the public library. Library staff are great resources for suggesting appropriate reading materials for children, as are their teachers. She also suggests sites like or The Canadian Children’s Book Centre at

Palliser is committed in its focus on literacy and the theme for the 2015-16 school year is “Leadership in Literacy.”