In this unusual school year, it’s more important than ever to ensure your kids are continuing to grow their literacy skills. In addition to being a parent, you’ve had to become a home-school teacher, and we know that digging through all the myriad resources for at-home learning can be daunting. We’ve got lots of easy and fun ways to keep them learning and engaged in reading and writing while at home, especially as winter arrives and we head back indoors.

Games/activities

Exquisite Corpse is a fun game to play with three or more people. All you need is a pen or pencil and a piece of paper. One person writes the first line of a story and hands it to the next person, who writes the following line, then folds over the paper so the next person can only read the most recent line. The story goes around until the paper is filled. A variation sometimes called “write-y, draw-y” is to have the second person draw a picture in response to the line, then fold it over so the following person will write a line based on the picture, and so on. Have fun reading them aloud!

Book Spine Poetry is fun and simple. Grab any books you have lying around the house and stack them so that the titles spell out a poem. See how many you can come up with!

Mad Libs and printable kids’ crossword puzzles are easy to find for free online and do together. Some public libraries are also offering resources such as "puzzle packs," with age-appropriate printed puzzles, word finds, scrambles and brain teasers. Check your local library to see what they have on offer.

Comic Jarrett Lerner also has lots of free downloadable comics, prompts and activities — find them here: jarrettlerner.com/activities. And there are printable coloring sheets and activities inspired by beloved Eric Carle picture books at eric-carle.com/resources.

Videos

Storytelling videos featuring the Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF)’s New Hampshire and Vermont children’s authors, illustrators and storytellers can be found at clifonline.org/resources/virtualstorytellingseries.

CLiF presenter/graphic novelist Marek Bennett also has a YouTube channel with lots of how-to comics and live-draw videos.

National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Jason Reynolds, records roughly two-minute videos with weekly writing prompts for his “Write. Right. Rite.” series on YouTube. Create an award for yourself, write about a new invention, or explain love to a magical pet. These videos are engaging and a great way to kick-start some creative writing.

There are tons of read-alouds online these days. Some of our favorites include “Ms. Angela Reads to You” (YouTube), PBS Kids’ Read Along Mondays with Michelle Obama, and Dolly Parton’s Bedtime Stories.

Children’s books to read

In this wild world, one good thing is we can turn to books to escape or make sense of it all. Here are some of the most popular selections in CLiF book giveaways…

Board books: “Antiracist Baby” by Ibram X. Kendi; “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown; “Global Babies” by The Global Fund for Children; and “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats.

Picture books: “Elephant and Piggie” series by Mo Willems; “Hair Love” by Matthew Cherry; “Vampirina Ballerina” by Anne Marie Pace; and “Redwoods” by Jason Chin (CLiF Presenter).

Early chapter books/graphic novels: “The Princess in Black” series by Dean and Shannon Hale; “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series by Jeff Kinney; “The Magic Treehouse” series by Mary Pope Osbourne; and “I Survived” series by Lauren Tarshis.

Chapter books: “The Benefits of Being an Octopus” by Ann Braden (CLiF presenter); “The Track” series by Jason Reynolds; “The Hate U Give” by Angi Thomas; series by Rick Riordan (“Percy Jackson,” “Trials of Apollo,” “The Heroes of Olympus” and more).

It’s more important than ever to read together! It helps de-stress, it builds connections, gives kids (and adults) a positive outlet, and builds those all-important literacy skills. Happy reading!

Erika Nichols-Frazer is a writer, editor, and the Communications Manager at the Children’s Literacy Foundation (clifonline.org). She has an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She won Noir Nation’s 2019 Golden Fedora Fiction Prize and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. You can find her work and blog at nicholsfrazer.com. And learn more about the Children’s Literacy Foundation at clifonline.org.