Play promotes literacy in children and adults

Web Lead

Jan. 27 is Family Literacy Day, a day set aside across Canada to encourage families to participate in literacy activities, not just on this day but throughout the year.

This year’s Family Literacy Day theme is “Play for Literacy”. Learning happens in many ways and at all ages. Playing for literacy includes all types of play that encourage literacy and numeracy learning and comprehension skills. The carefree act of playing is a fun outlet that inherently provides new learning opportunities to improve these skills. Activities such as board games, card games and imaginative self-created games, are all fun ways to incorporate learning into everyday life.

Playing games is a great literacy activity for families because it creates a strong family bond, while promoting language comprehension and improving reading and math skills. One study found that kids who played numerical board games developed superior math skills compared to a control group of kids that didn’t play them.

Playing is not just for kids either. Adults will also benefit from playing. Crossword puzzles and challenging card games like bridge are becoming popular ways to keep adults’ mental skills sharp.

Interesting facts on play, literacy and learning:

• Research suggests that reading stories, providing materials for scribbling and “writing” in pretend play, and participating in extended conversations are among the activities that promote emergent literacy skills.

• Research shows that play-based learning offers children many ways to explore the world around them and receive and process rich sensory stimulation that ultimately promotes healthy brain development.

• Research also points to how play-based learning helps children develop self-regulation and resiliency (the ability to wait, take turns, accept losing, and so on).

• Compared to circular board games where one travels around a board, linear board games (such as Chutes and Ladders) lead to greater learning in knowledge of magnitude, counting, number identification, and arithmetic.

• Playing with objects allows children to try out new combinations of actions, free of external constraint, and may help develop problem-solving skills which will help them be better learners.

So, let’s play for literacy!

(With information provided by