Using Literacy Activities to Increase Your Child's Knowledge of Current Events and Factual Topics
In our reading program at Park Slope Communication and Learning Center, we spend a fair amount of time on current events. Using our KidsVoyager Online assistive literacy software, we find articles that are about current events (and other factual material) and are of interest to our students. Because the program reads to the students, they can learn about just about anything that is selected for them.
For those who do not have the benefit of KidsVoyager Online, parents or older siblings can pitch in by reading aloud at home.
An example of a current event that the students enthusiastically enjoyed reading about was the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, in 2010. Many of us saw dramatic footage of the eruption on television news. Looking online, we found numerous articles suitable for youngsters.
One of the best was at Time for Kids, which our text reader read aloud for each student. We also read articles at Scholastic.com and DOGOnews.com, which had spectacular pictures. Finally we read about volcanoes in general at Weather Wiz Kids, which is a wonderful web site written by a meteorologist who writes great material about weather and other natural phenomena for kids.
To add to the interest, we looked at some terrific video. While we read together, kids are exposed to new and interesting vocabulary. If you're new to KidsVoyager Online, it has a "double click page" feature, which allows kids to look up words they don't know without losing their place in their reading (by double clicking on a word, which opens up an online children's dictionary).
We learned about the fact that Iceland was formed by volcanoes and is home to 130 of them, most of which are not active. However, we learned that when they do erupt, it can have a very significant effect of both the weather (as ash can block out sunlight) and sea level, since the heat could potentially cause glaciers to melt.
Learning about this particular event resulted in a lot of lively conversation and the kids also had fun trying to say "Eyjafjallajökull" correctly!
As a follow-up, another volcano erupted in Iceland in 2011. While not as dramatically portrayed in the news, students who had learned about Eyjafjallajökull were very curious about this event and how it compared. (This one was called Grímsvötnv — try saying that one! — and it had its largest explosion in 100 years.)
Again, adults or older siblings reading with kids can accomplish similar things by utilizing a kid's dictionary website or a "regular" children's dictionary. Thus, current events and other things of interest or importance can be learned while engaging in literacy-enhancing activities.
One other topic we frequently focus on is holidays. Around President's Day, we read about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. In a 3rd/4th grade group this school year, not one student knew who Abraham Lincoln was, which was very surprising to us. At a website called apples4theteacher.com, there are always articles about every holiday. Similarly, we read about Thanksgiving, Memorial Day and, most recently, Independence Day.
So, pick any current event or factual topic you think will be interesting to your child. After you pick your topic, sit down and read a relevant kid's magazine, online magazine or website together. Make a list of new words, new word patterns and even new knowledge (e.g., Abraham Lincoln was our 16th president). It will be very enriching for your child and a great thing to share.