Promoting Early Literacy Development Outdoors

The La Porte County Public Library has several opportunities for families and children to engage with nature while promoting early literacy. The outdoors is the perfect natural classroom for young minds to grow and for children to further their literacy skills and knowledge.  

Children love exploring nature and being outside! Nature walks and outdoor scavenger hunts are two ways to easily incorporate descriptive language and introduce your children to new vocabulary words. When you ask your child to look for a yellow flower or you point out a tree and mention to them that the bark is rough, you provide them with examples of descriptive language. This will help them immensely when they are asked to write stories in school.  

Activities in Nature  

Nature walks and scavenger hunts are just two examples of several everyday activities in nature that allow opportunities to integrate literacy.  

There are many websites, articles and other online tools to inspire reading and lifelong education in children.  

One of these resources is Growing Book by Book, a website dedicated to nurturing young readers aged 0-8 and is a host to a plethora of articles with tools and information for caregivers to inspire children with fun opportunities for learning that include step-by-step guides for activities, games and arts and crafts for you and your child to do together!  

When it comes to outdoor activities, chalk is the perfect tool for children to practice spelling their name and other sight words. Have them practice consonants and vowels, both in uppercase and lowercase. Painting is another alternative to using chalk, both of which allows them to use their fine motor muscles in their fingers and hands, practice writing, spelling and the alphabet.  

While using chalk or paint, have your child point to each letter in the word and sound it out one at a time. This is an important step that will help them strengthen their phonics skills and will aid them in putting letters together to form words. This also helps with letter identification.   

Another alternative to practicing letters is nature photography! If you look closely, nature is full of different geometric shapes! Challenge your child to spot letters of the alphabet in a cloud, tree branches or in flower petals. Take pictures of these letters and make an alphabet line as a unique way to practice learning letters. 

Reading Outside  

One of the best ways to support your child’s early literacy development is by reading to them. Story time does not have to be only an indoor activity – take your book and host story time outdoors! Enjoy the sunshine and breathe the fresh air as you and your child read your favorite books together. Reading outside also gives you more space to reenact some of the scenes from a story, which can help your child further understand story structures while moving around. 

You can also visit one of the La Porte County Public Library location’s outdoor spaces to incorporate reading and the outdoors. Coolspring, Fish Lake, Rolling Prairie, Kingsford Heights, Hanna and Union Mills branches each have designated outdoor educational spaces that promote early literacy development in unique and fun ways!  

The StoryWalk, a concept created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT and developed with the help of Rachel Senechal of Kellogg-Hubbard Library, combines literacy, exercise and nature by providing a series of podiums that house pages of family-friendly books along a short walking path. To finish the book, you must walk the entire path and follow along with the pages at each station. StoryWalk encourages reading aloud, engaging with words and learning in nature – perfect for young readers. These books are changed out regularly each season (with the exception of a few months each year due to weather), so feel free to visit frequently! StoryWalk displays are located at both the Hanna branch and Kesling Park.  

The Reading Wi-Fi Garden located at the Main branch has several benches perfect for relaxing and reading. There is also ample space in the grassy area to bring the whole family, a blanket and books or games for everyone to learn and interact together.  

The Coolspring branch offers an outdoor patio with tables in the shade perfect for reading and learning. 

Physical Activity and Literacy Development  

In addition to reading, physical activity is also important in your child’s development. There are several techniques to combine both concepts. Jumping rope and rhyming words with each hop is one way that helps children broaden their vocabularies. Similarly, play alphabet hopscotch, where each block has a different letter that spells a sight word.  

PJ Library is another online resource home to a collection of ideas that incorporates both concepts of literacy and physical activity.  

It is important to give your child time to explore and enjoy the outdoors. It is the perfect natural environment to improve their reading and writing skills, while being active and making memories along the way.  

The library has a full calendar of events with activities for children and families that promote literacy and encourage creativity. See what you can learn and experience together! 

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