Family Literacy Month 2021: 5 Tips and 10 Books

January 6, 2021 | Sumaiya Ahmed

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January 27 is Family Literacy Day, an initiative of ABC Life Literacy Canada, which celebrates families sharing the joy of reading and learning together. Here at the Toronto Public Library, we're celebrating by offering special online programs and suggested reads for the entire month of January.

Parent and child reading

As a parent or caregiver, you are your child's first and best teacher. Encouraging a love of books from an early age is a great way to help your child get ready for reading. Our Ready for Reading program supports and promotes five fun, simple, everyday activities that help build important pre-reading skills: talking, reading, singing, playing and writing. It's never too early to start and it's never too late to learn more. Here are some other ways you and your family can support early literacy development in your child:

  • Make storytime in your home a happy and special part of your daily routine. Reading together, even for a short time, helps develop your child’s interest in reading.
  • Have fun with rhymes! Rhyming helps a child hear the smaller sounds in words, which helps them sound out written words. Sing, read, say or make up your own silly rhymes at any time, in any place.
  • Choose a "Letter of the Day" and point out everything you see, all day long, that starts with that letter. Find and name letters in books, on signs and labels, on toys, food boxes and other objects all around.
  • Songs and music not only develop literacy skills, but also help your child develop rhythm. Add clapping, tapping, dancing, jumping and marching activities into your daily routine.
  • Play helps children learn about their world and you are your child's first and best playmate. Fingerplays, rhymes and games like peek-a-boo, I Spy and make-believe all help develop important early literacy skills.


In celebration of Family Literacy Month, we created a reading list with recommended reads for your whole family to enjoy!  Here is an in-depth look at 10 of these titles, and why we think they'd be great choice for you and your family.

Going Up by Sherry J. Lee

Going Up! by Sherry J. Lee, illustrated by Charlene Chua (ages 3-8)  

There's a birthday party on the tenth floor of Sophie's apartment building, and Sophie and her dad are attending! Many of their neighbours are attending, too, and at each floor the elevator stops for more people to hop in and join the party. We highly recommend this book that celebrates diversity and shows how different people can come together, be kind to each other and enjoy a fun celebration!


The Proudest Blue A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly (ages 4-8)

Faizah is excited when her older sister, Asiya, wears a hijab to school for the first time. This is a truly wonderful story, told from Faizah's perspective, about what it means to wear a hijab, about being proud of who you are, and about being kind to those around you. The illustrations are beautiful and add to the powerful message that this story shares.


When We Are Kind by Monique Gray Smith

When We Are Kind by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Nicole Neidhardt (ages 3-9)

This beautiful picture book celebrates simple acts of everyday kindness and encourages children to explore how they feel when they initiate and receive acts of kindness in their lives. A lovely read-aloud the whole family is sure to enjoy.


Harold and Hog Pretend for Real by Dan Santat

Harold and Hog Pretend for Real by Dan Santat (ages 5-8)

Best friends Harold and Hog pretend to be characters from their favourite book, Elephant and Piggie. The only problem is Harold is nothing like Elephant and Hog is nothing like Piggie. Can they still find a way to have fun? If you and your child are fans of Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie series, you will undoubtedly enjoy this Harold and Hog story, too!


A Likkle Miss Lou by Nadia L. Hohn

A Likkle Miss Lou by Nadia L. Hohn, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes (ages 4-8)

The story of Jamaican entertainer and poet, Louise Bennett, as a young girl struggling to find and trust her own voice. Discover more about this joyful book and the life of Miss Lou when author Nadia L. Hohn presents an online interactive program on Friday, January 29, at 4 pm.


Ocean Speaks Marie Tharp and the Map that Moved the Earth by Jess Keating

Ocean Speaks: Marie Tharp and the Map that Moved the Earth by Jess Keating, illustrated by Katie Hickey (ages 6-10)  

This book tells the true story of Marie Tharp, a geologist in the mid-twentieth century who discovered the ocean's biggest secret and shared it with the world. She did this despite the challenges she faced, as women at the time were not welcome in the field of science. This is an inspirational book about determination and following your dreams. Check it out from your local branch to find out what Marie's amazing discovery was!


You Can Change the World the Kid's Guide to a Better Planet by Lucy Bell

You Can Change the World: The Kid's Guide to a Better Planet by Lucy Bell (ages 8-12)

Kids around the world are working together to make our planet a better, safer, happier place, and now you can join in with this practical guide! This colourfully illustrated book empowers kids to make changes in their lives and communities with the powerful message that anyone can make a difference in the world.


Camp Average by Craig Battle

Camp Average by Craig Battle (ages 8-12)  

Eleven-year-olds Mack and Andre, along with their group of friends, arrive at a six-week summer sports camp called Camp Avalon. However, all the boys know it as Camp Average because they never win any sports, and they are perfectly fine with that. Things won't be the same at Camp Average this year though, as they have a new camp director named Winston, and he hates to lose. This funny and lighthearted read is perfect for all middle-graders, especially those who enjoy sports! This is also a great read-aloud for the whole family.


The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkof

The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf (ages 9 and up)

Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit (or spirit). She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable. But Suraya doesn't know that pelesits have a dark side — and when Pink's shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive... before they are both lost to the darkness. This spooky, emotional tale of friendship and forgiveness is one that you will not forget.


Peter & Ernesto Sloths in the Night by Graham Annable

Peter & Ernesto: Sloths in the Night by Graham Annable (ages 6-10)

When their friend Bernard goes missing just as the sun is setting, Peter and Ernesto quickly gather their friends to form a search party. Volume 3 of the Peter & Ernesto series, this is a terrific choice for beginner readers.


What are you reading during Family Literacy Month? Let us know in the comments!