3 Types of Literacy Kids Need Today + Ways to Teach Them

Recently, while struggling with a bout of insomnia, I fell down a hole of internet ancestry research. It was amazing to see real photos of the ship my ancestors emigrated on, the passenger manifesto with their names and ages scrawled across it, the first-hand accounts of their life and businesses in Germany, and the stories about their travel up a wagon trail to eventually become one of the very first families to settle the tiny rural area where we live to this day.

More than all of that though, what really struck me was how quickly our society has embraced literacy. Within three generations we went from a nation where an education that ended in the eighth grade wasn’t uncommon and didn’t interfere with a family’s ability to live comfortably to a nation where not only is college-level literacy required for most well-paying jobs, many other forms of literacy are increasingly needed in order to navigate relationships and make informed decisions both at home and work.

Where my great-great grandfather may have done just fine in life following his middle-school graduation, if I want my kids to thrive in this brave new world they’ll also need to be fluent in myriad ways beyond simple reading and writing.

1. Physical Literacy

It has become more important than ever for people of all ages to be advocates for their own health and wellness. At school, home, the doctor’s office and everywhere in between we are increasingly our own best defense. But kids can’t be their own advocates if they don’t know what they need. From knowing where food comes from, how it’s produced, and how it interacts with their bodies to understanding what it means to be safe in all the situations they may encounter in a day, books like Diana Prichard‘s The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen and Rana DiOrio’s What Does It Mean To Be Safe can equip kids with the knowledge they need to make sure their physical needs are met. Add in Dr. JoAnn Deak’s Your Fantastic Elastic Brain for a primer on how the mind can be molded as we grow and learn, and Laurie Jordan’s Yawning Yoga to get their bodies moving and you have a recipe for a well-rounded self-health advocate.

BONUS: Pair each book with it’s free lesson plans, activities, and discussion guides for added fun and learning.

2. Social Literacy

As the gig and entrepreneurship economies reshape the way we work, play, and build relationships it’s becoming more and more important for all people to be socially literate, even if they’re introverts at heart. In fact, the beauty of social literacy is understand that social interaction is for everyone equally, and that when we become socially literate we have the power to help others navigate complex issues and relationships as well.

For great reads on social literacy, check out Shawn Achor and Amy Blankson’s Ripple’s Effect, Coleen Paratore’s BIG, and Rana DiOrio’s What Does It Mean To Be Kind and What Does It Mean To Be Global. And don’t forget the free lesson plans, activities, and discussion guides.

3. Emotional Literacy

The world comes at us fast these days, and it’s coming at kids fast too. Between news cycles, social media, and trying to grapple with packed school and extracurricular activities, kids are at risk for emotional and mental health issues just like adults. Teaching self-care and coping techniques young can be valuable for all kids, not just those who need it right away can pay dividends in their well-being down the road. When we know how to deal with stressors as they come, they aren’t as likely to pile up on us.

Laurie Jordan’s Yawning Yoga can play double-duty here, teaching both physical literacy and the fine art of nightly self-care. Pair it with Rana DiOrio’s What Does It Mean To Be Present for learning daytime awareness and you’ll have Little Pickles well on their way to a more grounded life.

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