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Literacy Starts at the Dinner Table

Literacy is difficult. The varied combinations of sounds, letters, and words arranged into sentences and paragraphs to form meaning can easily become overwhelming. I was blessed to grow up in a highly literate family. Both of my parents are highly educated and enjoyed reading for pleasure. More importantly, they valued the importance of family dinner.  Dinner and dinner conversations with adults enable the transference of background knowledge and elevated vocabulary to children.

Anne Fishel, a cofounder of The Family Dinner Project, says that as we gather around a family dinner table "we’re nourishing our minds as much as our bodies." She goes on to say even more astonishingly: "In fact, regular family dinner may be a more powerful vocabulary builder for young kids than reading." Dr. Catherine Snow, Patricia Albjerg Graham Professor of Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education, explains that "rare or sophisticated vocabulary are  the building blocks of a robust vocabulary in children." So rare, that these words do not appear on an age-defined list of 3000 common vocabulary words.  So, then, how do children add these words to their vocabulary?  Ann Fishel explains that these words appear more often at the dinner table.  Join The Family Dinner Project in sharing the importance of gathering together not only for nourishment but also academic and social and emotional growth. 

On Monday, try this set of conversation starters to help your family discuss the importance of the ideas behind Martin Luther King Day.


Suzanne M. Rogers, M.Ed
I am an AP English teacher, ELA Coach, and a PD facilitator.
I have taught in private, public, and public open-enrollment charter schools.


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