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5 quick tips for growing literacy skills

February 25, 2020

Growing literacy skills happen across a lifetime (not just in the classroom). When someone comes for speech therapy at Mamre and has a goal that relates to communication, literacy will regularly be included as a focus. This is because individuals with increased literacy skills often become better communicators.

Books are great! We love books. But learning to read and write means so much more than just reading books. One of the big names in literacy instruction for individuals with complex communication needs once said; “No student is too anything to be able to read and write” – David Yoder.

Jane Farrall, a speech pathologist and special educator passionate about literacy, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Assistive Technology says “Students who write become better readers, thinkers and writers” – Jane Farrall, 2012.

This article by Jane describes how writing with real purpose helped one young man to push through previous barriers in learning to write.

Mamre’s Speech Pathologists use a balanced literacy approach to improve communication, reading, writing and thinking during our sessions. See our  Mamre Allied Health teams top 5 tips for growing literacy skills below.

Mum and child reading book


1. Write for real reasons

Practise signing or writing your name. Any attempts are fine. Acknowledge all attempts and say something like “That’s great, this is how I would write your name.” Highlight the things that are the same; “I like how you have used more than one letter. Let’s count the number of letters. Your name has seven letters, that’s a long name!” At Mamre, we have an electronic sign in for visitors so everyone has the chance to practice typing their name to sign in! Other options include:

  • Use pen alternatives. Practise writing with a keyboard as an alternative to using a pen and paper or use a mobile phone to send a text message to a friend or family member and attach a photo that links to the message.
  • Use a whiteboard to mind map ideas for holidays, parties, creative projects or write up options for choices.
  • Write up important events, appointments or birthdays of friends and family in your calendar.
  • Write a daily list of lists of chores and activities for each day and give each item a tick as you complete them.


2. Search for words

If you have a communication device like an Ipad with the Proloquo2Go or LAMP Words for Life apps, practice searching for words in your device that you don’t know – “Let’s look for the word Happy, what letter would you use to search for happy? Let’s find the letter h.” You can also look at signs (like on the street, at the shops, at the park, or at the beach) and search for words or letters together.


3. Use interests to spark literacy exposure

What is motivating? What do you love? Explore what is fascinating by doing a google search on a favourite topic. Go to the library and search for books or DVDs that relate to something you enjoy.


4. Write your own book

Being part of creating a book can be very motivating as there is an end product, something to show and share with others. Mamre Speechies use Tarheelreader.org, a free website that enables you to make books easily. You can search to see whether there is already a book on a topic of interest eg Lights or make your own books about lights.


5. Create fun reading spaces

  • Create a book nook or set up a special reading chair
  • Take turns to pick a book or magazine article to read
  • Stick magnetic words on your fridge
  • Borrow books from the local library so there are always new and interesting books to look at
  • Make special times to read together, like just before bed.


Do you know a child or adult interested in growing their literacy skills and communication? Mamre’s Allied Health team work and play alongside folk who are linked with NDIS to meet their unique goals in fun and motivating ways.