#Literacytip: Your Emergency Literacy Toolbox

While out on the run, at the store, or held up in a line, children of any age can get fussy.  An “Emergency Literacy Toolkit” can come in handy!

A Literacy Toolkit compiles different literacy activities you can use whenever the need arises.  Here are six things to have in your brain, on your phone, or in your bag to keep your children entertained (and learning) while you are doing your adult duties!

Pocket Sized Books

Did you know that the library has books for kids that are the size of your palm?  In recent years especially, many books have emerged in “mini book” format, even some kids classics like Robert Munsch.  These types of books are great to keep in your diaper bag, your purse, your glove compartment, or even your back pocket! 

There are also lots of great stories for all ages that come in board book format, making them more compact and easy to transport than the storybook versions.  When trouble (or nap time) creeps up and your child needs a distraction, pull out a new or well loved story.

Check out the books below as well as your local book store for some suggestions.

Virtual Stories

A virtual story can be a lifesaver.  Instead of putting on a cartoon when your child is bored or fussy, put on a read along!

The Thompson-Nicola Regional Library has tons of recorded Storytimes available online for free. Most are between 10 and 15 minutes long. 

Or you can hit up the TumbleBook database! Available for free with your library card, TumbleBook has tons of stories that your child can practice reading along with. 


TumbleBook Library is an online collection of animated, talking picture books which teach young children the joys of reading in a format they’ll love.

Anything Can Be a Book

In a pinch, anything can be reading entertainment.  A menu at a restaurant, the label on a box of salad greens, the signs you pass while walking on the street- if you can read it, it will work. 

While labels and warnings are less fantastic for entertainment than stories, there are still letters, words, sounds, and meanings to learn from them.  Use voices and pictures to make the reading interesting!

Have a Favourite Song

A favourite song can be a lifesaver when tears start flowing or a wait is too long.  This is a fun song to try for entertainment and for practice counting!  Any song, children’s or otherwise, will do.

Literacy Games to Pass Time

Here a few fun games that are easy to play on the go!

Rhyming I Spy

Featured in one of our past literacy tipsRhyming I Spy is a fantastic way to encourage your child to develop their phonemic awareness just about anywhere!  This is a great game to pass time in situations when everyone needs a distraction to stay occupied and entertained.  Here is how you play:

  • Have your child find an object in their space
  • Ask your child to identify the object by name (a cat, a pot, a spoon)
  • Identify the sounds the word makes as well at the ending syllable (the part that participates in rhymes)
  • Ask your child to come up with a word that rhymes (c-at rhymes with m-at)

This game provides the opportunity to work not only on rhyming, but also on letter and sound identification, and counting syllables.

Paper Plate Scavenger Hunt

This activity is courtesy of Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy.  Prepare it ahead of time and keep it with you on the go to use when entertainment is needed. All you need is a paper plate, a marker, and some scissors to prepare this activity.

  1. Choose a subject.  You can choose letters, numbers, shapes, colours, or anything else you can think of.
  2. Write the subject around the edge or the plate.  This might mean writing out the alphabet or numbers, drawing shapes, or colouring sections in different colours.  Cut into the plate between each object to make small foldable flaps.
  3. While you are on the go, have your child find objects (either by letter, by shape, by number, or by colour).  Each time they find something that matches what they are looking for (an apple for A or a stop sign for an octagon), they fold down the flap that matches.

What else? What if?

To play this game, all you need is an environment with things your child can recognize (bananas at the grocery store, a dog on the street), sharp eyes, and good listening skills. 

  1. Choose an object in your environment, ask your child what the object is, and decide what sound the object starts with (d-d-d-dog).  
  2. Ask your child to come up with another word that starts with the same sound (d-d-d-dig).
  3.  Ask your child what would happen if some other word started with that sound.  (What would happen if your name or my name started with that sound?  What would happen if all of the food in our cart started with that sound?)


Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy. “Literacy on the Go.” Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy, 15 June 2017, www.clel.org/single-post/2017/06/15/literacy-on-the-go.

“Literacy: Reading at Age 4.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 20 July 2021, www.pbs.org/parents/learn-grow/age-4/literacy/reading.

Looking for more literacy tips?

Check back next week or take a look at some of our past articles below.

#Literacytip: Library Cards for Kids

Did you know that children of any age can have their very own library card with the TNRL.  What better way to encourage young children to take charge of their reading than to give them the tools?

Read More »

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