Newswise — Back to school " it's a hectic time full of shopping, preparation and new routines. But just because children are headed back to school doesn't mean that parents should stop teaching their children. And just because life is hectic doesn't mean you can't make time to improve their literacy skills.

Sharon Darling, president & founder of the National Center for Family Literacy encourages parents to take a minute " literally " to engage their children in learning activities while they go about their daily routine.

"A minute buys enough time to complete a task, take a deep breath, or prepare a response to a child's question that caught you by surprise," Darling said. "But a minute also can be used to increase vocabulary, expand reading skills, and add an extra dose of fun to an otherwise routine day."

You may feel that there isn't enough time to add more activities to an already packed 24 hours. But these ideas take just a minute:"¢ Choose a letter of the day. Look for the chosen letter in any printed materials you see: the newspaper, labels at the grocery store, street signs, billboards, or advertisements on TV. Make up a silly sentence using only words beginning with the letter of the day (Cats can cuddle. Dogs don't drive. Amy always acts awake.)"¢ Singing songs is certainly a literacy activity. Try this twist: Sing short songs like Row, Row, Row Your Boat several times, leaving off the last word each time until there are no words left. This activity always produces giggles from children and parents alike."¢ While you're waiting for the bagel to toast, have your child look for the letter B on any items on your kitchen counter or table. Count as many as possible before the toaster pops. "¢ Play "Guess Who." Describe a cartoon character, celebrity or historical figure. Allow a guess after each detail is disclosed. Expand your child's vocabulary by using unusual words, and then explain their meaning. Take turns. Listen carefully to your child's descriptions, especially his choice of vocabulary. Encourage him to paint a picture of the character with his words. At the end of the game, compliment him on any unusual or new words used."¢ While stuck in traffic, describe the view from the car by taking "word turns." The activity is as easy as the name suggests. Parent and child each add a word until the scene is described. (A"¦yellow"¦convertible"¦with"¦ a"¦ golden"¦ retriever"¦ in"¦ the"¦ back"¦ seat"¦ is"¦ next"¦ to"¦ our"¦ car.) This activity works well on a walk around the block or while waiting in line at the check-out counter, too."¢ Talk to your child about his day. Pretend to be a television reporter. Try questions like "what was the most surprising (curious, funny, eventful) thing that happened today?" Or gather news for the local paper. "If your day's activities were an article in the newspaper, what would the headline be?" You are giving your child opportunities to increase vocabulary, recall and reflect, and you are receiving a more detailed version of the time you spent apart. Be prepared to answer the same questions. You and your child will begin looking for events to report to each other.

"Children spent five times as much time outside of the classroom, so learning shouldn't be confined to the classroom," Darling said.

The National Center for Family Literacy, the worldwide leader in family literacy, has raised more than $115 million for literacy efforts since its founding in 1989. More than 1 million families have made positive educational and economic gains as a result of NCFL's work, which includes training more than 150,000 teachers and thousands of volunteers. For more information, contact 1-877-FAMLIT-1 or visit

Register for reporter access to contact details