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By Chrysta Naron

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. It has costumes, candy … and lots of ways to make learning fun. Building little moments of literacy practice into everyday activities is the best way for parents to raise a thriving reader. So we’ve put together some favorite tips for how to make Halloween a reading holiday. 

For many parents, teaching your child to read can feel a bit scary. But with these fun tricks, Halloween reading becomes a real treat (for kids—and their mummies, too!).

Bring Characters to Life

This Halloween, make books come alive with your Halloween costumes or decor! You or your child can dress up as a favorite book character for trick-or-treating or a Halloween party. You might even find a book that offers characters for everyone in the family. After all, why let kids have all the fun? 

Some great options include Max and the Wild Things from Where the Wild Things Are, Where’s Waldo and all his buddies, Winnie the Pooh and his pals from the 100-Acre Woods, Madeline, Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat, or Anansi the spider

Is your child’s heart set on being Elsa or a mummy? No problem! Carve or paint your pumpkins to look like book characters, instead! Kids will love giving the pumpkins accessories, too. After all, Pete the Cat definitely needs white shoes, and Cinderella could probably use a slipper.

Write Halloween Cards

We all know that candy is the most common thing kids give and get on Halloween. However, you can also create Halloween cards. Have your child use stickers, paper, markers, or any other art supplies to create festive cards. Use this as an opportunity for children to practice writing and spelling. If your child is younger, you can draw letters of dotted lines for them to trace. If they are more advanced readers and writers, let them take the lead and create the text themselves.

You can mail the cards to family and friends. (Children love sending actual mail and getting mail in return!) You and your child can deliver them to neighbors or (if your child’s school allows) deliver them to classmates. They can even send their cards to elderly people who may be isolated through groups such as Love For Our Elders or Doing Good Together. You can even hand out the cards with candy to trick-or-treaters! (See our post on helping kids write to seniors.)

Candy Wrapper Reading

Here’s a quick and easy one: Practice reading the names of the candy! When you buy candy to give out or go through the candy your child collects, try reading the names on the wrapper together before they gobble it up. 

With younger children, you can simply focus on naming the letters or the first sound of the candy’s name. For older children, encourage them to try reading the names. They can even write a list of every candy they were given on Halloween, and rank their favorites or tally the number of each. It’s all about working reading into everyday moments that help children flourish.

Play with Your Food

What do you do with all those pumpkin seeds once you’ve carved your pumpkin? Don’t just throw them out! You can reuse them for reading.

Simply wash the seeds until they’re free of the stringy goo that surrounds them. Pat the seeds dry, and get ready to spell! 

Ask your child to use the seeds to create the first letter of their name. Then see if your child can spell their whole name out using the seeds. You can use them to practice upper and lowercase letters, as well as spelling. And if you’re not a family that carves pumpkins, don’t worry! You can do the same thing with Halloween candy.

Bonus: Roast the pumpkin seeds first with a little oil and salt to make a tasty snack your child can eat after spelling with it!

Cast a “Spell” Over Decorating

This Halloween, integrate writing and reading into your Halloween decor and fun wherever possible. Write down Halloween-themed words for your child to read, or use our free Halloween-themed alphabet spinner printable. Once they’ve read the word, have them create a decoration that goes along with it. You can use simple words for younger children, such as web, bat, or cat. For older children try words like pumpkin, witch, or even vampire

Sometimes, I’ll even do the opposite. I’ll ask the kids to spell a word for me and if I read it correctly, I get to make that decoration. It helps children practice their spelling, and they love getting to “be in charge” of adults.

This way, you’ll be integrating reading into your Halloween decorating and making literacy so much fun.

Halloween Story Time

Finally, let’s not forget one of the key parts of learning to read: Spending time reading books. Snuggle up with your little monster and read your favorite Halloween books

How do you make Halloween a reading holiday? Let us know in the comments below!

Chrysta Naron (she/her) is an early childhood educator and curriculum specialist in Austin, Texas, who believes everything is better with glitter! Read more from her at playfulprek.com.