Helping parents observe and document their child's communication skills is a great way to support early literacy. By sharing this step-by-step guide with parents, you can turn this journal-keeping activity into a home/school literary adventure for children:

1 Think of your child's Literacy Response Journal as including all the important components of early literacy development-listening, speaking, writing, and reading.

2 Plan with your child's teacher to keep the journal at home for at least a full week before returning it to school for the teacher's entries.

3 Don't feel pressed to make entries every day (or you'll "burn out"). Instead, be alert for any observation you make concerning each one of the four components of literacy development above, and write a brief description in the journal.

4 Catch your child in the act of listening! This may be at the breakfast or dinner table, in the car, or at bedtime. Did she seem engaged by the conversation of others at the table? Did you converse with her on the way to the grocery store? Was she attentive to a bedtime book, or the story you told her about when you were little? Write down your observations.

5 Notice and record times when your child seems most comfortable participating in conversation. This might be first thing in the morning while getting dressed for school, at coming-home time, during a play date, or while playing in the bathtub.

6 Keep a generous supply of plain paper with drawing and writing implements-crayons, washable markers, and sturdy pencils-in a spot that's both convenient and private, such as a small table and chair in a corner of the kitchen. Notice and ask about your child's drawings without putting her on the spot. Offer to write something about the picture if she'd like. If she is beginning to scribble, or form shaky letters in words she's trying to spell, do not correct her: These are all valuable early writing behaviors. Instead, write your observations in the journal.

7 Listen for, watch, and record any signs that your child is engaged in early reading behaviors. These include: recognizing words in the environment, such as traffic signs, words on boxes or newspapers, and exit or entrance signs; holding a book the right way up and turning pages from right to left; chiming in with words when you read a familiar story; and memorizing the exact or approximate words to a story when "reading" a book.

8 When the agreed-upon time has passed, hand your Literacy Response Ojournal to your child's teacher. Be generous in your expectations of her response time. (After all, she will have other journals to read and react to.)

9 When conference time comes around, your child's journal will be a valuable jumping-off point for an informed discussion of early literacy progress.