Building Readers begins at home

I recently attended a workshop from a local literacy organization about tools and strategies to help struggling readers. The focus was on how to identify what reading problem the child, teen, or adult reader faced and strategies to build more confident readers.

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The workshop fascinated me, because as a librarian, not a teacher, I had never really thought about fluency and decoding and how phonics were taught to new and struggling readers. I gained a lot of knowledge in the workshop about the mechanics of learning to read that I will find ways to implement in future storytimes.

I was left, though, with a question

How do parents of “pre-literate” children participate in the literacy life of their child to mitigate future reading problems.

As any good librarian does, I turned to my local library’s research databases. In my search, I found an article that, although meant for kindergarten and first grade teachers and parents of this age group, I began to see how libraries, literacy organizations, and preschools can partner with parents to build a routine, love, and background in reading.

The Research

A 3-Year Study of a School-Based Parental Involvement Program in Early Literacy. Susan Ann Crosby, Timothy Rasinski, Nancy Padak, and Kasim Yildirim. The Journal of Educational Research, 108:165-172, 2015. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier.

The research looked at the impact of parental involvement in student literacy achievement and the sustainability of a program over the course of 3- years. The program was modified each year and what the researchers found at this one school where the program was implemented is the children and parent’s who had the highest participation in the weekly program had the highest increase of Word Accuracy per minute when tested at the beginning and end of the year. And in Kindergarteners the researchers noted the children knew more sight words.

All it took to improve reading fluency was 2, 10 minute sessions of parent and child reading per week.

The program was simple. Each week a short poem or rhyme was sent home. The parents were to, over the course of the week, practice the reading two days. In particular the parents read the passage several times to the child while pointing out the words. Then the parent and child read the passage together several times, while the parent pointed to the text. Lastly, the child would read the passage several times and point out the text while reading. Afterwards the parent and child played word games using unique words from the text in a variety of ways.

Parent reads poem several times while following the text with her finger

  • Parent and child read poem together several times while following text with finger
  • Child reads poem several times to parent while the child points to words
  • As the program developed there was more emphasis on the program with the poem of the week being displayed in the school and assessment logs submitted every 9 weeks. All it took was two days a week of 10-15 minute sessions between parent and child for the student to experience literacy improvement.

What does this mean for parents of children with young children?

  • Repetition is key. Using poetry and rhymes with our youngest listeners will not only help early literacy skills develop before the child becomes an emergent reader, the familiarity, routine and safe space the reading activity takes place encourages a child to bond with reading.
  • Mini-reading breaks have huge impact. The study only required 10-15 minutes twice a week. Most families can find time in between activities or bedtime to fit in reading rhymes or poems.
  • Reading and highlighting the words are key. We can’t just read to our children, we have to show them that what we say relates to the markings on the page. Think of it as prepping your child’s “reading surface.”
  • Parent involvement is critical. Teachers and librarians aren’t miracle makers. All they do is guide parents and children in a learning direction. The magic happens at home and the school day is practice.

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What are 3 steps you can take today to make a difference in your child’s future reading life?

  • Choose poetry and rhymes to mix up your reading life. Act out the poems or rhymes. Use silly voices. There are a lot of ways to do repeat readings without the experience boring you or your child.
  • Know what books your child is hearing at school and pick them up from your local library. Find ways to explore the themes and ideas in the book by taking “field trips” together to build your child’s context or background knowledge for the book.
  • Play word games. As the researchers saw, when the parents followed up readings by using the new words in the book in their everyday conversation, there was a larger impact on achievement. See how many times you can use a new word in conversation and link it back to the poem you read. Or play a rhyming game by creating a list of rhyming words.

Reading should never be a chore but a bonding experience between parent and child

Building future readers begins at home in ways that don’t have to feel like a chore for either parent or child. By incorporating short spurts of reading throughout the week, your child will be even more ready to emerge as a reader when they enter kindergarten.

Book Ideas to try at home

Mini Book Reviews

Books, books and more books! I love receiving advanced reader copies of upcoming titles. Through NetGalley, I am able to request books that look interesting and if approved I receive an electronic copy for feedback and reviews. Not only do I get to see what is coming out, I get to let my readers know what books to look out for.

Introducing the Spring 2019 line-up. Stay tuned for more reviews.

I am an amazon affiliate, if you click on a picture it takes you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a portion of the sale.

Read the reviews and help out the authors by pre-ordering if you plan to make a purchase.

Spring 2019

Backpack Explorer Beach Walk. Edited by Storey Publishing. Published on April 16, 2019. I enjoyed the photographs and the child led exploration. This would be a great book to accompany a beach vacation to enrich the time. Or, if it is still cold outside, curl up next to the fire and read this book and dream of warmer days. There are stickers in this book, so best for older children.

Love you Head to Toe. Ashley Barron. Owlkids. Published on March 15, 2019. Lyrical text, simple and gorgeous illustrations, and actions that fit perfectly with the words. A great book for babies and toddlers. Parents of infants can use the rhyming text during diaper changes, on a walk, at the pool or any daily routine. For toddlers this is a great way to connect them to the greater world by acting out the different animals.


When You’re Scared. Andree Poulin. Illustrated by Veronique Joffre. Owlkids Books, Published March 15, 2019. A great book to help explore emotions. A boy and his mother go camping and he is afraid to jump into the water. At the same time, a bear cub is scared to go dive in the dumpster for food. The boy puts aside his fears to help out a friend in need. Beautiful illustrations and scarce text make for enriched narrative skills and vocabulary with each retelling.


Red Light, Green Lion. Candace Ryan. Kids Can Press. Published on May 07, 2019. The illustrations in this book are simple yet bold. They follow the text well and enhance the reading. The text is lyrical and rhythmic. There are pages that young listeners will understand and more abstract pages that might be confusing. The sentiments of the story are lovely and for the most impact I would share this with older preschoolers who are ready to tackle abstract thoughts.

Building Lifelong Readers

“Excuse me, will you help me find a book?”

When I worked as a children’s librarian, there was no greater joy than having a child come up and ask for help selecting a book. That was when I got to exercise my readers advisory skills and dive deeper into understanding what makes a book click for a reader.

More often than not, what I would hear was, “My teacher wants me to choose a book at this level.” Then I would pull out the binder that listed the school’s reading lists with point values and the child would brush my questions away only wanting to know which book in her level she could read for the most points and the fewest pages.

Not a scenario library dreams are made of.

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In the article Thinking Outside the Bin: Why labeling books by reading level disempowers young readers by Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal, August 1, 2017, Parrott discusses what the purpose of leveling books was for in schools and how that was not the intention for libraries.

The key is more choice, not less, Carter believes. “Let them take out a lot of books so that somewhere in that pile they find something that satisfies them,” she says. “But we have to keep that process going….When they come into the library the next time, talk about their choices: what worked; what didn’t. They have to learn their own processes for selecting books, and if we keep narrowing the choices by artificial constraints, we aren’t giving them that chance.

Betty Carter, professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University, noted in a July 2000 SLJ article

A libraries goal is to build lifelong readers and help each developing reader discover their reading identity. (Parrott, 44) The leveled reading often discourages readers or makes them feel inadequate and reading becomes another school chore instead of a gateway to a larger world.

The acronym Bookmatch, guides young readers to choose their own appropriate reading material. And this is a great place for librarians to help out.

  • Book length
  • Ordinary language
  • Knowledge prior to book
  • Manageable text
  • Appeal to genre
  • Topic appropriateness
  • Connection
  • High interest

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There are debates about leveling books in the education field, but at home and in the library our focus should be on building a love of reading and in order to meet that goal we have to follow the lead of our children.

What can parents do?

  • Go browse library shelves with your child. Have them pick up books that appeal to them, either through the cover or description.
  • Ask them why they picked up that particular book. Did it remind them of another book they read? Did it look funny? Questions help us better understand what connected our child to the book in the first place.
  • Do not judge. Okay, we are all probably guilty of this. We want them to experience our favorite books from our childhood. Who wouldn’t love The BFG or Bridge to Terabithia or The Phantom Tollbooth? They might be classics, but they also were written for a time very different from the world our children are growing up in. Bite your tongue when they look at the Boxcar Children, and say it looks old-timey. They aren’t reading for us, they are reading for themselves.
  • Librarians are in the library for a reason. If your child really isn’t able to find a book to his liking, do not be afraid to ask for help. The librarian will offer some suggestions based on the books the child has enjoyed in the past.

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Too often these days, reading and literacy have been reduced to achievement statistics. That may be fine for improving test scores, but it has a negative impact on a child’s enjoyment of reading. Yes, we need to provide opportunities to challenge our kids, and at the same time, if we focus on their needs, the achievement often happens on its own.

If you have a reluctant reader

  • Try audiobooks. One of the funniest books my family has listened to is Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians. This book demands to be listened to. The narrator is fantastic and the whole family will sit and listen together.
  • Graphic Novels are a must. Graphic novels are not hurting your child’s reading life. In fact, many kids begin with graphic novels and advance to chapter books. And if they don’t, no worries because graphic novels are still reading!
  • Magazines, Guiness Book of World Records, and more. Reading is reading is reading. Is anyone judging you for reading the latest Stephanie Plum? Well, if they are, you don’t need to hang around them 🙂 Like graphic novels, magazines and list books are easier for kids to digest because the text is broken up, there is more white space and instead of looking at all those tiny letters scrunched together on the page, there is breathing room in the text.

We all want the best for our kids

Deep reading will come if we build a trusting relationship between kids and books. That relationship starts young, when they are still babies and continues on, hopefully through the rest of their lives. If we take the focus off of results and academic achievement, I believe we would have way more readers. Our job as parents, caregivers, and child reading advocates is to guide our children into the wonderful world of reading and then set them free.

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Book Review: Poppy and Sam and the Leaf Thief by Cathon

I am an Amazon Affiliate, which means if you click on links or pictures it will direct you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a percentage of the sale. I am not paid to review books. I did receive access to the book from NetGalley.

Poppy and Sam and the Leaf Thief by Cathon. OwlKids books, Published 8/15/2018.

Talk

 Comics and graphic novels are the perfect stepping stone to build enthusiastic readers.

My kids love graphic novels. I gave up a long time ago asking them to read my favorite chapter books. The quality of comic books and graphic novels has really improved and more and more I find myself suggesting graphic novels to parents.

The problem is, there is a bias against these types of publications. While in the past, they were not always of the best quality, the market has certainly changed. For new or emerging readers the simple text and picture driven story provide a solid foundation for reading comprehension. If you have a hesitant reader, comics and graphic novels are the perfect stepping stone to build enthusiastic readers.

Meet Poppy and Sam

Poppy and Sam, through trial and error, discover the mystery of who has been eating Basil’s leaves. The comic/graphic novel illustrations keep the narrative clear showing children the sequence of events from beginning to end without a lot of extras to confuse the narrative. The language is rich and unique and repetitive in all the right places to help children learn new vocabulary. This book is not only great for independent readers who love comic books, but it serves as a great read aloud to preschoolers. The themes of friendship, community, manners along with the mystery element will keep readers engaged through the pages.

Million Dollar Words

  • culprit
  • interviewing
  • nibbled
  • lurking
  • aphids
  • shifty
  • tunnel
  • dense
  • earwig

How do you help your kids learn these new vocabulary words without making it boring?

Play Charades

Play charades! Grab a bag and write the words on slips of paper and toss them in the bag. Have your child chose a paper. Read the word to them, making sure to run your finger underneath as you read it to encourage print and letter awareness. Then, talk about what the word means and choose an action to represent it. Have your child repeat the motion/action and choose another. After you have gone through the words a few times together, see if they can perform the action on their own when you read the word.

Go on a word scavenger hunt

This one will be tricky and requires imagination but see if you can find books or objects that the child can experience each word out of context of the book. Dig through dirt and see if you can find any earwigs. Look for books on aphids and ladybugs. Give an impromptu science lesson by finding objects that are dense, versus objects that are hollow. There is no right or wrong!

Sing

Singing promotes literacy because it breaks down the sounds of words. The phonemes the children hear provide a solid basis for future reading. Play music in the car as you drive around town, put on music during the 4 o’clock witching hour and have your kids dance their energy out and during baths or getting ready for daycare or preschool, sing songs to keep everyone’s mood light and squeeze in more learning time for your child.

Fingerplays are another great way to get kids involved in the action. There are alot of great options on the internet or create your own using nursery rhymes your child already knows.

Play

Recently, I read a great article about how movement, especially crossing the midline, is essential to building reading comprehension. I know it sounds weird, but readers are built by playing!

How Crossing the Midline Activities Helped this Child Listen to His Teacher retrieved from Integrated Learning Strategies Learning Corner on 10/11/18.

So whenever you are listening to music, or find yourself waiting, have your child practice some of these moves to help integrate their whole body.

Cook with Basil

Make Spaghetti Sauce! Cooking or baking are great ways to practice reading, numbers, math and all sorts of goodness. Go to the store and by fresh basil and pretend earwig is nibbling on the plant. Tear up the leaves and prepare your favorite sauce recipe. Have your child taste the basil as you cook.

Mystery Bag

Fill a gift bag, grocery bag, or whatever you have lying around with different objects. Have your child pretend to be Poppy or Sam and solve the mystery of what’s in the bag. Have them close their eyes and feel the object and make a guess to what it is. You might need to show this a few times to them before giving them a turn. Any old household item will do, not only does it increase vocabulary, it gets their senses involved!

Read