Building Reading Comprehension

Functional illiteracy is a large problem in the United States

(Information retrieved from K12 Readers on July 29, 2017 from http://www.k12reader.com/the-importance-of-reading-comprehension/ )
  • Over 60% of inmates in the U.S prison system have reading skills at or below the fourth grade level.
  • 85% of U.S juveniles in prison are functionally illiterate.
  • 43% set of adults with extremely low reading skills live at or below the poverty line.

Someone who is functionally illiterate is unable to read at a level that they need to manage daily life. This could involve reading employment applications or banking forms or housing agreements.

One of the most critical pre-literacy skills is Narrative which helps strengthen reading comprehension to build strong readers.

 

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Reading Comprehension is an important part of early literacy. It involves not only understanding the story that is being read, but processing and understanding the meaning of the story, predicting what will happen and relating it to the child’s life or other stories he or she has read.

It is a skill that doesn’t come naturally and needs to be nurtured as readers grow. Our youngest readers start by connecting the pictures on the page with the words that they hear. In the beginning books have short simple sentences with clear illustrations. As a reader ages selecting stories with strong sequencing, (Like Gingerbread Man or If you give a Mouse a Cookie) help build the narrative skills essential for reading comprehension. Asking questions about the story help children begin to understand the flow of books and create a deeper connection with the story that goes beyond recalling the events on the page.

By the time a child is an independent reader we want them to go beyond decoding the words they read to a rich understanding of the story as a whole.

Check out these articles for further information on Reading Comprehension and why it matters:

Reading Rockets: What Research Tells us about Reading, Comprehension and Comprehension Instruction

K12 Reader: The Importance of Reading Comprehension

Improve Reading Comprehension

Book Review: Wake Up! By Helen Frost and Rick Lieder

Wake UpWake Up! Poem by Helen Frost and photographs by Rick Lieder. Published by Candlewick Press: Somerville, MA, 2017.

A poem about new life in the world all around us. Illustrated with beautiful photographs that invite the reader, not only explore the pages of the book, but the world right outside the front door.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS BOOK

This book needs to be discussed. It is rare to find books that so naturally include conversation starters within the text. Conversations aren’t just a way to connect people together, they are also important building blocks of future reading success. Talking in a positive way, not only provides a safe space and fond memories, but it strengthens vocabulary and builds reading comprehension. The natural flow of conversation will connect what the child sees on the page to the text and even the world around her. It provides the perfect opportunity to enrich dialogue between you and your child.

This natural conversation will also strengthen vocabulary. The language the poet uses is unique and fresh and in addition there is a pictorial glossary at the end of the book to provide more information about the animals and insects explored in the pages of the book.

The photographs are simple, yet detailed at the same time. The close up shots provide a different vantage point for children to look at the natural world. Preschool children are very concrete thinkers, so this is a perfect book to help him gain a better understanding of how the world works and his place in it. And most important, the mystery and awe and wonder of the natural world.

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK

This story begs to be read outside at a picnic in a park. It invites the reader and listener to explore the outside world find their own new beginnings. After reading the book, go on a scavenger hunt to see if you can find any of the animals photographed. Use your phone or camera and take your own close up shots and then when you get home, print them out with labels and create your own Wake Up! book.

Allow conversation to flow

Ask questions your child like where she thinks the different animals may be and why? Where does she think they go at night and what does she think they eat. Allow space for her to ask her own questions as you walk. It is okay if you don’t have all the answers! That is what makes nature so interesting and awe-inspiring. And tell her you can visit the library to find out more information on what she finds most interesting and perplexing.

Don’t forget to get up close

The book encourages looking at nature from a different perspective, so tell your child it’s okay to get down on the ground and look at things up close! Stones and dirt, mulch and sticks. Plants and flowers. Take the time to lay on your backs and look at the sky. Watch the clouds roll by and discover hidden shapes and even label the different types of clouds you see.

WHAT TO READ NEXT

The poet and author have collaborated on several similar picture books. (Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a picture it will take you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a small percentage of the sale. The opinions in the review are mine and I have not been paid for this review)

 

What books would about the natural world would you add to the WHAT TO READ NEXT list?

Happy Reading!!

Book Review: This house, once by Deborah Freedman

  • This House, Once
  • Written by Deborah Freedman
  • Atheneum Books for Young Readers: New York, 2017
  • A story about how a house came to be and the materials used to build it before they were used.

A poetic picture book about where the pieces and parts of a house come from and what they might have been before they became a house.

What I Like About This Book

Books that build a strong sequence are perfect for preschoolers. Building a story little by little helps strengthen narrative skills in future readers. Not only is the child learning the materials used in building houses, he also sees the world around him in a different way. See what is in nature and imagine what it could and can be.

The language is unique and fresh in this story. It isn’t too often in a day that a child will hear the words colossal, oozed, cleft, shingled, melted. Each repeated reading the child will learn the words and build a strong dictionary in her mind for when she begins to read later in her school years.

The pictures are simple and complement the text well. Just as the text builds the words around a house, the pictures build the image of a house page by page. It is amazing how this thoughtful act of placement helps children develop their own ability to retell stories.

Lastly, the lilting flow of the text makes this a perfect curl- up- under- the- blanket read.

This door was once a colossal oak tree

about three hugs around

and as high as the blue.

A more perfect sentence was never written! This type of writing not only draw the child into the book but the parent as well making it a shoo-in for reading over and over and over again. With each repetition the child’s vocabulary and narrative skills will build.

How to Use This Book

This is a great book to try and recreate the story on the page. Go outside and gather sticks, dirt, stone and other natural materials and build a house. Name each of the materials you gather. For example if you find branches from a maple tree, look at the leaves and the bark and the roots.

Ask questions about the book after reading like, What is the door made of? How are windows made? Don’t forget to look at the pictures and talk about what is happening on the page that might not be mentioned in the text. This helps build reading comprehension.

Talk about your house or apartment. What is it made of? Start with the door, just like the book and work your way up. Another great way to converse with your child in a positive way, while building vocabulary and relating back to the story.

What to Read Next?

Try these other books that build strong narrative skills.

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Book Review: Round by Joyce Sidman

  • Written By Joyce Sidman
  • Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
  • Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Boston, New York
  • 2017

Round follows a girl explorer as she discovers the many round shapes she sees and feels in the world.  the world and discovers the many round shapes she sees and feels. Big or small, old or new, moving or stationary it is a perfect read to share with children to grow curiosity about the world around them.

What I like about this Book

Sidman is a children’s poet who writes about nature. She has won a Newberry Honor, a Caldecott Honors and many other awards. She understands well a child’s curiosity of nature and how children naturally gravitate to books about the tangible and real. Preschoolers are very concrete learners and thinkers and this book leads a child to explore the round shapes she sees in her everyday life. She not only talks about the form of round, but also how it moves depending on its mass. She talks about how rain splats and ripples in the water. Dung beetles and the ball it rolls, spins and bounces. Cliffs that start out with sharp edges and are worn away by water and wind and rain. Round isn’t just a shape!

Sidman’s use of words builds strong vocabulary in its readers. She uses fresh language to describe what the child sees in the book. Just a few of her words are  hatch, swell, and budding. The more unique words a child hears in her everyday life the better vocabulary she has to pull from when she begins to read.

Her use of language is also beautiful. Children this young, won’t be able to grasp the metaphors she uses, but the cadence of the story will attract them to the book over and over and over again. This is called Print Motivate and it is an important stepping stone to building future readers.

Or show themselves,

night after night,

rounder and rounder,

until the whole sky holds its breath.

I especially like the last pages of the book that explains why there are so many round things in nature and why it matters that those things are round. Even I learned something from this addition!

How to Use This Book

This is a book that begs to be read outside in a park, a field, near a pond or stream. Spread out a blanket and curl up together. Read the book a few times. Talk about the pictures on the page. A lot of the unique vocabulary is also in the pictures! Afterwards, take a nature walk and see what round shapes your child can spot. Point out what you see and don’t just talk about the shape, but explore the texture as well. If possible, see how it moves and compare how one round object moves in comparison to another.

Go to the store and find round foods. Make a lunch or snack with what you discover together in the store. Talk about the taste, touch, smell and feel of these foods. And if you are feeling adventurous and don’t mind a mess. Try dropping, rolling, spinning or another creative movement.

Find paper and have your child cut out different sizes of circles. Make new shapes with them, order them from biggest to smallest and smallest to biggest. Find different ways to use the paper circles.

What to Read Next

Discover Joyce Sidman’s poetry and nature exploration in these other great books.

 

What are your favorite children’s books about nature? Share in the comments.

 

Happy Reading!!

Book Review: I Am A Story By Dan Yaccarino

  • I am a story. Dan Yaccarino. Harper: New York, 2016.
  • Toddler and Preschool

 

 

 

A short simple story of how books and stories came to be. The different iterations of story and the power the written and oral word holds over children and adults alike today.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS BOOK

This is a great narrative that explains about all the different ways a story can be told. It is a great way to introduce kids to different types of books and different ways of showing a story. The text itself lends to great sequencing for children. Stories started around campfires, then were drawn on walls, then carved and written and on and on. A perfect history on story for our youngest readers. It celebrates the diversity of storytelling in all different cultures and the many ways we tell tales of people in the world.

The pictures are bright and engaging. I have always appreciated Yaccarino’s style of illustration. Kids are naturally drawn to his beautiful pictures. They are classic and new all at the same time.

Vocabulary will be strengthened in each reading of this book. There are so many new words: Papyrus, woodblocks, ink, clay, illuminate. And so many more. The words are all focused around the central theme of books and stories which will be a great starting point for further conversations and a deeper understanding of books.

This is also a great book to use to start introducing toddlers to picture books. While you will still mainly use board books, the text is simple and the story is quick enough to keep even the youngest reader engaged.

I love how the story starts around the campfire and adds technological advances before it comes back to the simple story around a campfire. It is a great way to demonstrate to children how stories grow but return back to the beginning. Always.

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK

This story has three parts to it: How stories are told. How stories are used. How stories make us feel. Pick one of these areas and create a story. Tell stories around the fireplace or campfire and teach your kids about oral traditions. Maybe a family story that happened before them. Or roll out play dough and take a toothpick to “carve” a story into “clay tablets.” If you focus on how stories are used, choose a movie or audio book or even play and view a story being reenacted. Or choose a book off the bookshelf and talk about how you felt while you read.

As a kid, I loved Reading Rainbow. In recent years, a kickstarter was created to bring back this much loved series. There is a channel on Youtube where you can see new episodes of this classic series. The video I shared below is called, I am Book. It is a compilation of poems by well known authors about books! It is a great way to encourage discussion of Print Awareness in a unique and fun way.

Find time to create your own stories with your child. It builds a natural time in the day to be together without the pressures and demands of schedule. It provides a space for you and your child to be together and create.

WHAT TO READ NEXT

What is the most interesting way you have heard a story? Comment below to share ideas!

HAPPY READING!

Book Review: A Wonderful Day by Michael Samulak

  • A Wonderful Day. By Michael Samulak. Tate Publishing: Mustang, OK, 2015.
  • Ages: Early Reader.Toddler. Preschool

An engaging early reader that follows a child through the excitement of spending a day together with a parent at the zoo.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS BOOK

I love books that can be used for all different age levels. The book is advertised as an early reader but this book can be read with toddlers and preschoolers as well. My youngest daughter is a new reader and she enjoyed helping read the story as well as listening.

The author’s educational background shines through the text of the book. He demonstrates through lyrical prose how a parent engages with the child while reading. The text asks questions and prompts the child to make guesses about what will happen next. This will help building reading comprehension and strengthen narrative skills. Narrative skills are important because it helps children understand and process what they read and hear. An important step in building future readers.

The child can also help sequence the story events after a few readings which contributes to strong reading comprehension. One of the most important skills our children will need as they go through school.

As we have discussed before Print Motivation develops when  child sees herself in the book she reads. Books that handle normal, everyday routines or special relationships not only help our readers see themselves on the pages but motivate them to pick up books to read and hear. There are many ways a reader connects with a book and kids and parents alike will relate to the story of parent and child spending a special day together.

Vocabulary is also a strength of this book. There are animals to label and fun words like fuzzy, shipwreck, explore and many more. Books help children hear words we don’t use in everyday conversation with them. The more times you read this story the more sophisticated his vocabulary will become.

The book also uses similes and alliteration. Literary devices kids won’t understand yet, but hearing them used in stories gives them a background he can pull from when he starts writing his own stories.

The best part of this book is it is gender neutral and diverse. All children, regardless of gender, race or ethnicity will be able to see themselves on the pages of this book. I appreciate the realistic drawings that are simple but enhance the story.

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK

I love the opening to the book because it starts conversation between you and your child right away. After reading the book, if it is morning, talk about what will happen during the day. Or if read before bedtime, talk about what happened during the day and what might happen the next day. Not only does this help a child feel more secure with the family routine, it provides a space to talk with your child in a positive and affirming way. Without knowing it, she is learning about time and how our days have a beginning and middle and end, just like the stories she reads. You can get adventurous and have your child tell you a story of the day while you write it down, highlighting not only letter awareness but narration.

Visit a zoo or if no zoo is nearby go to a local library and find books on animals you might find at the zoo. Learn about what they eat and where they sleep and what they do all day. Reenact the story A Wonderful Day either through creative play or drawing a map of the zoo you visit, complete with pictures, to the animals in the book. Writing and drawing are great activities to increase hand strength.

Find pictures online of the different animals, or draw your own, and label each picture. Cut them out and paste on squares of paper. Flip them around and play a memory game. Seeing the word with the picture helps not only cement the new words they learn, but brings awareness to the letters that make up each word.

Another fun activity is to gather the different animal toys your child has and place them in a bag. Have the child feel the shape of the animal while in the bag and have her guess what the animal is. Picturing an object the child can’t see is great for imagination and putting the concrete into the abstract.

What to read next

Check out the author’s other book, which I will review this week:

Other great books that talk about parent child relationships:

What books do you share with your child help you feel closer? Share in comments.

HAPPY READING!

Book Review: Sleep Tight Farm by Eugenie Doyle

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Sleep Tight Farm: a farm prepares for winter. By Eugenie Doyle. Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander. Chronicle Books. San Francisco, 2016.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS BOOK

Sleep Tight Farm follows a family as they prepare their farm for winter. It is a great way to show children the work it takes to put food on the shelves at the store and what happens in the winter to the fields, animals and machinery that keeps us fed and healthy.

There is so much unique vocabulary in this book. From the different types of vegetables, to the animals and the farm equipment. Each page offers new discoveries. I even had to look up some of the vegetables myself!

The pictures are detailed providing a lot of conversation to build reading comprehension. It is a great book for children to retell the story after he has heard it a few times. Another positive of this book is it can be read to younger children with short attention spans. Each page set ends with a one line summary of what happened on the page. Or for children who have heard the story many times it provides a place where he can interact with the story. Understanding the narrative of a story will help future readers write their own and understand better the stories he reads.

It also provides a jumping off point to talk about changing seasons. What we see and do in the fall. What clothes we wear, what traditions we have, what the trees or sky looks like. It goes beyond naming the months of the year and seasons and helps your child understand how the world changes but stays the same.

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK

This is a great book to come back to again and again and again. After reading the book through, take a few pages and discuss what is happening in the pictures. What is each of the people doing? What colors does your child see? What objects are new to your child? If your kids live in the city like mine do, a farm is a whole new world to explore.

There are many sensory experiences in Sleep Tight Farm. Make a list of each of the senses and go through the pictures on each of the pages and put it in touch, taste, smell, hear, see. This not only helps your child relate to her own experiences of these senses, but labeling and writing will encourage Print Awareness.

If possible, find a working farm to visit. Farms provide a lot of opportunities for learning. If you don’t have any farms nearby, go to the library and find books or movies about farms. This is a great use of Youtube and screen time.

Go to the store and find some of the new vegetables from the book. Discovering new foods will not only help your child become an adventurous eater, kids are concrete learners and if they can touch and feel what the vegetable is it will help them remember it better. Also, find a recipe using one of the new foods and make it to help build math literacy.

This book also encourages the discussion of where our food comes from. Try this short video describing how food gets from the field to our table.

 

WHAT TO READ NEXT

 

What is your favorite book about seasons or preparing for change of seasons? Comment at the end of the post and share ideas!

 

HAPPY READING!

Book Review: Strong As A Bear by Katrin Stangl

  • Publishing Information: Katrin Stangl. Enchanted Lion Books, New York, 2016.
  • Ages: Toddler, Preschool, Early Reader

 

 

 

STRONG AS A BEAR is a great vocabulary building book. The pictures are simple and coordinate with the words on the page. The sentences are short but the words o are unique adjectives and animal names that will increase your child’s wordbase.

The opening lines are Free as a Bird. And show a picture of a child escaping from his crib with a bird calling from the rail. There are other objects on the page that will encourage your child to engage deeper in the book through naming what everything is.

What I Love

What I love about this book is the strong use of unique words. Vocabulary helps build future readers by providing a large dictionary of words in your child’s head that he can use to retrieve from when learning to read. I also love how this book grows with a reader. A toddler will engage with the simple text and bold pictures. A preschooler can delve deeper and discuss the emotions of what each picture creates in their heads. A new reader can use this book to begin to sound out and blend sounds. The familiarity of the book will help her feel confident as she explores the world of words.

How to use this book.

The first few times you read this book with your child, focus on the words. Read through it a few times. Ask questions but start small. Ask about the colors or objects in the pictures. Then as your child becomes familiar with the text have them anticipate the animal. When ready pick some of the words your child may not have heard often like mischievous, magpie, clever. Give definitions and help him find examples in other books of what those words mean.

Tell stories using the pictures. Each picture is a starting off point for a story. Why is the boy climbing out of his crib? Where do you think he is going? What will happen when he gets there? Why is the clown following an elephant? Where do you think they work?

This book creates conversations. One indicator of reading success is the quality of talk between parent and child. The richer the conversations, the more words a child hears. Books are a great way to stimulate and help make space for talking with your child in a meaningful way each day.

I love simple books that pack so much within its pages. Unique vocabulary and opportunities to increase narrative skills from the pictures are cornerstones of success for future readers.

What to read next

(I am an Amazon Affiliate. When you click on the picture it takes you to Amazon, where if you make purchases I do receive a portion of the sale.)

I reviewed Big Bear, Little Chair earlier this year.

 

 

 

 

 

A die cut book that will help increase narrative skills by creating stories about what is happening inside or outside.

 

 

 

Another great wordless book that will encourage young readers to create stories and worlds of her own.

 

 

 

What books with simple sentences do you love to read with your child?

Happy Reading!!

 

Book Review: This Old Band by Tamera Will Wissinger

  • Ages Infant, Toddler, Preschool
  • Illustrated by Matt Loveridge
  • Skyhorse Publishing Inc, 2014

I love picture books you can sing a long to. Not only are they fun, singing is a great way for young children to hear sounds and how they are broken apart into syllables and singing also accentuates consonants and vowels in ways we don’t always get in reading.

But, if you are musically challenged, don’t worry! Reading the text is still a great way to help build these skills. The great thing about songs, read or sung, is the rhythmic text and the alliteration.

Phonological Awareness

This old band is sung to the tune, “This old man” It is a song most kids will recognize and join in with even if they don’t know the words they can hum along. I love the playful use of onomatopoeia and alliteration throughout the song. The pictures are fun and comic like. There are lots of different objects to talk about on the page. And after a few repeats your kids will be singing along.

Math Literacy

Another great part of this book is the math literacy it builds. Although I wish they used the actual numbers along with the written out number, counting backwards is a skill young preschoolers will find fun. And after the book is finished you can continue the conversation by grabbing sticks, or toys or whatever is at hand and using them to count 1-10 and then 10-1.

Narrative Skills

It is also great to help your child build narrative skills. Talk with your child about what instrument is played first. Maybe write it out on paper, cut them out and help your child organize as you read through the book again.

After all when we talk about literacy we aren’t just talking about words.

This is a great book to pick up when you are short on reading time. It has the vocabulary, the sounds, and the narrative skills we are looking for in a book.

Happy Reading or in this case Happy Singing!

 

Other fun books to sing with your child

(Reminder I am an amazon affiliate. When you click on a picture it takes you to amazon, where if you make a purchase, I get a portion of the sale. I do not get paid to promote any particular book. The views and opinions are mine and mine alone.)

 

Book Review: Joseph’s Big Ride by Terry Farish

  • Preschool-Age 7
  • Illustrated by Ken Daley
  • Annick Press

 

You may have seen on Facebook, Twitter or other social media the call for publisher’s to produce more diverse books. When I was a children’ librarian in the inner city I struggled to find books that the kids I worked with could relate to. Illustrations skewed towards traditional families and more northern European features. And the multicultural books that were published had heavy themes and mature content that young children would struggle to relate to.

Joseph’s Big Ride is a wonderful book that brings together the universal experience of being a child and the life of a child living as a refugee in camps and in America. All children will respond to the childhood bucket list item of riding a bike. But Farish brings a sensitivity through Joseph’s story of kids who long to participate in this rite of passage but life circumstances have kept them from it. Although it could have been a heavy topic of life as a child refugee, Joseph’s story reminds us we are all children with similar dreams and goals. Instead of differences separating the children it brings them together.

The book is beautifully illustrated with vibrant, rich pictures. As noted on the back cover the illustrations are modeled after the illustrators African-Caribbean roots. The pictures are engaging and draw the reader in along with helping tell the story.

The text is just as beautiful proving that children’s books can be literary works. Farish uses metaphors, similes, alliteration, assonance and more to bring the story to life. The carefully thought out text makes this book the perfect read a loud and, although young kids aren’t ready to write their own rhetorical devices, the repetition of such tools in the books they hear will build future readers and discerning students.

The book builds phonological awareness by using onomatopoeia which is a fun way for kids to hear different sounds that they will use as they learn to sound out words on their own. The strong narrative will build reading comprehension. The vocabulary is sophisticated but also approachable in the text. Your child will walk away with a stronger personal dictionary of words to draw from as they experience the world around them. (What are the 6 pre-literacy skills?)

This is a great book to use as a guide when selecting books with your child at the bookstore or library. Not all books are created equal and what we look for as parents in books are stories that engage our children (and us too!) while helping build the skills that will provide the stepping stones for future reading success.

Happy Reading!

Other Books By this Author: