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

Early Reading Milestones

All my baby does is eat the book, we’ll start reading when she’s older.

My son tears every book he’s given. He’s just not ready to read.

Every time we sit down to read, my toddler gets up and plays with her trucks.

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These are many of the conversations I have had with parents when we talk about reading. Babies drool on books, toddlers write all over them, or my infant can’t really understand what I’m reading so why bother?

One of the biggest predictors of school success is the size of vocabulary a child has by age three. Reading, singing and playing every day for at least 20 minutes provide the foundation for learning a child needs for the rest of her life.

We all want that kodak moment reading time together, and like much of parenting that isn’t real life.

Don’t wait to build a reading routine

The first way I gauge the reading life of a child when I work with them is by giving them a book and seeing how they hold it. Children who have been read to, even at young ages like two, will recognize if the book is upside down or backwards. A child who hasn’t been read to often, will flip the pages upside down or backwards through the book.

A child isn’t born knowing how to hold a book

From birth, we can read to our child. It doesn’t even matter what we read, all the baby cares about is hearing our voices. Yet, a lot happens in the infants brain when we read together. Synapses and neural pathways are created for the sounds heard. The patterns and pictures on the page stimulate their brains and engage their visual centers. Older infants will even coo and babble in response to what we read. Our children, through our modeling have learned to hold and turn pages in a book. A developmental milestone at this stage is reaching for the book, putting it in his mouth, and even using it to bang around. Hey, these books don’t come with instruction manuals! All those signs point to a child engaging with the book, that must be where “devouring books” comes from.

Use those fingers for more than holding the book

While you read, be sure to point out the words on the page, or the pictures that accompany the words. Name what you see, not just what is in the text. All of that helps the child connect the letters on the page with the pictures. They won’t be able to read a book yet, but they know those squiggles and lines mean something! As they develop, you will soon see them mimicking you by pointing at the words as they “read” the book. A great sign that all that quality time worked.

They aren’t going through adolescence at 18 months, they hear you

Toddlers love to boogie. They love to run and move and drive us up the wall with all that activity. There are days where they sit on your lap for stories and are soon zooming around the room playing trucks.

Most days, it is fine to call a time-out on the reading and pick it back up when all their sillies are out. Other days, you’ll stop reading and even though they are on the ground playing with their doll, your son might look up and ask, “Why’d you stop?”

Kids listen, even when they aren’t looking. How many times have we discovered that when we say a word we shouldn’t have and they repeat it? Pay attention to their cues and decide whether to postpone or continue reading on. I promise you, it won’t be like reading to a wall.

My daughter’s a genius, she’s reading all by herself at 4

While that is most certainly true, I’d hold off calling Mensa just yet. Children who have been read to have favorite books and they want those books to be read to them again and again and again

and again

and again.

In fact, just when you are about to hide the copy of Llama Llama Red Pajama, they will switch gears and Skippyjohn Jones will be their new favorite.

The great thing about all those repeat readings? They learn the story. Sure, they can’t actually read the words, but they know how the story starts, the problem in the middle and how the story ends. All skills they will be grateful for when they are in highschool and have to write a paper about the theme of Bartleby the Scrivener.

You should congratulate yourself when you get to this point. You have stuck to the reading routine even when you thought you couldn’t tell Marvin K Mooney to go home one more time.

You have not reached the read aloud end

Your child has been reading Fly Guy on repeat all by herself. He devours any book you give him, and that no longer means he literally eats the pages. Your child is an independent reader. Now you can sit back, relax and read your TBR pile that is about to collapse on top of you.

Warning

DON’T. STOP. READING. ALOUD

Kids at any age will receive the benefits of reading aloud. For elementary age kids, it will be fun to trade reading back and forth. For your sully teenager, it will give you a chance to talk without a scowl, eyeroll, or scoff. Keep reading. It builds relationship, maintains relationship, and reminds you of all the hard work you’ve accomplished for the past decade.

 

For More Information on Literacy Milestones

Literacy Milestones Reading Rockets

Reach Out and Read Literacy Milestones Chart

 

How much do you enjoy the reading time together? Then read even more.

Dr. Needleman, Co-Founder Reach Out and Read

Helping Parents Build Literacy at Home

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  • Do you find the day over before you’ve had time to read with your child?

  • Can’t find high quality books that your children will enjoy?

  • Do you want to build a better relationship with your child?

  • Do you want to find efficient and effective ways to build literacy in your home?

Building Future Readers Helps Busy Parents

Make Building Future Readers your go to source for book reviews, literacy building activities, reading research and author interviews.

Life gets busy fast and research shows reading 20 minutes a day creates curious, elastic, and adventurous minds. Not only do our children learn while we read, but the parent-child relationship strengthens and grows through the enriching conversations created with engaging books and play.

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How can Building Future Readers help?

  1. Reviews of Upcoming Picture Books. Each review focuses on the 6 early literacy skills: Print Motivation, Print Awareness, Vocabulary, Letter Awareness, Phonological Awareness, and Narrative Skills. In each review there is a section about the book, the skills highlighted, songs and activities that will continue learning after the last page, and suggestions of what to read next.
  2. Author interviews. Book excitement builds when a child learns about the women and men behind the books they enjoy.
  3. Reading Research. Our understanding of how kids learn to read and what works and doesn’t work as well changes constantly. Keep on top of the latest trends and topics.
  4. Reading Best Practices. Reading aloud isn’t intuitive! We all struggle with pronunciations and long winded passages at times. Find tips and tricks to get through books you didn’t realize you needed an English degree to conquer.
  5. Kids Who Play are Kids Who Read. Life gets out of control fast. Practices, lessons, get-togethers, playdates and so much more interfere with the time our kids need to play and explore. Learn about how to incorporate play and exploration into all aspects of your child’s day.

MDW Anna

Building Future Readers Helps Strengthen Families

Building Future Readers helps concerned parents find ways to impact the reading life of their child. The world changes fast and we will help you navigate the complexities.

Story Questions

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