How to teach my child to read

As parents or caregivers we want the best for our kids. We teach them so many different skills over the course of childhood. Practicing self-care, how to tie shoes, safety, and more. It is only natural that we also want to prepare them for school and the knowledge they will need to succeed when they walk through those double doors into kindergarten. Reading is no different, yet I often see parents looking for DVD’s, flashcards, Apps, and computer programs to shore up literacy skills. In this post I will show you low-tech, low-cost methods to build future readers.

As parents we foster independence

Why don’t apps, TV and computer programs work?

TV and technology aren’t the evil articles and click-bait posts would have you believe, yet, there is a time and a place for media. As a tool for pre-literacy learning, the research shows children are better served playing, reading, talking, and singing.

TV puts all of our brains in a passive state. While we watch, it is almost like a dream. Our brains are not engaged as they would be when we are reading or playing. Research shows that children who watch two or more hours of television a day can have a delay in speech, trouble hearing the different parts of a word, and are more likely to develop ADHD and other attention disorders. (http://unitedwayfd.org/reading-view-page.php?page=effects-on-reading)

We help our kids make sense of the world

What does work?

Talking, singing, reading and playing. These are the foundational blocks for early reading success. Conversation and play creates a learning environment where children build vocabularies and explore the world around them through their senses.

We provide a space space for our children to explore

Any normal, every day activity is an opportunity to learn. Going to the grocery store? Set up a scavenger hunt grocery list. Your child might not be able to read the words on the page, but you can have them find an item you tell them and when you get to that section you can show how the word on the page is the same as the word on the product. The same for driving in the car on the way to pick up a sibling from school or going into a store. There are words all around us and it is a great way to engage our kids in a text-rich environment.

Where is the proof?

From Reading Rockets

Show me how?

Reading Rockets is a fantastic sight for educators and parents. They have helpful videos, parent tips and more. Below is a video on how to help your child recognize letters.

From Reading Rockets

Building Future Readers is here to help

Would you like tailored reading plans and activities made just for your child? Email me at jessica.n.smith@gmail.com and see how I can help build your child into a future reader.

The pre-literacy skills Building Future Readers activities are based on

Future Readers are Children Who Play

Recently, I was in an early head start site and I observed a toddler, dressed as a doctor, cooking at the play stove, while nursing a baby doll. The teacher asked if the child was a chef and the girl answered, she was a “cooker.” The teacher laughed and said, that’s right you are a doctor, mother, chef. While the girl played and acted out routines she saw when she was at home or with her family in the world, her teacher taught her new vocabulary to describe what was happening.

This is a sight you don’t often see in schools anymore. Why is that and how is it harming the future generations?

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The Challenge

Outcomes based learning has hurt play, particularly in early learning classrooms. Teachers are required to prove skills learned and objectives the children have met. Documentation has taken precedence over the process of learning, creating an environment where children regurgitate information without ever knowing how to process, internalize and comprehend what they have heard.

What happened?

Based from an article retrieved on EBSCOhost

Ready or Not, Play or Not: Next Steps for Sociodramatic Play and the Early Literacy Curriculum: A Theoretical perspective. Dr. Tarsha Bluiett. Reading Improvement, Fall 2018. Volume 55:3, 83-88.

No Child Left Behind, initiated by the Bush administration, while with good intentions, has created an atmosphere where children are continually left behind because teachers are forced to instruct and teach at levels the early learners aren’t ready for.

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Research Shows

Beginning with Maria Montessori in the early 1900’s research has repeatedly shown, that play is the work of learning. Meaningful work happens through an environment rich with opportunities for creative play,  that will not always inspire children to become lifelong learners, but also aids in the development of the oral, aural and visual skills a child needs in order to make the jump from pre-literacy to emergent reader and finally into independent reader.

Dramatic play encourages the development of language, emotional literacy, cooperation with peers, problem solving and moving from internal thought to externalization of thoughts and back to deeper thinking.

Play, not instruction, fosters this connection.

Social interactions through play provide meaningful ways for children to gain important life and self-care skills and emotional learning all while the imitate and reproduce the world they see around them in the safety of the classroom.

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What does this mean for parents of pre-literate children?

  • Don’t overschedule. Keep adult led, organized activities to a minimum if at all in the early years of life.
  • Make a play friendly space. Kids do not need high tech gadgets or expensive toys. Create a home that allows for exploration of the world indoors and outside.
  • Child led. Play shouldn’t be forced, but directed by the child.
  • Adults need to remember how to play. When was the last time you played? Or pretended to be someone else? Keep in mind that when our children play, they are working hard at learning. Play as we age becomes a practice in creativity that will atrophy if we don’t practice. While our kids play to learn, we also play to create.
  • Gives you time to talk with your child. No need to give commands or directions in play. Let your child be the parent, or the doctor. Find ways to introduce words they may not know naturally in the conversation of play.

Play isn’t only for recess

By creating literacy rich and meaningful play areas pre-literate children build the oral, vocabulary and systems they will use all throughout their life. So put away the flash cards and resist signing them up for another enrichment program. Allow your child the gift of time for play and watch them soar.

Play IS the foundation of school success

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For Further information

 

Check out these websites

The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds
Kenneth R. Ginsburg and the Committee on Communications, and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health

Play is the Work of the Child Maria Montessori

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.

affection-baby-book-1741231.jpg

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

Finland loves to Read and How We Can Be More Like Them

finland

Finland, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden have the highest literacy rates in the world. It is no surprise that book culture is celebrated in these countries and there is less focus on compulsory education and more focus on play, reading and family time.

Why Finland Ranks Number 1 for Literacy?

  1. They place a high value on reading.
  2. They focus in the preschool years on having children tell stories and hear stories.
  3. Most homes subscribe to a newspaper.
  4. They have one of the best library systems in the world.

Finnish quote

 

How are Their Numbers Different?

Finland, Where Reading is a Superpower

  1. 77 % of the population buys at least one book a year.
  2. 75% of parents read aloud to kids every day.
  3. Writing is one of the most respected professions.

How Much Do They Read?

Finland Reads

  1. There are 20 million books sold every year in the country which is an average of 4 books a person (including kids) in a country of 5.5 million people.
  2. 1 in every 6 people between the ages of 15-79 buys at least 10 books a year
  3. Book gifts are huge and about half of books purchased as gifts are given to family.
  4. There is at least one library in every municipality, 300 central libraries, 500 branch libraries, mobile libraries and one library boat.
  5. 40% of citizens are active patrons visiting a library at least twice a month.
  6. Each book is read about 2.5 times a year and there are about 7 books for ever Finn in the libraries.

christmas gift

What Can We Learn?

Creating a culture of readers starts at home. If mothers and fathers read and make it a priority, kids will read. If the US focused less on outcomes and more on creating storytellers and story hearers, our school success rate would improve. Making books a priority in schools, communities and as gifts, promote a culture of literacy and reading.

 

Don’t forget to enter the Building Future Readers Giveaway! Open until 12/23

We are hosting a holiday giveaway!

See this #AmazonGiveaway for a chance to win: Bear Stays Up for Christmas (The Bear Books).https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/335fa96c601876e4 NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of Dec 23, 2017 11:59 PM PST, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules http://amzn.to/GArules.

 

What is one step you will do today to create a culture of reading in your family? What can we do to promote reading in our communities? Comment below!

Happy Reading

Building Future Writers

Play Matters to reading success

Rock Wall

We’ve talked a lot about reading in this blog and I was reminded at a work training this week that not only do we prepare our kids to become future readers, but we prepare them to become future writers as well.

I was under the misconception that writing was all about fine motor skills. I did a lot with my kids to strengthen their pincer grasp, but I didn’t know how important shoulder, back and forearm strength was for future handwriting success.

This workshop opened my eyes to a whole new level of early literacy success.

Some of the ideas I share below came from the workshop and others came from a great website called Your Therapy Source: Gross Motor Skills and Handwriting. I’ve put it in a graphic format so you can print it out and remind yourself to add play into your day to help your child develop the muscles he needs to become a strong handwriter.

Develop Future Writers

This afternoon go find a park and try out some of the activities, not only will you and your child spend some quality time together, the play will actually build the arm and hand strength needed to be a successful student.Hanging

There are also great blog posts about how handwriting develops.

Developmental Progression of Handwriting Skills at Mama OT

Activities to Practice Handwriting Skills at Home at Growing Hands on Kids

What other gross motor skills have you used to build shoulder, back, and arm muscles for writing?

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!!

A Storytime Primer for Parents

When I worked as a children’s librarian, my favorite part of the week was planning storytimes for a local Head Start school. I would sit on the floor of the children’s area and sift through the shelves looking for a theme and fun books to complement it.

But I didn’t stop there, because the theme was only to get the kids interested in the books, the real learning was happening through the choices I made about the books I read.

So how does a librarian plan a story time?

It starts with a theme. Themes can be about a topic like moving or first day of school or beach days. It could be colors or shapes. I once had a teacher ask me to do a storytime on positional words like Over, Under, Above, Below. That was a challenging storytime to prepare.

Once I have chosen a theme, I start to assemble books. Story times and attention spans of preschool children usually last about 30 minutes. Three or four books, with songs and rhymes in-between will fill the time quickly. So with so few minutes, how did I make the most of the stories I read?

Focus on the Six Pre-Literacy Skills

With all the choices of books out there and so little time, after I settled on a theme, I chose what of the six skills I would highlight that week.6prereadingskills

This part is for the kids, but they will never know it. These six skills are the building blocks for future reading success. When I introduce the book, I will say a line about the skill highlighted in the book and a quick sentence about why it is important. That is for the teachers and the parents and the caregivers. The kids only need to know they are in for a great book.

After the theme and books are chosen, I then choose the order I read the books in.

When reading to kids, order matters

With active bodies and imaginations, storytimes need to be kept short. I always start the storytime with the longest book. If you try to read the Little Engine Who Could at the end of a story session you will have chaos on your hands. So start with the longest book first and end with the shortest.

After the order is chosen, find songs and rhymes to go along with them.

This is a great way to get the kids wiggles out

Kids are made to move. Sitting and listening to story after story is hard. So make the most of your time and take short breaks to get those little bodies moving. Fingerplays are a great way to involve the kids in the story time and get their attention back. (Fingerplays are poems/songs like where is thumbkin) Playing music and having them follow your dance is also a great way to get them back in a listening mood. Sing a song, repeat nursery rhymes, whatever you can dream up for a quick break between books will be appreciated by the young listeners.

Those are the building blocks of a story time, so let’s see the theory in practice.

Preschool Story Time Sampler

 

The theme as you can tell is messes! These books I chose because of the unique vocabulary, the strong narratives, rhyming words, and the fun pictures that build print motivation. The last book, I ain’t gonna paint no more is a show stopper because it can be sung to It Ain’t gonna rain no more.  All of the books encourage interaction with the kids and fun conversations. Songs that could be used with this storytime are Laurie Bernker’s Victor Vito, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, and the nursery rhyme humpty dumpty. I always began and ended my storytimes with the same opening rhyme and the same ending rhyme. It gives the kids a sense of order and completion to their time at the library.

Now, I am not suggesting that parents create a show-stopping storytime for their loved ones each night, but it may help you break through a reading rut with your child or find a new way to explore stories together.

VOCABULARY

 

 

PRINT MOTIVATION

 

NARRATIVE SKILLS

 

 

 

PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS

 

 

 

(I am an amazon affiliate member, if you click on a picture it takes you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I get a small percentage of the proceeds. I am not paid to review any particular books and the opinions are all mine.)