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.)

May Toddler Reading List

 

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Board Books are perfect for toddlers. With heavy pages, the children can flip through the book independently. The text is simple, rhyming and full of new vocabulary words. The pictures are engaging and the books are the perfect size to take with you anywhere you go.

Look for books that:

  • Have fun rhymes
  • Phrases easy to repeat
  • Real faces and animals
  • Shapes and Numbers
  • Feelings

Below is a PDF of board books toddlers love. Print it out and take it with you to the library or bookstore!

Toddler Take Me to the Library Reading List

May’s Baby Reading List

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It is never to early to start reading to your child

Baby’s first books are often vocabulary books, nursery rhymes and songs. Babies are sponges for language at this age and it becomes a cornerstone of future reading success. Look for books that have simple pictures, contrasting colors, and real pictures of faces and animals. Touch and feel books or any book with texture is a perfect pick for babies.

One or two words per page and simple songs will keep your child engaged and interactive which not only builds language but develops a lifelong reading habit. Allow the child to hold the books and explore. Yes, the book will often end up in their mouth because that is how babies explore!

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Look for books that:

  • Have real faces, animals, objects. Babies react more to real faces at this stage of development.
  • Textured books. Babies explore with their senses. Find books that are not only heavy cardboard, but cloth and other textured materials.
  • Simple one or two word sentences with simple pictures. These types of books help build vocabulary which future readers need a large base for school reading success!

I have put together a PDF of suggested board books that will engage your baby. Print it out and take it along with you to the library or bookstore. In addition, many libraries have parent packs with puppets and age appropriate toys to help dive deeper into reading. Also look for baby storytimes and play and learn centers for parent/child focused time.

Baby Take Me to the Library Reading List

 

Happy Reading!!

 

May’s Preschool Reading List

No substitute for booksHeading to the library and don’t know what to look for?

Below is a printable PDF that you can take to the library with you. These books are books that my own children devoured or were huge hits at the library storytimes. Also included are music cd’s and magazines that will build literacy while having fun together. Each book listed will have the pre-literacy skills that are strongest in the book. Take this list with you to discover new books together.

This week’s list is for preschoolers. Next week look for board books and picture books for toddlers and the last week of May will be board books for babies.

Enjoy the list and feel free to share with the other parents you know.

Preschool take me to the library reading list

 

Happy Reading!!

Reading Habits: Chapter Books with your Preschooler

Signs your child is ready for chapter books:

  • Enjoys listening to longer stories.
  • Enjoys stories where the pictures don’t do most of the talking.
  • Enjoys hearing the stories you read to your older child. (Reading Rainbow)
  • Starts thinking abstractly.

So if you answer yes to most of the questions you are ready to start choosing your first chapter book with your child.

Picking the Right Book:

Make sure the story fits your child’s interests. Like choosing a picture book, we want to make sure our child engages in the story. Look for books where the main character shares hobbies or is in a similar life situation.

Pictures still help. Choose a book that still has pictures throughout the story. It breaks up the text and provides an opportunity for you to talk about what you have read. With more listening than looking it might be harder for your child to hold the story thread in his head at first. Practice stopping every few pages and asking questions.

Start Small. There are a lot of great beginning chapter books like The Magic Treehouse series or The Clubhouse Mysteries or Matt Christopher or Mercy Watson among many others. The sentences and chapters are short and there are usually no more than 5 paragraphs per page.

Slowly start adding chapter books to your daily reading habit. Increase the number of pages you read and don’t worry about reading a full chapter! Since the stories aren’t necessarily driven by the pictures, let your child explore legos, coloring, blocks or another activity while you read. Just because their hands are busy doesn’t mean they aren’t listening. Always talk about what you read the previous day before you start reading. It will help them learn to hold the story in their heads for longer amounts of time in between readings.

Before long your child will ask to add a chapter book or two to the library basket but never stop reading those picture books because they are still a great source of unique and rich vocabulary and reading fun!

Other great chapter books:

(I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the pictures it will take you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I receive a percentage of the sale.)


What our family is currently reading together:

 

HAPPY READING!!!

Closing the Gap

You may have heard the statistics that by age three children of professional parents hear 30 million more words than children of parents on welfare. The statistics come from a 1995 study by Hart and Risley at the University of Kansas.

What they discovered is children who are read to and speak with their parents have higher IQ’s at age 3 and have better school performance later in life.

Massaro, Professor Emeritus in Psychology at the University of California Santa Cruz found, “Word mastery in adulthood is correlated with early acquisition of words.” What we know early in life, impact how we learn later in life.

What is clear from the research is conversations between parents and children are critical in language development and emerging literacy. Conversations alone don’t do the trick because, as Massaro says, our language is pretty basic. We use a lot of gestures and pull from the 5,000 common English words in our heads. Picture books, though, elevate our conversation and improve the vocabulary our kids hear because the words are unique and not used in our everyday.

Although parents can build their children’s vocabularies by talking to them, reading to them is more important.

-Dominic Massaro

What can we as parents do to help our kids get the best start in life?

PBS suggests modeling conversations starting at infancy.

  • Take turns in conversation
  • Vary pitch, speak slow, and repeat often
  • Talk about real-life experiences that are happening. When you are at the store, the playground or completing tasks around the house.
  • Make a space for your children to speak with their friends and siblings
  • Practice open ended questions at the dinner table or in the car
  • Write down stories that your kids create.
  • Read, Read, Read

These skills not only build our children’s capacity for literacy, it also builds trust, self-esteem, builds bonds, and improves listening.

Reading is still the best way to introduce new words and build vocabulary. It opens dialog between caregiver and child and creates new ways to interact with the world around them.

It may feel weird at first speaking with your baby. But as you talk you will notice that he responds in babbles, sounds, gestures and head movements. As your child ages the sounds will go from sounds to short words. Short words to short sentences. And between the ages of 2-3 years  conversations will become more organic. There are also other ways to engage your children, singing, naming what you are picking up at the store, pointing at signs and objects on walks and generally talking about normal, everyday routines.

What all these studies show is when parents and caregivers Speak, Play and Read with their child, literacy skills strengthen and have the best start possible in school.

Happy Reading!

More information on how to encourage conversations:

Reading Rockets: Talking and Listening: Practical Ideas for Parents

Growing Book By Book

A Literacy Org You Should Know: RIF (Reading is Fundamental)

reading-seuss
Picture retrieved from InspireMyKids.com

 

On Wednesday, RIF (Reading is Fundamental) celebrated its 50th year. That is 50 years of getting books into the hands of kids. It was started by teacher Margaret McNamara in D.C. She tutored kids and let them keep the books. In 1966 the program was launched with teachers and volunteers in the DC schools. The program has helped not only get books into homes but helped increase reading proficiency and confidence in our youngest readers.

Their mission is an important one. To ensure every child has access to books and every child experiences school success.

I saw the power of RIF when I was a librarian working in inner city Cleveland. A local Kiwanis group had an event each fall at a school within the boundaries of our neighborhood. By the end of the event, the kids went home with at least four books. The volunteers would read the stories with the children, sing songs and participate in crafts and games to go a long with the story. It not only helped build future readers, I saw relationships in the community being built.

2/3 of low income children do not have a book in the home. The recommendation is for kids to be read to for 15 minutes everyday and without books in the home, many of the children from these homes go to school already behind. See this New York Times article from January 2014 about why books matter.

You can help by donating to RIF or finding a local program to support. We want all kids to have their best start in life and in school. Start by supporting the organizations with a mission to help students thrive.

To learn more about this critical program visit the RIF website.

Reading is Fundamental Combats Summer Slide

The Gift of Reading

Celebrate RIF’s 50th year by donating books to a local shelter, a little free library, schools or daycares in your area.

 

 

Read. Talk. Play. It’s what builds future readers

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I absolutely love this picture. Reading isn’t just about reading the words on the page. Talk about the book. Talk about the pictures. Talk about how you feel or your child feels about the book. Our kids need to hear the conversations whether all they do is babble back an answer or think and answer themselves.

Read.

Talk.

Play.

It’s what builds future readers.

 

Raising readers is a fabulous site with the same goals I strive for on this site. Take a look today and see what tips and tricks you can add to your reading life today.