Building Lifelong Readers

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

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

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

Not a scenario library dreams are made of.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can parents do?

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

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

If you have a reluctant reader

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

We all want the best for our kids

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

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Top Books to Read with Toddlers this Summer

Reading 20 minutes a day is critical. Especially during the toddler years. It may be hard to get a toddler to sit still for a full 20 minutes, so break up reading throughout the day. Remember even if they are doing something else they are still listening. So grab a book and read while they play or while you wait at an appointment or for a break at the park.

Books should only have a few lines per page. Even basic board books are a great read for this age. Choose short rhyming stories about familiar routines. Books about shapes, counting and feelings will help build basic vocabulary and help your child identify the world around him. Find books with bright simple pictures. Talk about the books you read to help draw the connections in the book.

Toddlers love to learn and you are the perfect teacher!

TOP 8 BOOKS TO READ WITH TODDLERS TODAY:

  1. I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont, Harcourt, Inc., 2005. Rhyming, colors, singing this book has it all. The text can be read or sung to the tune of (It ain’t gonna rain no more, no more.) A mother warns her son to stop painting and he wants to listen but he just can’t help painting. EVERYTHING! The book builds vocabulary, increases phonological awareness and  a book kids will return to time and time again.
  2. Move Over, Rover. Karen Beaumont, Harcourt, Inc., 2006. Another picture book win for author Karen Beaumont. Great pictures, unique words, fun rhymes, and a strong narrative make this a great book for toddlers. Find out what happens when a dog has to share his doghouse with animals escaping the rain. Until a very unwelcome guest arrives.
  3. One Hot Summer Day. Nina Crews. Greenwillow Books, 1995. (DIVERSE BOOK) Crews is a master of photography and text. In this book a young girl finds a fun time despite the summer heat. The familiar routine of summer play and the basic text will attract the youngest readers. It builds vocabulary, narrative skills, and will motivate readers to come back to the book again and again.
  4. Hickory Dickory Dock. Keith Baker. Harcourt, Inc. 2007. Familiar nursery rhymes help build phonological awareness. The repetition of sounds and the ability to sing along with the book make this a great choice for young listeners. They will learn counting and time, hear unique words, and be able to participate fully in the story.
  5. Counting Kisses. Karen Katz. Margaret K McElderry Books. 2001. Katz is known for her gentle illustrations, showing love between parents and children all while introducing vocabulary, counting, shapes, and everyday routines. Counting Kisses is a simple story of a child waking and a family sharing kisses throughout the day. Letter awareness and vocabulary are built with each reading.
  6. The Very Busy Spider. Eric Carle. Philomel Books, 1984. Carle’s books are classics. This story is about a spider who works hard all day while ignoring the pleas of the other animals on the farm to come and play. Children will learn animal names and sounds through this book. The illustrations, which Carle is known for, are simple, bright and inviting.
  7. Ten, Nine Eight. Molly Bang. Greenwillow Books, 1983. (DIVERSE BOOK) This Caldecott Honor book helps all children get ready for bed by counting its way through evening routines. Letter Awareness, Vocabulary and Print Motivation are strong in this goodnight story.
  8. Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you Hear? Bill Martin Jr. Eric Carle. Henry Holt and Company, 1991. Martin and Carle team up again in this book describing the sounds of different animals they will find at the zoo. Using Carle’s signature bright simple illustrations and Martin’s simple lyrical text. This is a book you will read again and again. It builds vocabulary, phonological awareness, and narrative skills.

Find the books at Amazon:

(I am an amazon affiliate. I don’t get paid to review books. The opinions are mine and mine alone. If you click on a picture and make a purchase from amazon I do receive a portion of the sale.)

Twenty Minutes a Day

ReadingpicIt is hard to fit in reading among the activities, work schedules and life as a family. Medical and education professionals recommend reading twenty minutes a day to help build future readers. So how do you fit one more to do into an already busy schedule?

The twenty minutes a day can be split up.  The recommendation is twenty minutes a day but it doesn’t mean all the reading happens at once. Find spots throughout the day when you can stop and share a story with your child. First thing in the morning as everyone wakes up, right before bed or anytime in between. Read as often as you are able!

Take books with you. No matter where you are, a restaurant, the doctor’s office or waiting in the pick up line at school for an older sibling, have books with you to share. It will help those minutes spent waiting go by faster!

Make reading an essential routine. Just like brushing teeth, reading is essential to your child’s development. Show them how important it is by making reading time a priority.

Some days there isn’t the time. You’ve made reading together a priority but some days life has other plans. Even if you can’t fit in the whole twenty minutes of reading together find some space within the day to share a few stories. Life will slow down and you can get back into the normal routine.

Invite other people to read. It doesn’t only have to be a parent who reads! Although sharing a book together with your child is critical there are a lot of people who are just as important in his or her life who can share books. An older sibling, a grandparent even a loved babysitter can contribute to the twenty minutes a day. Think of all the fun shared when people read together.

There are a lot of ways to squeeze in that reading time. Where is the strangest place you’ve found yourself sharing a book with your child?

Celebrate Dr. Seuss

read across america

Today is Read Across America Day! If you have children in school you may have sent them in with a Dr. Seuss costume or their favorite book. You might have even signed up to read in a school read-a-thon. If your children aren’t yet at school that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun.

Celebrate the day at home!

Dr. Seuss is instrumental in everyone’s beginning reading life. What is your favorite Dr. Seuss book? Can you pick just one?
I remember learning to read with this book. The colors and the imaginative creatures along with the approachable text helped send me on my way to becoming a reader.

Or is this more your style?

Perhaps this?

Whatever your favorite Dr. Seuss book is pick up a copy today and share the love of reading with your child. Celebrate reading and the man who introduced so many children to fun, approachable books.

How to go further:

  1. Make up your own silly rhyme. One of my favorite aspects of Dr. Seuss books is how he plays with sound. No need for real words. Pick a sound and make up rhymes. Write them down on paper, write with window markers or if it’s a nice day take it outside and decorate the sidewalk with your lyrical rhymes.
  2. Create a creature and tell a story about him or her! Dr. Seuss always had fun characters to compliment the text. While the child reading learned to sound out and hear the sounds they also had fun. Create a creature with your child out of old magazines, markers, or whatever you have around the house.
  3. Make Dr. Seuss hats. No Read Across America day is complete without the Red and White striped hat. Make it out of paper, put it on your head and throw a birthday party to celebrate.
  4. Look at the Read Across America website. There are lots of great printables you can share with your child. Most our geared towards older school age children, but find some that can be adapted to fit your child’s development.
  5. Invite friends over and have a reading party. Break out the bean bag chairs and pillows. Have a snack and a pile of books and read!
  6. Visit your local library or bookstore. Most places will celebrate the day. Check your local reading center and see what fun they have planned.

How will you celebrate today? Share in the comments below!

 

The above Seuss graphics will take you to Amazon. I am an affiliate and if you purchase from Amazon I make a small profit that goes to paying for our family’s reading habit.