Posts Tagged ‘SaS2010’

Resisting the Urge to Create a Reading Superstar

March 12, 2010

These days, moms should really have the title of “Supermom”.  Not only do we have to juggle work, kids, husband, and maybe a little time for ourselves, but we also feel the pressure to make sure our kids are ready to read, if not already reading, before they begin kindergarten.  Where does this pressure come from?  Does it come from the government and their constantly revised educational standards for our children?  Are we inflicting it on ourselves?  Perhaps it’s a little bit of both.  But is any of it really necessary?

Certainly we want our children to become readers.  And we want them to be successful, life-long, engaged readers.  But I’m afraid, when the pressure is too great, parents resort to drill and practice in an attempt to get their kids reading.  I know it seems so easy to pick up a workbook at the store and have kids practice their letters or sight words.  Unfortunately, this is not going to work.  In fact, it will probably have the opposite effect.  Typically kids will simply disengage from reading altogether because they were never able to connect with reading as a pleasurable experience.  I firmly believe that parents are a child’s first teacher.  I also believe that we can teach them without stressing them (or ourselves) out!  And, you don’t need an education background to do so (let me tell you that my having a degree in education has only added more unnecessary pressure – self inflicted, I’m sure)!

So instead of trying to create reading superstars, what if we just agreed to try to create readers?  Happy, healthy, engaged, and interested readers in two simple steps!  Here’s how:

  1. Read aloud every day.  Over two decades ago, Becoming a Nation of Readers: The Report of the Commission on Reading (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985) concluded, “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children” (pg. 23).  In other words, reading aloud to our children is the most important thing we can do for them if we want to create a reader.  In his groundbreaking guide for parents, The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition, Jim Trelease stated, “The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it” (2006).
  2. Encourage children to choose their own books based on interests.  I firmly believe that choice is a huge indicator in whether or not a child will enjoy reading.  Children have so little control in their lives that choosing books is one thing they can control.  Certainly children should be able to choose the books they want read aloud to them, but consider allowing children to choose their own books when in the library or bookstore. . . even if they aren’t of the best quality or at your child’s reading level, you are sending the message that his/her choices are important.

I read to my son every day from the day he was born.  I allowed him choice in his reading materials (even when I didn’t want to read it).  We played simple games with literacy basics.  I did nothing else!  I didn’t drill him to death.  I didn’t test him on his letters, sight words, etc.  Yet, when he began kindergarten he was already reading on a first grade level.  I didn’t even know he could read!

That’s it!  No need for workbooks or drill and practice.  Just simple reading and choice in reading materials.

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Real World Reading with Preschoolers

March 10, 2010

Created by Susan Stephenson of The Book Chook

A few weeks ago I read a column in the Washington Post by Jay Matthews.  He lamented about how restrictive reading lists are for middle and high school students and how they haven’t really changed from when he was in high school, in other words there is very little nonfiction on the reading lists!  Mathews stated, “Educators say non-fiction is more difficult than fiction for students to comprehend. It requires more factual knowledge, beyond fiction’s simple truths of love, hate, passion and remorse. So we have a pathetic cycle. Students don’t know enough about the real world because they don’t read non-fiction and they can’t read non-fiction because they don’t know enough about the real world.”

As an educator, I have heard colleagues say how non-fiction is more difficult than fiction for students to comprehend, as Mr. Matthews stated.  My answer always was, “We need to teach them how to read nonfiction.  We need to expose students to the joys of reading nonfiction.”  After all, that’s our job as educators, isn’t it?  But, it’s not just an educator’s job.  Our children actually spend way more time outside of school than in school, so really, teaching our children falls on us as parents as well.

In my opinion, it’s never too early to introduce nonfiction texts into our children’s lives.  Perhaps if we begin immersing our children in nonfiction as preschoolers (when they have a natural curiosity for the world around them and they are full of energy for learning!), they will grow up with a natural love for learning and passion for reading.  And really, the earlier we introduce nonfiction into our children’s lives the easier it becomes for them to understand how to read it.  Maybe we can begin to break the “pathetic cycle” and create a generation of readers who enjoy nonfiction!

So here I have for you just a few ways you can integrate nonfiction into your preschooler’s life:

  1. Read Aloud Nonfiction Texts – Anytime your preschooler shows an interest in a particular topic, provide nonfiction books on that topic.  When you read informational texts aloud to your child (and you don’t have to read nonfiction from cover to cover!), you are building his/her background knowledge.
  2. Expose Your Child to Real World Nonfiction Print – Provide real-world nonfiction text for pretend play.  For example, if your child is pretending to be a waiter or work in a restaurant, have some take-out menus on hand for him to use.  If your child is playing post office, provide him with some junk mail to sort.  This can easily turn into a math activity as well.  Kids can sort the mail by color or size.  When your child turns your family room into a waiting room at the doctor or dentist office, provide magazines and newspapers for him.
  3. Introduce Text Features If your child has a particular question about a topic, use that opportunity to discuss and show your child a few text features of nonfiction texts.  Perhaps he wants to know what a specific dinosaur eats; demonstrate how you can use the table of contents or the index to try to locate the answer quickly, rather than reading through the whole book.  If you come upon a word that you know your child will have difficulty understanding, demonstrate how to use a glossary.  If there isn’t a glossary, explain to your child what the word means.  Briefly, explain how we read differently for different purposes.
  4. Provide Hands-on Experiences A combination of texts and real-life or hands-on experiences is most powerful for learning.  You can use this three-step process to incorporate nonfiction texts into your preschooler’s reading repertoire.  Through these steps you will build your child’s background knowledge (essential to comprehending texts):
  • Select a text based on a topic that interests your child.
  • Hands-On/Read World – Prior to reading, provide an opportunity for your child to have a hands-on experience of some sort related to the topic.  Utilize the outside world as much as possible (outdoors in general, museums, special exhibits, etc.)
  • Read Aloud -Read aloud the text asking questions as you read.  Provide explanations if you believe your child’s comprehension may be breaking down.
  • Connect – Draw comparisons between the experience the child had and the text. How are they alike? How are they different? Help your child make connections.

Reading nonfiction texts with preschoolers provides a natural connection to their own curiosities about the world.   Having background knowledge about topics helps children comprehend what they read.  By building upon the world knowledge of your preschooler now, you are setting a foundation that will only serve to guide them when they begin reading on their own.

What if we begin with our youngest learners?  What are other ways we can introduce nonfiction into the lives of preschoolers?

Parts of this post were originally written as a guest post on No Time For Flash Cards in August 2009

Please note that this post is part of the Share a Story-Shape a Future Literacy Blog Tour, which is being hosted at The Reading Zone today with the topic, Just the Facts: The Nonfiction Book Hook.  Thank you for stopping by!  I hope you visit again soon!

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.