Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Reading to Kids

As a teacher, I often have parents asking what they can do to help their child improve in school. I thought I would share my two cents worth to any of you who want to tackle reading at home.

1) I am willing to make the assumption that most of us read to our children when they are small, but as they learn to read on their own this seems to stray... don't let it! Most all of my students, even in grade 6 like being read to. Love is a strong word for anything they do at school, but they do like it! They especially like it, if the book is good and you share it in an interesting way (change your voices, dialect, etc.).

2) As you read, ask questions, like: "What do you think will happen next?", "Why do you think she did that?", "Do you think that was very fair?" "What would you have done if you were him?" These types of questions promote deeper thinking and help their imaginations develop.

3) You can also take time to point things out as you read, like: "Wait a minute - this word says "there" and this word says "their", but they are spelled differently - how come?" or "I like how she described this character. I can picture her in my head and she reminds me of your Auntie Nanny."

4) With toddlers, small picture books are by far the obvious choice, but quickly they can advance into longer books (Veggie Tales, The original Disney books) and even small novels by the time they are 4 or 5 (Rainbow Magic, Magic Treehouse). Books like The Magic Treehouse Series can be re-used of course when they are old enough to read on their own. The current trend, in even junior language arts, is to teach using picture books. Many picture books have valuable morals to be taught, vivid illustrations to discuss and even grammar and vocabulary to comment and build on. I am currently planning a unit for my grade 5 class using Chris Van Allsburg's picture books - he is the author of Jumanji, Zathura and Polar Express and many other great books. The website link here takes you to a number of his books and even has a teacher's guide printable to help you determine what the themes are and what you could discuss as you read the books (easily can be done at home on a smaller scale). Another author who has units published for his works is Robert Munsch, questions to ask your child as you read his books and activities to tie into what you read - some of these are great for even toddlers.

5) I will assume that your older children are reading to themselves, hopefully, but make sure your younger children (who can't even read yet) are also reading to themselves. Little kids can flip through pages and imagine what the story is about or if the story has been read to them a hundred times say it through in their own words. Tuesdays after supper we have family reading time, where the kids start with their own books and read to themselves - we also read to ourselves at this time (role modelling reading-it's important!)

6) Have friends reading time. Kids who read around the same level should read together. We watch movies together, play games together and hang out together, but we rarely read together. Reading with a friend helps your child learn appropriate reading strategies that you may have forgotten, it helps them feel comfortable because someone else is reading similarly to them (so if it isn't perfect it is okay, because others their own age are doing that too), it gives them a chance to ask questions and get answers from someone else's perspective besides a grown up. My class is currently reading Riddle Poems to each other and working together to try and solve them - Try this one:
We are little airy creatures
All of diff’rent Voice and Features
One of us in Glass is set,
One of us you’ll find in Jet,
T’other you may see in Tin,
And the fourth a Box within,
If the fifth you should pursue
It can never fly from You.

7) Toddler Authors to check out- Barbara Reid, Jan Brett, Eric Carle, David Shannon, Eric Hill, Dr. Suess, P.D Eastman, Matthew Van Vleet and our favorite Sandra Boynton.
That's all for now. Feel free to ask me questions if you have them or suggest your favorite authors/books for us to try.

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