Reading and writing and 'rithmatic Most of us could sing the old song in our sleep. And you'll notice that reading always takes the primo slot when it comes to our kid's education. And rightly so. Yet teaching them to read is one thing - GETTING them to read is another matter. Below are some key for picking appropriate books, and even some tips for adults as well.
In school, our kids get a lot of reading assignments whether it's in a textbook, through a program like Accelerated Reader or assigned books. But what about when they are selecting a book to read independently on their own? Many teachers require a certain amount of time at home dedicated to reading. And hopefully this is when your child picks up a book that he or she WANTS to read.
But, sometimes it's hard for them to select a book that they're interested in and that is also at an appropriate reading level for them. That's where you need to help. Your child's teacher is a great source of suggested reading but many times I found myself in a bookstore or library trying to help my son find a book that he'd be interested in enough to want to read AND that was at his reading level. It can be tough to figure it out. Many children's books give a recommended age on the back cover. But usually it is a wide range - such as ages 8 to 12. It's a general guideline but hardly specific enough.
How to Tell if a Book is at the Right Reading Level This is a really simple way that you can tell if a book is at the correct level for your child. It's not at all scientific but it's easy to do and you can even teach your child to self evaluate.
The Goldilocks or Five Finger Method Remember in Goldilocks when she landed on each bed and she said, "too soft, too hard and just right." That's how this got its name - is this book "too easy, too hard or just right?" When your child reads a book that's too easy, they don't advance. When she reads one that's too hard, they quickly get discouraged - but just right is interesting and rewarding.
Here's how it works. Open the book anywhere, and ask your child to begin reading an entire page. For every word that they stumble over or don't know, hold up a finger. When they finish the page do a quick evaluation. If they came upon 0-1 words, the book might be too easy; 4 - 5, or more words means it's too hard. If they read the page with only 2 - 3 words that "slowed" them, then it is just right.
Great Website Resources for Reading Tips
I also found some wonderful websites that could come in handy. The first is designed for teachers but I found it really useful for parents, too. It has a wonderful feature that allows you to type in a specific book and find a similar story based on your child's reading ability - easier or harder. That way, if your child finds a book that interests him or her but it's too hard or easy, you can find a similar book. >
There's another great site that allows you to type in an age range and interests to find a book for your child to read silently or for you to read aloud. >
Reading Tips from the Pro - Mother Goose Herself
Speaking of reading aloud to children. This is the time of year when many of us are asked to come into a classroom to read a story to a class of students. You might be a mom, dad, grandparent or even an aunt or uncle. This is a fantastically fun thing to do - but it can be intimidating. So, I went to the ultimate pro - Mother Goose - storyteller beyond storytellers to find some key tips when reading aloud to a group of children. Here's what she advised:
1. Bring joy to the experience. Be present. This is a gift to your child for you to be there.
2. Choose books that fit what's happening in the child's life - back to school, a holiday, etc.
3. Depending on the age of the children, choose a book with good pictures.
4. Use different voices for different characters. Your kids may say it's weird but they will enjoy it.
5. Use props or puppets, even a simple stuffed animal brings life to a story.
6. Don't be afraid to paraphrase a wordy book if you are asked to read something unexpected. Just tell a story in a creative way.
These are wonderful tips to keep in mind when asked to read a story to a group of children. My husband's fondest memory of our son's elementary years was the day when he went into the classroom and read "Miss Spider's Tea Party" to a wide-eyed group of first graders - one of whom was the proudest of all - our sweet son, Mike.
Invite to your next children's party!
Ah, reading - so much more than a skill, it's our goal to help make it a desire. We can only do what we can, make it available, interesting and fun.
Live and Learn!