Monday, June 4, 2012

Must Read Monday

My heart broke a little today.

I work with struggling readers at Jonah's school. Now that I have my own little readers at home, I often try to figure out just what makes a child have difficulty learning to read. Sure, there are often learning disabilities and attention problems that slow down the process, but I often wonder how much of the time home life and lack of routine can be a source of the problem.

One of my students really struggles with a reading strategy I have taught her. When she has tried to sound out a word and cannot figure it out, I often say, "What would make sense?" This is a strategy I use with Carson all the time, and it really works. Using the context of the sentence, and "getting his mouth ready" for the beginning sound, 9 times out of 10, Carson will figure out that word. The child in my group at school very rarely uses this strategy successfully. What is the difference?

I have decided it is lack of experience.  So many children these days aren't modeled good reading.  Their parents do not read bedtime stories to them.  Doctors' offices play children's cartoons instead of offering Highlights magazines.  Cars come with built in tvs. 

So, why did my heart break?  Because I asked this particular student of mine if her mom read to her at night.  No, she said.  But sometimes her sister makes up stories for her as she is falling asleep.  I really wanted to cry.

Because I read to my belly.

I couldn't wait to hold my babies in my arms and read to them.  They slept through most stories those first few months, but gradually as their eyes began to focus more and they could see the pictures, they loved being read to.  I will never forget a book called "Baby Boo," that I must have read to each boy about a hundred times.  It is one of those books I still can remember the words to--"Wakey, wakey, sleepy baby.  Kiss, kiss, I love you."  Their favorite page was the one that said, "Baby, baby, where are you?"  As I got ready to turn the page, I could sense my little guys' anticipation of what was going to happen on the next page.  And when I said, "Boo, I see you!" and they looked at the page that had a mirror in it and saw themselves, they would crack up.

When I thought about all that time I spent reading to my boys (and still do), it made me realize that not only were we getting to spend really sweet time together, I was modeling how a "good reader" reads.   I was showing them how a good reader pauses at the end of a sentence, and predicts what will happen on the next page.  I was modeling how to "read like you're talking," and rereading if something did not make sense.  I was showing them through my dialogue how to use the pictures to understand what is happening in the story.

My advice to moms and dads is this...

1. Make books readily available to your kids--in the car, in your purse, in your family room, in the playroom, and anywhere else you hang out.

I checked out some comic books from the library.  My boys couldn't wait to read them, so they sat at the counter and had their afternoon snack while reading.
2. Establish a nighttime routine and make reading aloud a part of it.  Even when your first grader decides he wants to read to himself every night, make time for reading aloud.  You read one page, he reads the next.  He reads a chapter, you read a chapter.  Independent readers still need to work on comprehension, fluency, and inflection.

Griffin is listening intently as his cousin reads a bedtime story to him.
3. Be a reader yourself.  So much of what kids do, they learn from what their parents do.  If you don't enjoy books, your child will not see reading as something important either.  Consider having one night a week where the tv goes off and you curl up with a good book.  You might find reading more enjoyable than tv, especially this summer when there is nothing but reruns to watch. :)