Tag Archives: gender reading preferences

Online site offers current events reading for young readers

If you have a young reader who is reading at a third grade level, a new online site offering nonfiction news articles might attract him.

Child Browsing the WebAt www.newsela.com news stories at five different reading levels are offered. The lowest reading level is targeted for an average third grader, and the highest (the original news story) is written at a college level.  In between are three rewrites at intermediate reading levels.  Two news articles are posted daily, along with a quiz for each article.  Both the news stories and the quizzes are aligned with the Common Core standards for nonfiction literacy.

The news stories are divided into seven topics:  war and peace, science, kids, money, law, health and arts.  Articles from Feb. 6 and 7 include “CVS to stop selling cigarettes,” “Marine biologists baffled by beached whales in Florida,” and “Fourth-graders have become better readers.”

Articles are geared to younger readers by the subject matter, choice of vocabulary and the average sentence length.  I calculated the CVS article written for third graders to have about 8 words per sentence.  Paragraphs in that article ranged from one sentence to five sentences.

To the right of each article, which comes with a colored photo or graphic, are five tabs to allow the reader to choose his own reading level.  If a child finds one level too hard or too easy, he can choose another.

Jennifer Coogan, chief content officer for the website, selects the stories to feature from the AP News Service and the McClatchy-Tribune News Service.  Stories might be international, such as a story about Parliament telling Buckingham Palace to cut back on expenses and to repair its palaces.   Or they might have regional interest, such as the effects of an inch or two of snow on Atlanta.

The people who rewrite the original stories use guidelines for readability, including sentence structure, context clues, and time shifting in narratives.  Because younger readers don’t have “reading stamina,” said Coogan, the articles’ word counts are aligned to state-wide assessments.

The quizzes use multiple choice questions, but they also might ask a student to tell in which paragraph an idea is found.  In the works are questions that require short answers from student readers.  Also coming is a Spanish version of this service.

Although the primary target audience of the website is teachers, parents can sign up for their children.  The annual cost is $18 per student for an individual student; $2,000 per grade in a single school; and $6,000 for a whole school.  So far 90,000 teachers and a half million students are using the site.

In an earlier blog, I wrote how boys often prefer nonfiction reading.  Websites like this one might be a good alternative for them.  The timeliness of the articles, the daily introduction of new articles, the subjects themselves—plus reading and answering questions online—might attract boys who are not keen on reading fiction.  –Mrs. K

My child is a reluctant reader. How can I encourage him?

First, commit to working with your child every day for many months or even years.  He will not become an eager reader without your help, or the help of a dedicated tutor who works with him several times a week.

Boy at mailbox discovering skateboard magazineNext, find reading material that your child enjoys.  Boys—and most reluctant readers are boys—prefer nonfiction—how an engine works, for example, or how to build a bird house, or sports stories.  Nonfiction offers certain pluses:  illustrations (photos, charts, and diagrams), subheadings, a separate introduction, and maybe a summary.  Tempt your child with a skateboard magazine or a comic book or graphic novels.  Find online sites too.  Then:

  • Build on past success.  Ask your child to reread material he has mastered, but which he couldn’t read a short time ago.  Remind him of his gains.
  • Introduce new reading material which you suspect your child can read with 90% success.  Increase the difficulty level in tiny, tiny increments so the child has a growing feeling of success, not failure.
  • If a child stumbles through a sentence, focusing on individual words and not on the sentence, repeat the sentence for him with fluency, so he knows what the sentence means.
  • Stop the child after a passage and ask what it means.  Don’t let him move on until he knows the meaning of what he has already read.
  • Take turns reading.  You read one page; he reads one page.  Or for older students, you read one paragraph; he reads one paragraph.
  • Let him read to you without distractions.  No TV calling from another room.  No cell phone in your hand, or tablet in your lap.  No brother on a video game in another room.  Give him your undivided attention.
  • Read to your child—maybe at bedtime?—without any expectation that he will join in.  Let him enjoy reading as pure entertainment.
  • If he has only one reading strategy—such as guessing at a word—model other strategies.
  • Cover part of the word to show a part he can read.  Reveal more of the word.
  • Point out prefixes and suffixes, and cover them so the child can see the basic word unit.
  • Ask him to read a sentence leaving out a difficult word.  Together discuss what that word might mean.
  • Ask him if a word looks like any other word he knows.  Talk about word families or rhyming words which often sound the same.
  • If the child’s attention span is short, have more reading sessions but limit their time, and use a timer so the child can monitor how long the reading session will go on.
  • Praise his efforts.  Point out successes like
    • Knowing a word he missed in the past.
    • Sounding out a word.
    • Pronouncing a word using correct syllable breaks.
    • Putting inflection into his reading.
  • Talk to your child’s teacher.  She might know appropriate reading materials to recommend.  She can keep you abreast of reading skills the class is working on so you can work on them at home.  She will carefully watch your child for reading problems or successes if she knows you are working with him too.

My son was a reluctant reader, way behind at the end of first grade.  I consulted an expert and followed his advice.  I worked with my son for at least a half hour every day over summer vacation, asking him to read lists of words (for phonics) and easy reading books (for comprehension).  He hated it.  Every session was a struggle.  Yet he started second grade reading on grade level and was an eager reader after that.  By sixth grade he was devouring a chapter book a week, anticipating the publication dates of books in series he enjoyed.

The sooner you can intervene with a reluctant reader, the more likely you are of success.  Analyze your kindergartener’s or first grader’s reading habits.  If he is a reluctant reader, commit yourself to working with him now, before he becomes discouraged or evasive.  –Mrs. K

Do preschool-aged boys prefer different reading materials from girls?

Yes.  Even three- and four-year-olds show differences.  Here are some differences worth pointing out, although these vary from child to child.

  • Boys—even preschool boys—prefer different genres of reading from girls.  Boys like “how to” books read to them—how a car engine works or how a pitcher holds the ball for various throws, for example.  Boys often prefer books with humor or books that show a boy being mischievous.   Boys like science fiction and fantasy.  Boys as young as three might prefer different reading material from girls of the same age.

    Boy telling mother information from a book about turtles

    Click on image to enlarge it.

  • Girls like fairy tales more than boys.  Many fairy tales have girls as the main subjects—Cinderella, Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White.  Don’t be surprised if boys are bored by fairy tales.  Fairy tales originated in a time without bikes, jets, video games and Angry Birds.  Fairy tales can seem pretty dull to a three-year-old who regularly plays games on a smart phone or on wii.
  • Boys like visual aids to help understanding—a diagram of how an elevator works, photos of Hurricane Sandy, or cartoons, for example.  They may prefer to have nonfiction read to them more than girls do.  They like manuals and the diagram directions for Legos.
  • Boys like to see boy characters, or if not boys, then men they might want to become when they are big.  A boy who likes flying might enjoy a book about a sixteen-year-old boy learning to fly.  A four-year-old boy beginning baseball practice might like books about boys playing baseball or a biography of a slugger like Babe Ruth when he was a kid.  Boys want boy characters doing boy things, just as girls want girl characters doing all things.
  • Boys like fiction crammed with action.  They like books heavy on plot and low on emotion.  Girls like these books too, but they also like books about relationships more than boys do.
  • Boys like books with useful knowledge they can share with other boys, the kind of knowledge other boys will find appealing.  “Hey Grandpa!  Do you know the first team that ever won a Super Bowl?  I do.”

If you are reading this blog, you are probably a mother or female teacher of young children.  Your first choice of material to read to your child may not be the same as a little boy would choose.  If your child is interested in science, maybe reading an article in National Geographic or Popular Mechanics makes sense.  You don’t have to read books.  Magazines and newspapers are fine.  The daily Charlie Brown or Garfield comic might appeal more than a “Jack and the Beanstalk” story.

Boys love technology.  Figure out his passions and search for information on the internet.  Even if he can’t read yet, he will recognize that reading would be a useful skill to access information he loves.  Or help him write an email to someone and then help him to read the response.  Boys like useful reading.

Lastly, can you get Dad or Grandpa or another man to model reading?  If a boy sees the girls and women in his life reading, but not the teen boys or the men, he might think that reading is not a boy’s activity.  Try to get a man to read to your child regularly.