Tag Archives: how to encourage more reading

I haven’t read to my child at bedtime. How do I start?

Dad reading to children in bedIf you haven’t been reading to your child at bedtime, but you want to establish that tradition in your family, here are some ways to begin.

You might gain your child’s approval by saying she is going to be allowed to stay up 15 minutes later every night while you read together.

You might let her choose the reading material. You needn’t read a book together. If she is into fashion, read a fashion magazine or newspaper. If he is into making things with his hands, read Popular Mechanics. The idea is to make the reading experience pleasurable for your child.

Help your child to vary the reading material. Go to the library together and poke into the nonfiction section about animals, stars, and history. Show her the biography section and read some names of famous people she might know a bit about. Let her choose so she has have a stake in the reading.

If electronic equipment will entice your child, use it. If comic books will entice your child, use them. If graphic novels will entice your child, use them.

Many children are ignorant of world news, but an evening read of a news story can make children aware of the wider world. With you there to interpret, the child can become more sophisticated.

If your child is reading too, and he is a reluctant reader, suggest that he read one page and you read another, or he read one paragraph and you read another. But at first you might want to do the reading yourself, to attract your child to the idea of bedtime reading. If he thinks he has to work, he will balk.

If you read a book for which there is a film, suggest that you watch it together after you finish the book. Heidi, Treasure Island, Tom Sawyer and so many more children’s books have been turned into films. You can discuss how the book and movie differ, and which she likes better.

If there is a special TV show one night or you are on vacation, you might suggest skipping the evening read for that special event. You might be surprised to see disappointment on your child’s face. If so, suggest that you could read, but just a bit later or during the baby’s nap. For the chance to cuddle up with Mom or Dad, most children will want to read.

Keep this time stress free. If your child is relaxed, she might raise questions about matters she is tossing around in her mind. Let that be her choice though.

Stick to the time you set—15 minutes, 20 minutes or whatever you decide on. If necessary, set a timer. The child must learn that this is a limited happy experience that she can look forward to again tomorrow evening.

Good luck!

Do you read stories to your children at bedtime?

Dad reading to children in bedIf you do, you are one of a small group of parents. An online survey of more than 1000 US parents shows that one-third of parents read to their young children every night. Half the parents said that their children prefer watching video games or watching TV to reading.

Another survey of 2000 mothers in Britain showed that about 2/3 of mothers read to their children, but only 13% read to their children every night. Parents say stress at the end of the day and lack of time are reasons that they don’t read to their kids. But TV, video games and other distractions also are factors.

Yet reading to children at bedtime can offer so many advantages.

  • Establishing a bedtime ritual—a bath, brushing teeth, kissing family members good-night, a prayer, and a snuggle with Mom or Dad while they read—is a time-honored way to settle children down and prepare them for sleep.
  • Children learn fluency by hearing an adult read. They learn to slow down for commas and periods. They learn to change their tone for direct quotes. They learn that certain parts should be read faster or slower, louder or softer, or in a high squeaky voice or a low threatening voice.
  • In the privacy of the bedroom, parents might feel more inclined to “act” out the words of the book—to be silly or gruff, whiny or sugary. Children sometimes see a different side of their parents during bedtime reading. This can be a great ice breaker between a child and a usually distant parent.
  • Children learn vocabulary. They can ask, “What does that mean?” and get an immediate answer.
  • Children learn about setting, plot, character, tension and happy endings. They learn about culture. Especially as children get older, parents can read books to a child which the child isn’t ready to read yet but which the child is quite able to understand.
  • Children often reveal what they are thinking and feeling during a nighttime read. Snuggled safely with Mom or Dad’s arm around her, a child might open up about her hopes and fears. This is a time for the child to feel protected.

In our next blog we’ll talk about how you can establish bedtime reading if you don’t already do it, or how to improve the experience for you and your child.

The American study was conducted by Macy’s and Reading Is Fundamental in 2013. The British study was conducted by Littlewoods, also in 2013

My child knows how to read pretty well for a first grader. Should I still read aloud to her?

Yes! Here’s why:

  • A child’s reading level doesn’t catch up with a child’s listening level until eighth grade, according to Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook. A younger child can appreciate a book she cannot read yet—the plot, the descriptions, the characters and the vocabulary—if an adult reads it aloud to her.

    Father reading to child and child asks, 'How old is Old McDonald?"

    To enlarge, click on the picture.

  • Reading aloud to a child attracts him to reading by himself. He takes pleasure from being read to, and will want more of that pleasure even if an adult is not available to read to him. He will delight in life-long reading.
  • Books contain rich vocabulary, words more numerous than what we parents say on an everyday basis to our children. Children learn the vocabulary from the books we read aloud because we pronounce the words properly and because we explain them to our children. With such a rich vocabulary they are better prepared to understand their teachers and the reading they do on their own.
  • In books read aloud, children hear more sophisticated grammar than they read in grade-level books. Subconsciously they learn good grammar.
  • Good books contain the kind of values we want to pass on to our children. Reading these books aloud offers opportunities to discuss these values with our children.
  • Reading to fidgety children increases their attention span. It gives them practice sitting and listening which they need to do in school to succeed since so much school instruction is verbal.
  • Read-aloud time is bonding time. Do you remember in To Kill a Mockingbird how first grader, Scout, would sit on her father’s lap while he read legal papers aloud? She didn’t care what he read. It was their special time together.

How to help a child frontload information before he reads

Frontloading means preparing a child to read new material by loading his mind ahead of time with information which will help him understand the new material.

Good readers either consciously or subconsciously do this before they read something new, but many poor readers do not. For new readers and poor readers, parents and teachers need to model this activity until the child makes it his own.

But how should a parent or teacher model frontloading?

• For a work of fiction, many teachers discuss ahead of time the setting, characters, plot, and problem the students are about to read about. If any parts of it are familiar to the students, the teacher will point them out, connecting the new with what the student already knows.

Students shouting I Know to teacher

• Some teachers prepare a list of vocabulary words the child will encounter in the new reading. Often, the children write down definitions of the words and use those words in sentences so when they see them in the text, the words will be familiar.

• For stories in reading textbooks or for nonfiction information in textbooks, teachers sometimes discuss what the title could mean and what the subheadings could mean. If there are illustrations, the teacher asks the students to describe what is happening or what information is shown in the table, diagram, map or political cartoon.

According to Kylene Beers, a long-time reading teacher and author of When Kids Can’t Read; What Teachers Can Do, these prereading techniques often work with skilled readers but not with struggling or passive readers. She offers other prereading strategies to reach them.

• Because struggling readers often skip reading titles, captions, and subheadings, and rarely page through a reading assignment to see if there is any nontextual information, they need to be assigned to do what good readers do naturally, often with a teacher’s direct instruction.

• One kind of direct instruction in prereading is using an “Anticipation Guide.” Before a reading assignment is given to a student, the teacher—or parent of a young child—reads the selection and composes a short list of ideas from the reading for the child to respond to. For example, if the child is reading or being read Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, the list could include ideas like, If a child gets lost, does the mother and father stop thinking about that child? Or, Is there such a thing as a magic stone that can make people invisible? Together the adult and child can talk about these ideas which the child will encounter later in the book.

• Struggling readers often begin reading as if every reading—for school or for pleasure—is a cold read. While they are reading, they do almost no predicting what might happen next. Yet good readers do this all the time. One thing a parent can do is to pause as she is reading and to ask the child, “What do you think is going to happen next?” If the child shrugs, the parent might model some options—“Well, I think Sylvester will never come back to his family,” or “Well, maybe Sylvester will find a different magic pebble while he is invisible.” Gently encourage the child to respond, discussing the possible outcomes of those predictions.

For more ideas on prereading activities that can activate a child’s prior knowledge, see Beers, K., When Kids Can’t Read; What Teachers Can Do, Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2003. This book, by the way, is one of the best I have read about how to teach reading—useful ideas that have been tested by teachers.

Use frontloading to prepare a student to read unfamiliar material

Good reading material for young children should include a wide variety of sources—nursery rhymes, the National Geographic Magazine and Laura Ingles Wilder’s stories of her childhood on the prairie, for example. But as unfamiliar subject matter is introduced—a good thing—children might have no previous knowledge with which to understand it—a bad thing.

The solution is for parents and teachers to prepare children for what they are about to read (or have read to them). Sometimes this prereading preparation is called “frontloading.”

The diagram below shows a child’s understanding of new knowledge without any frontloading. The first circle—prior knowledge—represents what the child already knows about a given subject. The second circle shows new knowledge—what the child is about to learn about the subject. If the two circles do not intersect, that means the child is making no connections between his knowledge and new information.  The child is likely to struggle to learn the new information, and without connections to what he already knows, the child is likely to forget the new information quickly.

without frontloading

With no overlap of information, the child has no way to “attach” new information to what he already knows. Little learning occurs.

Now compare the above diagram to the diagram below which shows a child’s understanding of new knowledge with frontloading. The intersection shows the overlap of what the child knows and the new knowledge. The larger this intersection is, the larger is the mental scaffold to which the child can attach the new information. The larger the intersection, the easier it is for the child to learn new information.

with frontloading

The green overlap shows frontloaded information–information which the child can use to remember new information.

 

Many poor readers don’t think about what they already know before they try to learn more. Sometimes they were never taught this skill in preschool or at home, and then later, teachers assume students know they should do this and the teachers don’t teach this skill. Yet rehearsing what one already knows about a topic it is an essential skill that good readers use all the time to prepare themselves for acquiring new information.

In our next blog, we’ll talk about how to help a child to frontload.

Is there any way to know ahead of time if my child will do well in reading?

Yes. According to Prof. Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University, the two best predictors of later reading achievement are

  • an awareness of separate sounds (42 in English) and
  • the ability to rapidly name objects.

Today we’ll discuss sound awareness.

When I was a high school student studying French, I used to lie in bed listening to a Montreal radio station. I would try to figure out where one word ended and the next word began.  This same skill is what babies do when they listen to adults talk to them although they don’t realize it. Luckily for most babies, their mothers or caretakers speak slowly and distinctly and repeat words over and over.

With time toddlers begin to hear parts of words and realize that some words have one part (for example, Mom) while other words have more than one part (for example, Grandma).

Still later, usually around age four, children learn their ABC’s, not understanding what they are all about. But with instruction, they learn that each sound in English corresponds to a letter or a pair of letters in the ABC’s.

How can you enhance your child’s success in reading?

Make your child aware of words, syllables and individual sounds.

  • Encourage prereaders to write using invented spelling, advises Dr. Wolf. When the child writes, he sounds out a word and uses the letter symbols which seem appropriate. The “words” might not conform to proper spelling, but that is not the point. The child is working to figure out sounds, a skill he will need in order to read.Girl reading "inventive" writing of younger sister.
  • Encourage the child to listen to someone reading nursery rhymes. Then encourage the child to say the rhymes herself, advises Dr. Wolf.  Take “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” for example.

The itsy bitsy spider
Climbed up the waterspout.

Down came the rain
And washed the spider out.

Out came the sun
And dried up all the rain.

So the itsy-bitsy spider
Climbed up the spout again!

  • Notice how “itsy bitsy,” “waterspout” and “out,” and “rain” and “again” rhyme. Notice the repetition of the word “rain” and the emphasis on the words “down” and “out.” Other nursery rhymes show alliteration (repetition of consonant sounds) and assonance (repetition of vowel sounds). When children listen to these sounds they learn to discriminate among similar sounds, figuring out what sounds the same and what sounds different.
  • Research shows that exposure to rhymes and alliteration helps children to figure out sounds and later, to read.

In our next blog we will discuss the other predictor of reading achievement, the ability to name.

Survey shows number of kids reading for fun is decreasing

Fewer children are reading books for fun, according to just-released results of a survey sponsored by Scholastic, an American publisher of children’s books.Young girl reading a book

According to the survey of 1000 children aged 6 to 17, 31 percent said they read for fun in 2014, down from 37 percent in 2010.

Some of the other findings include:

    • Children aged 6 to 11 who were read to aloud, and who had their time online restricted, correlated with those children who read more.
    • Having time to read on their own at school correlated with more reading by children aged 12 to 17.
    • 17 percent of all children surveyed said they have time to read independently at school, with the percentage dropping as the grade of the children increased.
    • Children aged 6–11 who identified themselves as frequent readers read about 43 books per year. Infrequent readers aged 6 to 11 read about 21 books annually.
    • Among children aged 12–17, frequent readers reported reading about 40 books annually while infrequent readers said they read only about 5 books annually.
  • The study says there are three predictors of which children will become frequent readers:
      o Children who say they “really enjoy reading.”
      o Children who believe that reading for fun is important, and
      o Children who have parents who read frequently.

To read the report on the survey, go to http://www.scholastic.com/readingreport/downloads.htm.

Are you surprised by this survey’s findings? I’m not surprised, but I am concerned. In the past week I spent a great deal of time with more than 100 teenagers. Almost all had smart phones and ear buds which they used nonstop, even during classes. Many balked at reading passages in their text book. Some said they could not find information buried within paragraphs.

As electronic equipment grows more dominant in our lives, will the ability and willingness of our children to read anything more complicated than a text message decline as well? –Mrs. K