Monday, October 23
Red Ribbon Week: Wear Red: I Believe in Me: Healthy, Happy and Drug Free
Tuesday, October 24
Red Ribbon Week: Dress Like a Movie Star; Reach for the Stars Not Drugs
Wednesday, October 25
Red Ribbon Week: Wear Mix Matched Clothes: Don’t let Drugs Mix you Up!
Thursday, October 26
Red Ribbon Week: Wear Camo: Be All that You Can Be! Drug Free!
Friday, October 27
As part of our district’s reading workshop program, my fifth grade students are required to read a self-chosen book for thirty minutes each night for homework. As a teacher, I know how vital this reading is to each student’s journey to the place where reading becomes like breathing. As a parent, however, with two children of my own who have this same homework requirement, I know how easy it is to let nightly independent reading fall through the cracks.
Allowing our children to skip independent reading homework is easy, mostly because nobody will know that we skipped it. It’s not like we’re skipping it because we don’t value reading or because we don’t care about our kids. We skip it because we’re busy feeding them, keeping them clean, taking them to soccer practice, watching The Voice with them, and making them empty the dishwasher. It’s because life goes a mile a minute with no breaks, and often something has to give. Why is independent reading the last thing that should give?
Teaching our children to read is a lot like teaching them to drive. Right now I am in the process of teaching my sixteen year old daughter to drive. Recently she and I were on the road, and I noticed my hands were not clutching the dashboard in a death grip. I was actually listening to the radio, and we were having a conversation that did not include interjections. I realized that my daughter had learned the skills of driving. The lessons have worked. Now it’s all about getting her as many hours on the road as we possibly can before she gets that license.
Reading works the same way as driving. By fourth and fifth grade our children are reading – they’ve learned most of the mechanics of the skill. Now, along with modeling, they need as many hours on the road as we can possibly give them so their future education is free of collisions. Expecting our children to learn everything they need to be life-long readers just by instructing them in the skills and strategies of reading, yet giving them no time to practice, is setting them up to struggle. It would be like handing our teens a driver’s license when they finish a classroom driver’s education course, having never put them behind a wheel.
Once I committed to holding my children responsible for their independent reading homework, I found some simple ways to incorporate it into our everyday routines more easily:
Since I have been holding my children accountable for their nightly thirty minutes of reading every night, I have seen a drastic improvement in their reading lives, but also in their attitudes about reading. I know that of all the homework my kids have, the assignment that can most easily be skipped is also the one that will make the biggest impact in both their learning and their lives. Just like nothing will make a young driver safer on the road than practice behind the wheel, nothing will make our readers more scholarly learners than practice behind the pages of a book. By holding them accountable for nightly independent reading, we are steering them to success!
Meg Leventhal is a fifth grade teacher in Lawrence, New Jersey who is passionate about Language Arts instruction. She spends her free time reading, keeping her four children clean and fed, taking them to soccer practice, watching The Voice with them, and making them empty the dishwasher. You can follow her on Twitter @megleventhal.
Parents often ask how they can help their children learn to read; and it’s no wonder that they’re interested in this essential skill. Reading plays an important role in later school success. One study even demonstrates that how well 7-year-olds read predicts their income 35 years later!
Here are 11 practical recommendations for helping preschoolers and school-age students learn to read.
Sometimes, parents are told early teaching is harmful, but it isn’t true. You simply can’t introduce literacy too early. I started reading to my own children on the days they were each born! The “dangers of early teaching” has been a topic of study for more than 100 years, and no one has ever found any convincing evidence of harm. Moreover, there are hundreds of studies showing the benefits of reading to your children when they are young.
You don’t need a Ph.D. to raise a happy, healthy, smart child. Parents have been doing it for thousands of years. Mothers and fathers successfully teach their kids to eat with a spoon, use a potty, keep their fingers out of their noses, and say “please.” These things can be taught pleasantly, or they can be made into a painful chore. Being unpleasant (e.g. yelling, punishing, pressuring) doesn’t work, and it can be frustrating for everyone. This notion applies to teaching literacy, too. If you show your 18-month-old a book and she shows no interest, then put it away and come back to it later. If your child tries to write her name and ends up with a backwards “D,” no problem. No pressure. No hassle. You should enjoy the journey, and so should your child.
Last year, I spent lots of time with our brand new granddaughter, Emily. I drowned her in language. Although “just a baby,” I talked — and sang — to her about everything. I talked about her eyes, nose, ears, mouth, and fingers. I told her all about her family — her mom, dad, and older brother. I talked to her about whatever she did (yawning, sleeping, eating, burping). I talked to her so much that her parents thought I was nuts; she couldn’t possibly understand me yet. But reading is a language activity, and if you want to learn language, you’d better hear it, and eventually, speak it. Too many moms and dads feel a bit dopey talking to a baby or young child, but studies have shown that exposing your child to a variety of words helps in her development of literacy skills.
I know everyone says this, but it really is a good idea — at least with preschoolers. One of my colleagues refers to this advice as the “chicken soup” of reading education. We prescribe it for everything. (Does it help? It couldn’t hurt.) If a parent or caregiver can’t read or can’t read English, there are alternatives, such as using audiobooks; but for those who can, reading a book or story to a child is a great, easy way to advance literacy skills. Research shows benefitsfor kids as young as 9-months-old, and it could be effective even earlier than that. Reading to kids exposes them to richer vocabulary than they usually hear from the adults who speak to them, and can have positive impacts on their language, intelligence, and later literacy achievement. What should you read to them? There are so many wonderful children’s books. Visit your local library, and you can get an armful of adventure. You can find recommendations from kids at the Children’s Book Council website or at the International Literacy Association Children's Choices site, as well as free books online at other websites like Search Lit or Unite for Literacy.
One great way to introduce kids to literacy is to take their dictation. Have them recount an experience or make up a story. We’re not talking “Moby Dick” here. A typical first story may be something like, “I like fish. I like my sister. I like grandpa.” Write it as it is being told, and then read it aloud. Point at the words when you read them, or point at them when your child is trying to read the story. Over time, with lots of rereading, don’t be surprised if your child starts to recognize words such as “I” or “like.” (As children learn some of the words, you can write them on cards and keep them in a “word bank” for your child, using them to review later.)
Young children don’t hear the sounds within words. Thus, they hear “dog,” but not the “duh”-“aw”- “guh.” To become readers, they have to learn to hear these sounds (or phonemes). Play language games with your child. For instance, say a word, perhaps her name, and then change it by one phoneme: Jen-Pen, Jen-Hen, Jen-Men. Or, just break a word apart: chair… ch-ch-ch-air. Follow this link to learn more about language development milestones in children.
You can’t sound out words or write them without knowing the letter sounds. Most kindergartens teach the letters, and parents can teach them, too. I just checked a toy store website and found 282 products based on letter names and another 88 on letter sounds, including ABC books, charts, cards, blocks, magnet letters, floor mats, puzzles, lampshades, bed sheets, and programs for tablets and computers. You don’t need all of that (a pencil and paper are sufficient), but there is lots of support out there for parents to help kids learn these skills. Keep the lessons brief and fun, no more than 5–10 minutes for young’uns. Understanding the different developmental stages of reading and writing skills will help to guide your lessons and expectations.
When your child starts bringing books home from school, have her read to you. If it doesn’t sound good (mistakes, choppy reading), have her read it again. Or read it to her, and then have her try to read it herself. Studies show that this kind of repeated oral reading makes students better readers, even when it is done at home.
Literacy involves reading and writing. Having books and magazines available for your child is a good idea, but it’s also helpful to have pencils, crayons, markers, and paper. Encourage your child to write. One way to do this is to write notes or short letters to her. It won’t be long before she is trying to write back to you.
When your child reads, get her to retell the story or information. If it’s a story, ask who it was about and what happened. If it’s an informational text, have your child explain what it was about and how it worked, or what its parts were. Reading involves not just sounding out words, but thinking about and remembering ideas and events. Improving reading comprehension skills early will prepare her for subsequent success in more difficult texts.
Make reading a part of your daily life, and kids will learn to love it. When I was nine years old, my mom made me stay in for a half-hour after lunch to read. She took me to the library to get books to kick off this new part of my life. It made me a lifelong reader. Set aside some time when everyone turns off the TV and the web and does nothing but read. Make it fun, too. When my children finished reading a book that had been made into a film, we’d make popcorn and watch the movie together. The point is to make reading a regular enjoyable part of your family routine.
Ritchie, S.J., & Bates, T.C. (2013). Enduring links from childhood mathematics and reading achievement to adult socioeconomic status. Psychological Science, 24, 1301-1308.
Karass J., & Braungart-Rieker J. (2005). Effects of shared parent-infant reading on early language acquisition. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 26, 133-148.
September 14, 2017
Next week we have a few exciting events. Our first one will be on Monday morning. We will have our first Call to Excellence beginning at 8:30. This is a time for all students to gather for morning announcements and to review our 8 Expectations for Learning, Life Principle of the Week and learn our new Callback for the week. We will only do this on Mondays. Tuesday, September 19, we are having our WATCH D.O.G.S. kickoff beginning at 6 PM. This will be for all of our Dads, Granddads, and other male figures of the family to come and see how you can help with safety on our campus. On Thursday, September 21, we will have Parent Orientation for PK – 2nd Grade from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm. Parent Orientation for 3rd and 4th Grade will be on Thursday, September 28 from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm.
I look forward to seeing you at Parent Orientation and WATCH D.O.G.S. kickoff.