Available for Pre-Order! Title Releases on February 15, 2016.
I saved all of my books from childhood. Books are almost like a currency to me. You take care of them and protect them and pass them on to the next generation to learn from….so along with many new books, I am also reading the very same books to, and now with, my kids that I hungrily read as a kid from Appalachia. Many of my books from that time are stamped with the slogan “Reading is Fundamental” by the Morgan County Federation of the Ohio Child Conservation League. This non-profit has been in existence since 1918 to help women and children in the area of education and I was fortunate to have active members in our community who had an interest in local childhood education. When I was learning to read, I happened to have lived in one of the ten poorest counties per capita in Ohio and the grant program through the Ohio Child Conservation League with Scholastic allowed many children, like me, in my area to get wonderful new books at discount prices or even for *gasp* FREE. It is always exciting to get a new book!
The awesome thing about reading is, you don’t have to have a lot of money to do it (I heart the local libraries), and it allows you to master and analyze complex subjects that help children in their life and career. I learned early that if you want a chance to get out of poverty, you can do it through reading. While I no longer live in Appalachia, it certainly shaped my life, and I want to give my kids that same opportunity for personal growth through education. The fundamental tool for education is, of course, reading!
My love of reading and the education of my children is what fueled me to start this blog. I realized there could be new and better ways to teach, so I wanted to know about them! My very first review on Momma’s Bacon was on the BOB Beginner Books from Scholastic which I will, embarrassingly, link to now. I didn’t really know how a blog worked and had not had a chance to hone my writing skills, but I was compelled to read, write, and create educational opportunities for myself and my child(ren – at a later date.) Writing my thoughts down on different tools to use to teach children was intriguing and continues to be very useful to me. I consciously set out to learn and document different ways to teach my girls, and I simply started by reading books to my kids from day one. What is really cool now is that I am able to study, ingest and implement ideas that are encouraged by the girls’ schools while still keeping myself up-to-date on the subject of teaching through many additional educational resources and literature. Since the girls started school, I realize how important it is to work with their teachers to foster educational concepts at home. I continuously read books on the subject of teaching to keep myself aware and motivated. I realize not every parent may find educational studies fascinating or have the time or opportunities to study these things, so being able to blog about different resources has been a great creative outlet for me that may also be helpful to other parents.
I bring all of this up now because I recently learned some new ideas on how to teach reading at home that are exciting. The reason I’m writing this review today is to talk about a new book aimed at teachers designed to build better content and methods of teaching in the area of reading. I was able to do a Q&A session with the authors in order to give parents some specific tips on ways you can help your child read at home.
There are currently two different and popular thoughts on what is the driver of learning in the classroom; one is the actual skills of a teacher and the other is content knowledge. Interestingly, the authors of Reading Reconsidered analyzed these two schools of thought and came up with specific techniques for teachers to use in order to maximize their classroom content for teaching kids to read. The book gives specific methods to use to help your child be successful in reading.
OK, that’s great, so how do I, as a parent, help my child to read? I want specifics! Yes! Now that’s what I’m talking about for all you content analyzers! Well, we all know that schools now address teaching literacy through Common Core, but did you know the four areas in which Common Core addresses teaching kids to read? The four major shifts include 1. Read Harder Texts, 2. Read More Non-Fiction, 3. Write in Direct Response to Texts and 4. “Close Read” Texts Frequently.
“To us, these four ideas make up the ‘core of the core,’” says Lemov. “When we discuss the Common Core, it is, for the most part, these four ideas that we engage. No matter what happens to the Core on the practical side, no matter how it is assessed, making these four changes and making them well is likely to ensure your students are better prepared for college and life.”
So, what do these four shifts actually mean and how do parents help their emergent readers at home? It’s easy to get the idea that it’s not just how you teach, it’s what you teach that helps facilitate learning. So, what do you teach? Ah ha! Well, I am about to give you some thoughts straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. I decided to reach out to the authors of Reading Reconsidered to give me and my readers some techniques to try at home to help facilitate reading. Read, Learn, Enjoy, and Pass it On!
Q&A with Reading Reconsidered authors Lemov, Driggs and Woolway.
- Why do you think reading non-fiction books to emergent readers is more effective?
Erica: It’s not necessarily that reading non-fiction books to emergent readers is more effective than reading fiction, it’s just that it’s something that doesn’t come naturally to us as parents when we choose books to read with our kids. We often think of the classics – books from Eric Carle or Leo Lionni that bring smiles to our kids’ faces (and our own). It’s not as intuitive for us to choose non-fiction books about mice or caterpillars. But why not do both? Why not pair a book like The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle and pair it with Ladybugs by Gail Gibbons? Gail Gibbons is a lesser known children’s author, but no less prolific and engaging, with a host of non-fiction books ranging from books about the origin of different holidays to weather phenomena and a number of wonderful books about animals. When you pair books in this way, you can then ask your child to make connection across texts – “We learned that ladybugs eat insects that damage plants – what kind of insects did the grouchy ladybug eat? What does that tell us about the bugs in grouchy ladybug?” Pairing texts in this way and asking questions that draw on both texts can help build background knowledge and increase both our kids’ and our own enjoyment in what we read together. It also models for our kids what we do in our own reading – when we don’t understand a concept, or when we are naturally intrigued by a topic, we research it to learn more.
2. I’m fascinated, as a parent of an emergent reader, to be able to do ‘close reading’ techniques at home. I interpret ‘close reading’ as helping your kids analyze information that they read and let that analysis drive discussion around the written word. What techniques or advice could you give parents on the best ways to ‘close read’ at home?
Colleen: As a fellow parent of an emergent reader, I think about building habits that will support my son’s Close Reading as he grows up and it becomes an important part of school. One simple way I do that it to try to make a habit of re-reading. The books that I read aloud to my son are significantly harder than ones he’s attempting on his own. When we read a section of a book that is particularly complex or rich, I often re-read to start to normalize the idea of re-reading portions of a text. When he starts to tackle harder books independently, I want him to embrace challenge and to know that re-reading is one part of a process that will help him to unlock meaning in such texts. And I also want him to know that sometimes we re-read to appreciate the beauty of a sentence or stanza or paragraph that’s been artfully written. Over time, he’ll learn tools to analyze the author’s craft that went into the section he enjoys so much or to unpack a text that’s especially dense. But for now, my goal is to simply help him to understand that good readers read and re-read challenging texts multiple times to better understand what they’re reading.
Another habit that can prepare emergent readers for Close Reading is regularly asking word and phrase level questions to ensure real comprehension. This type of question is especially important to ask when a word/phrase is particularly critical to the story or difficult to understand. It’s often small misunderstandings that interfere with larger comprehension and analysis. Sometimes word/phrase level questions are as simple as asking about what a pronoun refers to: “Who’s ‘he’ in that sentence?” or “What does the author mean by ‘it?’” My son and I just finished reading Matilda and I found myself asking questions to draw his attention to particularly creative phrases Dahl used—both so that he understands the story and enjoys the cleverness of Dahl’s writing. Here are two quick examples of word/phrase level questions:
· Ex 1: Dahl writes: Mr. Wormwood switched on the television. The screen lit up. The programme blared. Mr. Wormwood glared at Matilda. She hadn’t moved. She had somehow trained herself by now to block her ears to the ghastly sound of the dreaded box. A useful phrase level question just after reading this is, “What is the ‘dreaded box?’”
· Ex 2: Dahl writes: The father in particular became less cocky and unbearable for several days after receiving a dose of Matilda’s marvelous medicine. After this I’d ask, “What’s ‘Matilda’s marvelous medicine?’” (Answer: the pranks she’s played on her father) And I might even follow by asking for a re-cap of some of those pranks.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the importance of choosing a challenging—one that is complex in terms of language and structure and worthy of actually reading more attentively. It’s hard to practice Close Reading habits in a text that’s not worthy of closely reading. Since, I’m only asking practicing these habits in books that I read aloud, I often aim high when choosing those texts.
3. My kindergartner is learning how to read and write. How important, in your mind, is vocabulary and learning to write words in teaching reading to children?
Doug: Vocabulary, especially, is one of the most important skills. For me it’s almost impossible to overstate its importance. It not only helps you to read- it helps you think. When you can think of and describe a behavior as “vindictive,” say, instead of just “mean,” you perceive and distinguish and understand more about the behavior. This may not seem as pressing as some other basic skills right now —phonemic and phonetic awareness, decoding—but over the long haul it’s more important. You can’t always see vocabulary growth happening the way you can see your child learning to decode but the slow steady accretion of more words is the slow steady growth of potential ideas- the capacity for greater understanding. It’s the building block. So all three of us are big, big believers in vocabulary.
In school one year, my daughter had a reading log she was supposed to use to track her reading at home According to her teacher, reading only counted for the log if it was her reading to us. I chose to read to my daughter aloud instead even if it meant I couldn’t “log it”. But I chose to read to her and read much harder texts than what she could read on her own with rich and diverse vocabulary instead. Don’t get me wrong I really believe in kids practicing decoding. But asked to decide how to strike the balance, for my own children I choose a greater proportion of those richer harder texts, read aloud, over simpler texts decoded by her. Again we do both and I can afford to because there weren’t any decoding problems for her. Even if it takes her a few weeks longer than it otherwise might, or than some other kids might take, ok. In the long run I know she’s going to learn to decode. I’d rather start investing now in exposing her to thousands of new words that she can use to capture key ideas. Incidentally it’s just as important to me to expose her to thousands of examples of rich and complex sentences so she is familiar with complex syntactical forms, and thus has an ear for text as she grows older and texts get harder and sound different from the way people use spoken language. So I guess I am saying that for me vocab is top priority and that means to me a lot of reading aloud to your kids and paying special attention to emphasizing and expressing the vocabulary words as you read. It’s nice if you can stop once in a while and define a word or just comment on one (ooh, I love that word) but don’t underestimate the power of just reading a word with interest and expression, maybe a tiny bit slower than normal, and thus calling your child’s attention to the word and show that it matters.
4. Each night I have my kindergartner read two beginning reader books to me and then I read a third book to her that is considered harder text and follow the words with my finger as I read. Is there more effective ways, as a parent, that I could help her learn to read through our books at home?
Doug: Well, from my perspective it seems like you’re doing it just right: Read aloud to her from harder books, let her read from what she can decode. If you want to keep tweaking that model to get the best out of it for your little one, you might try switching the balance to two doses of harder texts and one dose of decoding, sometimes, but I’d just be answering as another parent… and guessing about what’s best for your kindergartener. A couple of additional thoughts about the approach that might be useful:
1) You’re probably already doing this but for your harder texts, try chapter books. They sustain your child’s interest for an extended time and build a relationship to books. When my son was in kindergarten I read him Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. He was spellbound. I read My Side of the Mountain to my daughter last year when she was in first grade. Same result. They were entranced by those books and deeply attentive to the richness of the vocabulary and the sentences.
2) A second idea might be then to pair nonfiction articles to the novels to develop your child’s background knowledge AND familiarity with the sounds and conventions of nonfiction. So, for example, I just finished reading A Single Shard to my second grader. (Actually we “together read” it, which is what we call it when I read a few pages and then ask her to read for a bit, then I read, then she reads- the lengths of our reads is determined by the difficulty of the text). Anyway, we decided to look at some pictures of pottery with the celadon glaze the book talks about and she got VERY interested. So I read to her a little about ancient pottery making just by googling some articles. Then we read a bit about what village life Korea would have been like. So not only did she get the benefits of nonfiction but it was connected to what she was already interested in. We discuss this idea extensively in chapter 3 of Reading Reconsidered. Classic example of something parents can do as well.
5. What techniques can parents do to help their kids write in response to text at home, especially for emerging readers?
Erica: Admittedly, the three of us looked at each other when we saw this question and we felt a bit inferior for not often asking our own children to write in response to texts at home! We see the time spent reading at home with our kids as one of the coziest and special parts of the day, so unless our kids are naturally inclined to want to jump up and write about it, we don’t tend to press the issue. That said, we do think that if you and your child make and keep reading journals, you could make writing a wonderful part of the routine. After you read a story, you both could draw and/or write about their favorite part of the story. You could also start to add more creative prompts like – “Write an alternative ending to the story” or “Using the setting of our story, write a different story that could take place there.” or “Choose one of the characters in the story and write about an adventure that they have after the story ends.” After you write with your children a few times, you could also ask them to come up with the question themselves – “What should we write about today?” – you’ll likely be surprised (and challenged!) by their creative prompts.
- Chapter 1: addresses text selection, the idea that what we choose to read matters as much as how we read it.
- Chapter 2: takes on Close Reading – defining it and providing a set of tools that can help teachers close read with rigor and insight.
- Chapter 3: addresses the importance of non-fiction.
- Chapter 4: takes on the topic of writing and specific ways to teach it to help students read more effectively.
- Chapter 5: focuses on ensuring students read a lot in a variety of ways – silently, aloud and being read to.
- Chapter 6: takes on vocabulary and proposes a two-part approach using both explicit and implicit vocabulary instruction.
- Chapter 7: focuses on consistent ways to approach key activities in the literacy classroom to make them more efficient, productive and autonomous.
- Chapter 8: addresses the ultimate goal of reading instruction: intellectual autonomy.
I’m including the information below on how you can get your own copy of Reading Reconsidered. I truly believe that parents have the ability to effectively help children read at home and, more importantly, learn to LOVE it. As always, it starts with reading!
List Price: $ 32.95 (Available on sale and for pre-order on Amazon.com for $ 21.40)