Even though schools here in Northern Virginia don’t start back until after Labor Day, I can tell from my Twitter feed that in some parts of the country, school is already in session.
I admit to getting a little wistful this time of year. While I’m glad for the opportunity to stay home with my kiddos, I also miss my student-teacher interactions. For several of my years in the classroom, I taught only the 2 hour literacy block, which included reading, writing, oral speaking, spelling, grammar….
If you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you know I have a philosophy of “make reading real.” When teaching, I was somewhat bound by the required curriculum, including a basal (textbook). But our best learning was the learning that happened beyond the required text.
Now that I’m at home, I find myself using the same methods with my own child. So as you are preparing to send the children back to school, and gearing up for another year of reading, here are a few (humble) tips from my classroom experience:
1. Keep it relaxed. A stressed out reader usually develops into a non-reader. Nobody likes chores, right? If reading becomes a chore, the child will do everything possible to avoid it. Especially at home, find something that works for you. If you’re fortunate enough to have a child who will crawl into a book all on his own, that’s fantastic. If not, sneak it in. Have him or her read you a recipe. Dictate a shopping list. Write messages with magnets on the fridge. It all counts.
2.Use the library. Every school is different. Some students have scheduled (and limited) library visits. Other school libraries are open for visitors any time of the day. Some teachers utilize the library frequently, others don’t. Some have substantial classroom libraries, others have almost bare shelves. If your child does not have easy access to the library at school (or even if he does!), plan regular trips to the public library.
3. Make it a family affair. And while you’re there, pick up something for yourself. If you’re like me, the only time you have to read is after the little darlings are asleep, and some nights you’re too tired. That’s fine. Nobody said you have to finish a book a day (or week…or month). But if you have evidence of your own reading around the house, whether it’s a newspaper, magazine, book, audiobook, you’re showing your children that reading is a lifelong activity, not one that they will use in school and then never again.
4. Allow free choice. I think this may be one of the most important things you can do for your child. Allow your child to choose the books he or she wants to read. It sounds obvious, but I have had conferences with so many parents who get bogged down by what level their child should be reading at, or whether the book is on the list for the school’s reading incentive program, or whether it’s considered “quality literature”. It’s not important. Just let them read. We all read series books, myself included, that were not examples of stellar writing, but were just plain fun. Let me just add here that I am not advocating allowing your child to read material that is too mature for his or her age, or that contains inappropriate content. But if it seems a little too easy, or you don’t get the appeal, don’t become too upset.
5. Chat it up. Talk about what your child is reading in school, whether it’s a picture book or a novel. If it’s an author or book you’re familiar with, share that with your child. If it is a book that they really enjoy, use the next library trip to look up more books by that author, or others in a similar genre. If you’re not sure where to go next, your child’s classroom teacher or the librarian is a good resource.
It sounds really neat and tidy here, but the reality is that teaching a child to read is a messy process. It involves alot of starts and stops, some tears, and a heavy dose of patience. So above all, take it one day at a time. And celebrate the little victories. They’ll lead to bigger ones.
Okay, my parent and teacher friends, it’s your turn! What else would you add?