"Why some people become lifelong readers: A lot rides on how parents
present the activity to their kids." - Joe Pinsker
I AM EXPLORING THE PHENOMENON OF 'HOME READING' IN THIS BLOG for the 2019-2020 school year.
SEE PREVIOUS ENTRIES:
HOPEFULLY, THESE ENTRIES WILL HELP FAMILIES SUPPORT THIS ENORMOUSLY IMPORTANT AND RELATIVELY UNTAPPED RESOURCE FOR HELPING CHILDREN DEVELOP AS LIFELONG, SUCCESSFUL READERS.
- SNAPSHOT: HOW HOME READING BECAME ONE MORE THING ON THE 'TO DO LIST' FOR FAMILIES (SEPT. 8/19)
- WHAT DO PARENTS NEED TO NOTICE AND KNOW ABOUT HOME READING? (SEPT. 15/19)
- STRATEGIES FOR HOME READING WITH A CHILD - WHAT MAKES SENSE FOR A PARENT? (SEPT. 23/19)
- READING AT HOME WITH EARLY READERS (SEPT. 29/19)
- WHY READING AT HOME MAKES SUCH A DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN LEARNING TO READ (OCTOBER 15/19)
- Sprinkling Fun into home reading (October 22/19)
The majority of children entering school at Kindergarten and/or Grade One are excited to become readers - it is the most common goal children express when they first come to school: to learn to read! Some children even believe they will learn to read the very day they enter school and are quite disappointed when they go home after the first day, still not feeling like they have learned to read! As excited and enthusiastic as many early learners are to become successful readers, the reality is that reading is not something accomplished quickly or easily - to become a successful reader is a meandering journey - some things happen quite quickly while developing other skills seems to take an interminably long time. The process of learning and practicing new skills related to reading is not a linear one, has no predictable timeline of achievement and is not reliant on similar teaching and learning for every child. This means the process of learning to read naturally follows a meandering path, pursued idiosyncratically by every reader in their own way. This is the beauty and the challenge for both learning to read, and for teaching children to learn to read. And, as a parent with expectations to engage a child in 'Home Reading', the challenge is real and unpredictable.
However, there are things a parent can do to support this meandering journey regardless of where your child is along the path to becoming a reader.
The most important thing to know about children learning to read is that the best way to become a proficient, successful reader is to read a lot! And, to become a joyful reader, a child needs to read a lot of books they love! These are two critically important considerations for parents who are reading at home with their children already, as well as for families who are engaging in 'home reading' expectations with their child and their child's school.
If reading a lot books children love is critically important for supporting the learning of reading through Home Reading, then there are definitely a few things parents can do to ensure their children have frequent access to books they love and actually read them frequently at home:
- surround your child with books they love at home
- this does not mean a parent needs to purchase a library full of books for home
- it may mean introducing your child to the local branch of your public library and finding favourite books to borrow and keep at home for a couple of weeks, going back to refresh selections from time to time
- "It is almost tautological to observe that being a reader sets a child up for academic success, since so much of school is reading...(but) children who grow up surrounded by books tend to attain higher levels of education and to be better readers." (Joe Pinsker, Sept/19)
- building a collection of much-loved books can mean accessing a local "Little Free Library" close to home, as well as collecting well-loved books from garage, rummage or used-book sales, as well as friends and family members with older children looking to cull childhood book collections
- encourage your child to develop 'fluent decoding' skills and strategies
- Daniel Willingham, author of Raising Kids Who Read, describes fluent decoding skills as being able to smoothly "go from print on the page to words in the mind"
- Decoding letters and sounds to make sense of words are the phonetic components of learning to read that are part of the practice of teaching children to read; parents can gently encourage their children to use these skills through wordplay games as children practice decoding during home reading experiences
- examples of wordplay might include encouraging a child by making the sounds yourself slowly until they jump in with a suggestion; asking what would make sense; noticing the first/second sounds for the child; asking if they know what sound the first letters make; asking does this look or sound like something you already know; suggesting a rhyming word
- develop background knowledge and experiences with your child so they have a lot of prior knowledge they can make connections with as they decode words to make meaning
- once a child can successfully decode print on the page to words in their mind, they will need to be able to next make connections to prior knowledge and generate meaning seamlessly
- Willingham notes "the main predictor of whether a child or an adult understands a text is how much they already know about a topic." When children are encouraged to choose favourite books to read, usually they will be about a topic with which they are familiar, meaning will come quickly and joy of reading will follow
- "parents can try to arm their kids with information about the world that will help them interpret whatever they come across in print, or make sure their kids have some familiarity with whatever it is they're reading about" (Willingham)
- develop motivation for reading with your child
- a positive attitude about reading that develops from frequent interactions with best-loved books, both at home and at school, will yield a positive image by your child of themselves as a reader
- encouraging your child to choose their own books for reading is highly motivating - children can learn strategies for choosing appropriate texts, both in terms of text complexity as well as interest/genre
- young children in particular will quickly memorize text and then want to return to their favourite books again and again to practice reading - this is a good thing! Finding other books by the same author or about the same topic are excellent strategies for transitioning away from repeated texts that are crowding out new reading opportunities
While parents often want to use the same strategies they used when they read with their parents at home, such as covering up the pictures, keeping the home reading experience as fun, positive and gentle as possible will achieve the goals of the school (to practice skills and strategies taught in class) while also introducing and reinforcing the intrinsic value of joyful reading in the moment. This is how children are fostered into avid, joyful readership that will ensure lifelong positive experiences with reading.
Nothing about the processes described above indicates predictability or specific pathways to learning to read that can be definitively mapped for all children. Each child, when well supported both at home and school, will find places to zoom ahead or rest awhile as they are exposed to a variety of texts and topics, genres and associated experiences. The most important aspect of this meandering learning journey is that children become avid, joyful readers at their own pace and in their own way!
Lorraine Kinsman, Principal