Tuesday, February 12, 2019

But he doesn't love to read...

Confession time: My 8 year old didn't like to read. I felt like I had done everything I was supposed to do in order to get him to love reading. And yet I was mortified that, beginning in kindergarten, he didn't want to read. I had been reading to him since he was a baby (more so than his siblings), we have always had tons of books around, I was a stinking literacy teacher for goodness sake, so what happened?

I could spend all day postulating the reasons why he didn't like to read, but instead I'm going to share with you the few things that made him WANT to read, that made him fall back in love with reading again.

1) Not judging his book choices. This was a hard one for me. I wanted him to read all the books that I loved as a kid, books that made me love reading. However, the books I picked out for him from the library were NOT the ones he loved. In fact, it almost seemed like he wouldn't read those ones just out of spite. Instead, he gravitated toward graphic novels and books with improper grammar, and although my inner English major cringed, I allowed him to read them. And you know what? He read ALL of them. Every single one in the series.

2) Taking away technology in the car. We spend quite a lot of time in the car. Between driving to school, going camping nearly every weekend in the summer, and sports/dance practices, we are in the car A LOT. Instead of throwing them iPads, I've been "leaving them at home." Mysteriously, paper books have replaced them! When the kids have nothing to do other than read, they read.... (or fight with each other).

3) Partner reading. When my son started to become  an independent reader, I would read one page and he would read the next. Sometimes we'd go paragraph by paragraph. It provided also some much needed one-on-one time for us.  But this enabled us to share in the reading "work" while also enabling him to hear a reader fluently read aloud, ask questions while we were reading, laugh and react to the ongoings on the book.

4) Reigniting reading aloud. I have confessed this before, but I am guilty of not reading aloud to my oldest as much as I should've once he learned how to read for himself. What confuses me about this decision is that I knew all the research, I knew how much my middle school students loved being read aloud to, but somehow I still skirted it, still didn't consider it to be part of his "reading time." But between reading aloud to him just prior to bed and putting on audiobooks in the car, his passion for reading has been reignited.

5) Getting dad to model reading. Second confession: my husband is not an avid reader. But he also loves movies and shows, like Game of Thrones. So when I casually bought him the Song of Ice and Fire series for Christmas, he became a voracious reader.  (Just like with kids, get them into the right series can turn anyone into a reader!) The beautiful side effect of my husband's new reading venture has been that the boys sit and read together every night. More about the importance of dads, in particular, reading with/to their kids, in a later post.

If you have a reluctant reader in your home, I hope these suggestions will help you in finding out how to help your kid love reading.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Reading to Babies 101

Reading to Babies

I remember feeling awkward reading aloud to my oldest son as a baby. He just sat there, staring at the lights and walls. As I picked up a book, I felt like I was reading to a wall. And sometimes I questioned why I was even reading to him in the first place, especially when he couldn't interact or show any interest in the book whatsoever.

But research shows that there are many benefits to reading aloud to babies, even when they're newborn blobs and even when they're crawling around, not paying attention to you at all.

In a 2017 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, researchers found that reading books with children beginning in early infancy can boost vocabulary and reading skills four years later prior to them starting elementary school. Bottom line: read to your babies.

When they are small, it truly doesn't matter what you're reading to them. It could be the newspaper, Harry Potter, or a novel you are reading. As babies get a bit older, though, and start to interact with books, you want to choose books that:

1) Expand vocabulary. Examples of this would be books that contain pictures of animals, common objects, etc. with labels underneath. Once your child gets a little older, start asking them to point out certain objects on the page. You will be shocked at how much their receptive language has grown!

2) Repetitive and/or rhyming language. Books that contain repetitive language and/or have rhythm or rhyming language are often the most loved! Sandra Boynton books and Goodnight Moon are two of our favorites in this category.

3) Encourage interaction. Books that have touchy-feely features, flaps, tabs to pull, and mirrors are all highly interactive. Note this doesn't have to mean sound books, although babies love those too! Let your child turn the pages (even if it's backwards and drives you crazy).

4) Are short, simple, and contain great pictures. Board books are less destructible than paperback books. They are often easier for kids to handle and turn the pages too. Picking books with vibrant colors, pictures (illustrated or photos) will help keep your baby's interest! 

Some other suggestions about reading to babies:

1) Make reading part of your daily routine. If you make a habit when your baby is young, they will learn to expect it, and it may become the calmest, most soothing part of your day. It might be before bedtime, while they're eating breakfast, or before nap time. Or maybe you read to them in snippets throughout the day! Don't feel like you need 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading time to read to your baby. Any amount is better than none!

6) Be prepared to read the same book over... and over... and over... More about that later, but kids benefit from hearing the same book read over and over again. As much as we might not want to hear the same book for the 5,000th time, it is ok and beneficial to their language development!

7) The more you read, the more comfortable you'll get with reading aloud. Just like with anything, the more you practice reading, the better. Even if at first you feel awkward and like you're talking to a wall, you're setting the stage for important habits and, most importantly, a lifetime love of reading.

Caveat #1: Don't beat yourself if you don't read every night, or read for hours upon end every day. No one is perfect, and we all have areas we can improve!

Caveat #2: It's ok if your baby moves around! They are STILL getting the language input they need.

It is never too early to start reading to your babies. Read to them often, use your silliest voices, and let them see how much fun reading can be as a family activity.

Friday, January 25, 2019

It's Up to Us

Here are the startling facts from Jim Trelease's The Read Aloud Handbook:

  • 54% of kids in 5th grade read something for pleasure every day
  • 30% of kids in 8th grade
  • 19% of kids in 12th grade (The Read Aloud Handbook, pg. 1)
He also shows that, not surprisingly, when we stop reading to kids aloud is when they lose interest in reading.

Trelease also points out that a "child spends 900 hears a year in school and 7,800 hours outside the school. Which teacher has the bigger influence? Where is more time available for change?" (The Read Aloud Handbook, xvii) 

It's easy to make assumptions about what schools should or should not be teaching. It's easy to assume that all it takes is a passionate teacher or the right school. It's easy because those are, at least to some extent, out of our control as parents.

But let's look at what is in our control: us. Not our kids, not the decisions they make, not how they act in public, but us and our actions. 

If we want to see change, we have to man (or woman) up and do it. 

I recently heard a friend speak to our local MOPS group about how terrified people are about where to send their kids to kindergarten. With twenty years of teaching experience, she reassured us, "It doesn't matter where they go to kindergarten. It's the home that matters." And while that reassurance might not make some of us worry, it SHOULD make us realize what is most important: namely, the values and principles that we encourage and instill in our kids at home. One of those should be a passion for reading.

Because no matter how good the school is or how good the teacher is, if we aren't promoting reading at home, then, according to statistics, we won't raise up readers.

Let's stop blaming teachers and schools for poor reading scores and instead do what we know will have the most influence: read to them at home. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Welcome to Raising Up Readers

Welcome to Raising Up Readers, a  community dedicated to empowering parents, grandparents, and caregivers with tips, tools, and strategies to instill a lifelong love of reading.

Moms are busy. Whether you work full time, stay at home, or somewhere in between, your life is undoubtedly busy. Or should I say chaotic? But I also know you are an amazing mom and want what's best for your kids; otherwise you wouldn't be reading this blog!

Let me ask you a question, Reader Raisers. What was your reading life like when you were a child?  Do you have wonderful memories of being read to as a child or not so much? Do you love reading now or not as much? Whatever your background, however you personally feel about reading, we all can agree on one thing: reading is, by far, one of the most important activities we can do with our children. More about the research behind that later, but this is fact.

I know that, without a doubt, you who are reading this are an amazing parent (or grandparent, caregiver, etc.). You want what's best for your kids, but you don't always feel you know what to do. As parents with already busy lives, you frankly don't have the time to keep up on all the research and tips that are out there. That's where this blog enters.

My name is Caroline, your book-obsessed, research-loving fellow mama. I taught reading and writing to elementary and middle school kids for ten years before staying at home with my three kids, aged 8, 6, and 2. My hope for this community is that we are able to give easy, no prep tips for promoting reading in your home.