My experiences as a creative person, tutor of children, and teacher of creative writing

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Reading Together

I have found that one of the most effective and least stressful ways to improve a child's reading ability is to read together. Reading with the child helps the child learn words in context, increases sight words and vocabulary, helps them learn the patterns of language and stories, and is fun!

Once I tutored a girl who was not up to her third grade reading level. After reading together for several months, she was reading at a sixth grade level! Reading with a child is one of the most effective ways I know to not only help children learn to read, but to love reading.

Reading Together
  • Make sure you have a book the child will enjoy. 
  • Change to a new story if it isn't working.
  • The child and I sit beside each other, so the child can read along while I read.
  • The child gets to hold the book when they read, if they want. (helps them feel more in control)
  • If the child is just a beginning reader, then choose a short book with fairly large print and allow the child to read "their words".  You can have their words on a card in front of them such as "run" or "no" to remind them.  Start with just one or two words and build up until they are reading the story to you. Make sure you read something that has lots of "their words".
  • For older children, I choose some part of the story for the child to read. 
  • I increase the amount the child reads as they become able to read more without becoming frustrated or discouraged.
  • They might read one character's part, then increase to reading two or three parts, and maybe the narration, so that eventually I'm just reading a small part of the story. If there isn't dialog, then I have them read the first paragraph, or every third paragraph or more. 
  • I don't have them just read to me because they get nervous and overwhelmed by the size of the story.
  • Having the child read parts helps them focus on the story instead of feeling nervous as they read out loud. Use different voices. Have fun!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Choosing the Right Book - Lists and Guides

Here are some great resources to help you find just the right book for your child. Remember that one of your greatest resources is your librarian. They can be a great help in directing you books your child will love.
  • Know your child's interests and how they read*
  • Bring your child with you and allow them to help choose the books
  • Allow plenty of time to choose books
  • Choose several books so that if he doesn't like one, he can try another. 
  • Remember pictures books read quickly; get several
  • Even older children can enjoy good picture books
  • Try a mix - stories and non-fiction books on that topic
  • Allow time to read their new books to them soon.
  • If you can't stand a story, try a substitute. Your child will sense when you don't like something, so be honest and work it out. I never could get into "Captain Underpants", but "Commander Toad" books were fun. Find something you can enjoy together.
  • Have Fun!
Gives Grade Level
Find and level books by searching the Book Wizard database of more than 50,000 children’s books. Instantly get a book's Guided Reading, Lexile® Measure, DRA, or Grade Level reading level.

Book Lists
gives grade level, guided reading level, genre, and summary of plot
click on "Expand Product Details" for more information  Notable Children's Books; grouped by age

Parents Helps
help in setting up a library with the right books for that child; learning style; book recommendations; parent guides

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Choosing Books for Your Child

After raising four children and being a professional tutor for 40 years, I've learned that if a child is forced to read books he doesn't like, then he will hate reading and do as little of it as possible. So how do you help your child find the right book for him and become a lover of reading?

In school, most children are placed in reading groups with other children at their reading instructional level.

Instructional reading level is the highest level at which a reader is not independent, but has adequate background knowledge for a topic, and can access text quickly and with no or few errors. Think of independent level as the highest level you would ask a child to read with only a small amount of assistance.

The teacher usually chooses the book for each group to read, and then all the children in that group read and discuss the choosen book together. As a teacher, I can appreciate the practically of such an approach.  Here are some Reading Charts:

Some children do not do well with this standardized orderly approach. Some children test ok, but hate reading. What went wrong? I think a problem is that reading is not a task to practice, but a love to develop. You simply cannot force a child to read and enjoy it.  The more reading is broken down into tiny pieces, with sentences endlessly reread and letters laboriously sounded out, the more reading will be viewed as a distasteful chore.

Just as a love of playing baseball cannot be taught by merely practicing holding the bat, putting on your mitt, and throwing the ball, neither can a love of reading be taught just by endless skill practicing. Sure, some instruction and practice can help the child, but they have to be allowed to play the game to truly learn to love playing.

My point is that you can't endlessly drill a child on reading, making them read books they don't like, then expect them to enjoy reading. It just doesn't work.  I know.  I was the person who had to help get the child reading again. Here are some of the things I think of in choosing books for a child.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Helping Children Learn to Read the Right Way

Lets face it, we live in a culture where left brain skills are valued in our schools, even though the right brained skills of creativity and problem solving are most needed by adults. Most of elementary school is spent in memorizing details and practicing processes. Since most young children learn in a more right brain way through action, pictures, music, and the whole picture, teaching in a left brained manner requires hours of ineffective, boring drill work such as filling in workbook pages. Some children naturally prefer to use their left brain (memorization, numbers, sequencing, listening to lectures). These children are the ones who do well in elementary school. The more gifted a child is physically (athletic), or visually (visual-spacial, creative), the further they will be from the prevalent teaching style of most elementary school teachers. These are the children who will have trouble learning to read. It is not that they are "defective" or "slow", but simply that they are not being taught in the way that they learn. Just as an orange is not a defective apple, these right brained children are not defective left-brained children. The solution is to teach right brained children to read in their natural right brain way.*

This isn't hard, in fact it is fun. It doesn't require special training, just a love for the child and an understanding of the types of learning styles that fit a right brained person.