- Staring at a page
- Staring at a page upside down
- Staring at an illustration and making assumptions about a text
- Staring at a page while dreaming about lunch
What do all of these actions have in common? Well, they all look a lot like reading, but they’re not.
Reading is comprised of a variety of skills including decoding a text and extracting meaning from it. Early on in their schooling experience, many students pick up on what it looks like to read a book. From pre-school and for some even earlier, their teachers (and hopefully family members) are modeling reading for them. This can be wonderful because children can pick up ideas about what they should look and sound like while they are reading. This can also become a huge detriment, because children can appear as though they are reading when in fact they are not. How can you tell? Certainly not by staring at them…but there are some things you can do to figure out whether or not a child is truly reading and comprehending a text.
Children who appear as though they’re are reading, convince us that they do not need support, when in fact they do. Often, when the school or classroom library is extensive, children have a difficult time choosing a book and end up taking one that is not necessarily appropriate for them to be reading independently. An even worse issue occurs when a child is inconsistent with bringing books home. Students should be reading books! If they’re not, we need to be asking whether it is an issue of access or remembering…if it’s an issue of access, always feel free to email me. I will help you find resources!
1. Many teachers model choosing a “Just Right Book.” A “Just Right Book” is a book that is on an appropriate level for a student to be reading independently and be making sense of on their own. Families can help their children choose an appropriate book too! Here are some steps that can help you to find a book that is “Just Right”:
- Read the summary on the back or inside the jacket
- Make sure the book sounds interesting and that you can read and understand the summary
- Flip to a random page inside the book and use the “Five Finger Rule.” To apply “The Five Finger Rule,” read through the entire page and count the words that you do not know on your fingers. If there are more than five, you should probably take a different book.
- Sit in with a child and ask him/her to read you a page out loud.
- Sit in with a child and ask him/her to read a paragraph and then summarize it for you.
- Sit in with a child and ask him/her to listen to a page that you read aloud, and then summarize.
- Sit in with a child and either listen to him/her read, or read a page silently. When the page is done, ask a few simple questions about the part you read.
Children notice what their peers are reading. Reading often becomes a confidence issue in school. Often, children will want to read a book that is too hard for them just because their friend read it. It is important to have conversations with your children about this issue. Kids need to understand that there are plenty of different kinds of reading that they can do…It is better to read some books on our own and other books with a family member or friend. Reading appropriate books independently will lead to growth in literacy skills. I don’t know that I’d agree wholeheartedly with the phrase “practice makes perfect,” but I definitely would say that practice reading makes readers grow stronger.
Of course we always want our children to embrace challenge and to push themselves to their potential, but that is not the same as choosing a book that will lead to frustration, or worse, tears. We do not want our children to be spending time staring at books upside down, or daydreaming about play-dates because the texts are not readable just yet. Here are some lines to use with your child:
- “I love Harry Potter too! Let’s try reading that one together at night!”
- “When we were reading together, I noticed that it was tricky to answer some of the questions. It is so important that we understand what we are reading. Why don’t I help you choose a book tomorrow and we’ll try to read a few pages together?”
- “I notice you keep talking about reading the book your friend was reading. You seem so interested in it. Let’s see if we can find it on an audiotape!”
The most important thing to remember is that while we want to find “Just Right Books” for our kids, we don’t want to take away reading confidence or interest. If our children are interested in reading something more challenging, we need to find a way to feed that interest before it goes away. Giving children multiple experiences with reading is critical to their growth. These experiences can include: shared reading, books on tape, independently reading, read aloud, book clubs, etc.
Resources That Can Help
If this piece helped you, check out Top Secret!, a previous post which divulges secrets to the art of book leveling.
Also, be sure to check out Marisa’s Dream Library. It is a growing project that is in its early stages but has some great books for different age and ability levels.
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