Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Summer Reading for the Kids that HATE to Read

So your kid doesn't LIKE to read??  Well, welcome to the club.  Even as a reading teacher, I have one kid who reads on his own, and one kid who has never independently read her way through an entire book without my intervention.  It's like pulling teeth and an added stress through the school year and throughout summer with the summer reading assignments.  She also struggles with reading comprehension  due to her attention issues.  Reading is not easy or enjoyable.  It's work.  How do you handle this over the summer?  I have a few ideas based solely on my experience as a mom and teacher.  This is my opinion only, and it is aimed at the 3rd grade and up population.  I also suggest you read my other blog post about reading.  I hope it works.

1.  NEVER let your child know how reluctant YOU are about THEIR assigned reading or anything school related.  You are the most influential person on their outlook on all things in life, especially school, teachers, and learning.  If you dread it, so will they, giving them a negative attitude toward learning for the rest of their lives.  (Remember:  We need successful kids that move out and get a life one day.)

2. Take week #1 of summer off.  Breathe.  Relax. (You should, however, let your reluctant child know when summer reading is expected to begin.)

3.  If your child was assigned summer reading, start there.  Don't spend endless hours searching for other materials online or in your library when you already have a difficult task ahead for your child.    To tackle reading, decide how many chapters should be read each day to complete the book.  Let your child know the plan. 

Our school requires the child to either answer questions in each chapter or complete some sort of activity as the book is read.  So, each time your child completes a chapter, have them answer the questions immediately or search for the answers as they read.  Never wait to answer questions or complete activities once the book is done, unless they have to write a summary (sometimes called synopsis) of the book. If you feel you must read the book with them to accomplish this, there's no harm in doing so.  However,  be helpful, not harmful. Don't do it for them.  Your goal is to get them to be more and more independent in summarizing and answering questions as the reading progresses.  You don't even have to read the book at all, actually.  Not knowing the plot will require the summaries and answers to be more of theirs, not yours.

4. SHARE THE READING!!!  It is a common misconception that parents should let their child read only independently beyond 3rd grade.  This is so completely untrue.  You could NEVER hurt your child's reading skills by reading to them.  Notice, however, that I said to share this.  I read. You read.  I read.  You read.  They should read more chapters independently than you share.  Remember, we are trying to gain independence.  Maybe you can share one chapter for every 3 they read.  You can be the judge on a suitable balance based on your child's needs.

Kids who continue to struggle with reading by this age MUST hear a good reader read often.  Specifically, they need to hear how your voice rises and falls, how you stop at punctuation marks, the tone in your voice at happy/sad times in the story, the MISTAKES you make, the times you have to reread because you didn't understand.  THIS should all be externalized during reading.  Tell them that you made a mistake or your mind was wondering, so you have to go back and reread that paragraph.  You should also STOP at times to discuss how this part of the story connects to your own lives,  to figure out a difficult word based on how it is used in the story, how I think the character feels, or what may happen next.  YES, it's MORE than okay to STOP while you read. Finally, discuss what you think a certain scene or character looks like.  Picturing the story is typically another thing they don't do while reading. {{ Note: This step is jam packed with important strategies for struggling readers.  Print this and highlight those suggestions if you need to.  It will be a giant help to your child.}}

5.  Have them read TO YOU!  This is important.  This is when you listen to what they do to hurt their comprehension.  Do this periodically, not for each chapter they read.  You don't want to discourage them.  Be positive when they read well, but stop them to discuss mistakes.  You are looking for the same things listed above when you read.  All of them are important. 
The struggling reader may: add words that don't belong, continue reading past a word that they don't understand, read words incorrectly without stopping for meaning.  These all hurt comprehension.  The biggest red flag is the kid who misreads the words and continues on without regarding the lost meaning.  This tells you they are simply reading words on the page and not "the story".  No focus.  No understanding.  Ask them to reread to gain understanding when this happens.  It should sound like, "Oh, wait a minute, I couldn't understand what happened in that part, did you?  Maybe we need to reread to understand what just happened."  NEVER, "Oh, wait, you read that part wrong.  Let's read it again."  While both sound like a kind, concerned parent, one way sounds like they are reading "wrong".  They are already insecure.  Be as positive as possible.

6. Beyond summer reading, there are ways to get your reluctant reader to continue reading.  They may have discovered a favorite author through summer reading.  Get more books like that.  Most of these kids will prefer shorter reads, not necessarily chapter books, though.  Order magazines on their reading devices or in the mail that interest them (National Geographic Kids, Sports Illustrated Kids, Boys' Life, Time for Kids, Girls Life, American Girl).  Get them online to some cool sites that these same magazines also offer.  I've discovered for kids.  It has a new wonder each day for the kids to read about.  You may ask your child to read about one each day and tell you about it over dinner.  It's a good way to require the extra practice without it being such a daunting task. 

It is important to know that the struggling reader lacks confidence in this area.  They typically feel that they are doing something wrong or something is wrong with them.  They often have the misconception that good readers never make mistakes or ever have to reread parts of the book.  They think good readers like every book they pick up.  You have to be supportive and help them to understand that all readers struggle at some point, all readers make mistakes, and all readers may not like a book they read at some point.  They need to find the genre that interest them most, not their friends.  Talk to them about your reading and what helps you.

Happy reading!


Questions regarding your child?? Want me to write about a specific topic? email me!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

She's Just a Teacher...

I am in my tenth year of teaching and nearly 40 years old.  I teach.  It was my first choice for my future for as long as I could remember, but not the path I originally followed.  If I knew you when I was 18, I had no clue what I wanted to do << I wanted to teach>>.  If you met me as a college freshman, I was switching my major from Psych to Sociology, still lost <<I wanted to teach>>.  Later, you would find I had switched to nursing, then quickly on to Speech Pathology to finish the stretch <<I still wanted to teach>>.   No one would have heard the conversations I'd had with my grandmother's sisters who were teachers so long ago that they had punished my grandmother for speaking French in their own classrooms.  When they heard I wanted to teach, I'd see a look of pride followed by a quick look of concern.  I eventually would earn my teaching certificate.

I never understood the concern until now.  I am a teacher.  It is the LEAST that I do in a day's work. I teach reading, language, and spelling.  It is known that I can teach my kids to read better, spell better, and write better.  Sometimes it feels like I am the only one trying to achieve this goal.  I (teachers everywhere) do so much more.

You may not realize that I am with your child 8 hours of the day, five days per week, 180 days of the year.  I think about them before bed and as soon as I wake up.  I worry about their struggles constantly.

In a day's work...I teach reading, language, and spelling.  I pass out band aids and ice packs daily.  I sneak your kid ibuprofen or acetaminophen when they can't get in touch with you.  I'm not supposed to.  It's against the law, but when your child is crying in pain, I can't bear it anymore than you could.  I guide them to the bathroom with bloody noses, when they may puke, when their tummy hurts, when they have a yucky rash, when their best friend just said something really mean in front of everyone, when they have anxiety attacks.  I hug them when they won 1st place over the weekend, on their birthday, when they give me a drawing, when they didn't make the team, when their grandpa died during the night, when their mom moved out of daddy's house. I buy a book sack if you can't, and I find a jacket that is the uniform standard on the sale rack.  I protect them when there is an intruder on campus, a thunderstorm,  when a tornado is nearby and we are stuck in the dark beneath our desks...and. they. are. scared.  We pray together. I pray for them when they travel for competitions and tournaments, when they are nervous about a test.  I kneel in church beside them and ask God to make me a better model for them and to help me to guide them to greatness.  When they look like they may faint, I support their limp bodies until they are safe on softer ground.  I hover near their desks and point to test items that need their attention, careful not to draw attention to what is happening.  ((Can anyone see?  Will they notice that I need help?  I don't know how to do this?))  I ask others to ask your child to play with them since he seems to have few friends.  I make them take at least 3 bites at lunchtime when they would rather just stare at the food.  I correct them.  I make them responsible.  I expect more. I expect their best.  I discipline....because I am a role model, just as you are.  I am not their parent, even if they do slip and call me "Mom" everyday.  I am their teacher.  I love my job.   I love my kids.

The ART of teaching is not taught in schools.  Teachers learn so LITTLE in school.  Today, teachers are leaving this profession in staggering numbers because of decisions our lawmakers are making, {{non-teachers}}.  Teachers are unappreciated, underpaid, doubted, questioned, held solely accountable, and pushed around.  There are so many days I find myself wishing I'd done more.  Like this isn't enough?  Do something about it.  Stand up for our educators.  They are true heroes.  Support them.

Thank a teacher.  He or she deserves it every single day.