• Dear Parents,

    I hope your summer is off to a great start!  It’s been a few weeks since school ended, so it is a good time to start implementing some routines related to reading (if you haven’t already). 

    Please know that it is okay if reading has taken a back seat for the past couple of weeks.  Everyone, including you and your kids, deserved a bit of a break after the past few challenging months. Just remember, that it takes about three weeks to create a habit, so try not to have unrealistic expectations right out of the gate!

    The first thing to do is to make sure you have lots of interesting books in your home.  You may have shelves you haven’t explored recently!  The library is also accepting phone requests, so you can call with a list of books you’d like (or authors), and you can pick them up.  I will provide suggestions for books/authors you can read aloud to your child and also sites where you can purchase leveled readers (for your child to practice reading) at the end of this note.

    There are two types of reading experiences to provide for your young reader—both are equally important.

    1. Read alouds- This is when you choose an interesting book---one that is ABOVE your child’s reading level, to read aloud to him/her.  Please start with joke books, poetry, and picture books and move into short chapter books later if your child is a reluctant listener.  Just 10-15 minutes of this kind of reading as often as possible (preferably daily) will make a huge difference for your child. (builds attention span, listening comprehension, ability to visualize, vocabulary, knowledge base, sense of story, and love of books) 

    2. Independent reading- This is when your child reads books AT or BELOW his/her reading level and you provide support.  It is essential that there are just a few words that your child will struggle with when reading independently.  Any more than that, and reading becomes a chore.  Just 5-10 minutes of this kind of reading at least 4-5 times a week will make a huge difference for your child. Please note:
      • The books young children can read independently are not nearly as interesting as the ones you will read to them.  Kindergarten students will be reading levels A-D and first graders levels H-K.  (Please don’t be focused on levels.)  SMOOTH, COMFORTABLE reading helps children build fluency and automaticity and that leads to ENJOYMENT!  Think about how it feels to struggle through a challenging, complex book yourself.  That’s not necessarily what you would choose to read at the beach!  Think about your child needing lots of “beach” reading to build his/her skills this summer. Remember: Hard reading (lots of stumbling) doesn’t produce growth and can turn kids off from reading.

     The next thing to do is begin to build routines that engage your child in reading.  Here are a few ideas:

    • Have family reading time daily.  This is when all devices are off and everyone reads---even parents.  Put out piles of books, gather your kids, and everybody reads.  This is your chance to read the paper, a magazine, or even a novel!  Start with just 5 minutes.  Try to build up to 15 in the next two weeks.  Don’t worry if your kids are just turning pages.  You are just trying to build the reading habit at first.

    • Find a time to read to your kids every day----while they eat breakfast, build with blocks, bathe, settle in for bed, wait for friends to arrive…  It is okay if they are fidgety at first, or even if they sit on the floor with Legos while you read.  Don’t force it.  Be invitational.  (“Wow, this looks interesting!  I am going to read this out loud.  I bet you’ll love it!”)  If your child seems disinterested at first, don’t give up.  Just read a portion, express your own enjoyment, and then move on to the next activity.  Just stick with it every day.  Try new types of books if necessary.  Some kids’ attention spans are very short.  Try jokes and riddles---they engender an immediate pleasurable response!  Then move to funny poems, and eventually to picture books.

    • Bring books to the beach, on vacation. Listen to them in the car.  Try podcasts too!

    Again, remember it takes time to create a habit. Be patient.  Baby steps…

    I will write about this topic again in about two weeks.  Hopefully reading will be starting to be a part of your routine by then.  Feel free to email me with any questions!

    Here are some resources for you:

    Leveled books – Most K students should practice with levels A-C; first grade should practice with levels G-I.   Move to more challenging books once they are not stumbling on more than a word or two in the whole book. 

    Levels are really a teaching tool—and not supposed to really be used by parents.

    ***I am providing information about levels as a guide to help you find “just-right” books for your child.  Please don’t have your child identify him/herself as a certain letter reader!  Also note that public libraries don’t organize books by levels. 

    Authors to Read Aloud to Your Child: (just ideas…there are so many great ones)

    Kevin Henkes
    Gail Gibbons
    Yangsook Choi
    Chris Raschka
    Jerry Pinkney
    Mo Willems
    Arnold Lobel
    Cynthia Rylant
    Leo Lionni
    Bernard Waber
    James Marshall
    Ezra Jack Keats

    You may even just ask the Children’s Librarian for an assortment of picture books to read to a 6 year old…and don’t forget biographies and nonfiction.  You can tell the librarian what your child is interested in…

    Here are some great sites with book recommendations:

    Happy reading! Stay well,
    Lynn Herschlein