Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do- Book Review

A few weeks ago I posted about reading resources for parents and mentioned Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do by Daniel T. Willingham. I purchased the e-book version because I was too excited to wait for Amazon to deliver a paper copy, which was a blessing because I read it on my phone and Kindle over the last few weeks. It took me much longer to read than I anticipated because I couldn’t stop highlighting and writing notes.

Since I started teaching I’ve been on a quest to find a book to help parents (and teachers) address reading concerns and I believe I have finally found it! This book is truly one of a kind. Willingham’s writing voice is superb. He speaks to the reader as a fellow parent/educator with a calm demeanor. He never makes the reader feel incompetent nor does he command or belittle the reader.

One of my favorite ideas from this book is to start now. The introduction states this and it is repeated many times throughout the text. I love that Willingham doesn’t make parents or teachers feel that it’s too late. Many feel that by the time a child is in middle school it’s too late to improve reading skills and motivation, but Willingham constantly denies this with realistic, supportive ideas for adults.

The book starts off with a great explanation of general reading information including: the role of sound, the role of knowledge in comprehension, and motivation. As an educator, I loved his clear explanations of phonics and the role of sounds in reading. I was one of the those children who struggled with phonics, which resulted in my reading struggles and repeating kindergarten. I think if my parents had read the excerpt below during my struggle period it would have helped them understand.

“If reading is a code between written symbols and speech sounds, it’s going to be hard to learn the code if you can’t hear those sounds. Lots of research indicates that this reasonable supposition is right. Children who have trouble learning to read often have difficulty hearing individual speech sounds. At the other end of the spectrum, children who more or less teach themselves to read turn out to hear them easily. This relationship between the ability to hear speech sounds and reading is not unique to learning to read English— you see it across languages. So we have our first clue about how we can help kids become good readers: help them with this auditory challenge.” (Willingham, Daniel T. (2015-02-24). Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do (pp. 12-13). Wiley. Kindle Edition.)

Part one of the text examines reading in birth-preschool age children. My interests the last few months have been on this age group because of my daughter and the two classes I’m teaching, Mommy & Me Literacy and Children & Literacy. The author’s main points in this section are to create a love of reading and to prepare children for decoding. He gives great ideas/suggestions for parents, educators, and child care providers. One of my favorites he mentioned was using word games to help students with speech sounds.

“Here are some examples of word games that help children to hear individual speech sounds: Some children’s songs and rhymes center on word play, for example, The Name Game (“ Dan, Dan, bo-Ban, banana-fana fo-Fan, fee fi-mo-Man. Dan!”) and Apples and Bananas (“ I like to eat, eat, eat, eeples and baneenees”). Classic nursery rhymes use much of this sort of word play. So do Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, and other children’s authors. Sing songs they know, replacing the initial letter of each word with the letter of your choice, for example, “Mary had a little lamb” becomes “Bary bad a bittle bamb.” Find excuses for alliteration: “Great golly! Gobs of grapes!” (Willingham, Daniel T. (2015-02-24). Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do (p. 33). Wiley. Kindle Edition.)

Before a child can read, he or she must be able to recognize letters, which Willingham discusses. One of the easiest ways parents can help children with letter recognition is what Willingham calls “letters in the wild”. Caregivers should interact with children daily with letters they see on billboards, logos, etc. “If you prompt interest in letters in these daily interactions, it’s that much more likely your child will show interest in letters during read-alouds.” (Willingham, Daniel T. (2015-02-24). Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do (p. 36). Wiley. Kindle Edition.)

Part two of the book addresses kindergarten-second grade. I really liked how Willingham starts off this section by discussing the different reading programs used in schools, phonics vs. whole-word, and balanced literacy. Each school district uses a different approach, so it’s important for parents to be aware of the program their school uses. It’s also important to keep in mind that each student learns differently. “Programs vary, and kids’ experiences within a program vary.” (Willingham, Daniel T. (2015-02-24). Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do (p. 83). Wiley. Kindle Edition.)

The author also addresses the hot topic of technology: “With all the power we attribute to technology, that seems like a pretty wimpy effect. But the modest impact is actually typical for educational technology interventions, no matter what the subject: math, science, or history. More disturbing is a point made by researcher John Hattie: when you try anything new in the classroom, you see, on average, this sort of modest boost to student learning. Why? It’s not clear. (My guess is that the excitement of trying something new makes teachers enthusiastic, and that excitement rubs off on students.) The conclusion I’m emphasizing is that educational technology interventions in general (and those targeting reading in particular) have been less successful than we would have expected.” (Willingham, Daniel T. (2015-02-24). Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do (p. 85). Wiley. Kindle Edition.)

Willingham does go on to mention that technology apps and videos vary in quality and how they are embedded. On the flip side, he also does a great job of mentioning how technology can provide individual feedback and other positive ideas (I really appreciate how he can be so calm when discussing hot topic things).

I love that he follows up the discussion of technology with techniques and ideas parents can use at home with their kids. He includes ideas such as: reading with your child, choosing the right book, providing feedback and dealing with reading frustration. Reading is a challenging skill that takes lots of time to develop, so it’s only natural for children to get frustrated with reading while being at home with a parent. The author includes some great ideas for parents on dealing with this frustration.

“I can offer four suggestions if you find yourself frustrated. First, the habit of not talking much is not only good for your child (so she hears mostly her own voice, reading) but also good for maintaining your composure when you’re frustrated. Second, when you do speak, you can usually find an intonation other than frustration that carries your message in a positive way. When my youngest would look to me for help on the same word three times in sixty seconds, my inclination was to shout, “You KNOW this one.” I trained myself to say, “You know this one,” with the intonation of, “You sly dog.” I probably should have said nothing, but at least I used a positive tone. Third, remind yourself that the whole session is only five or ten minutes. Fourth, if you find that you just can’t keep it together, quit. Ask your child to read with you later. Grinding through the process gives a little practice in decoding, but it carries too high a cost in motivation.”(Willingham, Daniel T. (2015-02-24). Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do (p. 90). Wiley. Kindle Edition.)

The final part is third grade and beyond. Since I’ve taught middle school language arts for five years, I was really curious about his thoughts on motivating struggling readers at this stage. Fluency is discussed in great detail in this part of the book, and it’s fascinating how Willingham connects fluency to spelling.  “It would be nice to get kids to fluency faster, especially given that national tests indicate only about half of kids have reached desired levels of fluency by fourth grade. Is there a way to hurry the process along? Three techniques can help. First, explicit spelling instruction seems to improve fluency. Although the spelling knowledge you use to read is not identical to the knowledge you use when you’re thinking about how to spell a word, there is some overlap. So that’s a reason to include spelling instruction in schools, even though we all use word processors with spell-checkers.” (Willingham, Daniel T. (2015-02-24). Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do (p. 137). Wiley. Kindle Edition.). I have worked in environments where administration feels that students don’t need to spend time on spelling after a certain grade, but it is evident that spelling does translate to an increase in fluency.

The next big concept Willingham tackles is reading comprehension. This is the number one struggle I see with struggling readers in middle and high school. The author addressing the importance to reading comprehension strategies which include ideas like activating prior knowledge, listening actively, summarizing, visualizing, etc.

However, it is important to note, as the author does, that texts become increasingly more challenging the older a child gets. By third grade students are starting to read more nonfiction texts (articles, textbooks) and they are expected to understand the material and then interact with it in some aspect. In addition to that, some schools have made the transition to digital literacy. Instead of simply stating a positive or negative stance, the author breaks down and examines the different components which include general tech savviness and the ability to evaluate information. He then follows up his thoughts with information about the digital revolution.

“One change wrought by the digital revolution is that kids are actually reading much more than they used to, even though reading is commonly thought to be in decline.” (Willingham, Daniel T. (2015-02-24). Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do (p. 156). Wiley. Kindle Edition.). If you think about what students today are doing, this makes total sense. Kids are constantly reading tweets, captions on Instagram, blogs posts, etc. They may not be reading novels, but they are constantly reading.

Overall, I am in love with this book. The ideas and suggestions are explained in a clear, concise manner that is extremely user friendly for those not familiar with the education or reading world. It is the perfect book for any parent because it addresses all stages of reading. It is the perfect book for an educator to use to provide parents with guidance.

Preschool & Kindergarten Literacy

This week I did a Facebook class for preschool and kindergarten. It’s amazing how much the expectations for this age group have changed over the last decade with the changes in education. It’s quite clear after looking at the Common Core Standards for kindergarten that preschool is extremely important for children at this time.

This post is for parents and early childhood educators. Below you will find a bunch of information and book suggestions for children around 4-5 years old for math and reading.

Learning Math1001-things-to-spot-collection

Preschool

  • Counting (count on hands, objects)
  • Understands written expression means number of objects for #s 1-5
  • Can do basic addition and subtraction
  • Can put numbers in order

Kindergarten (from the Common Core State Standards)

  • wipe-clean-number-cardsCount to 100 by ones and tens
  • Write numbers 0-20
  • Solve addition and subtraction word problems using objects or drawings to represent the problem
  • Fluently add and subtract within 5
  • Identify and compare shapes

 

 

At Home Strategies

thats-not-my-height-bookMath

  • Make activities into games. Some suggestions include:
    • Number sense- count items, use a calendar to countdown to events, play simple board games
    • Geometry- name 3D objects, create simple patterns
    • Measurement- record height monthly

Learning to Read

Preschool

  • Make simple predictions and comments about story being read
  • Hold and look thats-not-myat words right side up, turning the pages one at a time front to back
  • Name the letter in first name and can recognize name in print
  • Say and point to at least 10 letters of the alphabet
  • Match a letter with beginning sound of word
  • Recognize words see often (sight words)

 

 

Kindergarten (from the Common Core State Standards)

  • Demonstrate understanding of the organization and basic features of print
  • Understand spoken words, syllables and sounds
  • Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words
  • Use a combination of drawing, dictating and writing to compose original pieces

At Home Strategies

Reading

  • Point out letters and numbers. “What word on this page starts with ‘s’ “
  • Make up stories about the pictures together
  • Ask comprehension questions. “Why is he mad?” “Where is hted-friends-with-cde going?”
  • Relate stories to child’s experiences (festive, doctors, et.).
  • Encourage writing and drawing. Have a constant supply of paper and crayons. Standing kid easels work really well.
  • Point out letters in your child’s name.
  • Make everything into a game so they don’t get frustrated.
  • Listen to books on tape.

 

Learning to Read Collections

As a parent and educator, I love to have everything given to me in a neat and organized pack. Usborne offers three different reading packages for parents that are really great.

Option 1: Phonics Reader Collection. 

Usborne has a fantastic Phonics Readers collection that is phonics-based, includes a guide for parents, and is leveled using Fountas and Pinnell. The books are sold individually, but can also be purchased as a box set with 20 titles.

phonics-reader-collection

 

Option 2: The Usborne Starting to Read Pack. This is the perfect set to help a child read. The pack includes an activity book, an alphabet chart and books. Here is a great video from a fellow consultant that shows specific details about this pack.

starting-to-read-pack

 

Option 3: Reading Box Sets. Usborne Very First Reading has 15 books that are meant to be read with an adult. As time goes on, the child takes on more of the reading.

Usborne My First Reading Library includes 50 books (the first are from the Very First Reading set) and the rest are leveled. The goal is to have the child read these independently, only getting help from an adult when needed.

Both sets come with a parent guide and links to “online help” at http://www.veryfirstreading.com.

very-first-reading-set

There is so much information to cover for this age group, it is truly unbelievable. For more information on the products featured, head over to my Usborne site here. To be a participant in my Facebook classes, follow me here .

 

Toddler Literacy

Last week I discussed literacy in the first year, so today I want to share some information for toddler literacy. In preparing for this class, a lot of my research for toddlers overlapped my baby research information. Many of the same materials we use with babies can also be used with toddlers.

This post is for parents and early childhood educators on literacy in toddler years (from my Facebook class). It includes toddler development information, stages of learning and book suggestions.

get-dressed-max-and-millieYoung Toddlers (12-24 months)

  • Books with children doing familiar things
  • Books about daily routines/customs

Toddlers (2-3 years old)

  • Simple rhyming books that can be memorized
    • Kids this age can say 150-300 words so they can recobig-book-of-colorsgnize those used in rhymes
    • It helps them learn sentence structure and expressing a complete thought
  • Books about counting, shapes, colors, and size

    • Kids this age can distinguish the difference between sizes and colors
    • Foundational skills are developing at this age (numbers and letters)

 

Motor Skillsvery-first-fingertrail-playbook-garden

  • Gross Motor Skills– larger movements
    • Crawling, running, etc.
  • Fine Motor Skills– small movements
    • Using fingers, toes, lips, and tongue
    • These are skills that can be practiced with books

Potty Training

  • Many parents say this is the most stressful part about having a toddler. It’s important to talk to talk to your toddler about going to the bathroom and use books to help him or her get familiar with going potty. potty-training-books

New Siblings

  • Some children have a rough adjustment to welcoming a new sibling. You can help ease the transition by including your toddler in discussing the new baby and by reading books about family.

Special Interests

  • By two years old many children have a special interest. This can be animals, trains, trucks, ballet, etc. Make sure to have plenty of texts to reflect your child’s interests. little-ballerina-dancing-book

Strategies

  • Talk or sing about pictures. This helps with comprehension skills. Some examples include:
    • Who or what is in the picture?
    • What are it/they doing?
    • What color are they? Etc.
  • Show children the words.
    • Point while reading
    • Books with labels
    • Feel free to spell the words out as well
  • Ask Questions.
    • While reading ask comprehension questions that include why, how, and what. Focus on feelings and actions from the story.
    • Encourage your child to ask questions while reading.
  • Let child tell the story.
    • By around 2 ½ or 3, children can memorize a text. Use this to their advantage by letting them “read” stories they memorized so they can embellish and make it their own.
      • This helps with creativity and processing skills.

For more information on toddler books, feel free to follow my Facebook page or check out Usborne Books and More.

 

Wipe-Clean Collection

Early Learning and Entertainment

I had a children’s book themed baby shower back in July, and we asked attendants to bring a children’s book instead of a card to start Molly’s home library. This was by far the best thing we did (along with a diaper raffle) because it gave us such a great variety of literature. Among the books we received, my grandma gave us two Usborne books, Noisy Farm and Wipe-Clean Dot to Dot Farm. My parents started a farm, Mini Mac, my senior year of high school and currently work it. My grandma (GG) thought it was the perfect opportunity to give Molly her first farm related book. wipe-clean-dot-farm

Today, I want to share some information about the Wipe-Clean collection from Usborne. These books are really cool in so many ways. The book and pages are thick and glossy, and aren’t that easy to rip, bend, or fold. A special pen comes with the book, making it convenient to use. These books can help kids with practicing pen control, numbers, letters, and numbers, and also provide entertainment.

Two words that best describe these books are versatile and portable. The Wipe-Clean books can be used as an independent activity or with a buddy/parent. It can be transported anywhere because all you need is the book, pen, and something to wipe with (tissue, paper towel, sleeve, etc.). There is no charging required, so you don’t need to worry about cords and outlets. They are thin and lightweight, and they fit easily into almost any type of bag.

Book Suggestions for Teachers and Parents

For preschool age kids, I would recommend using Wipe-Clean 1,2,3, Writing Numbers, Alphabet, and First Letters. Usborne also makes Wipe-Clean cards for learning the wipe-clean-telling-timealphabet and numbers that are also great for this age group. For kindergarten students, I would suggest using Wipe-Clean Capital and Lowercase Letters, Common Words to Copy, First Math, and First Words. For early elementary students, I recommend Wipe-Clean Starting Times Tables, Telling the Time, and Action Words to Copy. Depending on the student’s needs, you may need to differentiate with lower level or more advanced level books.

 The activity books come in great themes and can be used from preschool through early elementary. There are also some engaging sets meant for helping kids get ready for school, which would be a great summer activity. wipe-clean-ready-for-school-kit

Here are some great ideas on using these books for parents and teachers of preschool-early elementary kids.

Teachers:

  1. Center Activity. When I taught sixth grade, I would do a variety of center activities with my students. Mine didn’t look as appealing as elementary centers because of lack of space and resources. However, I always felt like I used the same ideas over and over (online games, videos, etc.). These books are awesome because students can work on them independently and they are easy to check. There is also minimal set up because all you need are the books, pens, and a tissue or paper towel.
  2. Remedial or Enrichment activities. As teachers we are always told to differentiate, and these books are PERFECT for doing just that. I suggest using these during math and/or reading instruction because that is where they would fit the curriculum best. Also, if you have ICS or pull out, these books would be perfect to use during those times as well.

Parents

  1. Extra Practice or jumpstart skills. As a parent, you can use these books however they work best for your child. They start at basic skills (pen control, learning the alphabet and counting, and common words) and continue into harder concepts, such as times tables and telling time. Again, it’s up to you as a parent to determine to use these books for fun, extra practice, or to jumpstart skills that will be taught in school.
    1. Independently. Over the years I have had parents ask me what they can do at home to help their kids with skills. Some parents want to be able to give their kids worksheets to do on their own, and these books can work the exact same way.
    2. Buddy Work (Parent). Similar to how some parents like independent work, others like to do practice work with their kids. One great strategy could be you do one page and talk about your thinking process aloud, then have your child do the same on another page. This allows kids to hear and see how an adult works and when they imitate an adult, it gives the parent a chance to understand their child’s thinking.
    3. Buddy Work (Sibling, relative, friend). Kids love to do activities with someone wipe-clean-pirate-activityelse. These books are a great opportunity to have your child interact with a sibling, relative, or friend. For the activity books, your child can do a part and their “helper” can do another. For instance, in the Dot to Dot books, there are dots to connect and words to write on each page. Depending on what the child wants or needs, they do that part and the “helper” would do the other.
  2. Fun activity books. While it’s great that these books can be used for writing and math skills, they are also meant to be fun and entertaining. As mentioned above, they are easy to transport and require little to no set up and clean up. Kids can complete mazes, dot to dots, and theme activities like dinosaurs and pirates.

For a complete look at the collection head over to Usborne. If you see anything you think could be useful for your classroom and/or little one, purchases can be made here.