My Favorite Literacy Blogs

I love how social media has allowed me to connect with some amazing individuals over the years, and it has also introduced me to incredible members of the literacy world. I look to these fabulous ladies for inspiration and motivation on all things literacy :).

  1. Read Aloud Revival. If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’m OBSESSED with Sarah Mackenzie (see Reading Aloud Resources for Parents post). She is a homeschooling mom who has such an incredible passion for reading with her six kids. Her blog is geared towards families who read at home with their children. One of my favorite things that Mackenzie does is create book lists. Not only does this make life easier for busy families, it provides guidance in creating a culture of reading at home. Mackenzie also has an ah-mazing podcast.
  2. The Literacy Nest.  The last year and half I’ve been immersing myself in dyslexia and Orton-Gillingham. Through this journey I came across Emily Gibbons from The Literacy Nest, who is my guru in the dyslexia world. Her blog includes fabulous tips, strategies, and ideas to help dyslexic students. I love that the information can be used by teachers AND parents. She even has a Teachers Pay Teachers store where you can purchase resources to use with students (click here for the store). I’ve also had the privilege to learn from Emily through Tutor Success Academy and she is just awesome!
  3. Katie McKnight Literacy. I found Dr. Katie McKnight my first year teaching and have been following her ever since. She focuses on secondary (grades 6-12) reading and writing skills for the 21st century. What makes her stand out to me is her constant support for teachers and parents. She has published books, won multiple awards, and has presented all over the US. She even provides professional development online, in webinars, or in person.

 

The Enchanted Hour Book Review

I have always believed in the power of read alouds at home and in the classroom, even if students can read on their own. I have butted heads with administrators because they felt my 10 minutes of reading at the beginning of each class was “a waste of learning time”.

Now, I can finally say, there’s a whole book about why it’s not :).

The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon is an incredible text about the power of reading aloud.

What I liked most about this book was the mix of researched information and first hand experiences. I feel like nowadays society demands to see numbers and statistics with every piece of evidence, so when it comes to crafting a text like this one every i must dotted and every t crossed. Boy, does the author do just that. She explains research, studies and interviews with a friendly tone that doesn’t make the reader feel as though he or she is reading a college textbook.

One of the biggest pieces of research that stuck out at me was the MRI study done when children are read to. The study’s results support the idea that reading picture books aloud allows a child’s brain to interact with the text on multiple levels. Personally, I see this first hand when I read with Molly. I’ll read the text and she’ll point at the pictures and draw her own conclusions based on what she sees.

As a parent, I really liked reading about the author’s personal experiences reading with her family. I always think it’s interesting to see what books are loved and read over and over again (Treasure Island is one of the family’s faves). Cox Gurdon also throws in a little parent reflection about her daughter’s experience with Johnny Tremain. If she could go back, she would read the text aloud to her child because the text may have been a little too complex for her at the time. I LOVE that not only does the author acknowledge things could have been done a different way, but also realizes why the text may not have been a good fit for her daughter.

As parents, we all want our children to be super stars, but it’s important to realize when something, such as reading, is just a little too challenging. The author does not get defensive, but rather wishes she could go back and give her child the little extra support she needed. As the author explains, reading aloud is not cheating. It’s just simply a way to get children to appreciate good literature because they aren’t so worried about reading the words.

The teacher in me agrees with every single aspect of this book. I teach secondary reading (6-12) and I truly believe in reading aloud to kids even at this level. As I mention in previous blog posts (click here) I do this in brick and mortar and the virtual environment. Why? Because reading aloud turns kids into readers. As this text explains beautifully, it helps with vocabulary skills at all ages, helps transport children all over this world (and out) during all periods of history, and allows children to appreciate and engage with a text.

My read alouds are without a doubt my favorite part of my teaching day. As the author points out, the reader and listeners bond and have a shared experience during that time. I engage in such in depth conversations with my students during read alouds that I often find myself feeling warm and fuzzy when the time is over. Students have also expressed similar feelings during our read aloud time, and we have such a stronger bond and connection.

The biggest take away from this book is that we need to read to kids. Yes, they can play on an Ipad to learn letter sounds, but nothing can replace someone reading to a child.

And of course the fabulous Sarah Mackenzie from Read Aloud Revival had Meghan Cox Gurdaon on her podcast in June to discuss the book. It’s honestly one of the best podcast episodes from RAR. Feel free to listen to it here.

I strongly recommend this text for parents, teachers and school administrators.

 

Reading Aloud Resources for Parents

I’m teaching a Mommy & Me Literacy class in a few weeks and I’ve been doing some research to figure out how I want to structure my class. Normally I would just Google some key words and have information at my fingertips in seconds. However, now that the weather is finally nice, I’ve been going to our local library and I decided to check out some of the books in the parenting section. Our library is very old fashioned (you can check out the Bobbsey Twins), but they do have a wide variety of children’s and parenting books.

To help me navigate the Parent’s Corner, I asked the children’s librarian for some guidance. She is the typical old school librarian, and was more than thrilled to assist me in my search. We chatted about the changes in reading with children today and she made a very good point. It’s not the children that have changed, it’s the parents. Kids still act like they always have (running around, touching everything in sight, etc.) but parents respond and interact differently with their children. She also said that you can tell the parents that read to their children and make literacy a part of their life because those kids go straight for the bookshelves on their visits to the library. Those kids that go straight for the computer are typically ones whose parents are on their phones during the library visit, and use more technology at home.

Since my Mommy & Me Literacy class is about helping moms incorporating literacy into their daily routine, I found the librarian’s comment to be very interesting. Over the years as a teacher I’ve seen different parenting styles, and now as a parent I tend to watch how other parents handle situations, and I would have to agree with the librarian.  Each parent and family has their own way of parenting, and as a new mom I respect that more each day.

I got to thinking, it’s human nature for us to avoid things we aren’t familiar with or good at. In this case some parents are not comfortable with reading to their children which is why they turn to technology. We know why it’s important to read aloud to kids (see previous post), but it can be challenging to find even just five minutes on some days to check email, let alone research reading aloud strategies. Which is what brings me to this post today. I’m going to share some resources that I have been using lately to hopefully help another parent. This post is for parents and early education teachers. 

Podcasts

With the nice weather we’re starting to have I’ve been taking Molly to the park more often. I’ve discovered I enjoy our park time more if I’m listening to something while I walk a few loops around the park, so I’ve started listening to podcasts.

Read-Aloud Revival

This podcast is truly a gem. I struggled finding a good one that focused on literacy, but it was worth the digging. It focuses on motivating your family to read and proviRaising Kids Who Readdes fantastic read aloud suggestions, tips for parents, and just great ideas. They also have a great website that is super user-friendly. The podcast I listened to today was from April 4, 2016 on Raising Kids Who read, which was an interview by author Dr. Daniel
Willingham. One of the best parts of this interview was how they discussed realistic ways to help kids of all ages read more at home. This included how to monitor screen time and leaving books in certain places in the house. Dr. Willingham discussed his book, Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do, which I plan on purchasing and reviewing in the next few weeks.

Reading Rockets

For those of you unfamiliar with Reading Rockets, it’s a fantastic website for parents and educators about reading. I’ve actually used it for multiple graduate school assignments and in my own classroom. Even though there are no recent podcasts, the existing ones are great. They have a few different podcast series for parents and children including: Meet the Author, Watch and Learn, and Meet the Experts. Meet the Author includes interviews of popular children’s book authors, Watch and Learn has videos for teaching reading, and Meet the Experts are interviews of various experts on specific reading topics (spelling, reading today).

Videos

Our children live in an exciting time of technology because there is so much out there that kids and parents can watch.

One Youtube Channel, Children’s Books Read Aloud, actually has adults reading aloud popular children’s books. This is great for parents to watch and listen to get ideas about how to read aloud. It’s also perfect for those days when you don’t have time to read to the kids, but they can watch a video of the book with someone reading to them.

I also came across a quick Ted Talk, Why we should all be reading aloud to children, and I LOVE the way Rebecca Bellingham reads aloud. Even as an adult, you feel captivated by her voice, especially when she uses the different voices. This is great a video just hear how effective a great read aloud can be.

The last video I want to share with you is one done by Pre-K teacher Breeyn Mack, and it’s called Strategies for Reading Aloud to Young Children. There are so many positive things about this video, but the biggest is how she interacts with the text while she’s reading. She demonstrates how to think aloud, read at a good pace, use appropriate voice volume, and more, providing parents and educators with a great demonstration on how to read aloud to little ones. I would love for Molly to have a teacher like her in the future.

Being a teacher first allowed me to become comfortable with reading aloud. I made it a priority to read to my students over the last few years because I saw how invested they became in the stories. If I didn’t have a teaching background I would feel reading is important, but I probably wouldn’t be doing it enough and not as effectively as I would want. If you or someone you know feels this way, these are some great resources for parents and educators to help feel more comfortable and confident in reading aloud.