Posts Tagged 'literacy'

Perspective in reading

bookstore window "The Day the Crayons Quit"

Cropped image. Walter Baxter, Geograph.org. CC license.

Close your eyes and imagine a world in which your child can look at the world and problems in multiple ways. One where your child considers other peoples’ perspectives and sees things from a point of view besides their own. Your child would act on the best interest of all and not strictly on their own. Now open your eyes and see the world in reality; a world where many people are inconsiderate, rude or self-centered. But parents can help children understand perspective before they enter school through reading together and developing a child’s language skills.

Teaching children about perspective

Toddler-age children

Research shows that children as young as two or three years old can be taught perspective. At this age, a child might help another child who is upset or crying, by offering a hug or a toy as comfort.

Young children may still confuse their perspective with others’ perspectives. They may believe that how they see things in the world is the way that others do, too. For example, if a child really dislikes something like a chocolate chip cookie, he feels that other people do as well.

Preschool-age children

Each day, a parent deals with many emotions. Maybe you had a disagreement with a friend or family member. Perhaps a family member is old, sick and having difficulty. Or you’re very excited because you won a trip. Good or bad, emotions are part of our daily life.

It is important to talk about the feelings and emotions that you are experiencing.

  • Label the emotion or feeling and talk to your child about it. If it is a negative emotion, talk about what helps you feel better.
  • When you see someone upset, talk with your child about it and problem solve what could help the upset person feel better. If possible, do what you can to help. Label the emotion again.

Lower elementary-age children

Continue to talk about perspective as it aids significantly in reading comprehension and success in school.

Reading as a tool for teaching perspective

Literarydevices.net says, “While reading a fiction or non-fiction book, readers see and experience the events and feelings about the characters through a certain point of view, which is called ‘perspective’. A perspective is a literary tool, which serves as a lens through which readers observe the characters, events and happenings.” In other words, point of view (or perspective) shows the opinions and feelings of those involved in the story. If a parent and child talk about this as part of their reading time together, the child will grasp the concept much more easily in the classroom.

In fiction books, we see four points of view.

  1. First person. The work uses “I” or “we” throughout. For example, “I love it when you cuddle up and read me a book.”
  2. Second person. The work uses the pronoun “you.” An example of this is, “Often you feel angry when the dog won’t stop barking.”
  3. Third person. Authors use pronouns like “he,” “she,” “it,” “they,” or someone’s name. For example, “Miss Linda is a disciplined woman. She always eats her vegetables like her mother told her to do.”
  4. The author uses “he” and “she” but the narrator has full access to the thoughts and feelings of all of the characters in the story. Shel Silverstein used in the book “The Giving Tree” that I wrote about in May.

Putting this into action

When reading with a preschool-age child, talk about the story then discuss the characters in the book and how they feel. Give the feelings a label. This process helps children understand not only the stories read to them, but also their feelings and how a character’s feelings may be different than their own.

With older children (lower-elementary age), read together then stop and talk about the reaction to situations that may be happy or sad. Discuss why the character is feeling that way.

Book recommendations

There are several picture books that consider multiple perspectives. I read most of these books with children of different ages. While reading these books with your child, it’s fun to consider perspective from another character.

Other good books that help children understand perspective are:

Upper elementary-age children can enjoy exploring perspective with these books:

So get a book with multiple points of view (picture book or not) and read it with your child. Talk with your child at their level and consider multiple perspectives of the characters. Over the years, watch your child’s language and reading skills grow. However, I feel the best gift from your reading together is a well-rounded child who can look at the world and view the things that happen in many ways. Happy reading!

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.

Summer slide: It’s not a dance

boy reading

We’re all excited as the school year ends and summer is upon us. Most children are so happy on the last day of school as it means sleeping in, staying up late, and best of all: no homework! But many parents know that we must keep our children reading, writing and doing math to prevent the “summer slide.”

What is the summer slide?

This is the slide in academic skills that happens over the summer. When our children return to school, they’ve fallen to a level lower than they were at when they left school in June. Typically, students can lose up to two months of learning in the summer and it takes the next grade’s teacher four to six weeks to get students back to the level where they previously were. The most profound thing about summer slide is that it is cumulative.

Over the years, the one- to two-month slide adds up and creates a gap by the time the child reaches high school. However, a parent can help your student avoid the “summer slide,” provide the opportunity to step right into the new grade level, and even learn the new grade level materials.

Summer slide is more common in lower-income levels, although no student is exempt.

Reading over the summer

Research shows that the amount of time that students spend reading outside of school is linked to gains in reading achievement. In fact, it shows that if your child reads just six books during the summer months, the summer slide can be avoided!

However, these books need to be “just right fit” books. Talk with your child’s teacher before the end of the year to find the right reading level. The books can’t be too hard or too easy; they need to be just right. This video can help determine a “just right” book.

A child is most likely to read books that he or she selects. We need to give children the time needed to select books that will motivate them to continue to read all summer.

Summer reading programs

  • Most libraries offer free reading programs that are motivating and fun. Check out your library online or at your next visit, so your child is signed up and ready to participate. Libraries are meant to be a place to read, have fun and learn as a family. When my children were little, I packed a lunch, went to the library, then headed to the park to spend some time both playing and reading.
  • Some bookstores offer summer reading programs and discounts on books. One chain even rewards summer reading with a free book at the end of the summer. Also, purchasing books for your own home library may be fun for your child, especially for high interest books. Many stores have a book list for each age and grade that children love, as well as the top picks for different age groups.

Just keep on reading

One of the most important tips that I can offer to parents is to keep reading! It isn’t meant to be something we do for a half an hour a day. It can be done all day and every day.

In the morning, grab a newspaper and read the comics, the headlines or weather. In the afternoon, provide time for your child to read the “just right” books that they selected. In the evening, find time to read with your child and encourage them to read aloud to you. Talk about the vocabulary that you encounter in your reading. Reading together helps build listening skills, as well.

When your child was an infant, you may have had books all around the house. As children grow, we tend to keep books in a central location. Instead, I suggest keeping high-interest books all around the house because kids are more likely to pick up a book and read if they are conveniently set around the house. You might also keep some books in the car; children spend a lot of time while moms drive them from here to there. It’s the perfect place to keep a few books for them to read.

There are many online reading programs that find a student’s level and provide motivational activities and books for your child. Talk to your school to see if this is available for you to purchase.

Another idea is ordering a magazine that your child enjoys. It gets delivered right to your house each week or month. They can be very motivational and can keep kids reading.

Don’t forget about math

Math is another area where students slide during the summer. Provide level-appropriate workbooks to practice the skills that your children learned during the school year.

Estimation is an important skill that can be practiced whenever you can. It can be how many miles to you think it is to grandma’s house, how long you think it will take to get somewhere, how many M & M’s are in the jar. Whatever you think of to support this skill will benefit to your child.

Write, write, write

Writing over the summer is also important. Provide a fun summer journal. Each day, have your child take time to write. It can be a journal of what they are reading, or maybe a place to write a story or poem. It is often fun to reflect in writing what they have done that day. Of course, a letter to grandma is always loved and appreciated. Just find time to practice writing.

Enjoy your summer!

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.

A look at “The Giving Tree”

cover of The Giving Tree book

image credit: wikipedia, by source, fair use.

A half century ago—yes, 50 years ago—Shel Silverstein wrote and illustrated one of my all-time favorite children’s book, “The Giving Tree.” First published in 1964 by Harper & Row, this classic is now printed in several languages with over 10 million copies sold internationally. Scholastic Co., a national publishing company known for educational books and materials, rated this book with an interest level for students in kindergarten through second grade. Personally, however, I feel this book can be read at all ages and can garnish lively conversations of the relationship and various interpretations. It is considered a picture book because the illustrations are as (or even more) important as than the words.

If you don’t know this story, it about the relationship between a boy and a tree. The tree was always there for the boy and gave everything he could to make him happy. As the boy grew into a teenager, a young man then an elderly man, he took what he needed from the tree and the tree continued to give him all he could, until there was no more the tree could give. The illustrations are simple and powerful.

As one of my favorite books, I always thought that it was a story of generosity and self-sacrifice to make someone happy. In a recent conversation with a colleague, I was quite surprised to hear her perspective of this book. Her thoughts of this book are very different than mine. She thinks the story is about greed. She shared why she feels this way, and each of her points were valid and well thought out. I left the conversation pondering and wondering what other people thought of the book.

I began researching and discovered that “The Giving Tree” is “one of the most divisive books in children’s literature.” That one quick conversation I had about a book read and loved by many, lead me to reread this book and look at the relationship between the tree and the boy from different perspectives.

As a teacher and a parent, I carefully choose what I read to children. Seemingly a book of friendship that withstands the test time, I read it often. Never was it read with dry eyes and without a sniffle at the end. In fact, the last time I read it to students, I vowed that I wouldn’t cry. Guess what? Didn’t happen!

So is this a book on selfless giving or a parable of narcissistic greed? The title implies that it is a story of giving, but as you read it you may begin to think differently. Many adults pick it up and read it to their child for the first time in many years. Some of them are disappointed, yet many people love the book just as much.

I asked 25 of my friends their thoughts on the book. Strong opinions and valid points on both were voiced. One friend said that her church recently referenced it in the sermon. My teacher friends all read it to their classes. Some felt it was about the unconditional love as in the parent-child relationship. Another friend thought it’s a parable about life, as our world is full of both the givers and the takers. There are so many ways to interpret this book that go well beyond this post.

Regardless of how you interpret the characters, this story has withstood the test of time. I encourage you to read it with your child and talk about it. Talk about the friendship and the special relationship between the boy and the tree. Take time to look at the simple illustrations and discuss what you see. On another occasion, reread the book together and talk about the boy’s greed and what he did to the tree. What is greed and what it does to others?

One of the questions I continually ask myself is what makes literature good? My answer always comes back that good literature is timeless. Fifty years ago, this book was loved and read by millions, just as it is today.

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.

April is National Poetry Month

children's poetry book

In 1996, the Academy of American Poets created one of the largest literacy celebrations in the world: National Poetry Month. The yearly April celebration was started to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States. Schools, libraries and bookstores are wonderful places to get involved and join in the celebration.

What is poetry?

Poetry uses language effectively to evoke feelings. It can make us laugh or cry. Some poetry has form and is written in a specific style with rhyme and rhythm, while other poetry is spontaneous with no intentional form. Children’s poetry is written specifically for children but is appropriate for all ages.

Here are some types of poetry that you can enjoy reading with your child.

Nursery rhymes

Rhymes help children learn speech patterns and develop their oral language skills. They help develop foundational and fundamental skills to be a successful reader. It was proven that students who know how to rhyme and can recite rhymes are better readers and writers in school. So, pull out the Mother Goose books and enjoy the fun and rhyme in this form of poetry.

Hickory, Dickory Dock

Hickory Dickory dock,
The mouse ran up the clock,
The clock struck one
The mouse ran down,
Hickory Dickory dock.

Hickory Dickory dock,
The mouse ran up the clock,
The clock struck two
And down he flew,
Hickory Dickory dock.

Hickory Dickory dock,
The mouse ran up the clock,
The clock struck three
And he did flee,
Hickory Dickory dock.

Alliteration

Alliteration is a form of poetry that uses the same letter or sound at the beginning of each line in the poem. Typically, they are descriptive poems and fun to read. Challenge yourself and child by writing one together.

Eat Wisely

Franks and fries, and French fondue.
Beans and burgers and biscuits too.
Chicken, chili, and cheddar cheese.
When I munch too much, I always sneeze!

Limerick

One of my favorite forms of poetry is the limerick. Most often, they are nonsensical and make us laugh. It uses a five-line stanza in which the first, second and fifth lines rhyme. The third and fourth lines are shorter and rhyme. Children love to listen to the rhyme and rhythm of the limerick.

There once was a lady named Sue
Who had nothing whatever to do
And who did it so badly
I thought she would gladly
Have stopped before she was through.

Haiku

Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry appreciated and loved around the world. It is a three-lined poem that follows a specific format. The first and third line have five syllables and the second line has seven syllables. Haiku is usually written about someone or something specific, such as a person or animal. Rarely does it rhyme.

Frog

Green and speckled legs,
Hop on logs and lily pads
Splash in cool water.

Kangaroo

In a pouch I grow,
On a southern continent —
Strange creatures I know.

Free verse

Free verse has no rules. It does not have rhyme or rhythm; instead it follows the rules of the natural rhythm of speech. Many people think that this is a new form of poetry, but it has been around for hundreds of years.

Dolphins

By Brook

Here I swim, with my friends.
They jump around me and flip in the air.
I am in Florida.
There are lots of different kinds of dolphins.
I am a Bottled nosed dolphin.
I slip in the water to find my prey.
My predators are sharks and some bigger
animals than me that live in the ocean.
I see something standing on land that I have seen before.
There is a noise coming from there. I keep playing with my friends.

Acrostic

Acrostic poems spell out the topic of the poem going down the left side of the paper. Each line uses the first letter to describe the topic.

Pumpkin

By Kaitlyn Guenther

P iles of candy
U nder the bed
M ake for a delicious snack
P eople
K now
I t’s been Halloween because
N o one is without candy

As you can see, there are many forms of poetry to read with your child. Pull out the book of nursery rhymes and have fun reading them. Visit a library and borrow a book or two of poetry. If your child is older, write poems together.

Have fun and enjoy National Poetry Month!

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.

Time to celebrate reading

Boy reading to his stuffed animals

Modified image. John Morgan, Flickr. CC license.

March is National Reading Month, a time when schools across the country celebrate and promote reading. However, reading and literacy can start as early as birth. In fact, researchers state that promoting early literacy is in direct correlation with reading success when children enter school. That means it is never too early (or late) to encourage reading.

This month, find time to read and have fun with your children. Here are some reading activities you might like to try together. To make this extra special, make a tic-tac-toe board and have your child choose nine activities from this list. Put them in the squares and mark them off as you complete the activity. When they get a tic-tac-toe, create another game.

  • Read books from your child’s favorite author.
  • Celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday (March 2) by reading a book of his every day this month.
  • Record number of books or pages read for the month.
  • Visit your local library.
    • Introduce your child to the children’s librarian.
    • Get a library card in your child’s name. Check with your library to see when a child can get his own card. Some libraries have a guideline that a child must be able to write his first and last names legibly.
    • Spend extra time there and really look around to see what is offered.
  • Make a “reading place.”
    • Get a large appliance box and decorate it as a special area for reading.
    • Read under the covers with a flashlight or headlamp.
    • Make a tent with blankets over chairs as a special reading place. Use flashlights or headlamps to see.
    • If you have the space, decorate a special corner or area in your home for a reading space.
  • Bring reading to life.
    • Change your voice for the different characters in the book.
    • Dress up like the characters when you read your child’s favorite book.
  • Read as many different genres as you can.
  • Read and make a recipe from a child’s cookbook.
  • Get a book on drawing and learn to draw something new.
  • Read about things they are interested in. If they are interested in animals, visit a zoo.
  • Have your child read a familiar book to a pet or favorite stuffed animal. Reading aloud to a non-judgmental furry friend can improve reading skills and confidence.
  • Meet an author.
    • Some bookstores and libraries invite authors to speak and read aloud to children.
    • Get a book signed especially for your child by the author.
  • Read something other than a traditional book.
    • Listen to an audiobook. You can even follow along in a printed copy if you’d like.
    • Order a magazine for your child to come in the mail.
    • Comic books and graphic novels are unique options.
  • Read together at bedtime.
    • Take time to snuggle and read to your child, even after your child can read.
    • Start bedtime early or extend it by 5 to 10 minutes for extra reading time.
    • Read a chapter a night from a favorite author.
    • If your child can read, take turns reading a page.
  • Other literary-supporting ideas
    • Play with magnetic letters on the refrigerator.
    • Play rhyming games.
    • Let your child make up a story and tell it to you.
    • Plan a scavenger hunt in your home, with a book being the prize at the end.
    • As a parent, model reading for your child.  Let them see you read everyday.

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.

Making writing fun!

young boy writing with marker

Did you know that the stronger a child is in reading, the better writer they will be?  Also the more children write, the better they become in reading.

Writing is a challenging skill, but one that we need in our daily lives. While you might think writing is something that a child begins in school, fostering the development of these skills at a young age before that can help your child’s success in school. It also helps develop skills as a writer, too.

Writing doesn’t need to be a chore or another huge task that you do each day. Instead make writing fun! If your child wants to do more, provide those opportunities. If your child gets discouraged, back off for a day or so. Take the lead from them.

Here are ways that will both encourage and develop writing skills.

  • Writing Corner. Find in a place in your home to set up a table and chair for your child. Make a “writing bin” and fill it with things like:
    • fat and thin pencils
    • pens and markers of different sizes and colors
    • different paper (e.g., plain, lined, construction, newsprint-size, index cards, etc.)
    • dry erase board, marker and eraser
    • scissors and glue
    • ribbon and yarn
  • Be a role model. Let your child see you write, whether it’s a grocery list, a thank you card or to-do list. While you are writing, tell them what you are doing.
  • Make a book. This can be done with children of all ages. Children can design a book cover, write a story (or you take their dictation) and illustrate it. The book can be bound in soft or hard cover at places like Shutterfly.
  • Make writing authentic.
    • Write notes. Offer your child assistance he needs to thank someone for a gift or something special. For the very young child, he can dictate the note to you and sign it at the bottom. Or surprise your child with a sweet note in his lunch box. Don’t be surprised when he sends a note back to you.
    • Make the grocery list. Get your child involved by asking her what she would like on your shopping trip and have her write it down. If your child is younger and can’t write words, ask her to draw a picture instead and you can write the word underneath it. For older children, they may be able to write the sounds they hear in the word. Tip: If your child takes the time to write something for the list, it is important that you purchas some or all of what she writes.

For younger children

  • Name writing. Children love to write their names! For the very young child, write her name in big letters and have her decorate it with markers, ribbon, or something else you choose. As the child gets older, have her write her name in as many ways and colors as they can. Elementary school children can practice their name in printing, cursive, large and small letters.
  • Window painting. Don’t worry parents, it’s fun and easy to clean up. You can either buy window crayons (Crayola makes them) or make your own paint. In a plastic cup, mix two parts washable tempera paint and one part dish soap. Put a drop cloth on the floor or do this activity outside. Children can practice letters, numbers, their name, words or illustrations. Clean up with water.
  • Glue tracing. This is an excellent pre-writing activity. Using a bold marker, write letters or your child’s name on a sheet of construction paper. Use larger letters for younger children, decreasing size as they get older. Have the child trace the letter with colored glue. When it dries, children will see their writing in that color; it will also be raised so children use their fingers to trace over to feel the letter and how it is formed.
  • Letter rubber stamps. Purchase letter stamps and stamp pads. Have your child stamp the letters, their name or a message to someone they love.
  • Shaving cream. Forming letters and numbers is extra special with shaving cream.
  • Salt/sand trays. Place salt or sand on a tray or cookie sheet and encourage your child to correctly form their letters and numbers. You can get colored sand to make it more fun. The best part about salt and sand: A little shake of the tray makes it ready to start again.

For older children

  • Let’s pretend. On a piece of cardboard, have your child paint a sign for the name of a restaurant. On a folded sheet of large paper, have your child design a menu cover. Inside, write a list of the items that they will sell in the restaurant. To push it farther, give the items a price that they would see it for. You can even give your child a notepad and have them take orders from anyone willing to play along.
  • Sentence formation. Start with five or six words. Write one word a piece on a small piece of paper, 3″ x 5″ card, or popsicle stick. Have your child read the words and use the words to make a sentence. You can increase the amount of words as their skills increase.
  • Write from photos. Young writers are most comfortable writing about themselves and things that they’ve done. Print some of your vacation, holiday or special pictures and have them available for your child to write about. A young child can dictate their story and as they get older, they can write for themselves. Start with a sentence and as time goes by, encourage your children to add another. Little do they know, as children get better, they have more to say.
  • Write a comic. Use dialog bubbles for the characters to speak. Comics are fun as the child writes a limited amount and gets to illustrate, too.
  • Write a play or TV show. Starting with two characters, write a short script with a beginning, middle and end. This can be a difficult thing to ask of a child. One way to make it easier is to have your child write one sentence and you write the next. You can also do a family journal: Keep a spiral notebook out and have someone write in it each day. Starting at the beginning of a notebook and going to the next page each day is fun, but you and your child will see their progress in letter and size formation, as well as length and complexity of his writing.

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.

Selecting age-appropriate books for your newborn to 18-month old

toddler looking at book

Reading is something that always came naturally to my family. When my children were in the womb, I read and sang to them. Books were in every room in our home —whether in a bin, on a shelf, on the coffee table, or in the bookcase.

I truly believe that in order to raise your child to be a reader, reading to them is essential. However, I take it one step further. Children model what they see. Making time for you to read daily is another key in developing our children as readers.

As my children grew up, they discovered that my favorite book is “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. We read that book until the pages were taped, smudged and missing. When I retired from teaching, they gave me the most precious gifts that I have ever received: My son hand-painted a scene from the book and the kids wrote a most touching message. They also had someone craft a necklace of the tree; the tree was made of wire and the apple was a beautiful, shiny red bead. How touched I was that my gift incorporated our love of books and reading! I will forever treasure those gifts.

Many parents stop reading to their children once they know how to read themselves. However, something magical happens when you continue to share that bond. Through the years, my son and I found authors that we both enjoy. Even now, across the miles and states, we still decide to start a book together and read our favorite parts to each other. This leads to rich discussions on books that we share.

Here are some suggestions for selecting age-appropriate books for your child.

0 to 6 months

Babies enjoy books to relax. Snuggling with you and hearing your voice is calming to your child.

Tips

  • Baby’s vision isn’t fully developed, so choose books with larger pictures and contrasting, bold colors, with little or no text.
  • Older babies in this age range enjoy interactive books that use mirrors and puppets.
  • The sound and rhythm of speech is crucial for developing baby’s oral language skills.
  • Most importantly, uninterrupted time with your baby is what’s most important. Turn off the tv and phone.

Book Suggestions

7 to 12 months

Babies are beginning to understand vocabulary and illustrations from everyday life and will put together the word “dog” with a picture they see in a book.

Tips

  • Choose books to stimulate baby’s senses. Books with varying textures, scents, or sounds are perfect for this stage of development.
  • Oral language is emerging and baby may babble back to you. Books with a single word and picture help develop language skills.
  • Read books with sound patterns to further develop language.
  • Nursery rhymes and books with simple sentences are great choices.
  • A book’s durability is important at this stage!
    • Look for books that are waterproof, resistant to drops and throws, tear-resistant, and chew-proof.
    • Fabric books are always good as they can be thrown into the washing machine and dryer.

Book Suggestions

13 to 18 months

Have fun and be silly with books!

Tips

  • Early toddlers love looking at pictures of animals and making the animal noise with you.
  • Books with a few sentences on a page is appropriate.
  • Interact with rhyme and rhythm of words and sounds.
  • A 15- or 16-month-old child is beginning to use speech. Books can be used to help develop and expand expressive language skills.
    • Point to a picture and ask your child what the picture is of.
    • For example, let’s say the picture is of a cat, and your child replies, “Cat.” You can tell them, “That’s a big, fat cat.”
    • Offer many opportunities to practice this while reading.

Book Suggestions

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.


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