Preschool Reading: The Right Book for the Right Purpose (Read Before You Pick)

Lucas 3

Have you wondered what to look for when choosing books for your little ones?  There are SO many wonderful, fabulous books!!  Where does one start?  What makes a book just right?

The first thing to consider is the purpose:

1.  Am I looking for a book for my child to listen to and enjoy?

OR

2.  Am I looking for a book for my child to primarily practice their phonics skills?

OR

3.  Am I looking for a meaningful book I want my child to learn how to read independently at some point?

If you answered #1, we have shared some of these books on earlier posts.  Click here to revisit that post.

If you answered #2, there are many phonics based books on the market.  These books typically focus on one skill, such as the “short a” sound and while a little bit of this practice may be helpful for young readers, the language structure in these books is usually very contrived (not matching the natural language patterns) and children have a tendency to put more cognitive energy into sounding out words than they do on what is happening in the story (the meaning).  Certainly, a critical part of learning to read is decoding words, but the purpose of reading is to get meaning from the printed words.  It is important to balance reading material with text that more closely matches natural language patterns and allows children to decode to get meaning from the printed message.

If your answer is #3, there are several characteristics to consider.  We will discuss those in just a few moments.  Before we do, we want to reiterate how important these kinds of texts are for your young reader!  Children will spend hours reading and rereading text if it is well chosen!!  Reading and rereading text is exactly what we want emergent readers to do!  Matching kids with books is an essential decision and can not be overlooked!  So, let’s get at it!  Here are a few things to consider:

CONTENT – Is the content:

  • familiar and easy to make connections to for the child (about child’s family, friends, pets, experiences)?
  • about concepts that are supported by personalized, familiar pictures?

THEMES – Are the themes and ideas:

  • very familiar to the child and his/her experiences?

LITERARY FEATURES – Is the language and literary features:

  • composed of patterns and repeating language structures?

COMPLEXITY – Is the sentence complexity:

  • limited to short, predictable sentences that are close to the child’s oral language?

VOCABULARY – Is the vocabulary:

  • familiar to the child and likely to be used in their oral language?
  • supported with specific pictures and images?

WORDS – Are the words:

  • mostly one syllable words with very easy and predictable letter/sound relationships?
  • very easy high frequency words that are used over and over in the text?

PICTURES – Do the pictures:

  • very closely match the print?
  • support each page of text?

PRINT FEATURES – Do the book and print features include:

  • short books with one or two lines of text per page?
  • text printed clearly and separated from pictures?
  • font that is large and easy to read?
  • ample space between words?
  • consistent placement of print on the page (always at the bottom or always at the top on each page)?

That may seem like a lot to keep in mind, but with a little practice, you will be a pro!  Would you like to see an example?  One of our favorite collections is the First Little Reader sets from Scholastic.  There are three levels to choose from and each set has 25 books that demonstrate the criteria discussed above.

Let’s Read About Me also attends to each of these criteria when designing books for youngsters with a bonus…the books are also ABOUT the child which makes them highly engaging! There are a variety of titles to choose from including books about favorite activities during different seasons of the year, family members, friends, different colors, celebrating holidays, etc.

The most important thing of all, is to keep the reading a fun and enjoyable experience.  When we invite little ones to read with us, we want them to be excited and

 

 

 

What Books Do I Choose For My Little One?

Kids are ready, FROM DAY ONE, to have books read to them AND it is VERY important to their cognitive development!

Infant reading

What kinds of books you ask? ALL kinds of books!

*Books with rhymes.

*Books with big beautiful pictures.

*Alphabet Books.

*Counting Books.

*Books about colors, shapes, and sizes.

*Books about our world.

*Books about families and playing with friends.

There are millions of beautiful books!  Buy them, borrow them, trade them!  Do what ever it takes to get the reading started with your baby from day ONE!  This reading time doesn’t have to be long.  Just carve out 5 minutes at first, then increase the time as you see fit!  Reading after dinner and bath time in the evening was our favorite time to snuggle and read for a few minutes.

Not sure where to start?  There are lots of lists of recommended books to help find books to begin your child’s library.  Here are a few of our “go to” lists:

http://www.parenting.com/gallery/building-babys-first-library-25-must-have-books

http://families.naeyc.org/learning-and-development/reading-writing/great-books-read-infants-and-toddlers

http://www.oprah.com/oprahsbookclub/Books-for-Infant-to-2-Years-Old-2010-Kids-Reading-List

Let’s Read About Me gives you one more option!  Personalized books just for your baby!  The pictures and the text are completely customized to catch the interest of your little one and engage them in reading from day one! A quick and easy way to add a book to your child’s library!  We guarantee hours of happy reading!  Check it out!  You won’t be sorry!

We wish you and your family many hours of joy reading and talking together….beginning from day one!

 

Just Get the Books OUT!

Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.

-Aristotle

It’s that time of year again! Time for all the new year’s resolutions.

Over the years, if I had followed through with all the resolutions I set, I wouldn’t even recognize myself right now, or my house, or most of my life!!

The truth is, good habits are tough to make and bad habits are even harder to break!

This year, I thought I would get a jump start!  In preparation, I’ve been reading as much as I can about making new habits….and KEEPING new habits!  One of the pieces I read described an approach by B. J. Fogg who is a behavior researcher and social scientist at Stanford University. Fogg contends that the changes we strive to make in our lives are much too big.  One of the things he encourages us to do is to begin with tiny changes.  We are seldom able to make and sustain long term BIG changes in our lives, but by beginning with micro changes, people can find more success.  For example, rather than setting a goal to jog every morning at 5:30, begin with setting a micro goal of just put running shoes on everyday!  It is working through a series of small changes that will make the achievement of the BIG goal more attainable.  (An article with more about Fogg’s approach can be found here.)

I don’t know about you, but as a mother I usually had new year’s resolutions for myself, but also for my family and my kids.  If you don’t already have a routine of reading every day with your children (no matter how old they may be), this would be a GREAT resolution I strongly encourage.  The research about the HUGE BENEFITS children get from the simple act of reading for 10-15 minutes a day is indisputable (some research has been shared on earlier posts.) AND it’s fun!  The greatest gift a child can receive is the passion for reading!

Seem like a hefty goal in your already hectic life?

Let’s break this down into a tiny, micro goal.  Let’s start by just getting a couple of books out and putting them on the couch or in any area where the family spends time together.  Chances are, your children may engage in them just because they are out and easily accessible.  Every room of our house has a basket or small collection of books.  Maybe it is easier in the beginning to read a few pages or a small book during the commercial of your favorite television shows…OR maybe read a little just before the little ones head for bed. These would be GREAT first steps for your children in 2014…and what a gift!!

Other families may wish to add a resolution to slowly begin to grow a book collection for their home.  This can become a bit expensive if you jump in all at once, but collecting a new title one time a month or using your local library or even trading books with friends and family can help make this task very inexpensive!  Don’t forget, children also LOVE to read books about themselves!  In just a few minutes, you can build a personalized book for your children for less than $10 at Let’s Read About Me!  These will be treasured books in your home library!

I wish you and your family joy, happiness, and health in the new year!

…and many wonderful hours sharing books together!

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.

-Emilie Buchwald

 

Tis the Season for GIVING!

It is the time of year when there is much reflecting on things we are all thankful for and goal setting for the new year.

Let’s Read About Me is kicking off the holiday season with a new policy to celebrate our gratitude and help children who may not have literacy materials available in their homes.  Introducing “Buy a Book…Donate a Book.”  This charity campaign gives US an opportunity to work with YOU to provide books to families who have little or no books for their children.

It is hard to believe that in 2013…almost 2014, there are children in our country who grow up with NO books in their home at all!!  But recent statistics indicate that MORE than 31 MILLION children are growing up in families that do NOT have the income to cover their basic needs such as rent, child care, food, and transportation, making it nearly impossible for parents to splurge on book purchases for their young children.

To some, this may not seem like such a big deal. But Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) released a report this year giving us an idea (once again) of how dire this situation really is! Their report provides data indicating that children’s book lending and ownership programs have shown to have a positive behavioral, educational and psychological outcomes for youngsters.  (Read the complete report here.)

RIF reports, the meta-analysis found that access to print materials:

  • Improves children’s reading performance. Finding from the rigorous studies reviewed suggest that providing children with print materials helps them read better.  Among the studies reviewed, kindergarten students showed the biggest increase in reading performance
  • Proves instrumental in helping children learn the basics of reading.  Providing children with reading materials allows them to develop basic reading skills such as letter and word identification, phonemic awareness, and completion of sentences.
  • Causes children to read more and for longer lengths of time. Giving children print materials leads to more shared reading between parents and children.  Children receiving books also read more frequently and for longer periods of time.
  • Produces improved attitudes toward reading and learning among children.  Children with greater access to books and other print materials – through either borrowing books or receiving books to own – express more enjoyment of books, reading, and academics.  

WOW!!  How much more evidence do we need?  We would say NONE!  WE’RE IN!  We want to help provide books for these youngsters so they will have the same early benefits as the children who have grown up with many literacy experiences when they begin school.

So from this point forward, every time YOU purchase a book, Let’s Read About Me will donate a book!! We are working with several organizations in hopes to reach children in different parts of the country and for American teachers to use during the summer when they travel to other countries to work with teachers and students who have few books in their schools.

Of course, the books that are donated will not be able to be personalized books like you purchase from Let’s Read About Me.  The donated books will be from a special set designed with the same “early reader” attributes to help developing readers, but will be more generic in nature.  

If you would like to contribute further, here are a couple of options to consider:

Together, we can help make a difference! 

 

 

 

Juuuuuust the Right Spot!

There is nothing better than finding just the right spot to snuggle up with a great book…a place to drift away into a good story.  For some, the best place is to climb into bed, under the covers and jump into a book.  Some of us like nothing better than finding a spot outside on a lounge chair or in a swing to read.  For others, reading on the beach or on a beautiful porch is a favorite.

As a teacher, each year it was one of my favorite things to plan and build several special reading areas around the classroom for my students to enjoy their reading.  One year we had a big reading tub filled with pillows similar to the one below.

Another year, my first graders piled around a giant stuffed panda bear to share a book.  We’ve had tee-pees, fuzzy rugs, big cardboard boxes full of fluffy pillows, anything that invites a youngster to linger with a pile of books!

Finding a comfy, cozy spot for kiddos to read is an important part of creating a “reader friendly home.”  We’ve seen lots of ideas.  Some are easy and very inexpensive.  Others, I’m sure can get a little pricey!  Here are a few ideas to get the creative juices going!

This configuration doesn’t take much space and just requires a nice little rug, a couple of spice racks hanging low on the wall to display a few favorite books and some items to decorate the wall above the books.  It’s nice to have a lamp near by and a pillow or two could also be added.  Pretty inexpensive and easy!

 

Corners are a great place for the perfect reading spot.  Rain gutters hung on the wall make it easy to display the current favorite books.

 

The “bunk-house” is a little more involved and a little more expensive (ok, a LOT more expensive), but would be a blast to read IN or UNDER!

Speaking of “under,” how about…

…under a blanket with a flashlight.  Sometimes it is the most simple ideas that are the best and most loved.

Want to add a cherry on top?

Make a personalized book for your child.  It is easy and quick. Visit Let’s Read About Me and choose from a variety of titles, upload pictures of your child, and “fill in the blanks.”  These are PERFECT books to read in those PERFECT READING SPOTS!

What is your child’s favorite reading spot?

 

Come on! Just Read!!

“The single most important activity

for building the knowledge required

for eventual success in reading

is

reading aloud to children.”

                                     Becoming a Nation of Readers

                                     U.S. Department of Education

 I don’t know about you, but that statement shocked me the first time I read it.  I thought SURELY the most important activity would be teaching kids letter names and sounds, or teaching kids about rhyming words, or teaching kids how to write their letters.  I knew reading aloud to kids was important, but I had no idea HOW important….

 …..it is THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT activity we can do with kids to help them be successful readers!

 Something so simple (and so fun) as reading aloud to children is SO incredibly important.  Researchers report that children who read the most, read the best, and achieve the most. Reading to children has LOTS of benefits, but a few to highlight include:

  • conditioning our children to associate reading as a pleasurable experience (which is SO important because, it’s human nature, that the things we enjoy doing, we want to do a lot)
  • creating background knowledge (which is critical to help readers make sense and comprehend what is being read)
  • building “book” vocabulary
  • providing a reading role model

We could go on and on with more bullets, but just knowing that much is enough to reiterate to me that reading to children EVERYDAY is one of the most important things to do with a child!

 Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud HandbookIS the read aloud expert!!  His book has been sold to over a million people who are looking for advise to guide children to be avid readers.  He shares the benefits, the rewards, and the importance of reading aloud to children of a new generation.  We have shared this book with parents for years and highly recommend it for any parent or educator.

So, here is another bit of research that blows my socks off about kiddos reading as they get into school:

 Look at the direct effect reading for pleasure has on standardized assessments students take (which is how student success is measured in this educational era)!  

What a simple recipe!

Want to be a better reader, get better grades, be more successful academically?

It is simple…READ!

It doesn’t have to be 20 minutes of HARD reading…

          …the child should choose something they want to read.

It doesn’t have to be 20 continuous minutes of reading…

          …it can be 5 or 10 minutes here…and 5 or 10 minutes there.

It doesn’t have to be 20 minutes of reading at a desk or table…

          …it can be in any cozy spot.

It can be alone, or with a sibling, or parent, or even a stuffed animal!

Just read!

Nothing fancy….

Just curl up with a good book, and read!

It’s fun, it’s simple, and the benefits will pay off for years to come!

Fall Family Literacy Fun

Fall is a BIG season for celebrating literacy in the U.S.  We just wrapped up October, which was  National Book Month, but November 1 is National Family Literacy Day, and November is also Picture Book Month.

A strong system to support youngster’s literacy development is critical….and can be LOADS of FUN for families!!  I love this quote from the National Center for Family Literacy:

 Literacy is at the root of a person’s ability to succeed, and the family is at the heart.

It is easy and fun to enjoy and develop literacy skills together.  We would like to highlight a couple of websites we have found helpful that may give you some ideas about celebrating literacy in your home.

National Center for Family Literacy at http://www.famlit.org/ provides resources for parents including interactive games, podcasts, etc.  I love this quote from their website:

Reading Rockets at http://www.readingrockets.org/ is one of our favorite sites!  Here, parents and teachers can find TONS of very helpful information.  To help celebrate literacy this month, check out the Reading Adventure Packs at http://www.readingrockets.org/article/27935/  .  This site shares ways  to encourage hands-on fun and learning centered around a pair of books (one fiction book and one nonfiction book).    Reading Rockets has another great site for parents called “Start with a Book” at http://www.startwithabook.org/ which has themed children’s books, activities for parents and children to enjoy together and other great resources for hands-on learning.  If you are looking for generic tips about reading with your children, Reading Rockets have a set of documents with GREAT hints and tips to guide parents to use specific to their child’s age and development.  Find those here:  http://www.readingrockets.org/article/18935/#english 

The International Reading Association at  http://www.reading.org/informationfor/Parents.aspx has a whole page of helpful information for parents.  You can find links to brochures to view or download with tips and hints about getting children ready to read, writing activities families can do together, using technology with reading and writing, etc.  They also share links to podcasts and recommendations for reading lists. 

Another site that shares LOTS of ides is Picture Book Month at  http://picturebookmonth.com/ .  Here you will find a tab with great celebration ideas, a calendar of activities your family may enjoy together and a page that provides links to activities that focus on lots of favorite children’s authors.

You can also celebrate reading by visiting Let’s Read About Me and building a personalized book with your kiddos!  This is a quick, easy way to get them involved and will provide a customized book they will enjoy reading over and over again!

Don’t forget to visit your local library.  The staff in our local libraries work hard to make arrangments and plans to incorporate special programing and literacy activities for youngsters and families.  AND it’s FREE!!

Most importantly, it is so important for young children to see their parents, care givers, family members, and friends as readers!  Modeling reading is so simple and SO IMPORTANT.  We also want to always remember to keep reading FUN!  Our time reading with youngsters should be enjoyable and engaging.  Find a great book, a cozy spot, and celebrate reading together!

Tiny Brains – Amazing Brains

One of our favorite things to do is watch the “little people” of the world as they are involved in their play and interaction with other people and other things.  It is INCREDIBLE to consider what is going on in their tiny, little….yet amazing brains!  Through exploration and experimentation, little people begin to make sense of the world around them. To consider what physically happens in the brain when babies make even the smallest discovery, like how to nurse, is truly amazing, which makes the sophisticated tasks, such as talking and reading even more mind boggling.  

A few months ago, sciencemag.org published an article about how the brain may actually begin processing sounds to recognize speech during the last trimester of the mother’s pregnancy.  A–MA–ZING!!  In this report, neurologist share their evidence that the sound-processing parts of the brain become active, allowing the fetus to recognize sounds and possibly even speech prior to birth.   http://news.sciencemag.org/brain-behavior/2013/08/babies-learn-recognize-words-womb

 

As preschool, kindergarten and first grade teachers, we have worked with youngsters for years to continue to develop the sophisticated system of learning to read.  It has been a blessing to be part of this journey with so many children.  Hundreds of kiddos have sat at our feet, listening to stories, poems, and songs, but the most treasured moments are those when we got to sit side by side with our little sprouting readers as their brains begin piecing information together to read independently.

 

We know that the process started long before school started though!  As noted  in the article, the brain had been making connections and identifying patterns even before the baby is born to develop language and notice clues about how not only spoken language works, but also written language.  All of these things laid the critical foundation for the formal process of learning to read.

 Our mission at Let’s Read About Me is to work with and for the little people of the world as they begin learning to read.  We want to make the early experiences for readers as meaningful and engaging as possible.  One way to accomplish that is with personalized books for our children.  We look forward to sharing, talking and learning with you about ways the “big people” of the world can help the “little people” along this journey!