Families are busy this time of year, starting to think about getting the kids back to school, supplies, clothes, even a bit more peace and quiet. Put reading on your channel. I'm going to speak this week to those of you who have preschool children or children who start school this year. These early ages are most important for developing a love of reading (which is just as critical as getting the "skills" right). Also, setting regular times for sharing stories together helps build a "behavior" approach to reading. That's the greatest gift you can give your youngsters because it will lead them to be a life-long learner. No matter where their life's road takes them, reading and writing are essential tools.
As you move toward the routine of "school days", don't get too caught up in the academics of reading. Yes, children need to learn certain skills like decoding to become readers. However, if we don't give children mostly positive experiences with reading, they will come to the reading table reluctantly and only practice it when forced. Forcing, as Jim Trelease says, is rarely effective.
Get to know your child's teacher early in the year (preschool or K) and communicate with him or her about your child's development and their needs. Be their greatest cheerleader but don't have too perfect a view of where they are. That only builds barriers between home and school.
A few new titles I want to share with you:
The Trucktown Series by Jon Sciezska (a raucous, rambling series that's fun and fast). Jon is known as the National Ambassador for Young Children's literature
Think happy by Nancy Carleson - Nancy's books are always simple and fun. This one is no different and we all need to be thinking happy thoughts at the start of school.
The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, winner of the 2009 Caldecott Metal for Children's Picture Books
A few closing words: find a friend who doesn't read with their child or is expecting a new baby. Plan some playdates in which your children can socialize, and play. When they've run to you, with flushed cheeks and ready to wind down, have a big comfortable quilt or chair and a cool drink, plus a new book to share. You just may become a Literacy Ambassador, to influence your friend in a way that will reward them and their child, strengthen their understanding of their own child and the relationship between the two of them. Great way to start the school year, don't you think?