Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Where the Radio Shows Left Off

We're breaking the pattern from alternating between the "snuggle and cuddle" stage and older, independent readers. I am visiting a couple of radio shows this week on reading, families and young children and there's just so much to share that we never have time to talk about everything. One is with my friend, Stacey Kannenberg, the Ready to Learn mom.

If you get to this blog tonight (9/22) or in the morning of 9/23, you may be able to listen in live at 11EST at The Get Ready to Learn Mom Radio Show. Otherwise you'll be able to find a podcast after the fact at this same website.


COMPREHENSION - understanding what you read (and the real reason we read).

DECODING - refers to the various skills we use to decipher text into understandable words. It has more specifically been used to talk about the phonics approach of breaking apart words into different single sounds, then calling those sounds and blending them together to figure out a word. No all words can be decoded strictly in this way, only those that follow regular phonics rules.

- a screening used by many schools to determine whether a child has competency in several key early literacy skills including at the beginning of Kindergarten alphabetic knowledge, an ability to attend to single sounds in words and break words apart into single sounds (orally, not by reading). This same screening later (up to 3rd grade usually) is used to evaluate fluency (whether a child sounds like they are talking when they read), comprehension, and decoding abilities.

FLUENCY - as readers move beyond calling out one word at a time and having to decode, sound by sound, most words, they begin to sound more like natural speech when they read aloud. Not only is the pace regular and smooth, but the reader adds expression and phrasing and recognizes most words in that given text easily.

GUIDED READING - in simplest terms, that is the time in class when children read text that is fairly easy for them to "decode", concentrating on understanding and being fluid in what they read (sounding like they are talking). Guided reading or leveled books have a limited number of words in them and the vocabulary is more "controlled".

HIGH FREQUENCY WORDS - these are words that appear most often in real reading text. Drs. Dolch and Frye created age level lists of these words, from the simplest in Kindergarten to higher levels in the upper grades and, if our children practice with reading that contains those (mostly sight words, see definition below) and maybe practice reading them off a list as well, our child will be able to automatically read those words with little mental effort. Knowing the high frequency words helps a child become a more fluent reader who understands more of what he/she reads.

LEVELED Readers - Books that have been carefully written to include a limited number of words (and words from a certain Dolch/Frye grade level list). Teachers carefully select these books for each child so that individual child has a chance to read something that contains lots of words they are already familiar with. If a child can easily read about 95% of the words in a book, they can put more mental power toward understanding what they read and less on recognizing and decoding words.

METACOGNITION - thinking about how you think

ORAL LANGUAGE - This is more than just speaking. It is the complex system that we humans use to relate sounds to meanings. It has three parts: the phonological (how we combine sounds in words to translate/transfer meaning in speech -- not reading, just speaking and listening); semantic (understanding that the smallest units of meaning, whether those be words, prefixes, or suffixes, can be joined together. We deal with semantics when we make single words plural for example) and syntactic (rules that enable us to combine those smallest units of meaning into sentences so meaning is communicated - in the beginning, humans use short syntactic phrases to communicate like "more cookie" which are later expanded as our abilities with language grow to "I would like another cookie, please.") Who knew speaking and listening was so complex. It is amazing that our children develop all this without direct instruction!

SIGHT WORDS - those are words that don't follow the phonics rules so we have to know them "by sight" as soon as we see them. Learning sight words takes seeing them over and over until you immediately recognize them. Think of the word "give". It breaks the rule that when you have two consonants and two vowels, the first vowel most of the time says its name (is a long sound) and the second vowel is silent/quiet. In the word "give" the first vowel is short and the second one silent.

If there are other terms that you need a translation for, add a comment and I'll edit this blog to include them.

Some of my favorite quotes for parents on reading:

If we do not give our children mostly positive reading experiences, they will not choose to be readers . . . Dr. Michael Pressley

If you are reading regularly -- every day -- to your children, taking a reading time of fifteen or twenty minutes, whenever it can occur, before bed or whatever, that shows a respect for books. It shows that you have a reverence for books. That's the only way to reallky get kids interested in reading. Show how interesting it is and how much fun it is. If you read, your child will follow your example, as the night follows the day . . . Bob Keeshan AKA Captain Kangaroo

What we teach our children to love and desire will always outweigh what we teach them to do . . . Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook.


Reading Rockets and Colorin' Colorado - sponsored by PBS
Just One More Book, a podcast about children's books we love
The Reading Tub, a source for great book reviews for parents
Planet Esme, a website full of great resources about reading with your children
Stories for Children Magazine, an ezine for children ages 3-12, with a great interview with Stacey, complete with stories and advice

News flash - I just saw that Jamie Lee Curtis (one of the few "celebrities" writing quality children's books) has a new book out in October called Jamie Lee Curtis's Books to Grow By Treasury. I can's wait to read it!

That's all for now. Stay tuned next time for answers to the question: My child is beyond the "snuggle and cuddle" stage - what do I do?

Remember, if you have questions or want to share what works in reading with your kids, feel free to add your gems of wisdom.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Delicious, Delightful Read Alouds

Occasionally, I still long for the days when our son, Charlie, was small. He'd come from preschool, snuggle close beside me and we'd dive into a book. Now I get my "little kid fix" from preschoolers in centers where I consult and train teachers and families.

What made those times long ago so special? It is the fact that the reading experience was bigger than the book. It's no different today. There is a danger that, with all the focus on reading skills in school (which is important but not the whole picture), we as parents may forget to tap into the pure joy, suspense, delight and fun of reading aloud with our children.

When you do that, not only is it a relationship-building experience with your child, but it is a guaranteed stress reliever for you (and who doesn't need that in today's face-paced world). It's more positive than forcing your child to practice with the focus on correcting and directing. Besides, the message behind picture books can be meaningful to you, not just your child.

So remind yourself that these sweet days are passing, kick off your shoes, snuggle close, and dive into a book together. Here are a few of my favorites.

I have to squeeze in this tidbit: keep your eyes open for Jane Yolen's latest book due out in October, How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?.

For more tips on making reading with your child an incredible experience every time, visit The Diva Toolbox. For an extra dose of practice advice, a conversation between two passionate professionals and moms, tune in to Stacey Kannenberg's "Ready to Learn Mom" show at

11AM EST on 9/23

Cathy and host, Stacey Kannenberg, will be discussing

Parents in the Literacy Loop: Why Families Are The Key To Children's Reading Abilities and Success.

If you can't tune in live tomorrow, there will be a podcast available after the fact that the same website. Be sure to listen!

Last gift today for you . . . take one idea you learn from this blog and share it with one other person (your spouse, your neighbor, the person you want to get to know in your child's class or play group, Grandma or Grandpa). It could start a revolution!