Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Grandparents and Kids Reading Together

Today's Web-Based Radio Show

Today I was privileged to visit with TalkShoe host, Kaye Fontana, on her Grandcoach Radio show.  The topics certainly relate to grandparents raising their grandchildren but the concepts are applicable for parents as well.  I even found myself saying "parents" instead of "grandparents" a few times in the show.

If you missed us live, you can visit The Grandcoach and hear the podcast.  You'll need to scroll down to episode 14.   If you joined us, listening live, you can skip right to reading this blog.  Otherwise, click on the link, listen in and then come back here to learn more, and add comments and questions (which you can post to this blog and we'll all learn together).  I always welcome questions as a way to start a dialogue in the virtual world.

Grandparents Stepping Into A "Familiar" Role

I am thrilled to be talking with people who have taken on what is perhaps the challenge of their life in raising children, long after their original "duty" was finished.  It can be a time of anxiety or of joy and reading certainly has a place in crafting a positive, nurturing growing up time for grandchildren being raised by their grandparents.

First, let me suggest a few books to read with young children that are perfect for encouraging word play:

Big and Little by Margaret Miller
Max's Dragon by Kate Banks
One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root
Tanka, Tanka, Skunk by Steve Webb

These are excerpted from my book Anytime Reading Readiness, a perfect guide not only for parents raising 3-6 year olds but grandparents who find themselves in that same role with their grandchildren. You can find recommended books for others ages at a previous blog on this blogspot. 

There's Help Out There For You

If you have a limited budget (and who doesn't these days), revive what might seem like an old fashioned idea: head for the public library.  It will look quite different than it did in "your day".  Now, in addition to books, most libraries have cool teen activities, storytimes for younger children, movies and DVDs for rental, book clubs, game nights and more.   Here are examples from Fairhope Public Library in Fairhope, AL and Witchita Public Library.  Check out what your local library has to offer to support you!

Helping Young Children Get Ready for School (it's bigger than literacy)

If you are one of those grandparents (or parents) that is confused by a lot of the "educationese" used by educators today, all the unfamiliar language can be intimidating.  One of the issues, as we gain more information about the research behind children learning to read, is that the "internal language" educators use can inadvertently turn "lay people"off (grandparents, parents, community helpers, etc.).

To help you understand some of these terms, check out Where The Radio Show Left Off

Also, if you are confused by information about DIBELS, a major assessment used in K-3rd grade, you can find a family-friendly pamphlet from my alma mater, Florida State University. 

You can also just be unsure of what is really required for your grandchild upon entering kindergarten and what they need to be ready for that first big step into school.  You can visit Getting Ready, Grandparents Getting Kids Ready for School from the University of Georgia, and a cool checklist from It's A Mom's World that can help you (and the child) stay on track with morning chores and activities in preparation for starting "big school" (I'd recommend you start the morning routine about a month or at least a couple of weeks before the first day of school).  Stacey Kannenberg's book Let's Get Ready for Kindergarten! is a good tool to review, first as an adult (because it's contents show at least 80% of what the typical child will learn  in kindergarten) and then as a play book with the child (to help you explore together what the child already knows, what he or she is interested in learning, and what he or she will learn once they begin attending school).

Final message: 

If you are raising a child OR a grandchild, know that your role in their literacy development is critical. Although you'll be privy to information on the research and best practices behind the science of teaching children the mechanics of reading through your interaction with teachers, know that your role as the nurturer of a reader and the inspiration for choosing to read for a variety of purposes is now more important than ever. 

Educators can teach children the best mechanics but, if we do not light the spark, they are not likely to choose reading as a priority.  And that responsibility, because of heavy skill-based curricula and tight schedules, may fall mainly to you.  Basic reading and writing mechanics won't cut it in the complex world our children will live in just a few years from now.  There will be even more challenges to figure out complex information, and to use that information as a tool to solve problems and to improve the world we live in.  There is likely to even be a need for escape, which reading certainly provides.

By supporting the child in your life, you are building for the future AND solidifying the relationship with someone who is more important to you than anyone else in the world.  My advice, in closing, is to relax.  At the same time, stay vigilant in your promotion of reading as a tool for life.  Call on me if I can be of assistance (free 15 minutes consultations are available or you can contract for a longer consultation tailored to your needs).


If you live in the Huntsville, AL or North AL area, let me offer you a personal invitation to join my celebration of early childhood through an Educator's Tea and a follow-up book signing and "meet the author" at Barnes and Nobles at Bridge Street in Huntsville, April 10 from noon until 3PM.  There will be door-prizes, a special introduction to Engaged Interactive Read Aloud for teachers of all sorts (and you are a teacher too), and special opportunities to meet and talk with me and other local Alabama authors.  Hope to see you there!