Making Reading Real!

Avid readers realize how a great book can transport you to another world. Elementary age students can gain approximately 3,000 new words per year. Unfortunately struggling readers do not make those same gains and are faced with the ongoing struggle of catching up to their peers.

We have all asked the same question. What can I do as a teacher to make a difference? Research based strategies are the first step. Students must be exposed to daily interventions which include: word building, sight words, encoding, decoding and fluency. In addition, students should be afforded opportunities to read leveled books that are engaging, high-interest and on their independent reading level. I have found the following  to be helpful:

1. Listen to the experts. Making Sense of Phonics by Isabel Beck is a wonderful resource for all. The book offers insight as to the research behind reading and links teachers to prepared activities.

2. Build a leveled library. Pioneer Valley Books has many collections that include a variety of genres and themes.

3. Offer students activities they perceive as breaks, but are cleverly incorporating reading skills within the instructional time. A few rewards I have found to be purposeful are Education City, Starfall and ABC Mouse.

4. Be Consistent, Keep lessons structured and predictable. The routine helps students to focus their attention on the reading.

5. Don’t be afraid to challenge your struggling readers. Picture books are a favorite of most students because of the colorful pictures that support their reading. Emerging readers feel safe when presented with a picture book, but it is our job to strategically nudge students outside of their comfort zone. Novels allow students to dig deeper into their comprehension. With appropriate support, students can read grade level novels that challenge their abilities in a safe setting. These opportunities allow students to feel a sense of accomplishment and realize how much fun it is to be a part of a “book club”. 

6. Keep Parents Informed! Using technology such as Remind allows teachers to share messages with parents throughout the day or on a scheduled basis. Good news notices can be sent to congratulate a child on extra effort. A free and interesting site is Wonderopolis! Children can explore wonders and submit their wonders to the site to be answered too. 

7. Connect with the world. Through the use of Skype technology students can connect with other classrooms around the world. Renowned teacher, Pernille Ripp created the Global Read Aloud in 2010 and her 6 week project continues to be a motivation to teachers all over the world. Sign-up for the 2016 project at:

Maintaining effective practices for struggling readers is a necessary component, but motivation to read is also key in making a change. Make books readily accessible, high-interest and connect reading to the real-world when possible.

Developing your child’s self-esteem… Important things to think about.

A healthy self-esteem is the safeguard for your child against the challenges of the world. Children who have a positive self-esteem have a much easier time dealing with daily conflicts and the negative pressures that come from school, play, other children and adults.

Self-esteem starts at infancy and continues to develop in a positive or negative way throughout your child’s life. Helping your child grow up surrounded by encouragement and realistic goals is crucial to them feeling good about themselves. Impressions on self-esteem start very early in life.

Parents that are actively involved with their children help them to form an accurate and healthy perception of themselves. This is one of the reasons why preschool is so important. A good preschool teacher can be invaluable in helping children establish a positive image of themselves during play and during other activities in the classroom and on the playground. Parents should continually ask for input from the preschool teacher regarding how well the child is doing in the area of self-esteem development. Don’t be afraid to regularly ask the preschool teacher for an assessments and advice.

Self-esteem will fluctuate as kids grow older and are involved in different activities at school and in after school and sports activities. Sports activities, including soccer, T-ball, basketball and other entry level sports can have a tremendous impact on a child’s self-esteem. Make sure that your child has a positive and encouraging coach. Remember it’s your child and what happens out on the field can be a life-changing experience for a child. Don’t be afraid to get involved. Children with healthy self-esteem tend to enjoy interacting with other children and adults. They are more comfortable in social settings and enjoy group activities. It is important for parents to encourage this.

Three important things that you may want to focus on:

1) Give positive yet accurate feedback to your child. don’t tell them they are the best on the team, if they’re not, but share with them that they’re getting better and improving all the time.

2) Create a safe, loving home environment where your children can express themselves and get positive constructive feedback.

3) Encourage cooperation rather than competition as children learn to play with others and develop a positive self-esteem.

There’s nothing more important than a child growing up feeling good about themselves and able to deal with all the challenges the world presents. Devoting time and attention to a child’s development early on is essential.


Talking with young children: How Parents can Encourage Learning

During the first five years of a child’s life 90% of brain development takes place. There’s no way to go back after a child enters school and recapture what they have missed during the first five years. So what does this mean for parents and learning? Parents have a perfect opportunity to be the first and best teacher in a child’s life. They can have a profound impact that will make a difference for a lifetime. Here are a few facts!

1) Thought–provoking questions or using new words can extend children’s thinking and curiosity.

2) When adults purposefully talk more with children, children develop larger vocabularies (Hart & Risley,1999, Hoff & Naigles, 2002).

3) Children with larger vocabularies are better readers and better readers are more successful throughout school and life (Snow,Burns & Griffin 1998).

All families talk to children, but the way you talk to them or with them is what makes the difference. If you’re just talking at children to get things done, such as, eating, getting dressed, cleaning up etc. then you are missing an opportunity to get the vocabulary growth, cognitive development and emotional maturity that is necessary for future success.

Here are a few things parents can do that make a significant difference:

1) When driving in a car with children, turn off your radio and put down the cell phone….. Engage your children in conversation regarding the world around them, i.e. How many red cars can we find in the next few minutes? Can you find the number six on the license plate? Who can find the letter “S” on a license plate?
This is fun and can make a world of difference.

2) Use “Big Words” and extend a child’s vocabulary: Instead of saying: “going to the park can be fun” say… “Going to the part can be enjoyable, entertaining or pleasant. Instead of saying: “that is a scary mask your brother is wearing”…. That is a creepy, horrifying, shocking or intimidating mask your brother is wearing.
These are easy to do and make a significant difference. Remember you are the first and most important teacher in a child’s life…. Make a difference for them!