Don’t bank on narrow Common Core English language arts skills to teach your child to read. From what I see and hear, over and over, CC increases stress and reduces a lot of students to tears. It pushes very young children to read more difficult material before they are developmentally ready, and it focuses too much on sounding out words. Pure drudgery! If you want children to love to read you have to make it be something pleasurable. Sounding out strange letters with no meaningful purpose (to them) just won’t do.
And along the same lines, Baby Einstein videos? A bouncy iPad chair? Oh common! You must be kidding. But no! This is actually real http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/03/ipad-bouncy-seat_n_4374308.html. And so is a potty connected to an iPad (weird and gross). Why must a baby/toddler be connected from the start? It defies reason.
I have a suggestion that will encourage children to read at a very early age and even later. It isn’t difficult and parents will like it too. For most of you, it will come as no surprise.
I taught for many years, middle and high school students who had difficulty reading. Sometimes they had learning disabilities that were difficult to understand. Other times my guess is they just never learned how much fun it is to read. If you don’t do something well you usually don’t like it, and for most of these students, there was nothing enjoyable about reading. They rarely, if ever, sought to read on their own. Naturally, other coursework was difficult.
Teaching reading to reluctant readers is a huge challenge and everyone knows this. But the kinds of so-called solutions being put into place today are all wrong. I often wonder how many reading problems are spawned by lifeless reading drill foisted on children in school and at home.
When I had a child of my own, I knew I would do everything in my power to help her enjoy reading. I’d seen enough students who didn’t like to read, and I knew the difficulties it created. Every parent wants the same thing for their child. But the most important way to teach a child how to read is to create great joy surrounding the pictures and the words on paper. This will make a child curious to want to see other books and many other pictures and words.
A great disservice is being done by pushing very young children to actually read sight words much too early before allowing them to look at pictures and just enjoy the print on the page. When you push a child to read too early, you risk that they will lose their love for reading altogether!
That’s part of the equation that is often left out of Common Core and the “Drill Baby Drill” reading schemes imposed on children today. There are, certainly, some students who require drill-like exercises to work out visual and auditory difficulties when they are older—if they have learning problems. But finding great joy in reading is where it’s at for them too. Forcing all children to drill at an early age, emphasizing and expecting reading problems, when there are none, is dangerous.
Let’s talk about sight words. My daughter still laughs when she remembers how I once stuck homemade word flash cards up on items all around the house. I was a little crazy back then about my fear that she wouldn’t like reading. While that might not be a bad thing to do for a child who has difficulty reading, for very young children, it is a rather dumb idea.
Expose children to picture books instead. Introduce them to lovely, funny, books that are pleasing to the eye. The book should draw them in and make them intrigued about the words connected to the pictures.
My daughter says, quit proudly I might add, “I already knew the words by the time you pulled that labeling stunt!” How was that possible?
One of the secrets, I believe, lies in one book (I can’t believe how I sound like an infomercial) and the name of that book is Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever. This book has so many pictures of wonderful characters and they are all very busy—hence we have the wonderful BUSYTOWN! It will keep young children, even toddlers, busy. If not, explore and find other picture books your child does like.
When my daughter was very young the pictures in this book captured her attention. The book has plenty of sight words associated to the pictures, but it is all in fun and children are usually more than capable of associating the word with the picture on their own. I’d hand the book to her in the back seat of the car while I drove to the store. We’d point to characters and objects with her before bedtime. It’s such an enjoyable book and the pictures are so delightful, I still sometimes pull it out and look at it. My daughter is grown now, but I’m sure she’d agree that she enjoyed this book quite a bit as a child.
Picture books of all varieties—fiction and nonfiction are purely fun! The idea of instruction should be put aside when children are little. Obsessive parents pushing children to read words when they are just out of the womb, with strange gadgets and gimmickry should be outlawed!
I promise you. Children will be eager to read if it happens naturally. Children should be provided lots of opportunities to pick and choose books at the library and then allowed to look at books…and of course have a lot of books read to them. Picture books as gifts and trips to the bookstores with children should be considered cherished events.
Pictures are really the key. Another favorite book of my daughters (I love picture books—who doesn’t?) was Tomie dePaola’s Pancakes for Breakfast. The point I’d like to make about this book, is that there are only a few words at the end on a sign hanging on the wall. The whole book involves pictures! Children who focus on what’s happening in pictures, seen on the page, are provided a tremendous exercise in critical thinking.
Children also can get hooked on one book for a while. I can share an example here too. We went through a stage that involved my daughter’s love of Arlene Dubanevich’s Pigs at Christmas. I laugh when I think of those pigs now, but I quickly grew tired of that book at the time. We checked it out of the library over and over. I didn’t want to buy it then, but I wish I’d had, because now I sort of miss those pigs! When my daughter decided she was tired with this book, what book do you think she chose next? Pig William, another Arlene Dubanevich book! You will be glad to know she eventually did move on to other books. Thank goodness!
But today I’m hyping Scarry’s book. He did a lot of other books that are wonderful too, creating a world that is visually stimulating and funny. There’s also a TV program. But the Best Word Book Ever will, I’m betting, help teach any young child sight words in an enjoyable manner.
So if you know a young child, tell Santa about these books. Then you can watch some pure delight when it comes to learning the great joy of reading!
Please feel free to share your reading success stories and your favorite books!
And to my Tennessee friends and those with freezing weather…stay safe and warm! It’s a great day to read a book!
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