Monday, June 21, 2010
Here are some early “graded reader” (a book for new readers to read from) tips to help you choose readers (links will be given over the next few posts):
1. If you are going back to square one with your struggling reader (i.e. short and long vowel one syllable words), you will need very, very primary readers. A child who is just learning to read short vowel words and long vowel words can get extremely discouraged if he is expected to read books that are way above his word-calling level. If you are starting at that point, check the readers you are getting very carefully to be sure that they are truly “phonetically-controlled.” (Follow link at the end of this post to read the difference between phonetically-controlled, vocabulary-controlled, and general picture books (like library books, such as Amelia Bedelia, Curious George, Berenstein Bears, etc.).) I will give lists of readers I like with links for purchasing in a day or two, so if you are unsure of where to begin in securing graded readers, don’t worry.
2. Do not be misled by the “grade” level equivalency stamped in the upper right hand corner of “readers” available in most teaching supply stores, department stores, etc. For example, you might choose a “young reader” from one of these places that is part of a “new reader” series that says “Pre K” level. Why would a Pre K student even need a reader? What level is a reader that is written for Pre K exactly? I mean, if Pre K kids are non-readers, then a Pre K reader contains what?? Is it a wordless book?? Then, if you get a reader that says Level 1 in the upper right hand corner, what would you expect it to contain? I would think that it would have one syllable words, mostly those with short vowels, long vowels, digraphs, and blends. So why would a Level 1 reader contain words like disagreeable and tremendous? The levels posted for many readers are simply not accurate.
3. If a reader is simple for your child, you do not want to use it to have him read with you. The time that you read with your child (at this stage) serves a couple of purposes: (a) for you to check his word calling/decoding skills; (b) for him to practice newly-learned skills. If he knows all of the words in a reader by heart (or if the words are just simple for him to sound out because he knows, for example, all of his short vowel sounds well), then (b) is not really taking place. He is not practicing newly-learned skills. In that case, a book such as that could become a “silent reader.” He does not need you right there cuing him and instructing him.
4. Carry readers with you everywhere. We always carried readers in our vehicles for our new readers to practice when we had any down time. (Likewise, we always carried our family read aloud book…never know when you might get a chance to read a chapter or two!) Take advantage of any downtime and use any opportunity you can find for your struggling reader to practice reading to you.
5. Make reading to you the “low-no option plan.” I have said this before about toddlers, but the same is true of any age—your child likely puts on a seatbelt every time he gets in a vehicle. Why? Because you do not give him the choice of not putting on a seatbelt. While you want to try to make your summer instruction as fun and interesting as you can, the bottom line is that your child must do this. He has to read to you once or twice a day, possibly do phonics lessons with you or the tutor, and maybe even more. When kids go to school, they get in line for the bus, they sit down in the cafeteria at meal time, they read their books during silent reading time, they do math drill during math drill time, and they raise their hands to ask to go to the bathroom. Why should it be any different for you? If your son or daughter knows from the beginning that he or she must do this every day (just like buckling the seat belt), it will be a lot better than your asking him, begging him, or making deals. (Personally, I feel that reading is so important that if I were doing summer reading instruction to catch my son up, I would have some sort of “no playing (or computer or video games or whatever) until you read to me once” every day rule. In our house, our son does not get “free time” in the afternoon (after his school work is done) until all of the laundry is done and put away. Once a child knows the expectation, it is amazing how well he can rise to the occasion.)