Thursday, July 1, 2010

day 179: nearly “childless”

I have another reading blog already to post, but I have to stop for a few minutes and remind all of you with little ones to enjoy every moment of it. I know, I know…I say it all the time—and others said it to me twenty years ago. However, I didn’t always believe them. I was sure that the fourteen+ years out of seventeen that I was either pregnant and/or nursing would last forever. I was sure I would never have any “time to myself” in this life. I was sure that little people would always need me—and I would always be exhausted.

I was wrong. And if you think that, you are wrong too. And I sit here in an empty house tonight all alone as a reminder of how wrong that thinking is.

We have three kids still “at home”---one amazing son who is a senior in high school this fall (who is traveling all summer with a drama ministry team); one a sophomore in the fall (who is usually home working in our publishing company and being his normal, wonderful self but is gone this week working with our son-in-law); and one precious little guy who will be twelve years old tomorrow (who is gone right now out on the town celebrating with his big sister who is home for a while itinerating for her full time missionary appointment she recently received).

So tonight it’s just me and Ray—a moment I dreamed of for so many years and one that happens with fair amount of frequency lately. It is nice to talk interrupted, to run over to our dance studio and practice dance steps, to pop a movie in and laugh and be together. However, as Ray returns Training for Triumph calls in the next room and I sit down to write love notes on my kids’ Facebook walls, all I can do is cry.

It’s strange, really, as I love this season of life so much. Ray and I invested literally years of our lives into our kids’ lives—and now we get to reap the rewards. We get to have relationships with teenagers and young adults that many just dream of having. We get to continue to help guide and direct the lives of our five kids who are eighteen to twenty-seven in such amazing ways—because they ask us to and want us to. And no, everything isn’t always perfect, but the relationships are there—and that is what we have strived for during all of our parenting years.

Yet something still makes me teary-eyed (okay, downright weepy!) this week (besides hormones!). It is that longing for days gone by—only the good times, of course. Only the easy, fun, rewarding times. Not the hard, long, demanding ones.

And I know that, that is part of it. When I look back in years gone by, I only remember all of the “romantic times,” if you will. The half hour plus spent most everyday on the sofa French braiding and “pontytailing” three little girls in a row. The late nights gathered in our bedroom with four teenagers laughing and carrying on. The moments early in the morning with a baby at the breast and a toddler holding a book, ready for early morning reading. The sweetness, the smiles, the laughter, the games, the singing, the reading, the kindness, the light bulb moments—those times that make me so glad that we did what we have done for the past twenty-seven years—those times that make me heart-sick for days gone by.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

day 178: summertime —beginning reading help—readability levels part iii of iv

                            Layman’s Tips to Readability

Readability formulas can leave teachers and parents alike in a tizzy. It all sounds so, well, mathematical. And I am, after all, a language arts lady—not a math teacher!

Here are some quick, layman’s tips for readability:

1. Understand that not all readability levels are the same. If, for example, a book is said to be a 2.9 readability level, that does not mean it is at a second grade level. First of all, readability levels (along with grade level equivalencies of standardized tests), mean that a student working at that particular grade level can read that book (or would get that score, in the case of a standardized test). In the score, 2.9, the nine is critical. It means that this book is at the level that a second grader in his NINTH month of second grade should be able to read. There is a huge difference between 2.0 and 2.9 in terms of readability. A student who can read books at a 2.9 readability has nine months of second grade instruction over one who reads at 2.0—that’s a whole school year.

2. Five Finger Rule—If your child opens a chapter book and misreads five words right off the bat, that book is probably too difficult for your reader (unless, as I mentioned earlier, he or she is extremely motivated to read it).

3. Ninety Percent Rule—For silent reading, your student should be able to read ninety percent (or more) of the words in a given book or reading material.

4. Seventy Percent Rule—For oral reading with you (as you are “guiding” him like a tutor or classroom teacher would), a student can usually get by with reading at a seventy percent accuracy rate (again, this is word calling). You will be there to cue and coach him on the remaining thirty percent of mis-reads.

5. How important is readability? Do you need to “level” everything your child reads, look it up online, be sure it isn’t too hard, etc.? Maybe a little at the beginning of your child learning to read—probably not at all later. I personally took all of my readers and laid them out on the table in the order that the books said they were (i.e. a book that was supposed to be a “second grade” reader was laid in a line before ones that said that they were “third grade”). Ones that did not have levels were laid where they seemed to fit. Then I opened each one up and examined it more closely and reordered them accordingly. Once I did this, I wrote in the upper right corner of the first page where I thought it fell in all my readers—giving them either a first semester or a second semester rating—2 first semester or 2 second semester. Then I shelved them in order and we had all of our reading material for oral reading. I could pull off easier ones for silent readers and keep the harder ones for oral reading.

 If you are just helping your child through the summer, you should work towards reading fluency (as described earlier), then move into harder books that your child enjoys (more on this older group in the coming days). Then you can continue reading those enjoyable books through the school year for additional reading help.

Tomorrow—final readability post, including links to find readability levels of your child’s favorite books.

Monday, June 28, 2010

day 177: summertime —beginning reading help—readability levels part ii of iv

                                           Readability and Readers

1. In the early grades, you will be concerned with readability in terms of decoding, phonics, sight words, etc. That is, can your student read the words?

2. If your child already reads well in terms of decoding, and can “pick up anything and ‘read’ it,” you will want to focus on content—comprehending what he reads, discussing it, etc.

3. As students progress in reading, homeschooling moms and teachers in school often forsake the practice of reading aloud with children, noting that the child can word call anything, so there is no need to check for word calling skills/application of phonics. However, we advocate reading aloud with your child for some years, at least a couple of times a week. No, you will not be checking for word calling anymore (though my older boys will still say something like, “How do you pronounce this word—m-y-r-i-a-d?” when they are reading something to themselves), but reading involves word calling AND comprehension. A child who can “read anything” but not comprehend it is like a child reading “There’s a Wocket in My Pocket.” To say that a child in fourth grade can read at a ninth grade level because he can decode all of the words in a passage that is rated at a ninth grade readability level is like saying he can read the “Wocket” tale by Dr. Seuss. He might be able to word call it, but is he “reading” if he cannot comprehend what he reads?

4. Oral reading together with Mom or his teacher at upper elementary grades is for comprehension—you will not necessarily be checking on the application of his decoding skills, but you will be checking on his comprehension, vocabulary recognition, etc. You will hopefully be guiding him through his reading, discussing it, answering questions about vocabulary words (i.e. words he can easily sound out but does not know the meaning of), etc.

5. If your child is beyond the beginning phonics instruction that I described earlier in this beginning reading instruction series, you may not need books that are “graded” in terms of readability. Perhaps he already enjoys reading a certain picture book series or early junior fiction series. These can then become his “readers” to read with you.

6. Again, be sure the material he reads aloud with you is somewhat challenging (i.e. he needs some help with words here and there but the books do not leave him in tears). And be sure that what he is reading to himself is not so difficult that he needs cueing or instruction as he reads it.

7. Keep in mind that there are other things that affect readability besides syllable count, numbers of pages, sentence structure, and vocabulary. Interest is a strong factor in determining readability. (That is why I recommended the Saxon Bold Intervention for older students who need remedial reading a few days ago. The materials that they read from are high interest for older students—not childish or primary stories.) This is the reason that children who would not read their science or history book in fifth grade are picking up huge books of Harry Potter and these vampire books (not sure of their titles). Whether we like them or not, many children out there are reading these tomes simply because they are interested in them—despite the fact that those kids are not “at that reading level” and would never have picked up a book over two hundred pages prior to these books being released. (If you have an older student who is working on remedial reading, ask your librarian specifically for high interest/low readability materials for older students. Some of the adult literacy materials are extremely high interest with lower readability levels, as well.)

Tomorrow—Layman’s Tips to Readability—figure it out on your fingers and more.