Teacher Tuesday: Raising a Reader- Part One

June 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Dear lovely reader,

A child’s reading success has been linked to not only their school success but their overall lifetime success or lack thereof, so much so that, the federal government bases the room and space projections for future prisons on 3rd grade reading levels.  As a teacher this news created urgency in me to make sure each of my kindergarteners got the time and the tools needed for reading success.  Sometimes that meant before school or afterschool tutoring but it was imperative to me they left with the best possible chance for success in reading.

Equally as important as this connection between reading and success, I have found, is the relationship of reading success and it’s connection with how students feel about themselves.  Children have to have the opportunity to feel triumphs and successes in their individual talents to feel confident enough to succeed in reading.

What is the right age to teach reading?

There are a few key things that have to happen before a child is physically ready to read.  They must be able to control eye movements, and have the ability to focus both eyes together.  They must know differences and similarities so they can recognize letters and words.  They must also have enough background knowledge to understand what is read. And remember, young children are farsighted, small text is not even developmentally appropriate for them to be reading.

Lillian G. Katz, a leading early childhood expert says, “It is always important to consider whether a child’s early introduction to academic work will strengthen his tendency to be a learner in the long run.  After all, not much is gained if early instruction results in later dislike of school.”   HALLELUJAH!

She goes on, “When a child begins academic work too soon, she may end up spending too much time without understanding what she is doing and so winds up feeling incompetent.”

In the Montessori approach to learning a key guiding rule is that parents and teachers should spend a large portion of time observing children.  The spectrum of when a child is ready is so wide that only by observing your child will you know when you have entered that window of opportunity.   For reading it is when your child begins paying attention to words and wondering what they mean.  Motivation and a desire to learn are much more important than physical readiness.

Sometimes when I see children reading far beyond their age level or when moms are out on blogs saying my 15 month old can read sight words, for the most part I see nothing more than a trick, like a trained monkey.   Being able to memorize sight words or recognize letters are tools not reading.  Reading is understanding and for understanding children need to be physically and emotionally ready.

I am going to write a series of posts here on my on the mom blog over the next 5 weeks that covers the best practices when teaching your child to read, ways that make it fun and exciting, ways that will give children authentic ways of learning, ways that will not only teach them to read text but help them to find out why learning is so fun and exciting.  I am mainly doing this because I want a little refresher to remind me of what I should be doing with McGilly and it will give me a chance to share some really fun teacher stuff that I feel really passionate about.

The topics for the next few weeks will be:

  • The Magic of Reading Aloud
  • Creating a print rich environment at home
  • The art of interaction and play in early reading
  • The love story of reading and writing

I hope you will return each Tuesday for the next installment and if you have questions please feel free to leave a comment.

Overall what I feel is that Children are being pushed younger and younger to become academic, to learn that which will appear on a report card or test.  This approach has led to a very narrow way of teaching, no room for creativity or free thinking just memorize and regurgitate.  That’s why I wanted to write this series of post also, is to give parents a resource for teaching an academic subject through creative and authentic means.  It will be full of information from my experience, college professors I loved, leading experts, great parent examples I saw in my classrooms and because it is me-the posts will have lots of free printables and resources.

Here is the bottom line I found in teaching 5 year olds: create an environment in which children can learn and they do.  It is not hard to support your child in reading to just takes 20 minutes a day and then recognizing and fine tuning what you already do.

See you next Tuesday for the Magic of Read Aloud!

And here is a bit of great reading if you want a little more information.

Let me know if you try out any of these resources, McGilly and I have been enjoying the books on Leading to Reading lately!



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