Books have always been a priority in our home. In their preschool years, reading several books every night was a part of our bedtime routine.
Caden is our third child. He was a puzzle to me. He baulked at many of the books his older brother and sister had enjoyed. He showed no interest in the majority of the 200+ books in his bedroom but he really loved to be read to. He certainly had his favorites.
I hadn’t given much real thought to the books he was choosing and those he quickly dismissed… I was simply tired of the messiness of his bookshelves. So I sat down with my then 4 year old and we made 2 piles: 1) books I want to read and 2) books I don’t want to read. Those piles allowed me to clearly see Caden’s preference. We eliminated the clutter by eliminating, for a season, all fiction. The pile of keepers was exclusively non-fiction, information rich books.
For Caden, both then and now, The Right Book Really Did (Does) Matter.
Caden is 9 now and he’s a good little reader. We tackle Bible, history, and science texts daily as a part of our home-school curriculum and at some point Caden realized the joy to be found in imaginative stories. Much of his independent, self selected reading is fiction.
While he’s progressing well in his reading skills, I still have to carefully consider the books I suggest. The books he reads fall into 3 categories:
Read Alouds – Read Alouds are books that we read out loud for Caden. He isn’t expected to read them for himself yet. Caden (and children in general) needs to hear fluent reading every day. His comprehension, vocabulary and language development, and listening skills need to be challenged. He needs to hear good phrasing and expression modeled. He needs to be able to sit back, relax, mentally create a movie of the story he’s hearing, and enjoy stories and information without the mental and emotional tax that too-difficult reading often produces.
Read Togethers – Read Togethers are books that Caden and I will read shoulder to shoulder. I will read some and he will read some. Caden is not quite ready to tackle a 300 page story without some support from a more proficient reader. Cognitively, he’ll understand the majority of what he reads but he wrestles with attention span. He’ll start a lengthy book and become “bored”. He’ll assume the book isn’t a good match when what he really needs is a bit of encouragement.
Challenging my young reader requires wisdom on my part and scaffolding, offering strategies, problem solving suggestions, and encouragement. Caden needs to be challenged as a young reader. He needs to be pushed into that next level of text complexity. He won’t continue to progress if he’s not encouraged to reach a little further. But I also need to know when to take over and read for a bit.
Caden, my husband Franklin, and I read Roald Dahl’s The BFG this winter. Caden read several pages then my husband or I finished the chapter. We all enjoyed the book, Caden had to grapple with some difficult reading and comprehension ideas (making sense of words like whoppsy, scrumplet, jipping, skumping, strawbunkles, propsposterous, and snozzcumbers), and Caden gained confidence in completing a longer chapter book.
Read Alones – Read Alones are books that a child reads without any support. Caden (and children in general) needs to read books every day that are easy for him to read. They are below his “instructional” level but he gains fluency and accuracy while reading these books. He enjoys reading, because this reading is easy, he can quickly read through several stories, and he feels like an accomplished reader.
Caden’s my 3rd and final “young reader” and I’m certainly aware that these moments are precious and fleeting. Before I know it, he will no longer be a “young reader”. Neither will your children. They will no longer want to sit as close as possible and read with us daily. What an opportunity we have as parents to help our children understand the value and richness books will add to their lives.
Here’s to a lifetime love of literacy! Cheers!
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For more from Marea, check out Me and Thee Studios’ faith based leveled readers for 1st-2nd graders at http://www.meandtheestudios.com/early-reader-collection.html