Friday, July 18, 2014

Tell Parents: Just Read

Someone on a librarian's Facebook page is asking for suggestions for books to help parents "teach" their kids to improve their reading comprehension. My response: "Just read!"

Pick the right books--not by their popularity, their reading level/lexile level <feh> or by the fact that the little boy/girl next door is reading them.

Pick them because they are the right reading level for that particular child. That might be easier than their school determined reading level. Those tests are a crock--I personally went off the grade scale by 4th grade--it didn't mean  I was ready to read college level books, just meant I was really good at reading tests!

I remember when my daughter SC was in 5th grade and struggling with math. Her nice, clueless teacher told me "I could have put her in the easier class, but it wouldn't have been a challenge."

SC didn't WANT a challenge. She was math phobic, didn't think she could do it. In the easier class, she might have overcome her fear and thrived.
In high school, her lovely Algebra II teacher told me at conference that SC was struggling and might want to move into a pre-Algerbra II class for that year, and take Algebra II the following year. She did so--and aced  the state Algebra II test the following year!

So I often suggest that parents give struggling readers SIMPLER books. Books that they can read easily. Books that they will find fun. Books that will build their confidence.  Books that they can read fluidly--which means they will COMPREHEND them.

The "five finger/rule of five" test should be used. If they are struggling to read the page, they are going to have trouble with comprehension. If they have to stop occasionally to sound out a word, fine. That's how you learn new words!

Pick books because the child LIKES them. For boys, that may mean graphic novels, non-fiction, or something else not on the recommended school reading list. Who cares? They're learning that reading is fun--don't we want that?

Suggest reading together out loud, or listening to audio books. Boosting auditory comprehension is just as important as actual reading comprehension, and learning to listen helps a child learn how to focus--a difficult skill in this screen obsessed society.
In picking read alouds, head for things it's not likely a child will read to himself/herself when they have boosted their skills. Don't go for Roald Dahl, for example. And while in reading aloud you can pick a much more difficult book, please remember that a 6 year old will not get 3/4 of Harry Potter, and if he/she doesn't decide to read it on their own when he/she is 11 or 12, you might try it as a read aloud then. They'll enjoy it more and will GET the whole thing, and might even pick up the second book on their own!

Not every child will become a bookworm. But reading should be a pleasurable experience. I want every child that comes into my library to discover that, even if reading doesn't become the main focus of their life.

In closing, I will remember my young friend Benjamin, son of a well meaning mother who wanted every moment to be a learning experience and not realizing that learning experiences are often subtle. My office was separated from the reading area by a glass partition, so I overheard this priceless exchange:

She and Benjy were reading a  book and she stopped to say "And, Benjy, do you remember what glass is made of?"
Benjy looked at her and said, "Mom, can't we just read the book?"

Go, Benjamin!  And heed his wisdom.

Just Read!

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