Monday, March 14, 2011

A Must Have: Raising Confident Readers

Stop buying workbooks and computer programs to get your kids ready to read, just buy Raising Confident Readers by Dr. J. Richard Gentry, or at least check this book out at your local library. I'm leaning toward buying it since I would love to have it on my shelf to pull out as a reference from time to time.

Here is a statistic from the book that was eye-opening to me, "Babies and toddlers in professional families heard a staggering 45 million words, compared to 26 million in working-class families and a meager 13 million for welfare children. Children who interacted with a greater volume of conversation in the first three years of life and with more word and sentence variety developed much larger vocabularies than those who interacted with a smaller volume of conversation and less word and sentence variety. By 3rd grade, the children with robust early word exposure had higher IQs and were better readers, writers, and spellers." (TV does not count as it is a passive activity and not active.)

If you are a mom who sees part of her role as getting her children ready to learn at school, then this is the book for you. And, if you are a mom who homeschools, this is also a must! This book lays the foundation for getting kids reading ready, properly! I think we moms sometimes do more damage than good when we try and be "good moms" and prepare our kids for school, in non-age appropriate ways.

There are currently 21 sticky tabs sticking out of this book...I could have tabbed a lot more.

The first thing that made me smile while reading this book was realizing what an expert teacher my sons has for kindergarten. She's doing everything right and well! My son has a rich literary environment in his classroom, and I'm seeing his love for reading grow and be encouraged. On the bulletin board across the hall from his room she puts their writing work on display. A parent might think, "Wow, these kid are terrible spellers," but an informed parent realizes that young readers need to write phonetically and that writer/readers who do this have a greater awareness of reading and sounds and in the end become better readers and spellers.

Of course, it is important to read to children from the very beginning. I love how my son's teacher balances her phonetic program (Reading Mastery) with a more literature based approach and incorporates site words and picture clues into their reading toolbox. She has Rigby Readers in the classroom and tracks their progress through these books systematically. Children, at the level that my son is at (roughly 1st grade), should be reading books on their own repetitively until they have the books fluid and mastered, almost memorized.

Raising Confident Readers
identifies 4 phases a child should be in between birth to age 7, but if your child is older than 7 but struggles to read, then they may still be in one of these phases and the books is very appropriate for you and your child.

There is a test to give your child to help you evaluate their phase, and then there are activities and books to experience with your child based on their stage of development. My oldest is somewhere between Phase 3 and Phase 4. My middle son is somewhere in Phase 1, and my youngest is definitely in Phase 0. :)

Here are books to expose your child to if they are in Phase 4:

easy chapter books
information books
story books
folk tales

Materials for writing and book making:
variety of paper, pencils, markers, and crayons; glue, tape, scissors, stapler, and construction paper

Materials for Word Games:
letter tiles, magnetic letters, magnetic boards

Activities and Technique for Phase 4

"Reading With-Your-Child" (This is where you echo their reading and read over their voice to help them read and anticipate the next word.)
Read-alouds and story retellings
Sight-word collections
Word Games
Kid writing
Hand spelling, with sign language
Making words with tiles
Spelling sight words correctly from memory

Here is a quote from the book, "Children do not have to be reading independently before entering school, but they do have to be prepared for success with reading. Children who enter kindergarten without a cultural heritage enlightened by literature or with no exposure to the tools of literacy---books, paper, pens, and in the twenty-first century, even digital literacy apparatus---are not well prepared. Children who have no appreciation for story telling, no knowledge of the letters of the alphabet, and no beginning awareness of the sounds in words are not well prepared for learning to read through formal instruction in school. These children are at risk for failure with reading and that failure can impact the rest of their lives."

"Every parent should raise a confident reader."

(There is also a section on rewiring your child's brain if you suspect dyslexia, loved that section.)


Sally said...

Very interesting, Rebekah. My oldest is just starting to LOVE to read. He knows he can stay up as late as he wants as long as he stays in bed reading. He is so cute hanging out on the top bunk with his reading light devouring the words on the pages. And yes, he still shares a room with his 2 little brothers and it still works out perfectly. I might have to see if the library has this book...

Anonymous said...

Cool to read, I liked this post. Very interesting. Also so excited for you with the book coming out - love the title and cover page. Can't wait to get my copies!

Heidi C

Jessica said...

Great review, Rebekah! Thanks!