Thursday, January 28, 2010

I Read With Kids Today

I have had the pleasure to read with quite a few kids over the past 24 hours (other than my own boys, by the way) and I wanted to mention something that struck me.

I sat down with these kids not knowing anything about readers, as kids, as sons/daughters...I had NO preconceived notions. I just knew they needed to read.

So what struck me? That kids are alike. They want to read. They want to understand. Sure, they may put up the tough third grade exterior, but once I just started talking with them as a reader, they melted.

I know. It is different with every child - they come from different backgrounds, they've been told different things by different teachers, on and on...

What do reluctant readers need?

Someone to read with, someone to talk with, someone to mentor them on what good readers do. That's all.

They need to hear directly what they are doing great -- they don't need to be overwhelmed with how much they can't do. They need to be shown by a good reader, then practice.

This takes time, and connection. But let me tell you, it only took me about a minute with each of the kids I saw today to make a connection. I talked to them first. I opened up about me, and why I loved reading. I talked to them about common reader struggles, and what I do to not stress out, and what I do to fix it.

For example, one of the kids came with me to work on fluency. I asked if he knew what it meant and he said he didn't really know, but he'd heard about it. Now, as a teacher, I am sure she has defined, modelled and made it a point to teach the word fluency and what it means, but it hadn't connected with him yet. Don't fault teachers...they teach, but not everything will stick for all kids at the same time.

So I talked to him. "I find that when I read something a little long or maybe a little tough for me, my voice doesn't sound smooth, like I do when I am talking. That's fluency. Being able to read like comfortable talking. Has that ever happened with you?"

He said it did, often. And he didn't ask me to prove that I struggled, by the way. He was just excited to find he wasn't the only one.

So I told him that today we were going to back up our reading by getting "warmed up." I told him I brought my favorite warm up book, Piggie and Gerald. I gave a little more info on Mo Willems, related it to his Pigeon series (which most of them know) and told them that I loved it because it was so darn funny.

I showed the title, I Will Go! and mentioned that the title gives me an idea that someone is going, but I don't know who, or where.

Then I hit them with the blurb. We talk about it, I read it to them, and then I tell them the exciting clues that I read there that get my mind ready to read. I will especially point out vocabulary words or names they will probably have trouble pronouncing. Do that with your child. Show them and pronounce them! They will be in the book, no doubt!

So then we open the book and I ask what they notice. They point out the speech bubbles, and that's where I tell them that is really really smart of them to notice. They look at me funny.

"If you know those are speech bubbles, then you know the character is talking! You know that good readers make their voices sound like the characters in their minds as they are reading, and this way you will know how to read with their expression too!" They are very impressed with themselves already.

None of the third graders were balking. I had them.

They hold the book, and they read. I point out the expressions in the illustrations and how they are hysterical, but also clues on how to make their voices sound. Later, I point out that even without the pictures, we would be able to tell how the voices sound because of the punctuation.

So they read, they laugh. And yes, they still struggle though it. But they are ready.

We then move onto a grade level passage and I ask them to remember what they just did with Piggie and Gerald. Pay attention to the talking. Pay attention to the punctuation. Hold the story in your mind. Know what's going on so you can say it smoothly.

Sometimes I read a sentence or two first, then they echo. Sometimes they just want to tackle it alone. When they falter, I encourage and model by reading it. They repeat. I PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE. That is what keeps them going.

And you know what? As I gathered my things to head out when time was up, each and every one said with a smile, "See you next week!"

They are, or are soon to be, HOOKED on reading.

1 comment:

  1. It's so important to draw attention to reading, and attract reluctant readers to it,especially boys. In fact, I've recently completed a feature magazine article on this subject that came out in October, "Help for Struggling, Reluctant Readers."

    I grew up as a reluctant reader, in spite of the fact that my father published over 70 books. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for tween boys, that avid boy readers and girls enjoy just as much.

    My blog, Books for Boys is dedicated to drawing attention to the importance of reading. And my new book, Lost Island Smugglers - first in the Sam Butler Adventure Series - coming out in June.

    Keep up your good work.

    Max Elliot Anderson