Raising Boys Who Want To Read

 by Allison McDonald

I was reading this article from the Huffington Post while nursing my daughter over the weekend. After she drifted off to sleep I laid there next to her thinking about how we as educators, parents and adults in general handle our boys and what they choose to read. This is a fresh topic at our house because my son has started reading independently; while he is far from fluent, he can read simple “I Can Read” books alone if they interest him.

How do we get our boys interested in books?

Read to them starting from birth.

That is the most basic answer, but it’s not a complete one. Some kids won’t sit for books, while some need to be moving when taking in the information. Some simply don’t want to read. It looks hard; it looks confusing; and it makes them feel dumb when they can’t figure it out.

You have to make them want to figure it out – to conquer that desire to give up with a stronger desire to find out how to read so they can read something really cool.

So how do we make books worth the effort?

Teaching boys to love books doesn’t start when they are learning to read in kindergarten. It starts at birth by making books a daily part of their play time, not just bed time. Here are some strategies we’ve used :

We did many book festivals when my son was a toddler. We’d pile up a ton of books, jump on the bed or couch, and read. I always gave him the power to choose the books we read, which gave him a sense of control and allowed him to develop favorites and his own opinions. I wrote a post about how we discovered this strategy and how it came from my son’s inability to sit stuck snuggled on my lap to read as a toddler.

Make going to the library a regular activity. My son hates story time at the library, not because of the librarian (whom he is actually quite fond of ) but because he doesn’t want to sit and listen to the books she chooses. He wants to listen to the books he chooses. So if your child dislikes storytime don’t give up on the library. Try other times; let them choose their own books, and don’t just show them the kids section, show them all the adults reading too.

Which brings us to the next strategy: role models. Boys need to see the men in their life reading. As a stay at home mom whose husband works long hours with a long commute, I end up doing most of the reading, but it’s still easy to create wonderful role models even if time together isn’t abundant. I got my son and husband a subscription to Sports Illustrated to share. They read the articles together and have some “man time” reading it together. It gives them special time together while also promoting reading.

Let them choose their books, but steer them to widen their horizons too. My son is all about Batman so we scour the library for these books, some of which I am not fond of. But he is so excited about reading I think it’s more important to keep building that foundation of books being cool and developing his view of himself as a reader that I enthusiastically pop them in our basket. Don’t be quick to say no to a type of book . What your child might hear is you saying no to reading.

Another strategy is to let kids “break the rules” with books. I am not advocating stealing books or any other real rule breaking; what I am talking about is letting kids stretch out bedtime with some reading time of their choice.  We just started this with my son and it’s so thrilling to see him enjoying reading alone.

My last strategy is what I feel is my mission here at No Time For Flash Cards, which is to use books as the foundation for play. We go both ways, sometimes reading a book first and sometimes starting with play then finding the books to go along with it.  When my son read this Babar book with me last week  he immediately wanted to dress up like the soldiers, so we fashioned a costume , not just for the pretend play that followed but because it attached a positive association to reading,  it reiterated to him that reading is part of play.The statistics are frightful but we aren’t powerless. There are things we can do to help make reading and books accessible to young kids (especially reluctant readers) and yet again it comes back around to play. Hopefully with a strong foundation of trust in the enjoyment books provide the less enjoyable side of reading will be worth the effort.

Family Puppets – Inspired By WordWorld !

Monday morning used to be our Letter of the Week day but as you may have noticed it’s been missing lately. There is a great reason for that, my son is done , like DONE with these projects. He’s known all his letters for ages and as I preach I also practice following my child’s interests to support his learning. Now we are working on putting letters together, sounding out words as we read and rhyming.  Playing with letters and words in addition to reading is a great way to make learning an experience. Lessons that are fun are more likely to be remembered , connections are stronger and learning is less frustrating.  Sometimes the easiest way to make those fun connections is to use a character,  game, book or in our case a WordWorld ebook as your inspiration. It’s also why most of our crafts are linked to books.

If you aren’t familiar with WordWorld it’s a TV show on PBS that really IS educational. It promotes literacy in a very real way, and for kids like my son who are just starting to make the leap from simple letter recognition to decoding (which is most easily explained as  the process of “sounding out” the word using the letter sounds) it’s super fun to watch because so many of the animations on the show are shaped using their word, so be prepared to hear ” I just read sheep all by myself!”

Did I mention how important confidence is for reading? It’s big.

Ok so here is what we did. Inspired by this ebook we decided to make family word puppets which also uses my son’s absolute love of pretend play.  Instead of using the process of decoding explained above we used encoding (  breaking down the sounds in a word verbally and putting them into print ) to make familiar words we use every day , perfect for his level of mastery.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some family photos, construction paper or card stock, crayons, scissors, tape , sticky back foam letters and popsicle sticks ( tongue depressors would be even better). 
  2. Start by deciding which family members you want to create, make sure the words won’t be too frustrating for your child. Cut those out.
  3. Now decorate the paper however you want with the crayons. We are using crayons and tape with this project so that we are free to play as soon as they are done, if waiting isn’t an issue paint and glue works great too.
  4. Add the letters and photo.I made sure we had all the letters we needed in the pile . Having the letters easy to find ( but not done for him) as soon as he connected the sound to a letter was important to keep his confidence up, fun going and frustration at bay.  If your child is struggling, help by all means this isn’t a test.
  5. Tape on the sticks and pictures.
  6. Make your whole family!
  7. Time for a puppet show. 

I had a blast watching my son’s puppet show, his impressions of our family interactions was eye opening but ultimately heartwarming.

 
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by WordWorld, I also received a DVD free of charge.  The craft concept, educational information, opinions and kids are my own. You can try WordWorld’s  free eBooks and games, and find more information about their iPhone and iPad apps on their website.

Teaching Your Child to Read, Part 1

Guest Post by Jenae from I Can Teach My Child!

This series has been on my mind for a while now. As a former first grade teacher, teaching children to read is one of my greatest passions! But because most children don’t start actually “reading” until around 6 years old (which is upwards of the targeted age range for my blog), I didn’t want parents to feel pressured that their 3-year old needs to start reading (which, by the way, they don’t!). However, the information shared in this series is general information that is beneficial for children of all ages, whether your child is ready to read or not. Don’t implement all of these strategies at once, nor should you expect your child to be able to do everything right away.  It is a process and this information is simply for you to implement when you feel your child is ready.

Read to your child
Teaching your child to read is truly a process that begins at infancy. (No, I am most certainly NOT advocating programs that claim to teach your baby to read using flashcards!) What I AM encouraging you to do is to begin reading with your newborn within days of welcoming her home! Not only is this a special bonding time for the two of you, it instills in her a love for books. Enjoyment while reading is one of the single greatest predictors of reading success in school-age children. If children don’t learn from an early age to enjoy reading, it will most likely hinder their ability sometime down the road.

How much you read to your child is completely up to you and your family, but aim to read at least 3-4 books a day, even while your child is very young. As she gets a little older and can sit for longer stretches of time, make it a family goal to read together for at least 20-minutes each day.

Here are a few suggestions for the types of books to read to your child. But by all means, read whatever your child responds to and enjoys!

  • Birth-1 Year: Lullabies, Board Books (with real pictures), Cloth Books (with various textures), Song Books
  • 1 Year-3 Years: Rhyming Books, Song Books, Short-Story Board Books
  • 3 Years-5 Years: Alphabet Books, Song Books, Picture Books, Rhyming Books

Ask questions
Asking questions while reading to your child is not only great for encouraging your child to interact with the book, but it is also extremely effective in developing his ability to comprehend what he is reading. You see, if our main objective in “reading” is getting our child to “sound out” words, we have missed the boat entirely. Even children who can decode words and “read” with great fluency still might not be able to comprehend what they are reading. If a child can’t comprehend what he is reading, there really is no point to reading at all!

While your child is a baby, ask him questions such as, “Do you see the cat?” while pointing at the picture of the cat. This will not only develop his vocabulary, it will also encourage him to interact with the book that he is reading. As he gets older, ask him to point to things in the book himself and make the noises of the animals he sees.

Once your child is about 2 or 3-years of age, begin asking questions before, during, and after reading the book. Show your child the cover of the book and ask him what he thinks it is going to be about (predicting). While reading, ask him what he thinks is going to happen or why he thinks a character made a particular choice (inferring). If a character is depicting a strong emotion, identify that emotion and ask your child if he has ever felt that way (connecting). At the end of the book, ask if his prediction(s) came true. Afterwards, ask him to tell you what he remembered happening in the book (summarizing).
Modifying each of these techniques during read-alouds to meet the developmental stage of your child is a great way to promote and increase reading comprehension!

Be a good (reading) example
Even if your child is fascinated with books from an early age, her fascination will quickly dwindle if she does not see reading modeled in her home. If you are not an avid reader yourself, make a conscious effort to let your children see you reading for at least a few minutes each day! Read a magazine, a cookbook, a novel, your Bible…it’s up to you! But show your child that reading is something that even adults need to do. If you have a son, share this article with your husband. Sons need to see their fathers read, especially since it is not something that they are naturally prone to doing.

As parents, we can sometimes get wrapped up with what exactly our children should be doing to be successful. But we often forget that children often learn by example. Grab a book and take a load off…for your child’s sake, of course!

The last two parts of this series will be posted over at I Can Teach My Child! in the coming weeks.  Feel free to keep an eye out on Facebook as well!

Spelling Puzzles

My son has been asking how to spell words for a while, he knows his letter sounds and while I am not planning on formally teaching him to read yet I do want to keep him interested and learning , as well as offering some challenge . This activity evolved as we played and is easy to adapt to various abilities. You could even skip spelling as use it as a match game for younger children!

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a cardboard puzzle ours was from trick or treating , and markers in various colors. If you are doing this with school age or more proficient readers you can use one color, but for beginners or children needing less challenge the single color per word will help the process.
  2. Start by putting the puzzle together.
  3. Next divide it into smaller pieces for the words.
  4. Using one color per word , write the word one letter per piece on the back of the puzzle. Out of habit Icapitalized two of the words. When we put those together we talked about Uppercase letters and when we use them.
  5. Now to play! The way we did it for my son was to pick out all the letters in one color and place them on the tray.
  6. Next we tried to decide which letter came first. This frustrated my son, it was too much of a challenge. So I found the first letter and he was golden from there.
  7. Once the pieces are all together he sounded it out without prompting .
  1. This is when he figured it out!