Save Your Life…Journal!

“People who keep journals, have life twice.”  Jessamyn West

Throughout this series, we’ve looked at ways that literacy can enhance your self-care. Reading regularly, sharing your thoughts with another, listening with your heart can all nurture your spirit and reduce anxiety. In this last post of the series, I’ll share what I’ve come to see as the most powerful way to use literacy in the interest of self-care. For me, that is writing in general and more specifically, incorporating journaling into my routine.

If I posed the question, “What do you do on a regular basis that has significantly changed your life, what would you  answer? Many years ago, I began journaling almost everyday. Most people I know would scoff at the idea, never exploring the power of this practice. But all people I know would benefit from using writing as a tool to explore their thinking, clear their heads, cleanse their minds, encourage their creativity, purge their conflicts  and both literally and figuratively save their lives. 

Journaling is no more than thinking on paper. Its power is in its simplicity. Grab an ordinary copybook, try out a variety of pens until you discover one that feels just right, put a date at the top of the page and let it rip. Move that pen and pour out your heart.. Detail the feelings rolling around inside you, ask the questions that keep you awake at night, describe the scene outside your window, the conflict at work or the trip you long to take and watch the magic unfold.

Without being rigid, be routine. Ideally, you will find a time each day to give yourself the gift of journaling. Capture seed ideas and run with them. Journaling is a journey that will enable you to uncover your authentic self. Approached with an open mind, a writing routine will become a mission of discovery and I guarantee you will emerge with more empathy, clarity and compassion, not only for others, but for yourself. Years of journaling have been medicine for my soul, ultimately saving my life on many levels. Pick up your pen and  let it save yours.

During April of 2020, I wrote a three-part series about journaling on this blog. Check it out if you are interested in more specific information and about to begin and continue a journaling routine.

Hopefully, this series has given you are few new ideas about how literacy skills can boost your serenity and self-care. I’d love to hear your suggestions or feedback. Take care…really!

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The Forgotten Literacy Skills

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Can you remember the last time you had a bad day at work, felt frustrated with a family member, were stymied in your attempts to deal with technology or heard bad news about a close friend or relative? How about the last time you heard great news? If you’re like me, those are the times you yearn to reach out to someone that can listen and help you process the experience. Once I’ve had a chance to share my good news or vent my frustrations, I feel more peaceful and usually even closer to the person who listened. There really is no replacement for human interactions via speaking and listening. Our ability to converse and connect through language, to share knowledge, experiences, and emotions, has great power.

Although technology offers additional ways to connect, the omni-present cell phone or computer often distracts or decreases communication, leaving us feeling isolated, unseen and unheard. No discussion of self-care would be complete without addressing the vital role speaking and listening plays in our every day lives, and in our ability to cope with the ups and downs of life.

Perhaps this is a good time to assess the socialization and closeness you do or do not share with others by looking at different areas of your life. Here are a few questions with some suggestions you might implement, if you feel the need for change or improvement.

Personal Life

  • Can you share intimately with a few special people?
  • Do you socialize with others on a regular basis?
  • Do you have a hobby that connects you with others?

Work Life

  • Do you feel safe and comfortable with the people in your work environment?
  • Are there opportunities to share concerns and socialize with people at work?
  • Do you have a mentor or special colleague to support you in your work?

Family Life

  • Do family members have lots of opportunities for quality conversations with one another?
  • Does anyone tend to isolate and withdraw more than they should?
  • Is there an open environment where it’s safe to discuss feelings?
  • Does anyone in the family intimidate or bully another member?
  • Do family members share fun and laughter on a regular basis?
  • Are there family traditions that are upheld through the course of the year?
  • Is there any kind of substance abuse or other problem that is not being addressed?

If any of these questions give you pause, consider how you can change the dynamics. Some situations are as simple as taking a few minutes a day to give another your undivided attention. Perhaps you need to engage in enjoyable activities together more frequently or have a family or work meeting where everyone can share feelings safely. Don’t neglect the role of outside support if you have serious concerns. Search out literature, support groups, teachers, or therapists and quickly begin to rectify communication that is breaking down.

Mental health issues are a huge problem for people today. The Covid epidemic certainly didn’t help the situation. Reports of people of all ages who are struggling, along with horrific violent news stories, underline the need for help and support. Quality literature offers knowledge and sometimes is the first step towards solving a problem. Here are a few suggestions that might just help you move in a positive direction. Search out books about active listening, family games, craft activities, reading aloud, or addiction. If you think alcoholism, drug abuse, anger issues, gambling or another serious problem is undermining the quality of your life, there is an abundance of literature available and, more importantly, support groups to help you get your life on track.

Hope this third post in the series, “Self-care Through Literacy” encourages you to take stock of ways you interact with others. Don’t let meaningful speaking and listening become forgotten skills.

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Chill Out with a Good Book

Turn on any news channel and you’re almost guaranteed to elevate your stress level within seconds. We’re sucked into war zones, witness shootings, listen to political arguments, and are drawn into sights and sounds that raise our blood pressure and hurt our hearts. What’s more, few of us escape personal stress at work or in our family lives as we strive to make good decisions, juggle all the balls, and do our best.

By now, we all know that exercise, enough rest, healthy eating, socialization and consistent routines can help ease stress; no one needs a reminder. In the quest to find a simple solution to a common problem, may I suggest (drum roll) reading!

Take a minute and think about the last time you were immersed in a book. It’s a magical experience and, research shows proven benefits. Did you know that…

  • In 2009, researchers from the University of Sussex found that reading for as little as six minutes reduced stress by as much as 68%.
  • People who read just thirty minutes a week, were 20% more likely to report greater life satisfaction. (Quick Reads)
  • In an article entitled, “Surprising Reasons Reading is Good For Your Health,” by Sarah Thebarge, lists five health benefits of reading: Improved sleep, cardiovascular health, mental health, and brain function, and a study conducted by the University of Michigan found that people who read 30 minutes or more a day, lived two years longer. https://www.gohealthuc.com/library/surprising-reasons-reading-is-good-for-your-health

These are just a few of the mind-boggling benefits of reading I discovered. It’s easy to get distracted and forget how beneficial it is to still ourselves with a good book. If time is at a premium, audible books offer another option. Sometimes, it’s actually more enjoyable to listen. I’ve discovered how great it is to plug in my air buds and lose myself in a great story while I’m folding laundry, cooking, walking, driving, and especially, trying to fall asleep. Hoopla and Libby are two sites you can easily download to your phone if you want to access a plethora of free texts.

There’s no need to belabor the point. If you’re looking for a cost-effective and convenient way settle down, relax, calm your nerves, begin your day on a positive note or unwind at the end of it, try grabbing a book (either physically on online) in lieu of the remote. You’ll reap the rewards.

Here are a few of my recent favorites reads. Care to share yours?

Daughters of Erietown by Connie Shultz – Novel that span several generations

The Five Wishes of Murray McBride by Joe Siple – Heartwarming tale

On a Quiet Street by Seraphina Nova Glass – Intriguing psychological thriller

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus – Unique tale about a woman scientist forging her career back in the 1950’s

The Enchanted Hour – Provides insightful evidence about the power of reading aloud to your child

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown – Brown offers compelling, compassionate advice based on her research.

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New Series: Self-Care Through Literacy

Hi, Everyone! I know I’m late to the New Year’s party, but since 2023 is still in its infancy, I want to wish you all a wonderful year. To start off the year, I ‘ll offer readers a series on self-care through literacy. As one of my friends likes to say, “Life gets lifey.” We can all benefit from discovering new ways to relax and feed our spirit. From personal experience, I know practicing self-care pays dividends, not only for yourself, but for your loved ones as well.

Literacy includes not just reading, but writing, speaking, listening and even watching. Literacy has the power to connect, educate, entertain, influence, sooth, and magically span time and space. For me, literacy is the golden thread that weaves my life together. Over the years, I’ve discovered the benefits of intentionally using various forms of literacy as a means of self-care and hope to share some of my insights and the insights of others.

Most of us realize the importance of modeling if we want to entice our kids to follow suit. In this series, I’ll highlight how reading, writing, speaking, listening and watching can enhance your life, calm your spirit, open your mind, and offer enjoyment, relaxation and knowledge. Youngsters follow our lead. Perhaps this series will spark some ideas for you and benefit your child in the process.

For starters, please consider these questions and reflect on areas where you would like to change or grow:

  • Do you read for pleasure?
  • How many books do you typically read in a month?
  • When was the last time you visited a library or book store?
  • Do you journal or write on a regular basis?
  • Do you ever write to clear your head?
  • How often do you discuss articles, books, movies, or podcasts with others?
  • When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with someone in your immediate family?
  • Do you belong to a book club, writing group, choral group, or support group of any kind?
  • Are you selective about what shows and movies you watch?
  • Do you regularly engage in some form of literacy to relax?

Let me leave you with this thought-provoking fact: In a 2009 study, the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%.” What are you waiting for? Find a good book and relax!

Look for the next post in this series to appear on Wednesday, February 15th.

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Renew, Relax, Reflect

Hopefully, the questions in the previous post got you thinking about how you use or could use literacy to generate more peace, clarity, knowledge, and relaxation in your life. We all need it and throughout this series I’ll offer a variety of suggestions.

Never will I forget the hectic, stressful years of my early forties. Our youngest was in second grade, our oldest was a senior in high school, and we had three other children ages seventeen, fifteen, and twelve. My life as a stay-at-home mom had ended and I was teaching third grade and taking college courses at night and in the summer. To top it off, a mysterious illness that resulted in debilitating fatigue began the year I returned to work. It was five years before I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed.

As usual, I turned to books to discover new ways to practice the self-care that would enable me to juggle the many aspects of my life and not fall apart. I remember reading “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” by Stephen Covey, ordering my first Franklin Planner, and somehow discovering journaling as a way to clear my mind and clarify my thoughts. It was also during this period that I began reading “The Language of Letting Go” by Melodie Beatty. This powerful book delivers a nugget of wisdom for each day of the year. I still have that same worn copy, and still read it every day. I am grateful for the comfort and support these texts provided and the way they led me to discover the power of self-help and spiritual books.

Those five children are now adults. They live close-by, hubby and I often step in to babysit or drive the grand kids, and I see clearly how their busy lives as working parents leave little time for themselves. Today, a barrage of emails, texts and social media sites constantly encroach on our lives. Most work situations require an instant response and there is a significant decrease in time to decompress. If you lead a hectic life, jumping from one event or task to another, finding a few meaningful books and reading just short snippets at a time can offer a respite to renew, relax and reflect.

In this second post of this series, Self-Care Through Literacy, I encourage you to seek out good literature that will feed your spirit and prompt reflection. My habit of reading something positive to start the day began years ago and I’ve only continued it because it adds such value to my life. This works best when you establish a regular time of day to read (it can be short) and reflect. Underline or jot down a word, phrase, or sentence that speaks to you. Carry it in your heart and call it forth when you’re feeling stressed.

Mornings have always worked best for me, but perhaps you’ll discover afternoons, early evening or right before bed is your sweet spot. The time of day is not as important as regularity and reflection. Give it a try.

Here are a few texts to jump start your search. I invite all of you to chime in and share texts that work for you. Together we can offer support and resources that will translate into a more peaceful, positive spirit.

Resources

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

The Language of Letting Go and More Language of Letting Go by Melodie Beatty

Good Enough by Kate Bowler & Jessica Richie

Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

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Before the School Bell Rings

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Hope everyone is enjoying swimming and sunshine, mountains and shore, vacations and lazy days this summer. It’s always a shock to turn the page on the calendar and realize there’s just about a month left before those school bells ring. Along with enjoying the pleasures of the season, I’ve begun research for a potential book about reading aloud and the positive effects it offers, especially to struggling readers.

For years, I’ve been convinced that reading aloud offers an amazing array of benefits to both readers and listeners. In fact, read-alouds were a regular part of every class and every grade I ever taught, including graduate students. Whether the goal was to model fluency, introduce an new author, demonstrate story structure, build background knowledge and vocabulary, or simply attempt to settle down a class of unruly teens, I reached for a book. Students loved it!

Naturally, I read to my own kids, but, as I now realize, not nearly enough. If I could turn back time, reading aloud would be part of our everyday routine. Frankly, allowing other inconsequential activities to get in the way of reading aloud more frequently, is one of my biggest regrets as a parent. As Maya Angelou says, “when you know better, you do better”.

All the research strongly supports the varied and powerful effects of parents regularly reading to their children. Not only are the academic effects well documented, but also the emotional ones. It turns out there’s nothing quite like sharing this experience, to build family bonds, create a common experience, and instill a love of reading. Furthermore, this one simple practice impacts not just reading, but the other literacy skills of writing, speaking and listening.

With August making its appearance, it’s the perfect time to ramp up the read-alouds in your home. If you have a struggling reader, this is probably the best thing you can do to prepare him for the upcoming school year. Kids of every age and reading ability love listening, if you are relaxed and make it an enjoyable, special time together. Trust me, I realize that no matter what the season, time is always an issue for parents, but that’s the beauty of reading aloud, especially if you use picture books. Short beautifully illustrated texts that can be found for every age and interest will make this practice a practical one. Are you in?

In my blog posts this month, I’ll offer encouraging research, lay out the benefits of reading aloud and offer practical, helpful tips to establish this routine in your home. I know you won’t regret it, especially when school begins and you realize you’ve done your part to keep reading alive in your home and set your child up for success in the year ahead.

Call to Action: Look around your home or visit the library to find five picture books you thing your child (or children) would enjoy. Find a few quiet minutes to read them to yourself. Pick three favorites and find an opportunity to read them aloud (either to the whole family, a few of your children or just one child). Have fun!

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Post-Covid: Supporting Our Youngest Readers – Part 4

The Three Cueing Systems

By Grade 1, students begin to read both fictional and informational short texts, supported by pictures. For years, using one (or all) of the three cueing systems, helped a child in his attempts to read continuous text. Here’s a parent-friendly explanation of the three cueing systems. When you are listening to your child read, you can employ the use of them to offer support when your child encounters tricky text.

The three cueing systems are:

  • Semantic: Does it make sense? The use of semantics relies on meaning. Prompting a child to consider whether the a word makes sense encourages him to think about the meaning of the text and often facilitates decoding.
  • Syntactic: Does it sound right? Syntactic prompts consider the structure of the text, prompting a child to consider if what he is reading follows acceptable language structure.
  • Grapho-Phonetic: Does it look right? These prompts require a reader to consider the visual appearance of a word. Looking more carefully often enables a reader to decipher a troublesome word correctly.

Recent research has discredited the use of the semantic and syntactic cueing systems, insisting that readers rely on the grapho-phonemic approach to identify tricky words. Many schools are now emphasizing phonics instruction and requiring students to process every letter of the printed word when stuck. This is not an attempt to condemn new scientific studies of reading. However, years of experience with struggling first grade readers clearly showed benefits to applying all three cueing systems. I simply offer this as a way for parents to support children when they are reading continuous text at home. Perhaps directing a child to use the grapho-phonemic approach first (Does it look right?), and supplementing with the other cueing systems would allow for smooth and successful reading to occur. Remember, the goal for young readers is confidence and comprehension. This is how I see various cueing systems being used at home by parents:

  • When a child is stuck on a word or miscues, first use the grapho-phonemic prompt. Does that look right?
  • If this does not prove successful, then ask the child to look at the picture or consider what would make sense (syntactic) or sound right (semantic).
  • If the child cannot decode the word successfully within three seconds, simply tell him the word and move on. Remember, you don’t want meaning to break down because a child is spending too much time decoding. It’s far better to give a three-second told and move forward with the text. You can always return to that section, and look more carefully at the tricky word or part.

Most early readers are encouraged to read at home. It is not easy for a parent to listen to a struggling reader move through text, so be gentle with yourself. I believe that whatever you can do to make this process enjoyable for your child, build confidence, and allow them to savor the story, will foster both skills and a love of reading.

Sorry for the delay in posting the last part of this series. Sometimes life gets in the way. In the wake of the pandemic, many early readers are struggling. Hopefully, the ideas in this series will allow you to better nurture your child’s budding literacy skills. Feel free to pose any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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Post-Covid: Supporting Our Youngest Readers – Part 3

Years ago, I was trained as a Reading Recovery teacher. Reading Recovery is a program created by Marie Clay (a researcher from New Zealand known for her work in educational literacy) to provide support for first graders who required intense intervention. There were three Reading specialists at our school who completed the six-credit training course which enabled us to work with these children. After extensive testing, we choose the lowest students and each of us met with three students, every day, for thirty minutes. During the school year, we were able to work with two rounds of students. The first round lasted twenty weeks and the second round went from the end of January (after we again completed testing) to the end of the school year.

Working as a Reading Recovery teacher was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. I crafted each lesson to meet the specific needs of the individual student, followed the recommended parts of the lesson plan which included reading familiar texts, taking a running record on the previous day’s text, engaging the child in appropriate word work, reading a new book that was just a tad more challenging than the previous one, and guiding the student through the writing component. By the end of a round, most students met the benchmark and were on par with their peers. It was an amazing program that worked!

This brief explanation of how Reading Recovery works is meant to point out the benefits of reading with a child in a purposeful way that moves them forward. Obviously, for a teacher to spend thirty minutes per day with just one student must reap significant benefits or a district would never adopt this program.

The take away for you, as a parent of a young, struggling reader, is that devoting time, most days, to reading with your child, can make a huge difference. There is just one caveat…it is crucial that you learn and implement a few techniques and refrain from habits that can deter progress. Please know, I’m not suggesting that you need to spend thirty minutes a day, follow a lesson plan or include word work and writing. All I’m suggesting is that regular time to read together several times a week, coupled with some tried and true strategies, can greatly impact your child’s reading progress and confidence. Here are a few important techniques that I highly recommend…

  • Choose Appropriate Books – This can be tricky. Ask your child’s teacher to recommend books that your child can easily read or books that are slightly harder, so he is challenged enough, but not frustrated. Also, consider your child’s interests and offer a mixture of fiction and nonfictional books.
  • Seat for Success – This type of reading is different than reading to your child, where you can cuddle together in a comfortable place. Since you are guiding his reading, you want to be sure he is sitting upright at a table to your left side. We read with our bodies as well as our minds. Remind him to put one hand on the book to steady it, and use the other to point to the words (if that is still appropriate) or simply point when he is stuck on a word. Youngsters of this age often have difficulty controlling movement and tend to jiggle around. If his body is not still, it will impede the ability to both read words and comprehend text. A fun way to remind your child of the importance of staying still, is to ask him to stand up, jump up and down, and try to read the text in front of him. Naturally, it’s almost impossible, but this humorous experiment will drive home the point.
  • Preview the Book – Check out the cover and make predictions. You may also want to “take a picture walk” through the book. These previewing strategies get your child thinking about the text and anticipating what will occur within the pages. It’s like tilling the soil, enabling his mind to become fertile ground for thinking and comprehending.
  • Pictures Prompt Thinking – Occasionally, a child would tell me that their parent covers the picture when they trying to help them read. No doubt, these folks had good intentions, but the picture on each page of a lower level text serves a vital purpose. Help your child to habitually glance at the picture prior to reading the text on the page. This supports thinking and provides clues that will lead to success. If a child is stuck on a word, and the picture offers a clue, redirect him to the picture, than back to the unknown word. Most of the time, he will get it.
  • Say a little more…” – If your child is stuck on a word, prompt him to make the first sound and if that doesn’t work, ask him to say a little more. This will help him to look through the word, blend the letters and hopefully use meaning.
  • Give a “three second told”. – If your child is stuck on a word, and the process described above isn’t working, count to three and then tell him the word and move on. This is very important. Stopping too long will cause a breakdown in meaning. The goal is always comprehension. You can return to the word when you finish the text, to help your child take another look and reread that sentence.
  • Create an enjoyable experience – Consider the time you spend reading together as providing a supportive experience for your child. These techniques will encourage good reading habits and enable you to make the most of your time together, but are not meant to put you in the role of teacher. Enjoy the book, stop to talk or clear up confusion, ask about his favorite part at the end, and simply use the opportunity not only to enhance his reading, but to enhance your relationship.

It’s naturally to have lots of questions about how to support an early reader, especially if he struggles. Your questions and comments are welcome. In Part 4 of this series, I’ll discuss the three important cueing systems that enable children to make optimal progress. Check in next Thursday to learn about them.

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Stacking the Deck in Your Child’s Favor

On Saturday, March 19, Columbia Teacher’s College held one of their amazing Reunion Days. From 9:00am to 1:00pm, teachers from all over were able to Zoom in to presentations from outstanding literacy educators and authors. Riveted to my computer for four hours, I filled my head and notebook with nuggets of wisdom to share with parents and students. One presentation was on “book stacks”. I often used this approach successfully in my classroom, but I also believe it would be a great way for parents to boost literacy in the home. I’ll explain the process to you, and perhaps you’ll want to try it out with your kids.

What is a Book Stack?

A book stack refers to a variety of texts related to a specific topic. It’s important to note, that these stacks can and should contain texts other than books. Short news or magazine articles, pictures, poems, picture books and quotes are just a few examples.

How can I use book stacks with my child or family?

-First, talk to your child (or children) about a topic of interest.

-Secondly, search out books(or portions of books) or other texts related to the topic.

-Finally, set aside times within the course of a week or more to read aloud and discuss.

Why is this practice advantageous?

The primary advantage of exploring a topic using various texts and reading together, is that it promotes conversation, allows for questioning and provides opportunity to examine different perspectives. Research shows that talking enhances comprehension and will support critical thinking skills. Pondering multiple texts together also builds background knowledge and vocabulary. When students have a chance to “go deeper” in their reading life, confidence soars. Consider how enjoyable it might be to engage in a shared study of a topic and the ways that it could also foster close relationships and model a love of learning. It’s a win/win for all!

When will I find the time to fit this into our busy lives?

Lack of time can be the eternal roadblock, but only if you let it. Yes, it will take a little effort to pull together a few pertinent text and even more time to read and discuss. However, if you follow the three steps above, the first two shouldn’t take more than an hour. You can search out library books online, reserve them and simply stop by to pick them up once you decide on a topic, or you may even be able to find materials around the house or online. Then, over the course of a week or two, try to fit in ten to fifteen minutes sessions (maybe prior to bed) to read a little and converse. The idea is to go a little deeper into a subject of interest and expand learning through multiple texts. This idea is offered as a new, innovative technique to support your child’s literacy life, especially if they are struggling or simply dislike reading.

Keep it casual, make it fun and above all, take the lead from your child by listening carefully to what topic might resonate for him. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

– A place of interest or one that you will visit in the future

– Top news stories

– Sports, or various hobbies

– Famous person that your child admires

-Tough topics like bullying, alcoholism, dementia, various diseases

-Nature, nutrition, exercise, or how various parts of the body work

-Careers

In a future post, I’ll offer a sample of a book stack to provide further support. If you have a child in Kindergarten through second grade whose literacy skills are lagging due to effects of the pandemic, remember to check out Parts 1 and 2 of my series, “Supporting Our Youngest Readers”. Part 3 will be posted on Thursday, March 31st.

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Post-Covid: Supporting Our Youngest Readers, Part 2

Research abounds as to the cause of reading deficiencies. But, as a parent, your primary concern is identifying what is impeding your child’s progress, monitoring how your child’s school is supporting him, providing additional support if needed, and fostering routines at home that will enhance his progress. 

Check Physical and Emotional Issues

Last week, I suggested you set up a conference with your child’s teacher if you have concerns about reading progress, and provided questions to guide that meeting. Today, I’d like to offer two other significant steps to help get your child on track.

In addition to conferencing with the teacher, check your child’s physical abilities to read. Sometimes it’s easy to ignore the obvious. We read with our bodies, as well as our mind. If a child has vision or hearing deficits, they can greatly affect their reading progress. Don’t neglect to have vision and hearing checked. 

Many children have other problems that can impede reading progress. Hyperactivity, attention deficit, central auditory processing issues and emotional stress are a few common ones. If you think a disorder of some kind might be the culprit, rely on professionals and seek testing. Your pediatrician, school counselor, speech therapist and the Intermediate Units will help you identify your child’s strengths, weaknesses and needs. Don’t hesitate to raise your hand and get the help you need.

Create A Read-Aloud Routine

No doubt, the pandemic has impacted everyone’s lives. Perhaps there were some positives that evolved in your family. On the other hand, many parents with young children struggled to work from home and at the same time manage children and support their virtual education. Whew! It was a lot. Now that life appears to be returning to normal, it’s time to consider practical, comfortable ways to foster confidence and literacy skills in the home. This is essential if you have a youngster who is falling behind. 

I’m the mom of five adult children, all in or near their forties. Both parents work, their children are in activities, and life is crazy busy for them. I have a bird’s eye view and totally get that they are “in the trenches” right now, juggling many balls. Therefore, my suggestions are just that. My goal is to offer ideas that I know work. It’s more important to spend a little time doing something that is effective with a struggling reader, than lots of time on an activity that means little or could decrease rather than increase a child’s confidence.

In my opinion, and the opinion of a multitude of educators and researchers, reading to and with your child is the best thing you can do to support reading. In an effort to keep this short, I’ll only discuss reading aloud to your child in this post.

Reading aloud to your child, no matter what his age or what his reading ability, offers excellent  benefits. Without going into detail, I’ll list several important ones:

  1. Provides natural opportunities to listen and learn how language works, enhancing understanding of semantics, syntax and phonemic awareness.
  2. Builds vocabulary.
  3. Builds background knowledge.
  4. Provides examples of how text works: words, directionality, punctuation, etc.
  5. Provides opportunities to model good strategies. For example, you can help your child to notice match between pictures and print, stop and think, make predictions, make connections and ask questions to clear up confusion..
  6. Provides opportunity for an emotional connection between parent and child and a chance to discuss important themes that reveal themselves in literature. 
  7. Provides a model of fluent reading.
  8. Builds confidence.

Whether you are reading for five minutes or forty-five minutes, this practice will give you the most bang for your buck. If it’s possible to regularly build reading aloud into your routine, you and your child will reap the reward. That’s a promise!

Next Thursday, I’ll discuss reading together and some pointers that will help you build your child’s skills and strategies. Please share your comments and questions. Your input can help foster a community of learning and support that will ultimately benefit our youngsters. 

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