Five Easy Ways to Boost Background Knowledge

My husband is a huge football fan. As soon as August begins, those fantasy football magazines start popping up around the house. One day, I decided to delve into one and learn a little about football. I could easily read all the words. I could not easily understand what I read. The reason was simple–I had very little background knowledge. Lacking any genuine interest, I had rarely watched and never really learned to understand much about football. Consequently, even though I could decode all the words, I could not comprehend what I read. I share this as an example of the importance of background knowledge. Researchers agree that background knowledge is essential for reading comprehension. It certainly makes sense that the more you know about a topic, the easier it is to understand a text dealing with that topic.

As a parent, you are in a strong position to build your child’s background knowledge. Making a conscious effort to build background knowledge is like putting money in the bank. Your youngster will be able to make a “withdrawal” when trying to make sense of text. Try these suggestions and start making deposits in your child’s bank of knowledge that will translate to his improved ability to comprehend text:

  1. Share your interests, hobbies, experiences with your child.                                  Talking to your child is one of the best ways to build his knowledge of the world around him.
  2. Visit new places. You don’t need to take a vacation to take your child somewhere he’s never been. Communities are filled with museums, parks, and events that offer new information and experience for your child to enjoy. Seek them out.
  3. Encourage wide reading and visit the library often. Since there is no charge, youngsters are free to take home a variety of book. Easy, informational books are a great way for your child to become acquainted with many topics.
  4. Use games to make learning fun. Play games that encourage kids to categorize, compare and contrast, answer tricky questions, make analogies and learn about famous people, places and events.
  5. Use multimedia. Although personal experience is ideal, technology today offers an accessible and enjoyable way to learn. Encourage your child’s curiosity and learn together by exploring the many ways technology can advance learning.
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Three Essential Steps to Seeking Reading Intervention for your Child

conference
Once you suspect that your child needs some kind of reading intervention, it’s time to get the ball rolling.
Step #1 – Rule out any physical problems
Talk with your child’s doctor about your concerns. Physical problems can be at the root of academic problems. Let your doctor rule out vision, hearing, attention problems or any other physical concerns that may be interfering with his reading progress.
Step #2 – Make an Appointment with the Teacher
Once you know there is not a physical problem at the root, it’s time to make an appointment with your child’s teacher. Often waiting for conference times scheduled by the school through the course of the year is not a good idea because teachers are seeing parents one right after the other and there are tight time constraints. Call or email the teacher and ask her to block out thirty minutes or so to meet with you at a mutually convenient time. If possible, attend with your spouse and leave the kids at home so you can focus your full attention without being distracted or interrupted.
Step #3 – Collect Information and Come Prepared
A teacher worth her salt will be gathering data about your child to share with you. As a parent, you need to do the same. Think of this as a team effort and come prepared with data of your own. Here’s how:
  •  Bring a Written List of Important Information                                                                 Teachers are busy people.  When parents come in prepared, it helps the meeting move smoothly, address all the issues and establish a sense of teamwork. Spend time before the meeting carefully observing your child and making a list of behaviors that concern you regarding your child’s reading or academic habits. Use the list in the previous post to help you Does My Child Need Help? Ten Warning Signs of a Struggling Reader. Be prepared to discuss your child’s strengths and weaknesses, sleep or emotional issues, how he perceives himself and any insights you can provide. In addition to current behaviors, reflect on any information about your child’s early years that might be helpful. For example, issues with ear infections, delayed language development, difficulty learning letters and sounds, and so on.   Information that only you have may be very helpful in diagnosing the specific interventions that will help your child.
  • Bring a Written List of Questions                                                                                                 Jot down your questions so that you don’t leave the meeting and realize you have neglected to get answers.
  • Consider Your Expectations                                                                                                            It’s important to have a sense of what you would like to see happen and how the teacher will follow up on your concerns. Be specific and nail down a date and time to touch base again (this can be via an email or phone call) to check in on progress.
What to Expect                                                                                                                                    
Chances are if your child is in fourth grade or beyond and the school has never suggested evaluation for special education or mentioned a learning problem, your child will simply need some extra help from the teacher or reading specialist to boost progress and confidence.  Your concerns are valid and you should go into the meeting with an expectation of receiving support.  Typically, the teacher will create some kind of action plan, try it for a while, collect data and meet with you again after an appropriate period of time. At that point, if there has been no improvement, usually other staff (school psychologist, reading specialist, etc) are called on for support and planning.
It’s important to remember that you play an essential role in implementing support for your child. The school may suggests that you do certain things at home on a regular basis to reinforce their efforts with your child. Keeping open the avenues of communication and creating a positive working relationship with the school is one of the best ways to insure that your child receives the support and intervention that will move him forward.
Parents, most professionals realize you are worried and that it is not easy to take these steps. Keep in mind, however, that there are people committed to helping you and your child learn about the reading process and implement strategies that will boost not only your child’s academic progress, but also his confidence and ability to enjoy reading. I welcome your comments, questions and concerns. Good Luck!
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Does My Child Need Help? Ten Warning Signs of a Struggling Reader

red-flagRECOGNIZE THE PROBLEM 

As parents, we desperately want life to be joyful and problem-free for our children. It’s not always easy to address problems or uncomfortable situations. Obviously, the first step in helping your child become a more confident, proficient reader, is to recognize that he or she needs support. Many parents waiver when it comes to actually facing the fact that their child is not making adequate progress.  If you have the niggling feeling that additional reading support would boost your child’s progress, don’t wait. Like most problems, the sooner it is addressed, the easier it is to fix.
arrowTAKE ACTION
As many as forty percent of students experience reading problems at some point. Students can fall behind for a number of reasons and often a little extra support will get them back on track. It can be a fixable situation if you face it head-on and advocate for you child. Once students reach the intermediate grades, they become very adept at hiding their struggles so it’s important to look for red flags that indicate the need for intervention. If you recognize your child as you read this list of warning signs, take action.
 TEN WARNING SIGNS OF A STRUGGLING READER
1.  Your child doesn’t like to read.
2.   Your child “pretends” to read but can’t retell or remember details.
3.   Your child’s reading grades and standardized test scores are low.
4.   Your child is unable to read for a sustained period of time (20 minutes or more).
5.   Your child lacks expression when he/she reads and frequently miscues.
6.   Your child demonstrates or expresses a lack of confidence when reading.
7.   Your child struggles with written assignments.
8.   Your child always chooses short, easy books to read independently.
9.   Your child dislikes school and has a poor self-image when it comes to academics.
10.  You have to bribe, pressure or argue to get your child to read a book or complete a
       reading-related assignment.

Check out this article from Schlastic for additional information scholastic.com/…/how-to-know-if-your-child-needs-reading-intervention and see Monday’s post for specific steps you can take if you think your child would benefit from reading intervention. A problem shared is a problem cut in half. Feel free to share your questions and concerns.  Take heart, because there’s help available and most children make rapid progress once their specific needs are addressed.

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M-A-G-I-C Books Turn Kids into Readers

magic_book_by_caglarcity

 

Tale of a Magic Book

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the magic at work. It was well into October and one of my students had yet to finish a book. It was like he was allergic to reading. At the time, my own son was the same age and was immersed in reading The Fab Five, which recounted the tale of the famous Univerity of Michigan basketball team. I offered it to Donny and like magic, he finished it in no time flat. I still have the response letter he wrote to me, admitting that it was the first book he had ever finished in his life. Wow! It brought tears to my eyes. By the end of the year, Donny had finished another eight books, even ones that were not sports-related.

What is a Magic Book?

Over the years, many versions of that story have played out as I realized the power of connecting reluctant readers with a “Magic” book. By my definition, a Magic book is a book that will reel them in like no other, speak to their heart and remain in their mind as an example of the power and pleasure of reading.

How Do I Find A Magic Book?

There really is no magic formula, but here is an acronym that may help in your quest to find magic books for your child. At times, the quest can be daunting, but when you find the magic, it’s well worth it!

M – MOTIVATION: The book will have a strong appeal to the reader, inspiring him to open the pages.

A – ACCESSIBILITY: In educational lingo, an accessible book simply means that the reader is able to read and enjoy it with little or no support. Don’t rely on reading level alone to determine a book’s accessibility. Background knowledge, font size, pictures and other text supports, as well as motivation to read it, are all factors that help make a book accessible.

G – GENRE:  Short texts, magazines and read alouds can clue you in to what appeals to your child. Find great books in an appealing genre to whet your child’s appetite.

I – INTEREST:  Consider your child’s hobbies, struggles, unique situations or basically anything that gets to the core of who he/she is. Find related books and see what happens.

C – COMPREHENSION:  The ability to understand and follow the text is crucial if it’s going to be enjoyable.  Have your child read a page aloud and keep track of  words he is unable to identify. If it’s more than five, the book is probably too hard. After your child begins to read, check in with him. Can he retell the story, keep the characters straight, understand the background? Help clarify confusions to make the book go more smoothly and heighten the ease and pleasure of reading.

 

 

 

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Worried about your child’s reading?

parents-angry

After learning more about blogging and reflecting on how I can best serve readers of this blog, I’ve decided to direct posts to parents of children in Grade 4 through 7 who are reluctant readers or readers who need support to progress and keep up with their peers. I’ve decided to make these changes for two reasons. My own research reveals that resources for parents of children in grades four through seven are limited. As students advance to the intermediate grades, parents often have lots of questions but limited resources. Most of my experience as both a classroom teacher and reading specialist has been in these grades. It just makes sense for me to draw on that and share it with you.

Although many of the posts I’ve written and will write can benefit any parents hoping to boost their child’s literacy skills, in the future, I will specifically target parents of children requiring support and/or those aliterate readers who can read but simply don’t like to read! Look for solid information based on current research and best practices, strategies and ideas you can easily implement, book suggestions for you and your kids, answers to your questions and concerns and most importantly, encouragement.

In my thirty-three years of teaching, I’ve been privy to the heartache and frustration parents experience when their child struggles with reading. Many parents have openly shared their worries, frustration and discouragement. Although I recognize the challenge, I know that with the right interventions and support, the transformation from a struggling reader to a proficient one can occur. A parent’s support, coupled with know-how is a significant part of that process and will make a huge difference in a child’s life.

So as a New Year begins, my goal is to offer information and resources to anyone concerned about a child’s literacy development. My goal is to provide a place to vent, find answers, ease worries and learn tangible ways you can boost not only your child’s ability to read but  love of reading. My goal is to shine a light on a path to progress and proficiency for your child. If you have concerns about your child’s reading, if you are sick with worry and don’t know how to help, if you believe your child is not receiving the support he needs from school, if you don’t have a clue where to begin to find help, you are not alone. Help and a huge dose of hope are here. We’ll take it a step at a time and find a way to get your child on the road to success. 

 

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A Gift for You

Perhaps today will find you still in the throes of celebrating your holiday season or perhaps today will find you savoring a window of downtime.  Whatever your situation, I’m sending sincere wishes for special days and a wonderful year in 2018.

My gift to you is a sprinkling of titles that I’ve enjoyed throughout the year. Instead of book suggestions for the kids, here are some titles you can sink your teeth into now and beyond the holiday season. Hope you find something that will appeal to your appetite, provide a respite from the busy days and convince you that time spent with a good book is a valuable way to nurture your mind and soul, as well as serving as a model for the little people who have their eyes on you. Enjoy!

Books by Lisa Scottoline:  Every Fifteen Minutes, Damaged, What She Knew

Books by Liane Moriarty:  The Last Anniversary, Truly Madly Guilty, What Alice Forgot, Big Little Lies

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Irena’s Children by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler

Bear Town by Fredrik Backman

Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Although I’ve not posted of late, know that I’m planning for the new year and hope to offer you a variety of posts that will enhance  literacy in your home.

May it be a Happy, Healthy and Literate 2018!

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Perfect Gift for Baby

The last six weeks have been a special time in our family. On October 19th (same day as his father’s birthday) our youngest son and his wife welcomed their first child into the world. This little one is our tenth grandchild, our second grandson and the one who will possibly carry on the name. It’s been six years since we had a new grandchild and are again enjoying  the heady experience of having a newborn in our family. I could go on and on about the wonders and joys of this child, but I certainly don’t want to be that “bragging grandmom.”

For several months now, I’ve been stockpiling books for this little guy. Once again, my interest in early literacy is renewed and once again I’m researching literacy development in the first year of life, selecting “just right” board books, and considering enjoyable ways that I can use literacy to promote a strong bond with this special little lad and promote his literacy development during our times together. Lucky for him, his mother is also a teacher, both of his parents are avid readers and there’s no doubt in my mind that my efforts will simply support the rich environment they will establish for their child.

Since today is December 1st and most of us are peering at our gift lists trying to come up with unique ideas, I want to offer a suggestion for the youngest ones on our list. For those tiny tots, a magazine subscription is an excellent idea.  In a future post, I’ll discuss the many benefits of reading to a child during the first year of life and a subscription will encourage that practice. There are several excellent publications that are perfect for little ones. With the arrival of each magazine, baby will enjoy a collection of captivating, appropriate literature.

It will be a joy to shop for our youngest member this year and you can be sure that a magazine subscription will be among his gifts. I’ve check out several publications and found that most magazines written for babies include short stories (both fiction and non-fiction), lots of verse, appropriate activities that introduce a concept and bright pictures that capture baby’s attention. Baby Bug, Hello, ChickaDee and Chirp are all written for children in the early months of their first year. You can’t go wrong with the gift of literacy!

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Thanksgiving & Literacy, the perfect holiday pair

Enjoy this poem meant to honor family literacy month and try some of my suggestions for sharing literacy with your family.

You’ve read together or played a game.                                                                                            Suddenly, things aren’t quite the same.

There’s a closeness between your child and you.                                                                       Your bonds with each other feel strong and new.

Literacy is a bridge where families can gather                                                                               to read, write, and discuss things that matter.

Literacy is a light guiding the way.                                                                                                   Binding you together so you don’t stray.

Literacy is a gift that your family can share.                                                                           Make the time and show how much you care.

Three Suggestions for Family Literacy:

  1. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to hunt down great books about Thanksgiving and share them as a family.  May I recommend:                                                                                                                                                                                       Sarah Gives Thanks by Mike Allegra & David Gardner – This lovely books tells the story of Sarah Joseph Hale, a determined woman who spent many years campaigning for Thanksgiving to become a National Holiday. Family members will enjoy the watercolor pictures, learn more about this holiday and the importance of not giving up.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 This First Thanksgiving Day by Julie Markes beautifully highlights the many reasons for children today to be thankful. You may decide to read it aloud at dinner as a way to infuse the true spirit of Thanksgiving into your holiday.                                                                                                                                                                   Thanksgiving Jokes by Uncle Amon.  Most kids I know love to share jokes. This book provides great material for kids to read aloud and share the jokes with adults. Everyone will relish the laughs.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Thanksgiving Day at Our House, Thanksgiving poems for the very young by              Nancy White Carlstrom & R.W. Alley – The younger set will enjoy these clever, catchy poems about the holiday.

2. This is the perfect time of year to cook or craft with your family.  Enbed literacy by           having your child follow the directions and show you what to do.

3. “Tell us about” – Suggest that children write down what they would like family members to tell them about. For example, “Grandpop, tell us about your first job.” or “Aunt Sue, tell us about what high school was like for you.” When extended family or friends visit (or simply with your immediate family), pull a question and let someone answer your children’s burning questions. Speaking and listening are essential components of literacy. This is an enjoyable way to incorporate both.

 

 

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Celebrating National Family Literacy Month

No doubt, you are going about your business today, perhaps glad the excitement of Halloween is behind you and anticipating Thanksgiving as the next holiday. But, today is actually another important day to celebrate. November 1st marks National Family Literacy Day. In fact, the entire month celebrates National Family Literacy. It’s a good time to slow down and think about how you are encouraging literacy in your family.

Since 1994, when Congress passed a joint resolution designating November 1 as National Family Literacy Day, this date has kicked off events and celebrations through schools, libraries and communities encouraging family literacy.

So what is family literacy?  Family literacy is considered any activity that brings two or more generations together to engage in learning activities. The National Center for Families Learning is dedicated to that end. Consider the words of Sharon Darling, Founder and President of this organization:

“When parents and children come together to learn, relationships among family members, neighbors and communities are all strengthened. Educators and families across the country invest time—from hours to moments everyday—to learn together and make real-world connections that make learning stick, and last a lifetime. As we take National Family Literacy Month to reflect on the many successes and breakthroughs we’ve experienced with families learning together over the years, it’s easy to see that learning two generations at a time is a critical, worthwhile investment.”

Most parents and grandparents would agree but, not surprisingly, the difficult part seems to be finding the time to engage in family learning activities. Let’s pay attention to what Sharon says about investing time from hours to moments. It’s so easy to think that you need long blocks of time to make a difference. Truth is, you don’t. During the course of this month, I’ll share websites, short activities, short books and short games you can enjoy with family members. Please chime in with your own suggestions. Happy Family Literacy Day and Month!

SUGGESTIONS

  1. Check out this website:  familieslearning.org/…/national-family-literacy-month-resources
  2. Find an engaging picture book and read it as a family
  3. Word of the Day: Take turns choosing a new word each day of November. Teach it to other family members and try to incorporate it into your conversation.
  4. Make a game of finding little known facts about Thanksgiving to share during the holiday meal. Here’s a favorite Thanksgiving book of mine to get you started.

          1621 Thanksgiving

 

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