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
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.