Archive for category: Successes

Fun, active (and profitable!) literacy game

Dollar_sign_(reflective_metallic); from Wikimedia CommonsMy niece told me about a game that her friend’s mom used to set up to get her kids more interested in reading.

She would scatter letters around the room. Each letter had a price on it.

“Easier” letters like E might be worth a penny or five cents, whereas “harder” letters like Q or Z might be worth a quarter.

(Are you seeing where this is going?)

The kids would run around the room, collecting the letters; they would then put them together into words or phrases.

Then they’d add up the “money” they’d earned and… cash them in, using their parents as the bankers.

My niece said the game succeeded in making her friend much more interested in words and in reading.

And, presumably, in banking.

Here’s another case in which a mom successfully bribed her daughter into reading.

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How to build reading success

Could this be Snappy the mouse?
Well, no, I made him up.
But if there was a mouse named Snappy,
this would be him. In a bi-plane.
Image: by Dvortygirl.

Here’s a great way to help your child succeed at reading and at the same time develop a love of books… and it starts with one word.

When you’re reading with your child, point out a word or two and help him to memorize it. Every time the child reads that word—and can read that word—he’ll feel successful. And that’s when you praise the heck out of him.

Here’s how it would look
ME: This is a book about a mouse named Snappy. Look at that name, “Snappy.” See the big S at the front? It’s like a snake, isn’t it? How many letters does Snappy’s name have—let’s count them. Six! What else does Snappy’s name have?

KID: Two of these letters. (pointing).

ME: That’s right! Snappy’s name has two ps! And do you know this letter? (Pointing to the y.)

OK, so now the child will recognize that if there’s a word with two ps and a capital S and a y, it’s likely to be “Snappy.”

You’ve shifted his focus from all of the grey text in the book, to looking for just one little word. And you’ve chosen a word that will come up a lot in the book, so there will be lots of successes.

And now as you’re reading out loud, pause whenever the word “Snappy” is in the text. And you know who’s going to read that word? (Right!) The kid.

The first couple of times you’ll pause and point to the word, and maybe point out the capital S and the ps with your finger. And then look pointedly at the child, as if waiting… for… him… to… say…

KID: Snappy!

ME: Good one! That’s right! There’s that word: Snappy! Nice job. I wonder if it’s in here again…

And sure enough, the second time you pause, he’ll notice the capital S and call out, “Snappy!” And you’ll both be delighted. And the next time it will happen faster, and the next time you won’t even have to pause at all.

It will become seamless, like this:

ME: One day when (child: Snappy!) was in his bedroom, his mother called to him. (child: Snappy!) she called. Oh, (child: Snappy!). Come down and eat your dinner!

And then later in the week, the child will see the word in some other context, in another book or in an ad (Snapple) and he’ll be so proud that he knows that word.
Is he sounding out the word using phonics? No, he’s memorizing it by its shape and a couple of cues. And memorizing is an important part of learning to read, especially in the beginning.
But more than that, your child has taken ownership of a word. He’s taken ownership of a book with “his” word in it. He has learned that he can read something, and he’s been successful.

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Teen says reading helped save him

Haille Bailey-Harris is an amazing teenager.
His mom helped him get on the right path,
in part by nurturing his love of reading.

An incredible success story

In the Globe and Mail‘s coverage of “boys and education” this week, a very moving column by a boy named Haille Bailey-Harris caught my attention.

He’s a 16-year-old high school student, and he’s determined not to become one of the statistics the Globe has been writing about – boys who don’t do well in school and don’t go on to university.

He’s an amazing kid. Just Googling him for this article uncovers a whole series of articles he’s had published in major newspapers. Clearly, he has brains, initiative and goals (including arguing a case before the Supreme Court and publishing a book). I have no doubt he will achieve his goals.

However, it wasn’t always like that. The deck was stacked against him from day one. He hasn’t seen his father in 10 years – he’s being raised by his mother alone; he’s an avid video gamer; and he’s dark-skinned. He was bullied in school, full of anger and got into lots of trouble.

As he says in his column, “according to the research, I should be failing in school, a non-reader and basically a loser… hell, I should just throw in the towel!”

Instead, his mother intervened. She developed a plan with his school’s principal, and it worked.

I’ll direct you to his beautifully written Globe column for the whole story, but basically, here’s the plan that worked for him:

1) Find other role models. Teachers, relatives – both male and female.

2) Create a community family. For instance, Big Brothers and Big Sisters provided him with a mentor.

3) Nurture a love of reading. “Instead of banning me from video games, my mom got me games that also required me to read (like Pokemon) and encouraged me to get books (even comics) that interested me. Gradually, I wanted to read books and, eventually, I wanted to read everything, all the time.”

4) Do community service. He and his mom volunteer at the public library and a homeless shelter.

His “battle plan,” as he calls it, helped him realize that he had potential, “as do all children, no matter what the circumstances.” He tried harder in school, found better friends and, “suddenly, before I realized it, my life was right-side up.”

Now that’s a great success story.

The column Haille wrote touches on a couple of themes that I’ve been espousing for a long time. First, that parents can offset poor schooling, bad teachers, lack of resources and just about any obstacle that stands between a kid and the love of reading. Parents can accomplish just about anything. And second, that no matter what a boy wants to read – embrace it! Haille was reading Pokemon video games, for crying out loud. He says he’s now “a happy, well-adjusted 16-year-old who really loves to read.” Lots of people say that boys need to choose their literature carefully and shouldn’t read “just anything.” Haille and I disagree.

I couldn’t find a copyright-free picture of Haille Bailey-Harris and I wanted to show you what he looks like, because this is his story. Haille, if you object to me using this photo (which I found on then let me know and I’ll take it down. But I hope you don’t – because people need to know you.

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Keeping kids reading

My son reads a lot.

Erm… well, he used to.

It appears that I’ve been resting on some laurels that have deserted me while I was looking the other way. (To use an overly complicated metaphor.)

Over the summer, I started to notice that my son has been playing more video games and going to bed later and reading less and less.

What got me thinking about it was a book I picked up recently that had a chapter entitled, “Good readers: How to keep your child reading.”

I realized that I have been assuming that once he became a good reader, my son would always turn to books. And now I think that isn’t necessarily the case. The bond between a boy and his books might actually be more tenuous than I thought.

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that lately video games, baseball and TV have been winning – and books are going unread. Like, for weeks.

So here’s what I did. First of all, I started reinforcing a more normal bedtime. I told my son when he has to be “in bed,” and when he has to be “asleep.” There’s a half-hour difference in those times – and that’s for reading. So he goes to bed before he’s completely exhausted and then he gets half an hour to read.

Next, I asked him why he’s not enjoying reading. It turns out he been waiting for the next book in the series he’s working on (Macdonald Hall by Gordon Korman). It was sold out at our local bookstore and no one had gotten it for him for his birthday. So he’s been waiting.

We could have ordered it online, but when you only buy one book you have to pay shipping, so we tracked it down and then went really, really far to a bookstore that had it. And we bought it for him. All of that seemed a bit crazy at the time, but it paid off: he started reading the book in the car on the way home. Sha-zam!

The third thing I did was start reading to him at bedtime again. As he’d begun reading more and more by himself, I realized I’d been reading to him less and less frequently. My husband bought another book by Gordon Korman (Who is Bugs Potter?), and I started reading that to my son out loud – while he was in the bath. I took advantage of a captive audience, I admit it – but again, it worked. Who is Bugs Potter? is a pretty awesome book. (I’ll blog about it soon.)

It piqued his interest and now I’m happy to report that my son is reading again. A lot.

I figure we’re good until he runs out of the Macdonald Hall books and finishes Bugs Potter. So Rick Riordan, if you’re reading this, could you please hurry up and finish the next book in the Kane Series? Type, darn you! Type!

I’ve got tons of stuff I want to blog about in the upcoming weeks… great books. A few products I’ve ordered from Hasbro that look like they’d be great at promoting literacy. Some research I’ve been reading up on. The results from that study we all took part in. And I’m hoping for a few more articles by Julia. So stay tuned!

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Mom got her son reading!

Great news. Remember the mom from the Oct. 1 post?

Well, she has done an amazing job and in just one short week, her son is now picking up books and reading more.

She says she went right home and got out a selection of books in subjects that interested her son. She put some on the coffee table, one or two on her son’s bed, and scattered others throughout the house. Her husband saw the books in the living room, and started flipping through them. Before she knew it, her son had joined him and they were both sitting there reading.

Not only that, but the other day she was wondering why it was taking her son so long to get ready for his bath. She thought, “What the heck’s taking him so long?” And then she realized – he was up there reading. Something he wouldn’t have done before.

She also tried out the Hide-a-Kiss idea, and said it was really fun, and it worked.

Congratulations to another super reading-friendly family – way to go!

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Nancy’s Book of Poems

You may remember Nancy, from our Sept. 18 post. She’s the little girl who wasn’t terribly keen on reading.

Her mom and I discussed getting her to write about something she’s interested in.

Well, Nancy and her mom took the idea and ran with it! We’re pleased to present her first-ever book of poetry.

Here’s a sample of one of her wonderful poems:

The leaves are falling
It’s almost winter
And I see you
In the trees

I look outside
And all I can see
is flying leaves

So rest your head
On the pillow
It’s time to go to bed
Throw the blanket
Over your head

She wrote four other poems as well, and illustrated them. And, she’s been reading them out loud to her mom.

Her mom plans on getting the book cerlox bound (after first taking a colour photocopy). Nancy’s school has an incredibly supportive librarian, who lets children put their books into the school’s circulation system, with a bar code and everything, so other kids can check it out.

Way to go Nancy, and her incredible mother!

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