The book fair was all Scholastic books, which meant that some of the money we raised went to buy books for the school, which is great. However, it means that this list is specific to Scholastic books – that’s still a pretty wide range. But still.
Singing helps children learn to read
When my son was little, our life was a musical. If I could sing something rather than say it, I would. “We’re… puttin’ our shoes now, tying up the laces, goin’ to the park!” (to the tune of Top Hat, White Tie and Tails). “Let’s cross… to the sunny side of the street!”
I also frequently sang another ditty: “A says ah, A says ah. Every letter makes a sound; A says ah!” And I’d get him to join in. “B says… what?” “Buh!” “Right! B says buh. B says buh. Every letter makes a sound. B says buh!”
I’m not a spokesperson for LeapFrog, just a fan. It was their fridge magnet toy (which we didn’t even own – another friend had one) that taught me this catchy tune. It helped my son to learn the sounds the letters make. And that’s a huge step towards reading.
Singing has major teaching benefits. For one thing, you’re happy while you’re singing, and fun and passion always aid understanding. And facts that are sung are much more easily memorized. Singing also creates synapses in the brain, so you’re really doing two things at once – learning and increasing the capacity to learn.
I’m going to ask the LeapFrog people if they can send me a music file so you can hear the fridge magnet song. I don’t know how to post a music file, so I’m a bit scared of that. But I’ll do it for literacy.
If your child is a kinesthetic learner – he learns by touching and doing rather than by seeing or hearing – here are some great ideas.
Use letters made from blocks, cards, fridge magnets or Scrabble tiles.
Toss seven large letters (blocks, or wooden cut-outs) in the pool. Have him dive for them and make a word when he surfaces. Don’t worry about how many dives it takes – let him just have fun.
In the bath, toss in a handful of foam letters. It probably won’t be long before he starts making words that float around him!
Toss a handful of Scrabble tiles into a large bowl of rice. As he digs for the letters, he has to try and make words with them.
Play word games like Scrabble, “scramble” (online), or Word Thief (board game). Simplify the rules so it’s more about making words and less about beating the other person.
If you’re giving your child letters to make a word, look at them first. Make sure there are Es and As, and simple consonants like Ms, Ss and Ts. Consider adding in a “wildcard” that can be used for any letter.
Libraries don’t have to cost a lot of money.
Here are some tips:
1) Renew your books online. When your deadline is approaching, go online using your library card, and hit “renew” for all your books. It buys you some time.
2) If your books are overdue, renew them online anyway. It stops the bleeding until you can get to the library.
3) Use your child’s card. Library fines are a lot cheaper for children than adults. So take out materials on a child’s card whenever possible.
4) Have a separate basket for library books. Our son’s is at the foot of his bed. Library books automatically go in there, so we’re never scrambling to find them amongst his other books.
5) Post the due-date tape near the front door. The library gives you a printout with your due dates. Hang it where you’ll see it often.
You did get your child a library card, didn’t you? If not, take him to the library and help him get his own card. When he checks out his first book, I guarantee you a parenting moment you’ll never forget.
Have you taught your child how to read a newspaper?
I don’t mean the words themselves. I mean how a newspaper works. What a headline is. Where the author’s name is, and how to tell what’s happening in the pictures. Where does the rest of the article go off the front page? Why are there sections? And how to use the index to find the comics (very important).
This kind of information is crucial to a newspaper reader, because it helps you understand what to read, what you should skip, and what you can skim. It helps put the images in context. For instance, the same photo on the front of the Style section, and the front of the News section would have very different meanings.
Beginning readers need to know that they don’t have to (and shouldn’t) read every word of the newspaper. They need to understand what advertisements are vs. articles, what headlines and subheads are for, and how to tell which article goes with which picture.
You wouldn’t do this all at once, of course. Even a thirty-second explanation could have a huge impact. Let’s say you’re reading the paper in the morning and your child is eating her breakfast. Why not take the section that would be most interesting to her, and point out an article. Show her the headline, and the photo, and tell her what’s happening in the article.
Thirty seconds. That may be all she needs to get started – and curious. And curiosity creates amazing readers.
Newspapers are great because there’s something for everyone. You child might enjoy the sports section, the comics, the main news, or fashion. Just keep them away from any articles that could be too scary – like in the business section.
I’m reading Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, by Maryanne Wolf, a researcher who explains, among other things, how the brain learns to read.