Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Power of the Paw

Good Morning readers, it is a cloudy Saturday morning here. I’m drinking some bitter coffee and the sounds of cartoons are playing joyfully in the background. I was thinking you might be wondering why I named my blog The Reading Dog.

Children need to be engaged in sustained reading. That is why we have programs like DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) thanks to the remarkable Jim Trelease, if you don’t know him check out his website: . Jim Trelease was not an educator he was a parent and school volunteer, who made significant contributions towards literacy instruction. I use one his quotes on the reading logs I send home to parents: “Students who read the most, read the best…” Trelease goes on to say, “achieve the most, and stay in school the longest. Conversely, those who don’t read much, cannot get better at it.” This seems like common sense but there is another quote I like to use, “Common sense isn’t too common.” Thanks mom, I don’t know the origin of that one I just heard it a lot growing up. And yes, of course, my mom is right.

Make reading a daily priority there is always a bit of time that can go towards reading. What if a child does not like to read? Make it fun. A simple way to do this is to make it special – this is the power of the paw let your child read to the family pet. Children will be more forthcoming at times with an animal than they might be with a person. If you don’t have a pet, let your child read to a stuffed animal. The whole point is to create a risk taker when it comes to learning how to read, “Students who read the most, read the best…” Make a special corner in your house, where a child can be in charge - be the reader, and tell the author’s stories. One more important piece to this is that the book the child reads needs to be a “just right” book. A “just right” book follows the three-finger rule. It used to be the five-finger rule, but the latest research from Allington (2006), asserts that if there are three or more words on a page that the child cannot decode the book is too difficult for independent reading, unless it is of extremely high interest to the reader. Tell the child to put down one finger on the page for each word that they cannot read if the child can read a page with less than three errors it is a just right book. Setup a little timer and be sure to reward the reader with your praise and interest when that special time is through. Once you find a “just right book” allow for rereading of the book. Rereading is an excellent way to increase comprehension, fluency, an confidence – it’s not cheating.

Teachers can do this in the classrooms as well. Setup a bean chair or tent put a big old stuffed dog in there with a tape recorder. It can be an incentive, who gets to read with Francine the Reading Dog today? Children will be clamoring to get into that spot and be the reader. Later you can listen to the tape to check on fluency. Go on to create a post reading activity setup a mailbox and ask children to write a friendly letter to Francine the Reading Dog. In their letters, they can tell her their favorite part of the book, or describe their wonder page (I wonder why…), really it’s only limited to the imagination. For those reluctant writers a way to differentiate is to draw a picture and label things.

The sun is out and now my cup is empty. So you know why this blog is The Reading Dog, because it has to be fun – it has to appeal to the ones who count the most. I want to leave you with ten rules for reading. This came from an article I read from the Reading Teacher (Litt, D 2007 pg 570-581). Besides appealing to children, we need to use language that is easy for them to understand and more importantly put to use. It has been my experience that these rules can really make a difference. Try them let me know what you think.

The rules
1. You can't make it up. That's pretend reading. Little kids do that sometimes, but in real reading you are only allowed to say the words you see on the page.
2. Reading is always supposed to make sense.

3. If what you're reading doesn't make sense, it's your job (as the reader) to Figure out what was wrong and fix it.

4. The words count more than the picture. If the picture seems to be saying one thing, but the words are saying something else, go by the words.

5. If you see a word you know, you have to say that word. You can't say something else just because you think the book should say that. When you read, the letters are the boss.

6. If you see a part of a word you know (we sometimes call these bits “chunks”), you have to say that bit when you get to it. For example, if you see un in punch, read un when you get to it. You can't read push, pitch, pinch, or anything else, even if it makes sense, because when you see the un you have to say un.

7. You always have to read from left to right; this way [slide finger left to right]. No exceptions. There is no to in got because you always have to read from left to right [sliding]. Reading from right to left, even for just part of a word, is against the rules.

8. You can't change the order of the letters. Form is not the same as from and spot is different from stop because you always read from left to right and you can't change the order of the letters.

9. You're only allowed to make sounds for letters you see. You're not allowed to make sounds for a letter you don't see.

10. You're not allowed to ignore letters in words. All the letters have a job to do. Sometimes a letter's job is to be silent. Sometimes a letter is working together with other letters, but you're not allowed to ignore any of the letters.

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