Raising a Reader

My kid is at that age where he and his peers are learning to read. Most have moved into basic chapter books, some have moved into full chapter books. My kid is struggling through the books just before basic chapter books. In short he is a bit behind. We’ve put in the time, he has put in the work, but my son still doesn’t enjoy reading. Currently I have him reading the Fly Guy books by Tedd Arnold. The best he can say about them is that he doesn’t hate them. I think he almost likes them, but he wishes he was reading something more like an early chapter book about detectives and super spies. He isn’t ready for those yet. I wish he was, but he isn’t.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about him not liking to read is that we have done all the ‘right’ things. We have done all the things the articles say to do if you want to ‘Raise a Reader’. We’ve always read him stories before bed and during the day. My husband and I read books both on our electronic devices and in paper copies. We keep magazines and books by our bed and at the end of his. My couch always has a small pile of books, and the dinning room table usually has to have a book or two removed before we can sit to eat. My kid can’t go to sleep without a bedtime story. He will even make up his own stories if someone else is willing to write them down for him.

We did all the ‘right’ things, but my kid isn’t a reader. He is an “I’ll only read if I absolutely can’t get out of it and you make me read” kind of reader. When other parents brag about ‘raising a reader’ I get a little jealous. They probably didn’t do anything more than I did. In many cases they have done much less! I’ve realized though that the problem isn’t that I did something wrong, it’s that I’m looking at it wrong. I can’t force my kid to love reading. I did all the right things, and while he isn’t a reader he is a lover of books, stories, and knowledge. Maybe it was the article title that was wrong. It shouldn’t be ‘How to raise a reader’, but ‘How to encourage your child to be love books’.

My kid loves books. He will sit and listen to us read to him for longer than I am up to reading out loud. He thrives on new facts and knowledge from non-fiction books and magazines. He will retell the story of our latest spy novel over the dinner table. He looks through Dwell magazine and points out the things he likes and the things he doesn’t. We have given him a love of books and learning, and I’ve finally realized that is even more important than a love of reading.

Do you have any young readers in your life? What books did they enjoy when they weren’t quite ready for early chapter readers?

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Teaching my Reluctant Reader

Popsicle stick word gameMy son is a reluctant reader. I actually feel like this term isn’t quite right. He is more like a “violently against anything that remotely resembles reading, ESPECIALLY if it has to be done out loud” reader. On a bad day I can spend 2.5 hours getting him to do ten minutes of reading. (these days we are down to 15 minutes of complaining before 15 minutes of work)

His reluctance for reading is particularly hard since we are a family of readers, and we did all the ‘right’ things. My husband and I read both electronic and paper books. We are both big fans of (over) researching new hobbies and skills both online and in library books. When my son was little we went to the library weekly (now it is every two weeks). We have always read him stories before bed. We read to him in the middle of the day when he has had too much TV, but we need to have a calm break. We have succeeded in giving him a love of books … as long as someone else is reading them to him.

Last summer I put in a lot of time teaching my son to read. He made great progress, but he was still behind. Over the course of the school year he made slow gains, but he never caught up. He is still about half a grade level behind. So we are back at our reading lessons this summer.

This year we are focusing on fluency more than getting to a higher reading level. So we are working on sight words, letter recognition, and of course just plain old reading practice. Here are a few things that are making our reading work a little less onerous this year:

  1. Fiddlesticks – He actually LIKES playing this game. We use about 35 words at a time from the dolch list and four red tipped sticks. We usually play for between 2-5 minutes. I write the words on with a black coloured pencil not a marker.
  2. Fly Guy books by Tedd Arnold – These are slightly below my sons reading level. They are perfect for fluency practice and read alone practice. Plus he doesn’t hate them (this is HIGH praise for a book he can read himself).
  3. The Alphabet – we have been practicing his printing (when we can since his dominant hand is currently in a sling). Before we start we always sing the alphabet while looking at our alphabet chart. I think part of his struggle to read is a lack of confidence about the alphabet.
  4. b d mouth formation – my son has a really hard time with b and d. He is fine with p now, and doesn’t struggle with n and m, but b d has been a real struggle. Teaching him about the mouth formation has not completely solved the problem, but when he is willing to use the trick he hasn’t gotten it wrong.

What early readers did/do your kids like? Do you have any other word games that might be a big hit?

Teaching my Son to Read

This summer I set out to teach my son to read. My goal is to have him enter grade 2 with a mid grade 1 reading level. The hope is that he will be caught up by the end of grade 2. I never thought I would have to take on teaching my kid to read. With struggles at school, and a switch from French to English, I find myself as the lead teaching him this important life skill. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I would have to help. But there is a big difference between reading books sent home from school, and designing and maintaining a program to get him reading.

During his last month of school, we started prepping for summer and increasing his work time each day. He and I agreed we would spend twenty minutes five-six days a week doing reading work (spelling, writing, reading, etc), plus he is expected to read one book each evening. We aim to read each book 2-4 times depending on how much practice is needed. He can’t read a book more than 4 times or he reverts to memorization not reading.

We are using the PM Readers because they are used by the school system here, and I can get them out of the library. This means they are easy to access and I know what level they expect him to be at for the end of primary, grade 1, and grade 2. He started in the middle of June at an early primary level. He is now 5 levels higher and about a quarter of the way through grade 1. He has been working hard and I’m thrilled with his progress.

Things I love about these books:

  • The levels have nice small gradation in difficulty.
  • Each book gives a list of important words at the start. I use these to help focus our other spelling and writing work.
  • The books are decently interesting considering the limited words available.
  • The same characters appear again and again. It’s fun to follow Josh through his different adventures.

Some of the games we play to help memorize words:

  • Word searches (I use this tool to make them)
  • A leapfrog game where we use chalk to draw a grid with letters and he hops between letters to spell words.
  • The Dice Game. We set 3 or 6 words and each time the dice is rolled he has to write out the word we set to that number. First one to 6 wins!
  • Sight Word BINGO. This is a big favourite right now.
  • I give him the letter tiles for three words and he has to spell the words using all the tiles.
  • Rewriting a word 2-4 times.

For each game he reads the word, does the activity, and says the word again. I tend to focus on 3-5 words per day (9 in the case of bingo, but I make sure half are ones he knows well). We also cover words multiple times. Overall we have managed to keep his interest in reading, and he has made significant progress. It helps that he already had a good grasp of phonics from all the work we have done previously.

I didn’t expected to be the one teaching my son to read. It has been a lot of work, but it is also very rewarding. A few days ago he read a book to my husband, and my husband couldn’t get over the progress he has made in just the last week.

Have you ever taught someone to read? Do you have any favourite game to learn to spell new words?