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?

What I’m Reading

Most of my reading lately has been either for, or to, my son. I’ve been reading him a lot of early reader Star Wars books, early chapter books, and listening to him read books with titles like “Harry and the Robot”. I love listening to him read and I enjoy reading to him, but even more I’ve been missing reading books to and for myself.

Last night I managed to break away for a few minutes at the library to find myself a few books. I didn’t bother trying to find recommendations, or even look for my favourite authors. I didn’t have time for that! But I did have time to glance through the shelves looking for any sci fi or fantasy titles covers that caught my attention.

Before I went to sleep last night I started reading “Mortal Engines” by Philip Reeve. It’s basic premise is that the we have destroyed the world and the people left are living in large steampunk style moving cities and towns. I’m only a few chapters in, but enjoying it so far. Hopefully it will kick off my reading for the rest of summer.

What are you reading these days?

Jump-starting my Writing

I haven’t been writing much … or at all really. I haven’t been reading much … or at all really either. I have a lot of (good) reasons for not reading and writing. Things were busy and stressful at work and at home, I was sick, I’m just not motivated, and I don’t have time. Some of those excuses have improved, and some I just need to learn to live around.

Since setting a schedule to write hasn’t been working so well, I called in reinforcements. I have a writing afternoon planned with friends later this month. I also sent out a call for a writing get together before that one. I know from experience that once I start writing again that carrying on writing gets easier. Having a few friends around to word war with or talk out ideas and stumbling blocks will get my fingers flying across the keyboard.

As for the reading thing, well I have some books on hold at the library and I’m just waiting for them to show up.

Have you been writing lately? Have any books you’ve loved lately?

The Books that Shaped Me

I wasn’t a reader as a kid. In fact I really struggled learning to read. I hated it because it was hard. It didn’t help that I was behind due to being in another province for several months of my primary year. I spent years being the kid who had to work with the resource teacher a few times a week.

It wasn’t until early university that I discovered a love of reading for fun. I’m very sure it wasn’t a matter of not being exposed to books before that. My father, in particular, was a lover of books. He read fiction, non-fiction, magazines, books, and newspapers. It wasn’t lack of exposure. I watched my Dad read regularly, I knew my Mom read before bed, and I was taken to the library frequently. My parents read to me before bed, and at other times.

I started reading a little bit in Jr. High and High School of my own free will. In Jr. High I started reading all the Nancy Drew books in my school library, but that had more to do with it being something to do that made me look busy over lunch than anything else. In high school I decided to read my way through all the books my parents and others had bought me over the years that I hadn’t been interested in. Books like the entire Narnia series, A few Hardy Boys, The Zucchini Warriors, and Twin Spell. I know there were others, but those are the ones that stand out for me.

The two books that really made me a reader though were Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, and Bitten By Kelley Armstrong. Harry Potter was fun, fast, and light. Bitten was adult urban fantasy. Both made me want to read MORE. It also didn’t hurt that I start dating my husband in early University and he reads at least a hundred books a year. He also loved to introduce me to new authors and genres. Without him, Harry Potter, and Bitten I might not be a reader at all.

Do you read for fun? What first made you want to read all the time?

Why did I Read that Book?

Over the last few weeks I have been re-watching Alias. When I hit the second season and many of my favourite Vaughn and Sydney moments I remembered an old Roswell fic I’d loved with a small crossover into Alias. I couldn’t get it out of my head, so for the last two days I’ve been rereading the fic. It got me thinking about why I read what I read.

Why I read new to me books
Most new books I read because I love the author, they were recommended by a friend, or I’m curious about the source material for a movie or TV show. Sometimes I find a review online through goodreads or amazon, but for the most part I prefer recommendations from people I know in real life.

Why I reread old favourites
I don’t reread a lot of books. Partially I think this is because there is only so much time and there are so many good books to read. It also boils down to if I am going to reread a book I have to really love it.

Very occasionally I will reread a book because the final book in a series is coming out and I want to review everything that happened. A perfect example of this is the year the final Harry Potter came out. I spent almost a month before it was released rereading the entire series. More often than not I will find a summary of the previous books online to refresh my memory before diving into the newest installment.

When I bought my first ebook reader I remember wanting the first book I read on it to be something I loved. I reread “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen because it is a deceptively complex classic love story. I love how after you’ve read it the first time you can see how precisely she sets up the different plot points in advance.

When my father died, a few years ago, I struggled to get back to reading. I pulled out some of my old favourites and skimmed through them only reading the ‘good’ bits. Books like “The Last Dragonlord” by Joanne Bertin, and even the first Rowell book by Melinda Metz. I also binge watched several seasons of “How I met your Mother” including the episode where Marshall’s father dies.

Sometimes I will reread books because something reminds me of them, like the Roswell fic I’m rereading because of the Alias crossover. When this season of Bitten, the TV show is over I will likely go back and reread the book by Kelley Armstrong to get the story straight in my head again. I sometimes pull out Harry Potter because I want something fast, easy, and satisfying. I have books I rely on when I’m sad, and books I rely on when I can’t sleep.

How do you decide what books to read? Do you ever reread books? What makes you pick up a book for a second time?

Book Recs – The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

Book: The Rithmatist
By: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: YA

What it’s about: The main character, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatist’s are this worlds magic users. They use chalk to draw lines and creatures which can protect and attack other people by moving along floors, walls, and ceilings. Joel lives on the campus of the prestigious Armedius Academy where he watches as other students who have passed the test learn to become Rithmatists.

Why I read it, and why you should too: I had heard of Brandon Sanderson before, but I had never read anything by him. I think it was mostly a case of I read a lot of YA and he usually writes adult books. My husband is a big fan of his and recommended this book to me after he finished it. Since my husband is usually right when he says I will love a book I gave it a shot.

I loved this book! The magic system (I know, I know Brandon Sanderson writes amazing magic systems, but this was my first book by him) was interesting and a lot of fun. I enjoyed the characters and their development. The story also wrapped up well, but left me with plenty of questions for the next book in the set.

After reading this book I also started going through the Write about Dragons lectures. I have learned so much from watching those videos and I am still only about halfway through them. I can’t wait to see what else I learn as they continue forward.

Book Recs – Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Book: Leviathan
By: Scott Westerfeld
Genre: Steampunk
Audience: YA

What it’s about: Prince Aleksander is on the run from his own countrymen. He crosses paths with Deryn Sharp (a commoner) who disguises herself as a boy in the British Air Service. This book is the first in a trilogy that covers this pairs round the world adventures.

Why I read it, and why you should too: I read this book because I was desperate for something to read and it was sitting in my study. I had read and loved The Midnighters series by Scott Westerfeld many years ago. It made sense to give this title a go.

It took me a little while to get into this book. Once I got over that initial bump though I was on the hunt for the second and third books so I wouldn’t have to pause between them. The action is fairly constant without a lot of repetition. The differences in technology for the two sides of the war (the British and the Germans) are interesting and well thought out.

Perhaps my favourite part of all the books was the mini history lessons at the end. The author talks about the ways he has changed the world for this series beyond the obvious machine and animal technologies he has invented. Once you get into this book you won’t stop until you have read the entire trilogy.

Have you read Leviathan? Did you read it all in one sitting or over a few days?

Book Recs – Shadowland by Meg Cabot

Book: Shadowland
By: Meg Cabot
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: YA

What it’s about: This is the first book in Meg Cabot’s Mediator series. The main character is Suze, a teenage mediator. Suze’s mother has just remarried, so Suze has moved to a new house, new blended family, and new school. Because she can see ghosts she hates old buildings (this is where ghosts hang out).

Why I read it, and why you should too: I think I read this book because it was a recommendation in an article for those who liked the Roswell books by Melinda Metz. Lets just say I read these long enough ago that they were still under Meg Cabot’s pen name at the time.

The books are short and quick to read. I love the story between Suze and Jesse, the ghost who lives in her house. Suze is also a kick butt heroine. She doesn’t always go with the flow, and is even known to embarrass herself socially (not on purpose). As a somewhat socially awkward person her ability to do the wrong thing and keep her head held high appeals to me. If you are looking for a light YA supernatural story with a romance, this book is for you.

As an added bonus a new adult release for this series is set to come out in February of next year.

Have you read any of Meg Cabots’ books? What was the last book you read and loved?

Book Recs – The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Book: The Raven Boys
By: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: YA

What it’s about: Blue Sargent, while not a psychic, comes from a family of psychics. Her mother, and all the other psychics in her life, have told her that one day she will find her true love. Unfortunately it is also foretold that if she kisses her true love, he will die.

Why I read it, and why you should too: I read this book because I am a fan of other titles by the author. This one caught my attention because the premise is both simple and gloriously complex. It kept my attention because of the characters. Blue lives in a smaller town that happens to be the home of an elite boarding school for boys. At the beginning of the novel she befriends four boys who go to that school. The rest of the book follows the five friends as they work to complete a quest. As expected there is a romantic side to this tale, but there is also a fun mystery and several good plot twists to keep things interesting.

Have you read The Rayen Boys? Did you enjoy it, or do you have another book you would recommend in its place?

Books for 6-9 Year old Boys

My son doesn’t have the reading level to read books to himself yet. He is still in the early reader phase, but he loves when we read him chapter books. Below are four of my favourite book series for young boys. I chose to focus on books that are part of a series for this post because once you find a series the kid likes it is easy to find more books to read.

1.) Jack Stalwart Series by Elizabeth Singer Hunt
Jack is a nine year old boy, who also happens to be a secret agent for the Global Protection Force (GPF). These books take the reader on adventures all over the world. Jack always uses the neatest gadgets to meet his goals. There are fourteen books in this series and we just finished the last one. A great series for a kid who likes gadgets and who wants to travel.

2.) Hardy Boys Secret Case Files by Franklin W. Dixon
I picked up the first book in this series because I was a big fan of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew when I was younger. I wanted to share that with my son, but he isn’t old enough for them yet. These books follow Frank and Joe Hardy when they are in elementary. They solve mysteries around their neighbour hood and at school. We have also read him books from the Nancy Drew Clue Crew series.

3.) Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne
No list for early chapter books would be complete without talking about the Magic Tree House books. Everyone I talk to recommends these as a great introduction to chapter books. Jack and Annie find a tree house filled with books. The tree house is magic and allows them to travel through time and space. My son loves going on adventures with Annie and Jack.

4.) The Bailey School Kids Jr by Marcia Thornton Jones and Debbie Dadey
We tried the regular Bailey School Kids books with my son, but he found them scary. I don’t think most kids his age would have a problem, but he tends to be more sensitive than most. The Jr ones are perfect for him though. They follow kids in the second grade and are silly instead of scary. I also love the big text and number of pictures. We plan to use these as his first chapter books when he is ready to start reading them on his own.