Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Shared Reading With Your Tiny Reader

In preschool and kindergarten classrooms, "shared reading" is a method that teachers often use to introduce young children to concepts about print and the beginning stages of reading on their own.

Essentially, shared reading is when you and a child (or group of children) read a book together.  The book is read over and over again so that the child becomes so familiar with the how the story goes that she can chime in and "read" along with you. (So make sure to pick really fun books!) Usually we use short, predictable texts so that it's easy for the child to learn how the words go, making it fun and enjoyable to read along with you, matching her voice to each word you point to.

Little L. and I have been doing a lot of shared reading lately, using short, easy, beginner reading books--the kind that you would see in almost any pre-k, kindergarten, or first grade classroom.

We love the Brand New Readers Series. I use these little books often in my work as a literacy consultant, and it's exciting to see how much Little L. loves them!

There are tons of different characters to choose from in this series. Here are a few of our favorite characters from Brand New Readers. There are numerous titles for each character, so you and your child get to read about Monkey, or Mouse, or Worm in many stories, not just one :

Shared reading involves lots of rereading, which is great because it allows you to focus on something different each time you read the book.  Usually the first time through, I read it just like I would read aloud any other book, only I do make sure to point to the words, and I use my voice to make the pattern stand out.

The second time through I continue to point to the words, and I also might let my voice trail off so that Little L. can fill in the missing words. She looks in the picture, and she knows how the pattern goes, so she's able to figure out the words I leave out. Substituting and filling in words that make sense is an important first phase in learning to read! 

I've been keeping L.'s shared reading books in a special bag on her bookshelf next to her bed. We read 2-3 of these before her regular bedtime stories, which are usually longer storybooks or a few chapters from a chapter book. She loves that she gets to have a few extra books before bed, and they're so short that it only extends bedtime by a few minutes. As we reread our books, over time, Little L. chimes in more and more, and eventually she points to the words and "reads" the whole thing herself!

Some parents will ask me, "But aren't they just memorizing it? That's not really reading is it?" Well, yes and no. When your child knows exactly how the book goes, he or she is able to put together many reading skills at once:  using the picture to figure out what's happening on that page, pointing to one word at a time, making sure to say words that match what's happening on the page, turning one page at a time, reading with expression… and much more. All of these skills can come together somewhat easily when your child knows the story, even when they might not be able to practice these skills at all on "cold read." 

For more on shared reading with young kids, I recommend the book Read It Again!: Revisiting Shared Reading by Brenda Parkes.

And if you're more of a researcher type, you should check out Don Holdaway's work (he's known to many as the guru of shared reading). Here's a link to a lovely youtube video that nicely summarizes some of his work.

Happy Shared Reading!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

This Is Just To Say: A Story Told Through A Poem by Indigo, the Dog

Each Tuesday my colleagues and I at the blog Two Writing Teachers host a Slice of Life Story event. Teachers, students, and writers from all over the world share a short, focused story from a small moment in their own lives. See more Slices by clicking here.

Little L. and I read this book over and over again.
She decorated this gingerbread house all by herself.
"Nobody is allowed to touch this. Not even you, mommy."

This is Just to Say
a poem by Indigo, the dog

I have eaten
the gumdrops
that were decorating
the gingerbread house

and which
you were probably
so proud of
having done it all by yourself

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so delicate

Guilty doggy!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Little L. waits by the window for her cousin, Little J., to arrive.

Little L. had her seat pulled right up next to the window so that she could wait and watch for her cousin, Little J. to arrive. As soon as their car pulled into our driveway she jumped out of her chair shouting, “He’s here! He’s here! He’s here!” She ran around in little circles of excitement.

Little J., and his dad, Uncle J. walked in the front door, said hello, and Little L. promptly whisked her older cousin downstairs to our playroom, where all the toys are. I followed them downstairs to get them set up, and a few minutes later the dads joined me as well.

The two cousins couldn’t be better playmates. Little L. (who is four) usually just does whatever her older cousin (who is five) wants to do. She followed Little J. as he went from toy to toy, trying to decide what to do first. “Do you want to play grocery store again?” Little L. asks. Her little voice is so sweet—all three adults look at each other acknowledging the cuteness of the moment. “No thanks,” says Little J.

A few minutes later, Little J. still can’t decide what to play with, so we all go upstairs to the living room, where we keep the Legos and the board games. Little J. loves board games. Little L. loves Legos.

Little J. goes straight to the cupboard where we keep the board games, while Little L. drags out the big plastic storage container of Legos. The Legos are heavy for her, but she manages alright. She’s so occupied with dragging the Legos across the room that she barely notices that Little J. and Uncle J. have already started to play Dino Bump—a favorite board game in our house.

Little L. sees what they’re doing and suddenly melts down. “Hey, I wanted to play that!” she shouts.

Whoa. Where did the sweet little friend from two minutes ago disappear to? I think to myself.

“Mommy! J. has my Dino Bump and I wanted to play with that! He can’t play with it! I want to!”

I respond calmly. Usually L.'s outbursts pass as quickly as they come. “L., when we have friends over they can play with all of our toys.When you go to J.’s house you get to play with all of his toys, too, right?”
This wasn’t helping. Little L. went from Level 1 or 2 meltdown to a 5 or 6. Now she was shouting and crying, demanding the Dino Bump game in the bossiest sounding four year old voice possible. I wound up taking her into the other room to try and have a “cool down” with her. We don’t really do timeouts in our house, but we do remove L. from the situation when she has a tantrum, to let her blow of some steam. Usually she starts to come back to life as soon as we’re in a different room—but this time she wasn’t giving up. Her shouting just got louder and more angry. I had a feeling that if I could leave her on her own for a few minutes she might calm down, but each time I got up to move away, she grabbed on to me. “Don’t leave me Mommy!” Me, nine months pregnant and counting, unable to pick her up, with back pain making it so I was barely able to sit down next to her—I was at my wit’s end. Let’s just say it wasn’t my best parenting moment. Eventually Dad B. swooped in (thank goodness), picked her up, carried her up to her bedroom, and waited with her while she cooled off for a minute.  It was Little J. who went upstairs a few minutes later to her bedroom to invite her to come join us—and she did.


Fifteen or twenty minutes later, Little L. and Little J. were playing happily in the playroom downstairs.  They pulled out all the dress-up clothes and got busy pretending. L. dressed up as “Clara from the Nutcracker” which was really a dress, fairy wings, a crown, and a veil. Little J. was dressed as  dragon – he wore the head from L.’s dragon Halloween costume, polka-dot velvet gloves, more fairy wings, and a scarf. They had been play-acting for a stretch while Dad B. and I were upstairs getting dinner ready. As we were chopping carrots and onions, we heard the sounds of giggling, and roaring, and storytelling.  We also heard music from the playroom drift up to the kitchen. I had put on a CD of kids music earlier.

You can’t always get what you wa-nt.
You can’t always get what you wa-nt

L. and J. were singing along to it. Ha. Of course they would sing along to this song of all songs! The cutest thing you have ever heard in your life is a four year old and her five year old cousin singing along to a kid-version of the Rolling Stones classic (The Randy Kaplan version, if you must know). Us grown-ups froze in our spots and listened to the two kiddos singing at the top of their lungs.

You can’t always get what you wa-nt.
But if you try sometime
You just might find
You get what you need.

Each Tuesday my colleagues and I at the blog Two Writing Teachers host a Slice of Life Story event. Teachers, students, and writers from all over the world share a short, focused story from a small moment in their own lives. See more Slices by clicking here.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Little L. Reads Her First Books!

Check it out! Little L. read to us at bedtime tonight! Notice how she's using the picture to help her figure out what each page says, pointing under the words, and doing lots of stopping and thinking along the way. Our little reader!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Wait and See

Each Tuesday my colleagues and I at the blog Two Writing Teachers host a Slice of Life Story event. Teachers, students, and writers from all over the world share a short, focused story from a small moment in their own lives. See more Slices by clicking here.

Little L. and I were sitting at the kitchen table.

"I'm hun--gry," she whined.

"Dinner's coming!" B. called from the stove. 

This was our nightly routine now. Me, too pregnant to move, in charge of keeping L. relatively entertained while B. cooked dinner. 

L. and B. continued back and forth, but I didn't hear what they were saying. The baby did a gigantic flip-flop in my stomach. Weird. Amazing. Mostly weird though. My thoughts were interrupted by L. poking my shoulder. "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"

"L., your baby brother is moving, do you want to feel?" L.'s face lit up. She hadn't felt him move yet. Every time she tried, he would just hold still.

L. put her tiny hands on my belly and stared intensely at my tummy. "Move baby!" she commanded. He didn't move. L. moved her hands around a little, sliding them back and forth. "Come on, baby brother," she said sweetly. 

We waited for a long quiet pause. Then, suddenly, he did another big flip-flop.

"Ack!" Little L. looked horrified. Her eyes were as big as saucers. "He moved!" She looked as though she'd seen a ghost. "I could see it! That was disgusting!"

I laughed. I knew what she meant. Seeing a little bump reaching through my own stomach was definitely disturbing. You spend your whole life seeing just a regular stomach there, nothing moving inside. It's just not what you expect to see.

But then I couldn't help thinking, I hope this isn't a sign of what's to come. She's so excited about having a baby brother right now. What if he finally arrives, and she's like, "Ack! That's disgusting!"

Well... we'll just have to wait and see.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


In case you didn't know, there is this thing going on on twitter, where people are making New Year's Resolutions now. Friends and followers of the Nerdy Book Club are posting their #nerdlutions (everything to do with the Nerdy Book Club has the word nerd in it), and are cheering each other on.

I first noticed the #nerdlution hashtag as I was organizing clothes in our soon-to-be son's future nursery. First my friend Chris was in on it, then my friend Kristi made a graphic for it, then I saw more friends--Jen, Kate and Maggie, and more... Before I knew it, #nerdlution was all over my twitter feed. I couldn't look at twitter without seeing a host of friends and colleagues committing to all kinds of resolutions--running, yoga, reading, writing--all things that I would like to commit to as well.

However, my due date is December 21 (we're expecting a baby boy). I have a four year old daughter. The holiday season has just begun. I've been sick. I have all kinds of excuses.

Can I really make a #nerdlution and stick to it for FIFTY days?

Let's find out.

So here are my #nerdlutions, and nerdy they are!

1. Keep blogging even after the baby comes.
2. Read every night before bed.
3. Drink more water and get more sleep (I know these are boring, but necessary. I am constantly dehydrated and I'm suffering from pregnancy-induced insomnia. It's really bad.)
4. Do Lumosity every day. My brain needs a workout.

Here's to the new year! Happy #nerdlutions everybody!