Teachers at Zaharis are committed to helping every boy and girl develop the habits of a reader and a life-long lover of books. Part of this process is reading for extended periods of time and reading at home. Therefore reading will be part of homework every night.
There is no more important homework than reading. Research shows that the highest achieving students are those who devote leisure time to reading. Recently, the largest-ever international study of reading found that the single most important predictor of academic success is the amount of time children spend reading books, even more important than economic or social status. And one of the few predictors of high achievement in math and science is the amount of time children devote to pleasure reading.
As children read, they become smarter about the world and how it works. They broaden their vocabulary to become better readers—faster, more fluent, purposeful, engaged, and critical. They become satisfied with the act of reading. They stretch their imaginations and think in new ways. They live in other times and places. They become better people—knowledgeable and compassionate about other people, able to expand their perspective and see through the eyes of another.
There is no substitute for regular, sustained time with books. Please sit down with your child and talk about the best time and place for reading to happen in your home. Is it after school? Before dinner? Before bed? Whenever and wherever the reading happens is the environment quiet? TV off? And is there enough light?
Reading homework should not be an unhappy time. Choices in children’s literature are so wonderful that this should be a joyful time. Children whose teachers and parents expect and encourage them to read are likely to grow up as happy, skilled readers.
Tips for the Parents of First Grade Readers
These are suggestions for different ways that parents can support first grade readers.
- Know what your student is reading and show interest. Be aware of their preferences and patterns in choosing books.
- Have your child read aloud to you. It will give you a chance to watch them grow.
- Allow them the time and space to make self-corrections.
- If they change a word or the word order that does not affect the meaning of the text do not correct them. This is called a miscue and even adults do it.
- Talk with them about books. You might be surprised at their ability to discuss literature. Ask them about the characters (protagonist and antagonists). Talk about the setting and how it affects the story. Discuss the problem and the tension. Ask them questions: “What do/did you think about the book? How did it make you feel? What did you like? What didn’t you like? Who was your favorite character? Why? What was your favorite part? Why? How would you compare it to other books (similar topic or same author)? Concentrate on their thinking, feelings, preferences and opinions.
- Try not to display anxiety and frustration...even when they are stuck on the same word for the hundredth time in a row. Lots of practice and relaxed, happy experiences with books are key to children becoming fluent, joyful readers.
- Allow your child to see you reading. When you value the experience, they will as well!
Three Kinds of Books
It may help you to know that in our class we categorize books by genre. Children should periodically try new genres. But we choose books according to our own reading levels. We have three categories or levels of difficulty.
Holidays are books that can be read fluently and easily or are old favorites.
Just Rights are new books that help the reader practice and gain experience—they have few words the reader does not know and can be clearly understood. It is imperative that your child is reading books that are just right. It is within this framework that he/she can grow as a reader without frustration. If your child is frustrated with his/her reading or cannot talk about the book, it is likely too difficult.
Challenges are books that a child wants to read independently, but that are too difficult right now. There may be too many unfamiliar words, text that is too dense, paragraphs that are too long, a plot or structure that is difficult to follow, multiple main characters, or concepts the child can’t yet grasp.
These definitions label books, not students. All readers of every age have their own Holidays, Just Rights, and Challenges. Often as we grow as readers, gain experience, knowledge, and confidence Challenges become Just Rights. This is the goal.
Children should spend time at home with all three categories, but most of their time should be spent with Just Rights, because these are the books that help students learn the most about reading. Some time should be spent with Holidays, to help build confidence, to increase their reading rate, and to read for pure pleasure. It is okay to read a Holiday once in a while: everyone needs one. Finally, children can spend some time with Challenges with support from a more experienced reader, because these often tell stories and convey information the children want—and because they show students the books that are out there waiting for them as readers. These books are ones that require extra support.
Your child will never be too old to be read to. Children of every age cherish the literary worlds adults bring to them with their voices. Close bonds are created when a grown-up and child share a story together. It is our favorite time of the day in class. Try it! I'm confident you will find value in the experience.
As part of our reading workshop we will be looking deeply at the elements of literature. Students will be keeping a record of their completed reading, writing letters about their reading experiences, and participating in discussions about literature. Reading is an integral part of learning: Students in second grade not only read for fun, they read to learn in all content areas. Please do not hesitate to meet with me if you would like to know more about how to better support your child in the area of reading; it is my passion!