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December 10
Learning Letters & Sounds Through Home Reading

"First, a child needs to be a fluent decoder...able to smoothly...go from print on the page to words in the mind. This is something that schools teach, but parents can help with it by reading to and with their kids—especially when that reading involves wordplay, which particularly helps kids with the challenge of identifying the “individual speech sounds” that make up a word."  Daniel Willingham, Raising Kids Who Read

Through much of the 20th & now the 21st centuries, extensive research and discussion amongst researchers of reading has been devoted to exploring the 'best' ways to teach reading - either through specific phonics instruction (knowledge of letters and sound) or through 'reading' text using multiple strategies that include determining meaning as well as word structure. There are whole sectors of schools focused on teaching reading with one particular focus or the other, and researchers who insist there should be a greater focus on one approach over the other all the way through school. 

Having been a research student of how to teach reading for the past ten years, reading thousands of pages of reading research and conducting my own research into teaching reading, I honestly believe if it were true that one way or the other was definitively the best way, then every child would already be successfully learning to read independently and with deep, reflective comprehension. 

However, the reality is, despite our best efforts at teaching phonics or strategies or some sort of  balance of both, there are always children who continue to struggle with learning to read. And teachers and parents, resultantly, need to see the learning of reading as a wide-spectrum series of experiences that intertwine and support each child to access and develop reading skills or expertise in their own unique way. 

So, when I consider the potential for including home reading as part of the overall 'big picture' plan for helping all children develop both proficiencies and joy in learning to read, it seems pretty important to spend a little time exploring how to include learning about letters and sounds as part of the home reading experience.

"English is an alphabetic language. We have 26 letters. These letters, in various combinations, represent the 44 sounds in our language. Teaching students the basic letter-sound combinations give them access to sounding out approximately 84% of the words in English print. Of course, equal amounts of time need to be spent on teaching the meanings of  these words, but the learning of these basic phonics skills is essential to becoming a fluent reader." - Wiley Blevins

Every teacher of reading includes letter/sound instruction as part of the teaching of reading and writing. Sometimes this has been called teaching 'spelling', sometimes it is 'decoding sounds', sometimes it is 'word work', but these usually refer to letter/sound instruction to practice and develop knowledge and awareness of relationships between letters/sounds/words that are set apart from actually teaching reading and writing. Working on letter/sound relationships while in the act of learning to read or write is sometimes called 'sounding out' or 'learning sight words' or 'decoding words' or any manner of other active strategies that lead to making sense of letters and sounds that form words and, therefore, meaning.  Truthfully, without awareness of letters and sounds and how they negotiate together, reading does not make sense at all. It is the alphabet and sounds that offer us sounds and utterances to communicate effectively - without them, we would not be nearly as efficient at communicating between humans.

So, what does that look/sound like during home reading? 

One of my favourite reading resources to use with new-to-reading children is the alphabet picture book.  I have a personal collection of about 60 alphabet picture books; in our Learning Commons we have many more. There are alphabet books to suit every interest or curiosity and children are drawn to them because they help make sense of why humans utter specific sounds and use letters in particular combinations to give meaning to one word.  

Children often learn 'the alphabet song' from very early ages - sometimes chanting sounds rather than delineating particular words. While they don't know it at the time, they are beginning to make sense of the phonemic underpinnings of the world of reading they will soon enter. Alphabet books reinforce this concept - children quickly catch on to the idea of words with similar sounds begin with the same letter(s). And a well-written alphabet picture book offers words that have other connections as well, by theme, sound or meaning.  

A little game I like to play with early readers is to have a set of alphabet cards with me as we read (you can make your own set easily - these do not have to be fancy!).  Then as we read the alphabet book, we stop and search through the stack to find the corresponding letter for each page of the book, usually found at the beginning of each word. As we search for and find the letter, children are developing discriminatory sight data as well as sound differentiation for the English alphabet, reinforcing this information with each search through the alphabet letters. Before long, children 'know' their alphabet as more than the song but can refer to the song as an organizational strategy for making sense of a 26-letter alphabet in order from beginning to end, as it usually appears in each alphabet book.

Alphabet books from my childhood tended to be random 'a is for apple, b is for ball' kind of picture books, very simple demonstrations of direct correlation between the letters of the alphabet and the first sound of words. Today's beautiful alphabet picture books - at least the ones I like the best - are usually about something in particular - a theme such as dinosaurs or Nova Scotia or weather. These more elaborate alphabet books offer information as a hook for children, to pique curiosity or offer new information either through text, picture, diagram or icon. Young readers find these books fascinating and quickly gravitate to a particular theme or idea they are most intrigued with - at least, in my experiences with introducing many kinds of alphabet books to young readers. They can make sense of some of the writing while revelling in all the information contained in the illustrations; practice sounds and words while elevating their awareness of the world. Even the most complex alphabet book has something young readers can identify, notice and want to elaborate about when in conversation with an adult.

I believe the best home libraries for children start with a solid foundation of beautiful alphabet books that will offer invitations to explore the letters and sounds of the alphabet with gentle, provocative illustrations and text. What better way to wrap your child in the foundations of learning to read than a side-by-side multi-sensory experience with their favourite adult?

Here are a few of my favourite alphabet books to share with children (just in case you are looking for an amazing holiday gift!):

1) Alphabeasts  by Wallace Edwards

2) The Alphabet by Melanie Watt

3) B is for Bluenose: A Nova Scotia Alphabet by Susan Took

4) The Dinosaur Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta & Ralph Masiello

5) C is for Chinook An Alberta Alphabet Book by Dawn Welykochy & Lorna Bennett

6) A Mountain Alphabet Book by Andrew Kiss & Margriet Ruurs

7) Rocky Mountain ABCs by Jocey Asnong

8) Animal Alphabet Slide & Seek the ABCs by Alex Lluch

9) The Skull Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta & Ralph Masiello

10) Mrs. Peanuckle's Bird Alphabet by Mrs. Peanuckle & Jessie Ford


Lorraine Kinsman, Principal


November 26
Reading at Home: Building Your Child's Home Library

"Kids not only need to read a lot but they need lots of books they can read right at their fingertips. The books that entice them, attract them to reading." - Richard Allington

This is the tenth blog entry of this school year, all focused on Home Reading, to help families successfully support children as they learn to read :)

The Power of Choice

It is almost December - a perfect time to begin talking about building your child's home library.  'Tis the season of giving and giving books to a child is an act of great promise and anticipation - children who love to read see each new book as a possibility to be explored, an adventure to be had, a friend to meet or a discovery to be unearthed!

As we have been exploring the various elements of home reading, there have been numerous parent 'tips' embedded in these blogs encouraging parents to consistently be 'talking' about books with children as they have engaged in numerous ways to read texts. Asking children what they like about a book, which stories they prefer, why do they want to read a particular book, which book is their favourite, what would they like to read next, what genre appeals the most to them, which book does the new text they are reading remind them of - a similar story or experience they have had.  All these questions - that hopefully become mini-discussions between parents and children - help young readers come to understand there is a process to selecting stories, a reason why we like some books more than others, that there are particular kinds of stories that are similar or different and that, as readers, we have a great deal of control over what we read and why.  These are critically important considerations for children who may believe books 'belong' to the adults in their lives and it is the adults who choose what to read, when and why.

The power of choice for children is an elixir - especially for young children. There are so many choices made for them, not by them - what to wear, when to sleep, what to eat, where and how they will spend their days, what activities they will participate in on any given day - the world can feel very full of being told what to do and how and when and why. But the magic of reading can hold extra attraction for children if they are allowed and invited to exercise their power of choice! (And, as parents, we can always answer the age-old complaint of "I never get to decide anything!" with "Of course you do! You always get to pick the books for reading!"). 

Building A Child's Library

So, when December arrives and parents' thoughts turn to gift giving, it seems like a perfect time to begin thinking about how to build up your child's library so they always have something 'enticing and attracting' them to read. There are a few strategies for building a child's library with them - all of which will help them learn to categorize and organize books as well, key skills that are foundational to study skills as they grow and become more independent learners. Building a library collection takes care and consideration, choice and thoughtfulness, organization and reflection. In other words, critical thinking skills they are expected to learn in school and in life!

It has been my experience that when we start referring to a child's book collection - no matter how small/large/messy/neat a collection it is - as their 'library', suddenly owning books of their own takes on a new complexion - they see their books as something 'more', something to take care of and celebrate rather than just decorate their room. When children enter school, they visit the Learning Commons and see the books organized into collections, on display, celebrated with book talks or posters, and cared for in particular ways. As children begin to identify their books at home as having importance similar to the books in the school collections, they become more attentive to them as important elements with a purpose, an order, a way of being other than just an item to be picked up, looked at and discarded. This elevates the significance of their personal book collections - their 'library' of enticing and inviting reading materials requiring care and attention perhaps previously overlooked.

What kinds of books should children have in their libraries? 

What would be the most meaningful books to give them at this time of year to build up their collections? 

What would organizing my child's library look like? 

How do I help my child learn to care for their book collection?

These questions really begin with knowing your child as a reader - not as your child, but as a reader. There is a difference! 

Your child, the reader, will be able to share what stories they like best - fiction or non-fiction, fairytales, humorous, comics, adventure, fantasy, mystery or science - there are many genres of books for children to read and love. Usually, we start simply with children, identify fiction from non-fiction and that may be the most organized your child can currently manage with their personal book collection. You may want to start by organizing the books your child already has at home into two categories - fiction/non-fiction - to build a sense with them of the different kinds of books they already own. If your child enjoys that organizational activity, try sorting into sub-categories of fiction or non-fiction books. Books can be sorted into categories and housed on bookshelves, or in milk crates, laundry baskets or boxes in your child's room. The more out in the open they are, the more likely your child is to pick one up for a quick read. Some children are perfectly satisfied with a 'library' sorted into fiction/non-fiction while others will want to be very specific and have numerous catgeories of fiction or non-fiction stories as well. I would encourage parents to take a cue from your child as to how much organization you are willing to invest in the home library - sorting and growing a child's library is not a one-shot action; rather, it takes several tries and re-tries before one could say they are fully comfortable with the home library organizational system. I do know this from long experience: if I organize my child's library the way I like books to be organized, the system will last until I leave the room :) If a child does not understand or appreciate the organizing system, the system is bound to have a short shelf life (pardon the pun!).  Perhaps your child is only able to organize one small collection of favourite books and the rest remains in a higgeldy-piggeldy mess - that's okay! Everyone adjusts to organization in their own time and way and the idea has at least been introduced in a small way. Time will pass and this idea can be readily revisited.

For your child's collection, there should be an assortment of fiction and non-fiction items in your child's library collection. If you are looking for suggestions for gifts, start there - which side of the collection requires attention? What topics or type of stories does your child prefer? When you go to the public library or a bookstore, what are they most drawn to as they browse the Children's Book section? Are there books your child automatically chooses over and over again that also have sequels or other, similar stories written by the same author? These are good beginning points for selecting new titles for your child's book collection.

Once you have established a system for organization  - no matter how simple or complex it may be - gently encourage your child to ensure their books are returned 'home' at the end of each reading. I like making this a little ritual of celebration - 'See? the Giraffe book likes being home, next to his friend the Whale book' - kind of encouragement. If there seems to be a general lack of disinterest in returning favourite books to favourite places, then your child is not quite ready for caring for the library collection independently just yet. It's sometimes a good strategy, when a new book arrives as a gift, to make a little ritual or ceremony of finding 'just the right home' for it midst the current book organization system. 

These are all suggestions that may or may not work with your child - only you know them best as the reader of their books:) 

Here are a few favourite ideas for picture book gifts for early readers from my own collection (often gathered from recommendations by my grandchildren or students :)

  • Boxitects by Kim Smith
  • My Map Book by Sara Fanelli
  • Beyond the Pond by Joseph Kuefler
  • Home by Jeannie Baker
  • Sleeping Ugly by Jane Yolen
  • Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians by Jackie Mims Hopkins

Just in case you were looking for gift ideas!

Lorraine Kinsman, Principal

November 18
Why Doesn't Home Reading Use Levelled Books?


"Reading good fit books is essential if students are to progress as readers.Much of the research into young children and how they learn to read is that children should choose books that they enjoy and that they can use the reading strategies they are taught to assist them to confidently read to themselves or have books read to them. As our students begin their reading journeys, they need to “want” to connect to the materials that they choose to engage in." - The Daily Cafe (Gail Boushey & Joan Mosher), Parent Pipeline

This is the ninth blog entry of this school year, all focused on Home Reading, to help families successfully support children as they learn to read :)

Over the past couple of decades, the idea of 'levelled reading' has become enormously popular in the field of education, and subsequently with children and their families as well. Books are levelled according to many different criteria, most commonly to organize the challenge level of text from the simplest to most complex. As children successfully read texts, their achievement levels may be easily tracked to determine growth as a reader.

The use of levelled reading books serves a definitive purpose for teachers, particularly when it comes to assessment of reading, as they detail progress in student's developing reading skills. Similar to basal reading series that were popular through the 1960's, 1970's and into the 1980's, but with more broadly developed vocabulary, text diversity and interesting, current topics, levelled reading texts bring a contemporary element to the concept of students learning to read with increasing skill through consecutively demanding books. 

Along with using levelled texts to assess student reading, teachers use direct teaching (sometimes in guided reading groups, sometimes one-to-one with students) to ensure students acquire the skills needed to consistently advance through levelled reading texts. 

The use of levelled reading systems has brought new insights and research into the development of reading with young children, benefitting both teachers and students alike. Teachers have more contemporary, research-based assessment devices. Students have fresh, interesting texts to engage with as they become stronger readers incrementally.  And parents understand the premise of levelled books as well, knowing that making progress through the reading levels indicates success for their children. There are, certainly, distinct advantages to the use of levelled reading systems.  There are, however, several challenges as well.

One of the greatest challenges with levelled reading resources is that they are not uniform in how they are developed, organized or in the way they assess reading progress and success. Each commercially produced system of levelled reading resources is different from the others, based on individualized research and development that does not correlate with the next set of resources. Schools are free to choose whatever levelled reading resource they prefer, so student progress may vary from school to school simply because the resources of schools are not aligned in content, scope or sequence. Simply put, the discrepancies and differences between the different commercial resources mean reading within and between levelled programs is like comparing apples and oranges. While this causes many issues teachers must grapple with, it is not the most significant reason why we are not using levelled reading books for Home Reading on a consistent basis. 

Although levelled reading books have certainly helped develop students' reading abilities over the past twenty years or so, research shows the most successful readers throughout life are those that become avid readers - just being a skilled reader is not all that is required to become a continuously advancing reader who enjoys interacting with texts. It is when readers find joy in reading that the greatest proficiencies and success as readers occurs and continues through to adulthood. 

Learning to read is an absolute requirement in our digital world - there is no form of learning that will not require proficiency as a reader in our 21st century.  Loving to read is what will guide learners to become invested, curious, motivated and dedicated to advancing their reading skills. Learning to read with skills is not enough; loving to read is essential for becoming a broad-based investigator, invested in the words and meaning, always wanting to read more and with greater skill and knowledge. 

Our first goal for Home Reading, therefore, is that our students will love to read. Whether families have been reading at home since birth, or are new to the practice of read-aloud and reading with children at home, our primary goal must always be to foster the love of reading. 

Certainly, we are also consistently working with students to develop letter/sound/word/meaning proficiencies as well as a working, highly-skilled knowledge of the intricacies of language. Armed with such knowledge, reading becomes increasingly easier as students develop these skills. The reality, however, is that students do not readily internalize language awareness without a purpose for doing so - wanting to be a better reader is the ideal purpose for continuing to improve at the craft of reading. 

Every teacher, every school will manage their Home Reading expectations and routines differently. At EHS this school year, our Grade 1/2 Teaching Team decided to focus on fostering joy in reading with students, teaching students to use the 'I-PICK' strategy for book selection as a way to begin exploring how to make connections with texts. Additionally, teachers are working with students to internalize the three main ways to read a book: read the pictures, read the words, retell the story. Using these three strategies, any child will be able to find a way to engage with any text in a meaningful way.

'I-PICK' is an acronym for; "I-choose a book", "Purpose (why read this book?)", "Interest (what is interesting in this book?), "Comprehension (what just happened? What's next?), 'Know the Words" (what do specific words mean? what do particular sentences mean?)

As we work through strategies to support students with being thoughtful about their text choices, students begin to develop a true appreciation for reading that is deeper than just knowing decoding skills or word meanings; it is the integration of all the technical knowledge with personal choice and purpose that generates tremendous interest and joy in personal reading, and launches children as successful readers.

Home Reading offers opportunities for students to elevate their experiences with reading in the company of their families. Shared, enjoyable reading experiences at home reinforce positive and successful reading experiences at school. That is the basic - and most important - premise that underpins the Home Reading experience. 

Lorraine Kinsman, Principal

November 11
Encouraging the Unenthusiastic Reader :)


"Students will read if we give them the books, the time

 and the enthusiastic encouragement to do so."  

                         - Donnalynn Miller, "The Book Whisperer"

"Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them." 

- James Baldwin (writer)

This is the eighth blog entry of this school year, all focused on Home Reading, to help families successfully support children as they learn to read :)

The most challenging parts of parenting, at least from my perspective, are those parts that sneak up on you when you are least expecting them - like toddlers who slept as infants but have now abandoned the practice, or a school-aged child who ate strawberries every chance she got but has just declared she hates them and refuses to take them in her lunch (after you paid a fortune for them for just that purpose!!). 

Home reading offers similar challenges for parents - just when you think you have figured out what the school expects from your child around 'home reading' - a routine reading time, positive parental support, a book chosen with the child or by herself, praising effort not success, not pointing out mistakes or covering the pictures, signing off on daily reading - all of a sudden, your child no longer wants to read at home at all! Refuses, whines, runs to the bedroom or bathroom, says they don't like every book that is offered, is hungry/tired/thirsty...any excuse to escape trying to read with you - and clearly does not care at all about "what will your teacher say??".  Your child feels like they have been reading for a while (could be days or weeks or even just once before); they perceive reading as hard work, or it might feel like just 'doing more school', or they may think of many other things they would prefer to be doing - like tablet time, watching a show, playing with friends. They do NOT want to sit with you and try to read that sorry book again and will do pretty much anything to avoid home reading altogether.  

Well, this was unexpected...and what is more unexpected will be the things you discover about yourself as you begin to peel back the layers to determine why this apparently sudden mutiny towards home reading.

To begin with, if this is the first sign of mutiny and refusing to engage in reading, consider the day your child has had - was it very busy? Longer than usual at hockey or soccer after school? Did they sleep well the night before? Has their routine been interrupted in some way that was unexpected today? An argument with a sibling or friend?  If this is the first time they have balked at participating in home reading, and you can identify a reason why this might be, it never hurts to take a 'day off' from home reading.  Some families do this on any evening when there is an outside activity - 'daily' home reading really does mean 'as daily as possible for you and your family'. While we know the act of reinforcing reading is hugely beneficial for children at home, we also don't want to place undo pressure on families to get home reading done at all costs.

However....if the refusal to participate in home reading continues and your child does not seem keen or excited to participate, there are some simple things to do that might guide them back to the process. The first thing is to examine our own attitudes and practices related to home reading. Do we approach this task with kind enthusiasm as if this is an exciting part of our day? Do we truly participate in the child's efforts to become a reader (or are we surreptitiously checking our phone, hoping our child doesn't notice?). Have we acknowledged our child's successes as they attempted to read in the past, engaged in conversations about what they are reading, helped them make connections between two stories with similar ideas or something else they have experienced? How do we respond to hesitations, choppy reading, a million questions that divert from reading? Do we sigh heavily? Appear mildly irritated in our body actions even if we don't say anything?  For some of our children, if our heart is not in reading, theirs certainly isn't either! Therefore it is always a good thing to examine our own 'home reading' practices if our child suddenly no longer wants to participate in reading at home.

And, once we've taken a look at how we are modeling participation in home reading for our child, there are a few fairly easy things we can do, as parents, to encourage an unenthusiastic reader to jump back into the learning process again.  

  • Be genuinely excited about home reading (after all, this is the most important academic skill your child will learn in an entire lifetime!) 
  • Pick up the book and read to your child - if bargaining is still possible, offer to read first and then have your child read; or offer to engage in an echo reading session (you read rather slowly, the child echoes the text right behind you) - any form of engagement in reading behaviours is better than not reading at all
  • Make a chart of all the books your child has read - a digital one can work as well, although it is harder for it to be visibly shared for your child to see and celebrate privately when it is digital; however, choosing a time to sit and celebrate the list each day or at the beginning of each reading session could be a great launch to bringing excitement back to home reading (and, since I am a sticker-lover myself, adding stickers to the home chart is an option if you are a parent who is like-minded :)
  • begin a 'child's library' shelf where your child organizes favourite titles - by color, title, genre, author - this is a lovely way to begin preliminary conversations about how to organize books; and every now and then, shop for a title to add or get one from a local Little Free Library
  • visit the public library and browse books together; make this a family event and share your choices with each other and why you chose them; library books get added to the chart as well
  • talk with your child about reading, be explicit about when you are reading (recipes, billboards, menus, magazines, letters, bills, cards, etc) - the more often your child is aware of you reading, the more likely they will be to want to read
  • make signs together for your home - my youngest daughters used to make a new sign each month, decorated with the fanciest coloured letters and illustrations, to hang on their bedroom doors; signs for other rooms advance the purpose of reading as well - or instructions for feeding the dog, turning out lights, etc. are handy to have around and lend authenticity to reading and to writing
  • continue reading aloud to your child even when they are reluctant about reading themselves; the more modeling and vocabulary development, language fluency and voice modulation a child experiences, the more likely they are to be a successful reader themselves
  • set goals with your child for reading - mini goals are loads of fun - "today I will read 3 pages of my new book, Dad will read 3 and Mom will read the title and the last page" - and also help the child understand how text is organized in a book; big goals work too - 'I will read 10 books all by myself before New Year's Eve'
  • re-set the home reading routine to a different time - maybe before dinner? 
  • try not reading a book for one night, just look at the pictures and talk about what might be happening
  • use silly voices to be the characters when you are reading, laughter is a great way to share a book successfully
  • have your child sign his own book to show he has read - full ownership of the reading practice is often a great motivator for children 

Most of all, accept that this too shall pass - your child will find a reason to re-engage in reading when they recognize it is both important and possible; that they have the skills, the support, the time and the materials to become a practicing reader. And every day they read, they become a little better at the reading process - recognition for a huge effort to become a skilled reader is the most important motivator of all. "You can do it!" holds absolute power for children, so long as we wrap them in the opportunities, the time and the relationships needed to ensure that becomes every child's home reading reality.

Lorraine Kinsman, Principal 

November 04
Boosting Oral Language to Effectively Support Your Child with Home Reading

Oral Language is the child’s first, most important, and most frequently used structured medium of communication. It is the primary means through which each individual child will be enabled to structure, to evaluate, to describe and to control his/her experience. In addition, and most significantly, oral language is the primary mediator of culture, the way in which children locate themselves in the world, and define themselves.” (Cregan, 1998) 

This is the seventh blog entry this school year, all focused on Home Reading, to help families successfully support children as they learn to read :)

When our children are infants just beginning to vocalize, repeat words and phrases, and eventually identify their world through the spoken word, we celebrate every new sound and word with great joy and enthusiasm! They are learning to 'speak their world' into existence, to communicate with us as their parents and with other family members, as well as outside their homes, in the real world. Sometimes we have to 'translate' what children are saying as they grapple with pronunciations, tenses or particularly challenging sounds - there are some speech anomalies that emerge in many children (such as lisping their 'r' sounds) in the early years, but for the most part, all children acquire oral language within their first three years of life quite successfully. And this firm foundation of shared speaking between you and your child becomes the bedrock upon which their reading skills will be built and flourish!

Oral language is not only about communicating with others; it also requires thinking, background knowledge, awareness of one's surroundings, making connections, use of memory and skills with understanding multiple meanings for known words, metaphors, nicknames, etc. Literacy researchers identify the five primary components of oral language as auditory memory, listening and speaking skills, conceptual knowledge, understanding language in a wide variety of settings and reading one's environment effectively (Eisenhart, 1990).  When children begin speaking their world into existence for themselves as well as the other humans they come into contact with, they are actually melding numerous skills together to help make sense of what they are experiencing. It is these strong foundational skills in oral language development that beautifully act as groundwork for learning to read, and there are numerous ways a parent with an early reader at home can boost the development of reading by encouraging the continued elaboration of oral language.


Children are keen observers and listeners, curious to make sense of every new experience and amalgamate what they already know with new information all the time. Through conversations, both those they participate in and those they listen to, children develop pragmatic knowledge about language and how it is used to serve a wide variety of purposes - for everything from ordering a meal to imaginary play to arguing with a sibling, for example. Having conversations with a child not only increases their fluency with the language, it builds vocabulary, expands their notions of what effective oral language use is, and encourages them to think through language problems to discover new meanings. 

Parents with early readers who are just beginning to make connections between text and meaning have tremendous opportunities to build oral language understanding with their children through ongoing conversations where opinions, ideas, questions, disagreements, eureka! moments and playful interaction with language are shared easily as verbal interactions. Conversations offer wait time while a child puzzles over a question or a new piece of information, opportunities for children to interpret new meanings from unfamiliar words and the ability to make sense of non-verbal messages as well. As a parent converses with a young child, they are modeling information about how listening and speaking happen between two or more humans, while also offering insights and new words to the child, almost like gifts, that the child will put to excellent use as they begin to bring clarity to their understandings and appreciations of the world. 

What do you see?

When a young reader brings home a text for home reading, take the time to comfortably sit with the child to share the book. Be excited and nudge their excitement with a few well-placed questions and observations. Before attempting to read a new book, take the time to explore the pictures with your child, asking them to tell you what they see. If there are words you anticipate your child might not know (for example, enormous) in the text and they are describing it differently (such as 'really big'), slip the word into your conversation as you look through the book together. This way, your child will have at least heard the word before attempting to decode it, and also will have made a connection in their own thinking. Taking the time to look at the book and explain what they see offers the child an opportunity to become familiar with the ideas before attempting to read the words - a highly successful boost to making sense of text while learning to read.

Celebrate every attempt 

Usually, children tend to bring home narrative stories when home reading first begins, with limited characters and settings. Reading reflects the novice status of the young reader attempting to notice sight words or use their beginning knowledge of how letters and sounds work together, often resulting in choppy or hesitant reading. Applaud this encouragingly - we were all apprentice readers once, and it is only through attempting anything that is new to us repeated times that we develop proficiency and fluency. Celebrate the efforts - as in "Wow! You worked so hard to figure out what that word was!" or "That was good thinking, looking back to see the word on the other page so you would remember it!" Celebrate the effort, not your child - when we say to children things like "Look how smart you are!" and they know they are not as good as other readers, they don't understand why you think they are smart and begin to doubt themselves. Even if they have made repeated mistakes, the very fact they persevered and didn't give up is an awesome strategy for successfully learning to be a proficient reader. Celebrating the effort and the strategies children use as they attempt to read let's them know you recognize learning to read is hard work and they are doing their best!

Repeated Readings

If your child is willing, try reading through the text twice (they may only be willing to read it once through and that is perfectly okay - learning to read and struggling to make sense of all the letters/sounds/text/pictures is hard work! Try again tomorrow evening :) Encourage your child to build a small collection of books they have read numerous times and are willing to keep reading because reading familiar texts builds confidence, sight word recall, language rhythm, awareness of sentence structures and text features (such as punctuation) and familiarity with vocabulary. Books become like good friends, always there to make you feel good as ou read more and more proficiently with successive readings. If your child needs to return the home reading book to the school after a few days' reading, the book will go back as an easily recognizable old friend and they will take the book knowledge they absorbed from that text forward with them to meet the next text. Repeated readings build confidence and fluency as children read the words aloud with increasing success.

What kind of book is this?

Each time you finish reading with your child, stop to talk about the book after you have praised their efforts. Ask them what kind of book they think this was - a story? (narrative) An instruction book? A poetry book? A rule book? A science book? An imaginary story book? A math book? These are book clues proficient readers learn to look for that help them anticipate structure, vocabulary and purpose as they continually build their reading skills. 

Acting out the story/Retelling

Some children are excited to 'pretend' a story, following the reading. Encouraging them to repeat the words of a character, or describe a setting helps children connect the arduous process of orally reading text to the possible meanings embedded in the words. The purpose of reading is, after all, to make sense of text and embed new understandings and meanings with prior knowledge. Even with the simplest 'learning to read' text, students are able to find a way to act out the story quickly in words with just a little encouragement! One fun way to get kids acting out the story is to pretend you are a reporter interviewing the character in the story and then interview your child with questions about the text. Or, conversely, your child could be a reporter asking you the questions to bring the story to life!

What would you do?

One way to extend the story and help your child make connections with prior knowledge and experiences, is to ask your child 'what would you do if you were in the story?' As they make up new ideas, they are accessing new pieces of information in their brain, making sense of new data they are just receiving as they were attempting to read the text. As they combine their own knowledge with new information, they begin to understand the purposes of reading in a new way.

Rhyming Books

If your child has access to rhyming books, they are most fortunate as an early reader! Rhymes are the easiest way for children to learn to make sense of text in reading as they often have similar sounds the child may recognize as 'repeating language'. Repeating rhymes with your child, especially silly rhymes, offers a unique opportunity to play with the language while expanding your child's awareness of letters/sounds/meanings of words and language. 

These are not the only ways to boost your child's home reading experience, but they are the easiest and most familiar for most of us as parents. Taking the time to play with your child's reading development offers them reassurance they are still loved even though their reading may be a bit choppy, and as you praise their efforts, they begin to see the value in trying their best. For our earliest readers, these side-by-side, supported at home reading interactions are immeasurably important for reinforcing and elevating children's knowledge of letters, sounds, text and meaning.

Lorraine Kinsman, Principal 

Previous blog entries on Home Reading include:







October 21
Sprinkling Fun into Home Reading :)


Reading will seem more like chocolate cake if it’s something that parents themselves take part in happily and regularly. 
“When I’m sitting there on my couch, reading a book, and my kids are 
doing their own thing, I like to think, ‘I’m parenting right now—they 
can see me reading this book." 
                               -  (Maria Paul, "How to Raise a Reader") 

I am exploring the phenomenon of 'home reading' in this blog (see previous entries): Snapshot: How Home Reading Became One More Thing on the 'To Do List' for Families (Sept. 8/19)  What Do Parents Need to Notice and Know about Home Reading? (Sept. 15/19)  Strategies for Home Reading with A Child - What Makes Sense for a Parent? (Sept. 23/19)Reading at Home with Early Readers (Sept. 29/19)Why Reading at Home Makes Such a Difference for Children Learning to Read (October 8/19)Hopefully, these entries will help families support this enormously important and relatively untapped resource for helping children develop  as lifelong, successful readers.

Sometimes, as parents, we think 'home reading' means 'homework' and we treat it like homework was treated when we were kids (which may vary from generation to generation, but for me, growing up, homework was not considered the 'fun' part of being home from school - just saying...).  We assign a time to it, we pre-empt other, more fun-focused activities until 'after home reading is done', we sigh when we talk about it with our children like it is a chore similar to loading the dishwasher, we get impatient when our child doesn't rush to get the book and read it magically well and it shows in our voices and our body language. We ask where the sign up sheet has gone like losing it means the end of the world. And all this negative wrap-around makes home reading sound and feel like it is something to be avoided at all costs that will never be enjoyable or truly worthwhile. Our children see and hear this and they mimic our body language, our voices, our expressions of frustration and do all they are able to avoid getting caught reading that home reading book again...

There are some easy things to do to ensure children experience reading at home as an enjoyable activity they might want to learn to do independently and celebrate as a positive and rewarding life skill. They will be looking to us, as parents and teachers, for the cues as to what is a fun-filled recreational activity and what is a chore and it won't just be our words that carry the strongest message; it will be our faces, our voice tones and our body language that send the message 'reading is a wonderful thing to do' or 'don't make me read that again - I don't like reading at all!' Just like we smile and coo at infants to get them to smile and vocalize back, how we engage in the acts associated with home reading will elicit responses from our children that reflect our personal values associated with reading for pleasure. 

First of all, don't wait for a recording sheet of books/minutes read by your child, or instructions on how to engage your child in home reading, to be sent home from your child's teacher. Just start - or continue - reading to them and with them as you always have. Children usually love to be read to - hearing a favoured adult's animated voice sharing a story with them is positive attention on steroids! If you already read with your child regularly, all that is required is a bit of a shift in what you are reading and doing while reading. Begin to encourage your child to choose a book they can share in reading in addition to the ones you are already sharing - this could be an easy reading book, a board book or a much-loved picture book - but preferably it will be one they are familiar with and are beginning to recognize the words, sounds, rhythm of the story. Stopping to point out a familiar rhyming word or sound, pointing to a picture and asking about what's happening there, focusing on the meaning of a particular word - these are all simple ways to begin drawing a child's attention to the text.  

In the beginning, it is not important whether or not they are sounding out or decoding text because what's really happening is building familiarity with text over time - understanding there is a permanence of text features that are reliably always present. Even as a seasoned grade 5/6 teacher with over 30 years experience, I continue to be surprised at the number of children who simply have not yet developed an appreciation for the permanency of text features, such as uppercase letters to begin sentences, names, places, etc or what it means when quotation marks are present. They may even be able to identify what a particular text feature is while not understanding why it exists. It takes time and repeated revisiting to understand text features. And reading orally and with humour and play while learning text features is a reliably positive experience with young children. It is also not important whether or not a beginning reader 'reads' the whole text, not even a short picture book with simple words. Usually a good rule of thumb is when they lose interest, move away from the 'home reading text' and back into the read aloud story. We want reading to be pleasurable, not a task to be measured at home.

As time passes, your child will begin to gradually demonstrate mastery over some basic reading strategies - how to hold the book, read text from left to right, discuss ideas for meaning, predict a word or what will happen next, make connections to other stories they have read or movies they have seen. Celebrate this - you could have a mini white board or chalkboard where you record favourite stories they are reading more or less independently - or a list of the fridge titled "Jacks Favourite Books" that you may add to as new titles become easier and more favoured by your child. There could be a small, separate bookshelf somewhere to home their favourite personal reads.

Before settling to read with your child each day, spend a few moments with the book, exploring it carefully together. What does your child notice about the pictures? Cover? Do they think the story is true (non-fiction) or not (fiction)? Why 0r why not? Share your opinion too! What do they think might happen? why? why not? Who is in the story? How many characters are in the story? Where do they think the story might be taking place (setting)? If the title has a particularly challenging word (such as 'Remember' or 'Gigantic' or something a little out of the ordinary) point to it and talk about the word and what it means. Reading doesn't have to be a guessing game your child doesn't feel successful with, it should be a shared, enjoyable experience.

Even as your child becomes a more proficient reader, these strategies still hold. What do they notice? Predict? What does the story remind them of? Why did they choose this book? Who is the author? Have they read anything else written by the same person? There are limitless possibilities for brief discussions before beginning the actual reading that activate prior knowledge and set your child up for enjoyable reading success.

If you are a reader, chances are your child will want to be a reader too. But what happens if you are not a person who is naturally inclined to reading? Talk about that with your child while making the time investment to read with them - it demonstrates interest in their learning and growth which is always a positive parenting move.  And if you do your reading in magazines or newspapers or online, share that with your child too - there are many ways to be a reader. 

Talk about books - at the dinner table, at the store, on a walk. When you notice your child looking at a new book, let them know you noticed - ask what the book's about or why they are interested in it, provoke a conversation. Visit the public library or any 'little free library' in your neighbourhood and invest a little time in looking at different titles, genres, authors. Give books as gifts - although my son once told me he thought he would have been invited to more birthday parties if people didn't always know they were going to get books in advance! Honestly, I think he attended more than enough birthdays so books must have been appropriate to give :) Build small collections with your child of favourite titles and authors. Encourage your child to make a banner for their room that says "Emily's Library of Favourite Books" or something similar.  It is not necessary to have a lot of books, just books they love to read.

Instead of watching a movie while driving, listen to a children's audiobook. As a family we have listened to the whole Harry Potter series a couple of times during summer driving trips across Canada and the US, for example, and any Roald Dahl book makes for a wonderful audio book experience. And who doesn't love listening to 'Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe' stories? They are favourites with my grandchildren! Listening to an audio book with a sketch book and pencils is even better - sketching what you hear as a child helps build attention to detail and strengthen imagery skills. A word of caution, though, from last week's blog post - animated books do not build brain connections between language, visual perception and imagery skills in the same way that listening to stories or picture books does - while they may be tempting to share with children from time to time, listening to an animated story does not build the intended skills associated with home reading activities. 

So, there are numerous ways to entice your young reader into engaging in home reading aside from taking the book sent home from the teacher, along with the recording sheet, and saying, 'Let's get this home reading thing over with for this evening." Homework is not home reading but home reading can be a delightful beginning foray into homework of a different flavour! What's important is your participation as an enthusiastic, positive adult, child-choices about what to read, conversation about the book prior to reading, sharing the load of decoding and making sense of text, not persisting with the text past the point of your child's interest and tolerance and shifting from home reading to parental read aloud to close out the experience. Let your child see you are enjoying the experience of reading with them even if you are doubtful about their capabilities - remember they are just learning and learning is not sequential nor predictable; it happens differently for every child. Make a video of your child reading to you each week for just a couple of minutes - and then compare them to see how much they have improved (if they are reading each day for a few minutes, regardless of their level of proficiency or engagement, there will be improvement :)

And, finally, never underestimate the power of rhyme - children love rhyming books and poems, the sillier the better. They learn about word families and predictable text from rhymes and songs and the children who figure out rhymes most easily, typically tend to learn to read more easily as well. Alphabet books, rhyming books, illustrated children's song books are also wonderful places to launch readers beginning to make sense of text. And another way to sprinkle fun into the home reading experience!

Lorraine Kinsman, Principal

October 15
Why Reading at Home Makes Such a Difference for Children Learning to Read


'When we read to our children, they are doing more work than meets the eye. "It's that muscle they're developing bringing the images to life in their minds"...researchers saw increased connectivity between - and among - all the networks they were looking at: visual perception, imagery, default mode and language.'  - Anya Kamenetz (2018) 

I am exploring the phenomenon of 'home reading' in this blog (see previous entries: 
 Strategies for Home Reading with A Child - What Makes Sense for a Parent? (Sept. 23/19)
Reading at Home with Early Readers (Sept. 29/19)
Hopefully, these entries will help families support this enormously important and relatively untapped resource for helping children develop  as lifelong, successful readers.

I am always hopeful children are being read to at home from the time they are infants - hearing a parents voice, being cuddled on a lap to share a story - are enormously important aspects of social-emotional development and, in an ideal world, extending these read aloud experiences into a more child-centered opportunity for learning to read is a natural progression. In an ideal world - but, in truth, how many of us get to live in an ideal world?

Transitioning from read aloud to reading independently often takes a few years, to be honest. Hearing the language is the start of something amazing as parents read aloud to their child, and once they begin to take on the tasks of making sense of text, parents' reading to them is like a magical magnet that attracts them to increasingly complex text, ideas and genres they initially have challenges making sense of on their own. There are four distinct brain networks that work together to help children make sense of stories and written information - visual perception, imagery, default mode and language (Hutton, 2018). 

When we read aloud to our children, their language mode is activated and when we share the pictures with them, they begin to develop greater visual perception. The brain naturally connects the two to build imagery skills and strategies so children can virtually begin to 'see' a story or idea in their minds as we read the words to them. These images might mirror the pictures associated with the text, or extend to include other images that remind them of what is in the story and, ultimately, allow them to create original images spurred by the words they are hearing but completely original and of their own creation. The default mode network describes areas of the brain that become active outside the task at hand when a child's attention strays from concentrating on a task or activity (in other words, what children are thinking of when they are not focused on using listening, visual or imagination strategies and skills). The act of reading to a child reinforces the importance of staying attentive to the activity at hand, and this is where we want the default mode to be strongest - with working to stay focused on a task. 

At the same time, when parents are reading to children, there is a natural 'dialogic reading' taking place as well. This is the act of pointing out specific words or pictures, asking questions of children (such as: 'where is the mouse now?') This exchange between parent and your child helps build significant bonding between both, both emotionally and physically, which is essential for a child's healthy growth and development. Reading to and with a child has many benefits, academically, emotionally and physically. 

The most effective reading aloud activities involve both reading and sharing pictures associated with a text. This offers children immediate and obvious connections between text and pictures or photographs, and begins to foster greater acuity with both visual perception development and imagery. Moving from the stage of reading to a child to beginning to connect pictures and words is how we make the first steps toward learning to read, and this may be the stage a child is at as they enter Kindergarten and the first rumblings about 'home reading' begin to surface. 

Research has shown us that of all the options available for sharing stories with children, a parent reading to them and sharing the pictures in the book is the most effective. While many other options exist today for children to engage in stories - including audio books or animated online videos and stories - the evidence clearly indicates the most effective read aloud experiences involve reading text and sharing pictures. Hutton's research (2018) indicates this is the most effective strategy for activating all four areas of the brain networks needed to develop as successful readers, and further states 'with animation, it's all dumped on them all at once and they don't have to do any of the work...the imagery and default mode networks mature later, and it takes practice to integrate these with the rest of the brain. With animation, you may miss an opportunity to develop them." Children who are consistently exposed to animation rather than reading text with pictures may be at risk for immature development of brain integration of the visual perception, language, imagery and default network mode connections essential to becoming a proficient reader as a child grows. 

Reluctant readers - or those children who balk at trying to read words or engage in self-reading strategies - are often those most overwhelmed by the demands of processing language through these four brain networks. They struggle to generate mental pictures of what they are reading or being read and are much less reflective about story content or information. Usually they need the most practice with bringing the visual, verbal and imagery clues together and their default network mode generally is more distracted by other things so they lose track of what they are doing. Reluctant readers often need much greater exposure to these transitional kinds of read aloud, read aloud with pictures and dialogic reading as they attempt to build brain strengths in making sense of language through practice, practice, practice. 

Once a child has demonstrated they understand the connections between text and pictures, either with a parent or older sibling or grandparent reading to and with them, concrete associations between text and words (such as drawing, labelling, re-creating a story with loose parts, acting out a story, beginning to sequence a story in pictures and then words) all lead the early reader to a sense making, connected way of gathering meaning from text. These are the early stages of the home reading experience and do not require a formal invitation from a teacher for participation. Early reading books abound in libraries and bookstores, available for parents to use independently at home as they begin to foster these early reading skills through less formal but still highly beneficial acts of home reading. The teacher does not necessarily need to select a book for a student - a child is quite capable of choosing a book they are interested in and would like to share with a parent. Repeating the patterns of 'reading' text as the child engages with the story in a multitude of readings and experiences are essential for developing interests in learning to read and skills that will eventually bring all the learning networks in the brain together to become a proficient reader.

Lorraine Kinsman, Principal ​​

October 15
What Do Parents Need to Notice and Know about Home Reading?


"Reading is the most important subject in school. Why? Because a child needs reading in order to master most of the other subjects. It's extremely difficult to do word problems in math if you can't read the words. How can you answer the questions in social studies or science if you can't read or understand the textbook?"  

                                                               - Jim Trelease (The Read Aloud Handbook)

Although I think it is a great idea to involve parents with supporting the learning of reading at home, I am puzzled why there is sometimes an automatic assumption parents will know what to do to best support their children with home reading. Or, at least it seems to me that this is often the case - teachers send home numerous emails/letters/notes/etc near the beginning of the school year indicating what's expected of parents to support home reading and then there is the assumption all will proceed according to plan. But who's plan? And how? There is great potential in home reading, I think, but also considerable peril in assuming support at home is homogenous or even accessible. 

Over the course of this school year, my goal is to really explore options and possibilities presented by home reading opportunities - because I really do think this is a most exciting way for parents and children to connect in the pursuit of the most important learning a child might acquire.  Somehow though, I think we need to re-navigate the purpose and the practicalities of home reading to help all of us - parents, teachers and children - to see this as a valuable, engaging and beneficial learning adventure!

This is the time of year to begin exploring the home reading options schools offer, for not every school suggests home-supported reading while others have well-established expectations for both parents and students. Parents will need to take note of school or classroom expectations related to home reading, and might be interested in asking logistical questions of teachers, such as:

  • do you have expectations students will read at home?
  • if so, how often?
  • what are the requirements associated with home reading in your class?
  • where do the children get their home reading books? who chooses them?
  • how frequently should reading at home happen? are there page requirements, or specific chapters, that are required reading on a daily basis? 
  • what is the expected structure for reporting home reading - or is there one? do parents need to sign a reading log daily? do students need to write in response to what they have read? if so, how often?
  • what about busy nights at home - how do they get accounted for with home reading?
  • how are books borrowed and returned to school?
  • are children allowed/encouraged to read books from home?
  • who should read with the student? (any family member? different or same family members? 
  • is there a reading log to complete? who is responsible for it? what if it comes home unsigned by the school? or to school unsigned by the parent?
  • will participating in home reading improve the child's grade or is the expectation it will improve performance but is not given consideration as a grade overall?  

Once parents feel they have a satisfactory understanding of the logistics expected related to home reading, there are some other considerations that require attention before home-supported reading can proceed successfully. These considerations are primarily about your child and their current status and progress as a reader:

  • what is my child's relationships with books at home?
  • where is my child as a reader? What is a most favourite book they like to read or to have read aloud to them? Can they explain why they love that particular story?
  • Do they like to be read to already? Are they attempting any reading on their own? Or do they require a nudge to try reading on their own? 
  • Do they choose favourite books to read independently? Or are they reluctant to choose one on their own, for whatever reason?  
  • what is my relationship with my child regarding reading? Do we already struggle to find time to read together? Is reading a pleasant past time or a struggle? Do I find it frustrating to read with my child already?
  • has my child memorized any favourite short books at home, 'pretend reading' them to me? 
  • how accessible are books for my child at home? Are there children's books in our home? Do we visit a public library on occasion? Where does my child choose their books from - either to read independently or to listen to as a read aloud
  • does my child already listen to books digitally? 
  • are there favourite genres my child prefers (such as sports, adventure, how-to books, etc)

I believe home reading could become a considerable struggle with limited benefits for both child and parent if these pre-considerations are overlooked. While home reading is not, in my opinion, in any way an abdication of teaching responsibilities to parents (as I once was asked), it definitely has a much greater chance of being a successful support for students if it is invested in with care and attention prior to actually beginning to become an expectation between home and school.  This is the time of year to be attentive to exploring such pre-conditions - it is always better to begin an adventure when you have a good sense of the terrain ahead!

Lorraine Kinsman,


October 15
Strategies for Home Reading with A Child - What Makes Sense for a Parent?


"Reading can be a very fraught topic for parents, teachers and students...At its heart, reading is a way to access stories, which in turn make readers wonder about the world. In the race to get kids reading, it can be easy to treat reading like a procedure, instead of the complicated experience that it is."- Katrina Schwartz

I have begun exploring the phenomenon of 'home reading' in this blog (see previous entries: Snapshot: How Home Reading Became One More Thing on the 'To Do List' for Families (Sept. 8, 2019)  and What Do Parents Need to Notice and Know about Home Reading? (Sept. 15, 2019). Hopefully, they will help families support this enormously important and relatively untapped resource for supporting the development of lifelong, successful readers.

Parents who understand the expectations of their child's school related to home reading, and have explored the nature of book-finding and reading already established in their homes, have cleared the first hurdle in supporting the development of an avid, successful reader. They are ready to launch the home reading program, and are now faced with questions related to 'What do I now?  What does reading at home with my child look and sound like in actual fact?' or something similar. 

The 'what do I do now?' questions may quickly sink the best of intentions for supporting home reading if they are not answered and incorporated into the home routines appropriately - pushing kids to read without fully considering who they are in advance can lead to frustrations and arguments that may set a negative tone for parents or children that permeates and impacts reading experiences of children well into the future. But it doesn't have to be that way!

Some of the 'what do I do now?' responses are dependent upon the age and previous reading history of the child. Younger children with limited book reading experiences (either read aloud or independent 'reading' of texts) will look and sound quite different from children with established reading routines already. Either way, a good starting question for a parent might be 'How does my child respond during a read aloud experience?' If a child sits quietly and listens, asks questions or interrupts with stories, laughter, questions, etc, then s/he is already demonstrating keen interest in connecting with stories. If they are identifying words they recognize or pointing out particular parts of text (such as a ?) they are demonstrating they are ready to dive into reading with some awareness of text features already under their belts. Let's start with a very basic, not particularly engaged with reading child who may sit willingly for a bit but has not really shown any great interest in learning to read so far.

And, before we go any further, let's state the two DON'Ts for reading with children - not during home reading, choice of read aloud time, or any other time:

                           #1 - Don't cover up the pictures while reading books
                          #2 - Don't insist on accuracy of reading text every time -
                                   the ultimate goal of all reading is comprehension.

Strategies for children with limited read aloud experiences are intended to get the child interested in reading:
  •     encourage your child to choose a book (maybe offer 2 or 3 titles initially)
  •     ask: What do you think this story will be about? Talk with them about their ideas - why? 
  •    have your child hold the book, as they open it you might read the title aloud, pointing to the words; when the inside title appears, begin to read it again and pause to see if the child picks up on the title; if not, continue reading and pointing to the words 
  • when your child turns to the first page of text, ask 'where do you think we should start reading?' and have her point to that spot (hopefully the first word on the left hand side of the page; if not, simply put your finger there and say something like 'here's a good starting spot')
  •  read through the text aloud with your child, pausing to let your child show you in the pictures what you are reading - feel free to prompt with questions like "where is that happening in this picture?" or even just words like 'Really? That happened?' or something similar to get the child looking at the picture and making connections to your words
  • point to each word as you read
  • if your child interrupts to tell you something about the story - a word, a picture, a connection to another story, etc - pause and listen; affirm the connection, point to it with them, read on
  • when you have finished the story, read it again ('I enjoyed that story! Let's read that again!') 
  • through the second reading, pause 3 or 4 times to see if your child is able to follow through on thoughts and ideas from the story; if they are not jumping in with words or ideas from the story, just continue with reading to them 
  • record the reading of the book on the home reading journal if needed; if not, make note of it on an informal reading chart you can make yourself with your child - this helps affirm they are a 'reader'
  • talk about the book briefly: 'my favourite part of this story was.....What was your favourite part? I couldn't believe it when....., etc'
  • read the book at home at least two nights before returning it to school - the objective here is to create memories of texts so if you can keep it for a few weeks, do so
  • if your child wants, they might draw a picture from the story as a memory hook
  • or offer them the opportunity to print out their favourite word on a card you can attach to the fridge or a bulletin board in their room - a place to capture favourite words is always a good idea for future review
  • continue to build a collection of 'favourite stories' your child has chosen and become familiar with at home 
 Another idea for very young children is to post pictures/illustrations of animals or everyday items at a low level around your house (eg. on lower kitchen cupboards) children can identify. Words can be added to support building connections between items and labels and to develop a sight vocabulary. And color words can be added beneath pictures of particular items - written in their own colour would be additionally helpful.

The initial goal of home reading is to build familiarity with text in a non-threatening, welcoming environment. These strategies for early readers are just a few to get started with but will lay an important bedrock for becoming avid, successful readers at home.  

Next week we will visit strategies for supporting readers who are deliberately using text cues independently.

Lorraine Kinsman, Principal

October 15
Reading at Home with Early Readers

"Listening comprehension comes before reading comprehension. You must hear a word before you can say it or read and write it. If you've never head the word "enormous" in a meaningful way, you won't understand it when it's time to read or write it. There's a kind of  "word reservoir" in a child's brain and one of the jobs of a parent is to pour so many words into that it overflows into speech and then into reading and writing."  - Jim Trelease

I am exploring the phenomenon of 'home reading' in this blog (see previous entries: 

 Strategies for Home Reading with A Child - What Makes Sense for a Parent? (Sept. 23/19)

Hopefully, they will help families support this enormously important and relatively untapped resource for supporting the development of lifelong, successful readers.

Last week, the focus for parents was on strategies that could be used to support children with limited read aloud experiences, to help foster interest and enjoyment in reading.

Once children demonstrate familiarity and independence with text, pointing out particular words or sounds, 'reading' a book independently from memory, or attempting to read words on their own, there are many strategies parents can utilize to further support their children on their journey to becoming enthusiastic and competent readers. Here are a few considerations for parents:

-       Most of the time, have your child select the book to read – although this might be from a particular collection of books to ensure s/he is reading something manageable, the power of choice is a strong motivation for enjoying reading

-       Encourage your child to ‘read with you’ – try reading the text together, or in ‘echo’ fashion where you read and track the words while encouraging your child to repeat – or echo read – just behind you. This is great fun if you use different voices or tones, which your child will echo as well J

-       Before beginning to read, suggest trying to find particular words in detective fashion to introduce them to your child. Choose 3 – 5 words and go on a hunt for them in the text, repeating them as you point to them with your child.  This will build familiarity as you read through the text

-       Re-read texts several times to build familiarity with words, characters, story lines

-       If there are repetitive sentences in a story with just one or two words that are different (these are called pattern books and are a popular choice for early readers), play a game looking for what is the same/what is different on each page.

-       Find rhyming words and make up silly rhymes with them - children love rhymes and word families form a core part of learning to read

-       Talk about the stories your child has chosen to read – do they know why they chose a story? Did they like the characters? The setting? The action? What would they change in a story if they could?

-       Video your child reading the story the first time and then several times later; watch the two versions together and ask her what she notices?  Talk about it together.

- continue reading other stories with your children - stories they choose and are interested in - with new vocabulary, ideas or storylines they have not heard before to build up their vocabulary knowledge

Early readers are in a beautiful position to become interested and excited about the experience of learning to read - parents have an amazing opportunity to make reading an enjoyable experience during these months!

Next week's entry will focus on readers who are well launched into becoming avid and proficient readers, as they move into different genres, chapter books multiple forms of literature.

Lorraine Kinsman, Principal

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 Lorraine Kinsman

Lorraine Kinsman

Join us for the Board of Trustees public meeting today at noon at the Ed Centre or stream the meeting online. Trustees will discuss the updated Budget Assumptions Report https://t.co/ISGJKlRlO8 #yycbe #WeAreCBE https://t.co/bw1z6H3ziK

RT @CalgaryFoodBank: As part of the #MayorsFoodDrive, students build creative structures out of non-perishable food items. Using the theme Rock-CAN-Roll, 6 schools built 9 structures. Please take a moment to vote for the People's Choice! #CanstructionJR https://t.co/Y6dkB2FEbu https://t.co/TE2NnOVO4d

RT @yycbridge: #Mentorship cooking class at Dr. E. P. Scarlett High School @yyCBEdu. Youth had fun baking chocolate chip cookies and Portuguese egg tarts “Natas” https://t.co/pkkfJypCx3

RT @RobertThirsk: Canada is going back to the Moon and the Canadian Space Agency is engaging young Canadians to play a role in the next generation of space exploration. Learn more about the #JuniorAstronauts campaign: https://t.co/cR6RBf9A2T https://t.co/P8FmxHkK9P

RT @UsihChristopher: Had a terrific visit with students and staff at A E Cross School! The school offers regular Gr. 7-9 programming as well as Spanish Bilingual. Thanks to Principal Brandy Yee, AP Rhonda Williams & entire staff for supporting rich learning and well-being! #WeAreCBE https://t.co/Xn3v730PDr

We’re doing important system maintenance that will make many of our websites unavailable for a short time this evening. The outage is planned for 8 – 10 pm https://t.co/URvTxvTG3i #yycbe #WeAreCBE https://t.co/L57aJqJGkJ

Earlier this week the talented students in the PVA Chamber Choir from @cmhsrams gave a delightful performance before the public board meeting #WeAreCBE https://t.co/q1kAYs8BYQ

Join us for the Board of Trustees public meeting today at noon at the Ed Centre or stream the meeting online https://t.co/ISGJKlRlO8 #yycbe #WeAreCBE https://t.co/tVnRc8mzwk

Thank you @WHLHitmen for your support of our students! All of these bears will find a nice home with a CBE student. And thank you to the volunteers from Crescent Heights High School for your work to organize the bears! #WeAreCBE https://t.co/HPIr5BLYO2

RT @gale_school: Some of our grade 7 students recreated the $20 bill and wrote explanations of the figures and symbols they chose. They’re right on the money! #weareCBE @Area4CBE https://t.co/JsfNbow1GR