One of my favorite things about teaching Kindergarten and first grade was helping kids learn to read! It was so exciting to see their pride and self-esteem grow as they grew into confident readers. Now I’m getting to experience this joy at home with my two little ones.
The most important thing I learned when I was a classroom teacher is that every child is different~ they will be at different stages in reading development and will all learn to read in different ways. This has been very apparent as I watch my two very different children grow into readers.
But, although children all learn to read differently and at different paces, I think there are many things that do benefit all children as they become readers. I wanted to share some of these things over the next few weeks on my blog in a “Learning to Read” series. I would also love to hear your experiences and tips on reading at home with your children as well! And so on to…..
Make sure books are easily accessible to your child and allow them to become well-loved. When I was a teacher, I had the biggest collection of books! We had shelves full of books in our classroom library, cabinets full of books organized by subject or author and crates and baskets full of books about current things we were learning about.
At the beginning of my career, I had my ‘favorite’ books that I would pull out and read to the class, but then put right back away because I didn’t want them to get damaged~ I wanted to keep them in pristine condition to last over all my years of teaching. But one day I was talking with a colleague who happened to be in my classroom borrowing some books to use in her class. I was showing her all my books and happened to show her my ‘favorites’ collection. She browsed through my cherished collection of books and then commented on how she would have never known they were my favorites because they were the least ‘well-loved’ of all my books. You could hardly tell they had been enjoyed at all because there was not one fold or scratch on them.
That was such an eye opener for me. If you want kids to experience and enjoy books and learn to love them as much as you, they have to be able to access them and reread them over and over. The more they’ve been read and shared (and thus, bent and bedraggled looking) the more they’ve been loved. After that, I always had my favorite books available for the students to reread whenever they wanted. I knew it was the right thing to do when I’d look over and see them laughing and reading one with a friend or tucked away in the reading corner with on of the books oblivious to the world around them. Books can always be replaced, but learning opportunities come and go so quickly! I’ve tried to take this lesson I learned in my early years of teaching and apply it at home as well.
Make books accessible~ Make sure to have books where your kids can access them on their own. We have them in many different places in our home. Both kids have books in their bedrooms. Some of Theo’s board books are on a really low shelf in his room. Sometimes he will look at them as I’m in his room folding laundry or picking up. And, before his nap he likes to pick a couple books from his shelf and put them into his crib. He’ll look at them before he falls asleep. Lucy has some in her room as well. Right now she puts them under her nightstand, but we are in the process of making some bookshelves to hang on her wall too! We also have books in the playroom on some bookshelves, and in different places around our family room.
The kids use the books in different ways throughout the day. Sometimes Theo will just sit by his basket of board books in the family room and look at each one, page by page. Lucy sometimes chooses to read in her room during her 45 minute ‘rest time’. Now that Lucy is older and showing interest in writing, the books have also become a writing resource. When she wants to spell a word, she can go find a book she knows it’s in to see how it’s correctly spelled.
Let your books be loved~ And remember to allow your books to become a bit worn. It’s okay! (I survived it!) We do teach our kids how to properly take care of books, not to throw them or rip the pages. But, don’t be afraid of your books starting to look used and ‘well loved’. One day when you pick up one of those well loved books, each fold and scratch and stain will remind you of all the times you and your child enjoyed it!
One of our most well loved books~ Peek-A Who? by Nina Laden. This has been a favorite of both our children, and we are actually on book number two (book number one had already been loved beyond repair). This one’s almost seen it’s final days as well~ I couldn’t even get it shut for a photo!
See you soon for part 2 in the Learning to Read series!