During Reading Week and while waiting for my students to be picked up, a parent handed me a ton of books. I say ton, but it was more like 12 books. To me it was a ton because we are in such desperate need of books in my classroom. It was like she was handing me a pot of gold…and it wasn’t even St. Patrick’s day yet! I was so excited and so were the students around me that had not been picked up yet.
It was picture day and we were all dressed up in dresses and nice clothes but when we saw those books, we sat down right on the sidewalk (far away from the cars) and started looking at the books. Other students that were leaving walked by and asked if they could have a book. I almost looked at them sideways because I wanted to say, “Are you serious! We just got these! No!” but I kindly told them, that they were for our class. I looked at all the titles and then started reading one. The kids did the same-well actually most of them just looked at the pictures, a couple started sounding out words and reading.
Many of my students have told me that no one reads to them at home and some don’t even have books. This makes me sad. Reading is such an adventure! I make sure everyday I read to my class-not the required textbook reading, but a story time after lunch and since it was reading week, I read to them even more.
Whenever I read to them, They all get quiet and some just can’t hold their silence. They are like adults that talk through a movie about what might happen next. “Don’t let the cat in the hat go in the house, Sally” one says. “Aw man, that cat is trouble,” another will say. I have to shh them sometimes but I love their excitement over a good book. If only their parents could see how attentive and anxious they get over a story. I want parents everywhere to know how beneficial reading to your child is. I have many parents that tell me different reasons why they can’t read to their kids. So perhaps my responses to them may give you readers out there some ideas on how to help your child with reading.
Below are common statements that I hear from parents of my students and my replies to them.
- I work at nights and am not able to read to my child.– It doesn’t have to be story time only at night. You can read in the morning or on your days off. One story time with your child is better than none. Anytime you can read to your child is helpful. If they see you reading, it will show them how important and special it is. It will also, give you quality time with your child.
- He/she is not interested in books.–People, especially children, are naturally curious or have an interest in something. Perhaps they are not into fiction but may really like science related stuff like insects, storms or animals. Or perhaps they may be into super heroes, villains or comic characters. Pay attention to your child. What do they like to watch on tv? There is more than likely a book for that. They are also being introduced to science and history topics at school. What do they come home talking about? If they like to use phones or tablets, download some books for them. There are great book apps for kids. My favorite for iphone app is Dr. Seuss bookshelf. My favorite for Android devices is iStorybooks. I also like the Dr. Seuss ones on android but you just have to buy them individually, they are not on a shelf like iphone apps. (I will expound on my favorite apps later) OR they might really be into fiction but would like a book they can identify with. At our house, the books that get read repeatedly are the ones with characters that look like them or that they can relate to (i.e. Not Norman by Kelly Bennet is E and Z’s favorite because the character is African American and he wants a pet.)
- I gave him/her a book to read, but they won’t read it.I know they know the words.-Just because a child can READ all the words does not mean they are comprehending all the words. You ever read something and had to read it again because you had no idea what you just read? That happens to kids a lot, especially since they are still adding new words to their memory bank. You want your child to understand what they read. Try choosing a book with less words and letting them choose a book on their own. And of course, if you really want them to read that book, read it to them.
- I don’t know how to read. I never learned.– (this is heartbreaking to hear, but I ask several questions after this statement. I also teach in a high Spanish-speaking population where the parents cannot read English )-Do you feel that reading is important? Why or why not? The responses are usually; Yes and that they want better for their child. Pictures are universal; look at the pictures with your child. Pick one or two picture books for the week. Talk about the pictures (in both languages for my ELL students). Have your child bring the book to school. I will read it to them or maybe even to the class. (Sometimes I will choose to do this in a small group literacy circle). This will give them some insight on what is happening in the book and in turn they can tell you about it and read it to you. Sidenote: Many times, more often than you think, children teach their parents. Children actually do this all the time. As parents we are just so busy that we are often not paying attention. For the parent that can’t read and wants to learn how, I often refer them info to places that can help them but most times their own child is their interpreter and teacher.
- I don’t have time for that.-This is an easy everyday excuse for everyone. We make time for what is important. Is it important to you that your child learn how to read (the answer is usually yes but I have had some no’s)? If the parent replies yes, then I tell them that they have a vital role in helping their child learn to read. You are going to have to make time even if it is once a week. Find a time that works for you and sit down without distractions and read to your child. Use a phone, tablet, newspaper, the back of a cereal box, kid-friendly magazine, book from the library or borrowed from my classroom and read to your child. You have to put some effort into this. Or is there someone else you can trust to help your child with reading? A minister, neighbor, older sibling, cousin or tutor?
The important thing to remember in all of this is that it truly does take a village to raise a child. Reading is super important. You need it for everything from reading signs to doing math properly. A teacher’s job is just as busy as a parent’s job and every student a teacher has wants her/his undivided attention. For me that is attention x 26. I give them as much as I can but they need even more from their parent/guardian. Make the time to read together.
Did you have a favorite book as a child? If so, which book?