Spring is Here! Help Your Young Readers Bloom

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping… and it’s getting harder and harder to sit still. Reading doesn’t have to be confined to the indoors. In fact, going outside on a walk or taking a book with you to read under a shady tree is quite relaxing.

For those with a more active mindset, take advantage of environmental print. Reading on the go, if you will.  Children often recognize logos and short phrases of places they like before they understand the phonics behind it. Use this as a springboard to encourage learning new words. Point out what the word starts with and sound it out syllable by syllable. 

Reading can be worked into games as simple as "I Spy." Instead of picking a color say something along the lines of, "I spy, with my little eye, something that starts with S!" Rhymes are great for this game too. Scavenger hunts are excellent for encouraging reading and they can be set up relatively quickly. Children will work to solve the puzzle even harder if there is treasure at the end of their quest! (Something small like a favorite snack or small toy.) You can "kidnap" one of their favorite toys so they must solve the puzzle to rescue it. Leave the first clue where they will find it or you could play the part of the innocent bystander and discover the clue. Set it up so each clue is a simple word puzzle that will lead to the next clue. For example, Clue #1 reads "Clue #2 sounds like chairs and starts with the letter s." Clue #3 would be found on the stairs and lead them to the next place. 
     Tailor the game to the appropriate difficulty for your players. You also control where the game goes so it could stay in the house or the back yard if you wish. Feel free to go all out and incorporate whatever theme the kids are into at the moment like pirates or explorers. 

Just like math or science, reading can be fun and active. Enjoy the beautiful weather and get some exercise for the mind and the body. Remember to keep your eyes open for reading opportunities always. What automatic sight reading for fluent readers is may be a new challenge for beginning readers. Make it fun!

Choosing Books for Preschoolers

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There are over 2,000 children’s books published each year, so choosing books for preschool children can feel like an overwhelming task! Walk into any local bookstore or your neighborhood library and you will undoubtedly be faced with rows and rows of books from which to choose. Where do you begin?  There are a few guiding questions that you can ask yourself to decide if a book is worth reading.
1.       Are the illustrations appropriate, engaging, and relevant?  Young children will gravitate more towards the pictures than the text so look at the illustrations carefully. In addition, children will often use the pictures to “read” a story independently so see if the pictures reflect the text.
2.       Are the text and the illustrations bias-free? It is important to choose books that do not perpetuate stereotypes about race, gender, religion, and physical/mental ability.
3.       Is the text appropriate for my child’s developmental level?  You have to walk a fine line here. You want to choose books that your child can comprehend, but also look for books that will introduce your child to new concepts and vocabulary!
4.       Does the story inspire the imagination?  Some of my favorite children’s books have been turned into movies because of their ability to inspire imaginations of adults and children alike. Search for stories that will give your child opportunities to use his/her imagination!
5.       Do you as the adult find the book interesting?  This may seem like an odd thing to look for in a book for children, but remember that your joy is often contagious! So why not share your excitement with your children or students!
6.       Will your child be interested in the subject? Children will often develop their own interests; Sometimes their interest may last for a few days, a few weeks, or it may turn into a life-long interest or hobby. Nurture those interests! This is also a great way to pull in the reluctant reader. The little girl who is not so interested in reading but loves horses may find an interest in books about horses!
7.       Does the book encourage interaction? Some of the books that children love the most encourage participation. Pop-up books, Lift-the-flap books, I-Spy stories, and books with rhythmic, repetitious or call/response text are hot ticket items for the five and under crew!
8.       What is the purpose of the book? Expand your child’s literary base by exposing them to all types of books – fiction, biography, how-to/why books, and nature books provide children with opportunities to look at our world from different points of view!
9.       Is this a non-fiction book, and if so, is it accurate? When choosing books that are written to provide children information, be sure it is accurate. I once read a book that referred to Africa as a country! So choose books that will give children an accurate picture of our world.
10.   Will my child want to read this book more than once?  Children learn, as we all do, from repeated exposure to information. So, choose books that your child will want to read more than once.