Showing posts with category Reading & Learning Show all posts >
Chances are, you’re doing something else at the same time you’re reading this blog post—at least partially. Divided attention is just part of the program in today’s “always-on” environment, and being constantly connected usually means spending a lot of time in front of a screen.
Not surprisingly, our kids’ screen time is increasing along with our own. As a result, language delays due to excessive screen time are becoming a cause for concern.
Too Much, Too Young
When children spend a lot of time in front of a screen—especially when that screen serves as a virtual babysitter for the child—it makes sense to expect that there’s going to be an impact.
One study published in Acta Paediatrica (Chonchaiya & Pruksananonda, 2008) found that children who started watching television before their first birthday, and who watched more than two hours per day, were six times more likely to have language delays than children in a control group.
The Dwindling Art of Two-Way Conversation
What seems to matter even more than the amount of screen time is the degree of adult involvement and interaction with that screen time. Both the Chonchaiya & Pruksananonda study and another study published in PEDIATRICS (Zimmerman, et al., 2009) have shown that when adults guide a child’s screen time and engage the child in two-way conversation about it, the detrimental effect on language development can be neutralized.
Children require conversation to develop robust language skills, and they need adults to invite and shape that conversation in ways that help them think about the world and formulate the language that expresses their thoughts. Even reading to children and telling them stories—both of which are important—are not enough by themselves to support healthy language development.
Connected vs. Connection
In some cases, it may actually be parents’ screen time that’s the problem. For a variety of reasons—including job pressures and shifts in culture—parent screen time has started to encroach upon family time, displacing adult-child interaction.
In her book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, Catherine Steiner-Adair shares the stories of children and teenagers who are sidelined by their parents’ use of technology and who long for their undivided attention. The overwhelming message from the kids is that “it feels ‘bad and sad’ to be ignored.”
If kids aren’t getting the attention they want from their parents, how likely is it that they’re getting enough of the conversation that they need to develop important life skills—including language skills?
Language isn’t just a tool used to communicate at the dinner table or in the classroom; it’s a living part of who we are, and comes to life and grows in our relationships, our conversations, and in caring for—and being cared for—by others.
As hard as it can be to manage the competing demands of work and family—or to break the habit of being “always on”—there’s no substitute for listening, asking questions, and being interested in kids’ lives.
Chonchaiya, W., & Pruksananonda, C. (2008). Television viewing associates with delayed language development. Acta Paediatrica, 97(7), 977-982. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2008.00831.x
Steiner-Adair, C. (2013). The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age. New York, NY: Harper.
Zimmerman, F.J., Gilkerson, J., Richards, J.A., Christakis, D.A., Xu, D., Gray, S., & Yapanel, U. (2009). Teaching by Listening: The Importance of Adult-Child Conversations to Language Development. Pediatrics, 124(1), 342-349. doi: 10.1542/peds.2008-2267
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The number of English language learners (ELLs) in American schools is rising faster than that of any other student population. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) 2012 report, The Condition of Education, ELLs in US schools increased from 3.7 million in 2000-01 to 4.7 million in 2009-10, up from 8% to 10% of all students. In California, the state with the greatest increase, 29% of enrolled students in 2009-10 were ELLs.
Given these numbers, it’s clear that the challenges are enormous. There are more than 150 languages spoken by ELLs in the country’s schools. In some states, the vast majority of ELLs speak a single language—often Spanish—while in other states fewer than half of the students speak the top foreign language. Schools face a shortage of qualified bilingual teachers and, often, rigidity within the traditional school structure that impedes effective teaching of English learners.
It’s no surprise, then, that when it comes to ELL’s academic achievement, the data shows that our schools are failing to meet the Department of Education’s promise of “fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.”
Where’s the Excellence?
Consider the following data from the 2011 Nation’s Report Card:
4th Grade ELL
8th Grade ELL
8th Grade Non-ELL
% Proficient or
4th Grade ELL
8th Grade ELL
8th Grade Non-ELL
% Proficient or
The non-ELL achievement levels are unimpressive, but the ELL results are downright depressing—especially for 8th graders who may be at risk of dropping out. For the vast majority of English learners, the language barrier remains unacceptably high.
School Success Stories
Despite these dismal statistics, some schools have done an exceptionally good job educating English learners. Take, for example, Coral Way Bilingual K-8 Center in Miami, FL, which started providing two-way bilingual education for all students in the 1960s in response to an influx of English learners from Cuba. Of the 70% of kindergarteners who enter the school with a Limited English Proficient (LEP) classification, most move out of the classification by 2nd grade.
On the West coast, a technology-based approach has made a big difference at a school formerly in Program Improvement. At Korematsu Discovery Academy in Oakland, CA, where the student population is 65% LEP, Principal Charles Wilson introduced the Fast ForWord online reading intervention program to help struggling learners move closer to proficiency. Within two years, the reading proficiency rate for 2nd – 5th graders increased from 17% to 41%. The math proficiency rate increased from 39% to 67% in the same period.
As a result of these gains, Korematsu received an award from Oakland Unified School District for the largest increase in the proficiency rate of English learners of all elementary schools in the district. According to Wilson, English learners who go through the program “are able to understand English more quickly, maintain their focus for a longer period of time, and are better at following directions.”
While the jury’s still out on which program model—two-way bilingual as used at Coral Way, late-exit bilingual, pullout ESL, etc.—is “the best” for helping English learners make strides academically, research shows that successful schools have typically made an effort to restructure for better learning. School restructuring can include a variety of elements, such as:
Many of the benefits of restructuring—such as greater parent involvement and teacher collaboration—extend beyond ELLs to the broader school community. With a more flexible structure in place, teachers have greater latitude to help all their students build the skills they need to succeed in reading, language arts, and all subject areas.
The Fast ForWord online reading intervention program used at Korematsu Discovery Academy is easier to implement than school restructuring and can provide rapid results within traditional or restructured learning environments. The program helps ELLs learn to hear the critical differences between similar sounding English phonemes so that so they can make sense of the English language. Once they can hear the sound differences, the “code” is broken and they can accelerate their acquisition of reading and language skills. It’s this unique intervention approach that makes it possible for ELLs to achieve significant academic gains in just a few months.
The demographic changes in American schools are demanding that educators demonstrate the same globally competitive skills that their students are expected to develop—the ability to innovate, implement effective technologies, work collaboratively to solve pressing problems, and communicate cross-culturally with parents and the broader community. There are schools like Coral Way and Korematsu Discovery Academy that have demonstrated what’s possible. Who’s up for the challenge?
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“There is an endless war of nerves going on inside each of our brains. If we stop exercising our mental skills, we do not just forget them: the brain map space for those skills is turned over to the skills we practice instead. If you ever ask yourself, ‘How often must I practice French, or guitar, or math to keep on top of it?’ you are asking a question about competitive plasticity. You are asking how frequently you must practice one activity to make sure its brain map space is not lost to another.”
-Norman Doidge in The Brain that Changes Itself
The Critical Period
From our very earliest days, our brain begins to map itself to the world as we experience it through our senses. The mapping is vague at first, lacking detail, but the more we interact with the world, the more well-defined our brain maps become until they are fully formed and differentiated.
“The critical period” is the name given to the time in infancy and early childhood during which our brain is so plastic that its structure is easily changed by simple exposure to new things in the environment. Babies, for example, learn the sounds of language and words effortlessly by listening to their parents speak. Inside the brain, what this learning looks like is the brain actually rewiring itself to change its own structure.
Use It or Lose It: Training the Brain to Form New Maps
Just a few decades ago, the prevailing scientific view held that the brain was a finely tuned machine that operated within a fixed scope of ability once the critical period had passed. But in the 1990s, through a series of experiments with monkeys, Dr. Michael Merzenich discovered that our brains can change well past the critical period—and indeed throughout our lives. But learning that takes place after the critical period is no longer effortless, and children and adults must work hard to pay attention to the new information that they wish to absorb and master.
The maxim commonly used to describe the phenomenon of neural learning is “neurons that fire together wire together,” and it’s this “wiring together” that results in the corresponding structural changes in the brain. Timing is key to the process, with neurons that fire simultaneously wiring together to create a map.
The space allocated to a neural map evolves over a number of stages. When learning is taking place, a relatively large space is allocated to the map. Once a skill is established, the mapped neurons become so efficient that fewer are needed—allowing some of the map space to be reallocated again for new learning. It’s a practical use-it-or-lose-it process that allows us to continue picking up new skills without bumping into space limits in the brain. Taking up a musical instrument such as violin, for example, causes more map space to be allocated to the playing fingers, and consequently, less space is allocated where there is lower demand.
As we develop mastery of a skill, our neurons not only grow to be more efficient, but they also begin to process faster. With that faster processing they tend to fire together more readily as well, creating more groups of neurons that send out clearer signals. The clarity of those signals has a great deal to do with how well the brain learns and remembers what the neurons have processed. The clearer the signal, the more clearly the brain remembers.
But what if there are gaps or inefficiencies in the maps that have been established?
From the Lab to the Learner
Dr. Merzenich had become interested in the work of Dr. Paula Tallal at Rutgers University. Dr. Tallal was interested in understanding why some children have more trouble than others when it comes to learning to read. Her research had shown that auditory processing problems were causing the “fast parts” of speech—common combinations of consonants and vowels that are pronounced very quickly—to be problematic for children with language difficulties.
Dr. Merzenich believed the problem was a matter of the children’s auditory processing speed lagging behind the speed of the speech sounds, resulting in an inability to distinguish differences between similar sounds or to perceive the correct sequence of sounds when they occurred in rapid succession.
Another known contributing factor was that of neural readiness. After processing a sound, neurons require a rest period before they can fire again. Normally this rest period is about 30 milliseconds, but for most children with language impairments it takes at least three times as long for the neuron to recover. The result is that a lot of critical language information is simply missed during the rest period.
Merzenich and Tallal believed they could combine forces to effectively help children who struggled to read. In 1996, Merzenich and his colleague Dr. Bill Jenkins teamed up with Tallal and her colleague Dr. Steve Miller to develop a real-world application of the science of neural plasticity by creating a product that could help struggling readers rewire their brains. From this union, Scientific Learning was born.
The partnership between Merzenich, Jenkins, Tallal, and Miller resulted in the software product that today we call Fast ForWord. Fast ForWord was carefully designed in the guise of a video game that could challenge and develop cognitive skills like memory, attention, processing speed, and sequencing as well as language and reading skills from phonemic awareness to decoding and comprehension.
Merzenich and Jenkins wanted Fast ForWord to trigger the children’s brains to secrete dopamine and acetylcholine—neurotransmitters that help lock in learning. Because the brain secretes these neurotransmitters when it gets rewarded, a generous supply of entertaining animations was built into the product to play spontaneously when a child achieved a goal.
From the very beginning, Fast ForWord elicited remarkable results. Children who participated in the initial field trial boosted their language development by 1.8 years, on average, in just six weeks. A subsequent study at Stanford University, dyslexic children’s brains showed increased activity in several areas after Fast ForWord, bringing them more in line with the patterns seen in typical readers’ brains. The dyslexic children’s brains had shown different patterns of activity before Fast ForWord (as revealed by fMRI).
In the 14 years since the field trial, Fast ForWord has been used by more than 2.7 million children around the world, with achievement gains of up to two years in as little as three months. During this time, school-based results—such as those at St. Mary Parish Public School System in Louisiana—have demonstrated that Fast ForWord can improve test scores across subject areas. And many additional research studies have corroborated the effectiveness of the Fast ForWord program for building cognitive, language, and reading skills.
In a 2010 study at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania, Beth Rogowsky found that Fast ForWord significantly improved students’ grammar skills as measured by the Written Expression Scale from the Oral and Written Language Scales (OWLS). A subsequent study by Dr. Rogowsky published in 2013 showed that college students who used Fast ForWord increased their reading and writing skills significantly more than students in a comparison group as measured by the Gates MacGinitie Reading Test and the OWLS.
The Brain That Changes Itself
Our current understanding of how the brain changes itself in response to experience opens the door to mind-bending possibilities. With the development of newer, smaller, and faster technologies, there’s no telling how Merzenich’s revolutionary discovery of brain plasticity past the critical period will impact the future of education.
What is certain is that true brain-based learning has arrived, that it’s available today, and that children around the world are overcoming language and reading problems that not long ago were often considered insurmountable.
Doidge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science. London: Penguin Books.
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Reading is one of the most rewarding and challenging skills to teach. It involves building upon solid strategies and taking your students from the mechanics of reading to the magic of the written word. Teaching inference skills playfully in the classroom helps us bring literature to life and connects our students with writers who artfully fill the pages of their books.
Being able to infer is a critical comprehension skill. As readers, students must approach texts like detectives and find the meaning that lies behind the words that they read. For many students this task is fun and exciting, but for some it can be daunting.
For students who are struggling with learning to infer, working on precursor skills can help. Two important precursors to inferring are automaticity and background knowledge.
When we say that students need to develop automaticity, we mean that they need to be able to read with enough ease and accuracy so that their brains have time to focus on the meaning and the message of the text. Building fluency with a program like Reading Assistant can help students achieve automaticity. Without this groundwork laid, students are simply too busy working on decoding words to seek out meaning in the text.
In order to make an inference, students need to have some background knowledge about what they are reading. We can support them by building context and asking thought-provoking pre-reading questions.
Teaching inference as a reading strategy can be great fun. Here are some ideas you can use in class with your students:
As students approach more complex texts and work more rigorously to meet the Common Core Standards, they will need to rely more on their ability to infer meaning from text. Solidly developed inference skills will enable readers to understand and apply the knowledge they acquire from print in school. And, perhaps more important, solid inference skills will also support a greater love of reading throughout their lives.
Kurland, D. (2000). Inference: Reading Ideas as Well as Words. Retrieved from http://www.criticalreading.com/inference_reading.htm
Graesser, A.C. & Clark, L.F. (1985). The Generation of Knowledge-Based Inferences during Narrative Comprehension. In author G. Rickheit & H. Strohner (Ed.) Inferences in Text Processing (pp. 53-94), Amsterdam: Elsevier Science Publishers B.V.
Canada. Ontario Ministry of Education. Think Literacy: Cross-Cultural Approaches, Grades 7-12. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/studentsuccess/thinkliteracy/files/reading.pdf
With the start of a new school year this month, principals and teachers are facing novel and increased challenges. Educators are well aware that the U.S. classroom is becoming more diverse and that this diversity compounds the added pressure teachers and administrators feel to meet Common Core standards and local community standards for educational performance.
The increased diversity in the U.S. classroom can be attributed to several factors:
All of these factors are contributing to an educational environment where teachers and administrators feel increased pressure to meet state guidelines and community expectations yet they are at a loss for approaches that actually increase classroom achievement for these groups. However, there are some commonalities among these diverse groups that make them more amenable to some specific types of interventions than others.
English language learners, struggling readers, special education students, and students from homes below the poverty line share specific kinds of cognitive limitations that have been shown to affect school achievement. A major limitation shared by all of those diverse groups is the reduction in oral language skills. Research published by Hart and Risley in 1995 showed that children living in homes below the poverty line were exposed on average to 32 million fewer words by the time they entered school than children from homes where the parents were professionals. And research published by Hirsch in 1996 indicated that when students enter schools with low oral language the relative difference in oral language skills actually worsens as they course through elementary and middle school. Academic interventions that improve oral language skills are one key to closing the achievement gap.
Some other diverse groups, like those students diagnosed with ADHD or special needs, show problems with attention and working memory skills. As classroom teachers are aware, attention and memory problems are difficult to “teach around” and pose a challenge for classroom management as well. Teachers may feel they spend 95% of their time trying to accommodate the 5% of learners who struggle to attend or cannot easily retain information presented in class. Interventions that focus specifically on enhancing attention and memory skills have been proven to result in increased academic achievement.
It is logical that increased diversity in our nation’s classrooms necessitates a new look at educational interventions that are designed to target the underlying deficits rather than concentrating on curriculum alone. Children with poor oral language skills or reduced attentional or memory capacities are not likely to benefit from even the best instruction until those deficits are addressed. Fortunately, there are powerful, breakthrough interventions like the Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant programs that focus on those specific capacities and they have proven results with this new diverse group of students we are charged with educating.
Communication Champion. (2011). Oral language and poverty. Gross, J. Retrieved from http://www.thecommunicationtrust.org.uk/commissioners/reports.aspx
Hart, B., & Risley, T.R. (1995). Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
Hirsch (1996) The Effects of Weaknesses in Oral Language on Reading Comprehension Growth cited in Torgesen, J. (2004). Current issues in assessment and intervention for younger and older students. Paper presented at the NASP Workshop.
Morris, R.D., Stuebing, K.K., Fletcher, J.M., Shaywitz, S.E., Lyon, G.R., Shankweiler, D.P., Katz, L., Francis, D.J., Shaywitz, B.A. (1998). Subtypes of reading disability: variability around a phonological core. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90(3), 347-373.
Reading fluency has been at the apex of my own reading instructional agenda for quite a long time, and today I’d like to share the story with you of how it got top billing. I have found that reading fluency is a necessary competency for reading comprehension and that many students who struggle in reading comprehension are also very likely to manifest difficulties in reading fluency.
I like to say that fluency is the gateway or bridge to comprehension and that teaching fluency can lead to improvements in reading comprehension for many students. Research has shown that students who struggle in fluency are more likely to struggle in comprehending what they read; and students who are more fluent in their reading are more likely to have better comprehension.
My journey into fluency began as an intervention teacher in Nebraska. I was working with students who should not have been struggling readers. They were quite bright, did well in other subject areas, but seemed unresponsive to the instruction I was providing in what, at the time, were the big areas of reading—word recognition and reading fluency.
Fortunately for me, I was working on my master’s degree at the time and the professors at the University of Nebraska at Omaha had us reading some of the early articles that were beginning to come out on reading. One article was “After decoding, then what?” by Carol Chomsky. Dr. Chomsky worked as a reading specialist and had been instructing students in word recognition to the point where they were quite proficient in word decoding. Still, despite this accomplishment her students made little progress in overall reading proficiency, including reading comprehension. Willing to try just about anything, she came upon the idea of having students read a passage while simultaneously listening to a recorded version of the same text by a fluent reader. Students would practice with this aid until they could read on their own. Not only did the students make remarkable improvements in their reading, Chomsky reported that their confidence in themselves as readers and their motivation to read increased as well.
Another article I read in my master’s program was Jay Samuels’ “The method of repeated reading.” In this paper, Dr. Samuels had low achieving readers (those who had been making slow progress) read one text several times through until they achieved a level of fluency in the text. Then they moved on to another passage and did the same thing. Samuels found that every time the students read a passage they improved in all aspects of their reading. That is to be expected. The unexpected finding, especially since these were students who previously were making minimal progress in reading, was that when the students moved on to a new passage they had not previously seen there were vestiges of improvement on the new passage as well. Students had transferred something of what they had learned through the practice of one passage to a new never-before-read passage. That was real progress for these students.
I decided to try these fluency methods with my own students who had been making hardly any progress despite my best efforts. Lo and behold, by having students practice texts while listening to a recorded version of the reading or while listening to me read with them, my students who had previously been making minimal progress began to take off; and in some cases their progress was breathtaking. I have been using fluency methods and studying fluency ever since. When the National Reading Panel decided to explore a scientific foundation for the teaching of reading, they cited some of my own research and writing to support the importance of reading fluency.
Fluency instruction can include a variety of components. It is important to model fluent reading for students so that they know what reading fluency actually is. In many classrooms around the country, students have developed the idea that fluency is reading fast without regard to comprehension. What better way to show them what true fluency is than by reading to your students and talking with them about how you improved their appreciation of the text by reading with fluency.
Fluency is also developed by having students read a passage while listening to a fluent reading of the same passage. This can be done by providing students with recorded versions of the passage or by having students read with you or together with other members of the class. Practice is another way to build fluency. Reading practice should consist of deep as well as wide reading. Deep reading means reading a text several times until it can be read with appropriate fluency that reflects and enhances the meaning of the passage. Wide reading means reading independently from a variety of texts to increase vocabulary, word recognition and knowledge.
I hope I have enticed you to think more about fluency in your own instruction. Please join me on September 11th when I will be initiating a series of webinars on effective teaching and reading fluency (and comprehension).
I’m so excited to announce our webinars for this fall! We are honored to have Dr. Norman Doidge, the well-known author of The Brain That Changes Itself, join us October 2nd for a webinar. This is a rare opportunity that educators, clinicians and parents alike won’t want to miss. Dr. Tim Rasinski, one of our favorite presenters, is returning to speak about the role of fluency in comprehension, and Dr. Marty Burns will be speaking on meeting the needs of the rapidly changing diverse student populations.
Dr. Martha S. Burns will discuss what the latest brain science says about the true learning potential of ELLs, struggling readers, and students with ADHD. Find out how today’s powerful intervention technologies can help build foundational reading and cognitive skills for a variety of student populations—and help students improve their ability to learn.
Dr. Timothy Rasinski is a vocal proponent of teaching reading fluency as a means of helping students build better comprehension. In our September webinar, Dr. Rasinski will talk about fluency as a predictor of reading comprehension, present the research on fluency, and substantiate fluency as an essential component of any successful reading program (National Reading Panel). All this and you’ll gain a better understanding of how to teach fluency so your students can start getting more from their reading.
For 400 years, the brain was thought to be a more-or-less fixed piece of machinery after infancy. Dr. Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself, will talk about the recent discovery that the brain retains the ability to change its own structure and function in response to experience through the latest years of our lives. Learn how this discovery was made, how it turns our understanding of learning on its head, and how it radically alters the was we think about student potential—especially for students with learning challenges or disorders. And, discover the online interventions that have grown out of the science and learn how they work to help students overcome reading and language difficulties.
How does your school go about aligning school, classroom, and student learning goals for the new school year? Are the goals that are set at the school-wide level communicated to teachers and students? Do all members of the school community know what they are striving toward in the context of the year’s teaching and learning—and why?
As the 2013-2014 year begins, schools that are not yet engaged in multi-level goal setting might consider some of the advantages of this approach.
Grade Level Goals
Student Learning Goals
Working With Students to Set Learning Goals
The S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) model of goal setting can help students understand how to think about goals and envision what their goals might look like:
Sample S.M.A.R.T Goal
Improve next math quiz score by one letter grade.
A beautiful thing about effective goal setting is the feeling of empowerment that students take away from the process when they have seen it work for them. Setting goals for the new school year is just the starting point for transforming teaching and learning, and when teachers and students feel they have ownership of their goals, the entire community can step forward together to do accomplish the work that lies ahead.
Newman, R. (2011). Using Goal Setting To Build An Inclusive Learning Culture. Retrieved from http://www.targetedleadership.net/pubs/tlc_ontarget_spring11.shtml
O’Neill, J., & Conzemius, A. (2005). The Power of SMART Goals: Using Goals to Improve Student Learning. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.
During the earliest years of life, the brain sets up for learning through the development of language. This foundation has been shown to be the bedrock of school learning and the roadblock to success for many students.
Language is a complex, multidimensional system that supports decoding and comprehension as children learn to read. The formal skills necessary to create mental models of text not only for reading but for following instructions, interpreting stories and content and other higher order skills depend upon language abilities that have been developing since birth.
Talking to children from infancy is key to building language skills. “Baby talk,” aka “parentese,” is a singsong way of talking to children while exaggerating facial expressions. It is spoken around the world—not just in English-speaking countries—and is stimulating to infants as they map the key sounds and patterns of language.
Parents and caregivers teach children what words mean (“doggie”, “cup”, etc.), how to make new words (i.e. happy, happier, unhappy), how to put words together (i.e. “Ryan went to the corner store” rather than “Ryan went to the store corner”) and what combinations work best in different situations (“May I please have a toy” rather than “Give me that!”- also referred to as pragmatic skills).
Talking to children about daily activities, such as about how things are the same and different (fun to try at the grocery store), enhances communication skills. Reviewing the days’ activities with children builds language and memory skills as well as sequencing skills. Rhyming and word play help children to begin to break words into sounds which will build into reading skills later on.
Reading With Expression
It is important to read to children with expression from an early age. Six-month-old babies can enjoy picture books while they build vocabulary and language comprehension. Pre-school children, age 5, were studied by Mira and Schwanenflugel at the University of Georgia (2013), who found that the degree of expressiveness of the reader has an impact on how much of the story children are to able recall. This affects language processing so necessary for school success.
What You Can Do
Parents and early childhood educators can help young children build language skills with simple and fun activities that fit naturally into the day:
Avoid or reduce exposure to TV—even educational programming—in favor of person-to-person interaction. Helping young children build strong language skills is fun, and it’s also one of the most important things parents and educators can do to establish the necessary foundation for success in school and in life.
Mira W.A., & Schwanenflugel P.J. (2013). The impact of reading expressiveness on the listening comprehension of storybooks by prekindergarten children. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools. 44(2), 183-94. doi: 10.1044/0161-1461(2012/11-0073)
Are your kids making progress with their summer reading list? Are they having fun with it? The following books are highly recommended to kids who are still looking for a compelling recreational read.
Wolf’s Coming (Joe Kulka)
Wolf is coming and all the forest animals go into hiding. But things are not what they seem, and there’s a surprise ending that kids love.
One (Kathryn Otoshi)
Red picks on Blue, but Orange, Green, and Purple are afraid to stand up for their friend. Then One comes along and shows all the colors how to band together against a bully.
If I Built a House (Chris Van Dusen)
A young boy designs a marvelously imaginative dream house for himself and his family in this beautifully illustrated picture book.
Galaxy Zack Hello, Nebulon!(Ray O'Ryan and Colin Jack )
When Zack moves from Earth to Nebulon, he’s sad about leaving his best friend behind and nervous about starting a new school. It turns out that Sprockets Academy isn’t as bad as he’d expected, but there’s still a lot he has to get used to on Nebulon.
Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa (Erica Silverman)
Set on a cattle-ranch, this chapter book for beginning readers tells four stories of the friendship between Cowgirl Kate and her talking horse-friend, Cocoa.
Roscoe Riley Rules #1: Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs (Katherine Applegate)
Roscoe means well when he tries using superglue to solve a problem and save his class’ performance at the school open house, but things don’t turn out quite the way he planned.
Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown: Lunch Lady #4 (Jarrett J. Krosoczka)
When Lunch Lady and the Breakfast Bunch gear up for fun at Camp Fun Times, what could possibly go wrong? Well, there’s the legendary swamp monster, for one thing. Fortunately, the Breakfast Bunch has a track record of helping Lunch Lady defeat the bad guys—with the aid of cool cafeteria-tech like Taco-vision night goggles, of course.
One Crazy Summer (Rita Williams-Garcia)
Three sisters are sent by their father from New York to California to spend a month with the mother who abandoned them. A bittersweet tale set in urban Oakland in 1968 during a turbulent moment in history.
The One and Only Ivan (Katherine Applegate)
Ivan the gorilla, who lives in at the local mall, tells the story of his captivity. This book appears on many “Best of” lists for 2012.
Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin (Liesl Shurtliff)
Finally, Rumpelstiltskin (aka Rump) tells his own story—and it’s not the story you know. Rump is a page-turning adventure with magic, fairytale creatures, a scrappy hero, and a clever ending.
Mockingbird (Kathryn Erskine)
A middle school girl with Asperger’s syndrome must come to terms with her beloved brother’s death in a school shooting.
I’ll Be There (Holly Goldberg Sloan)
Brothers Sam and Riddle have spent most of their lives acting invisible. Trapped in a transient life with an unstable father, they live around the margins of society until one day music-loving Sam wanders into a church to hear the music and meets a girl named Emily, and their lives begin to change.
Eleanor and Park
Park, son of a veteran, and Eleanor, a misfit with a difficult home life, bond over comic books and punk rock. Not surprisingly, the budding romance begins to falter when their very different worlds intersect.
Code Name Verity (Elizabeth Wein)
A young female spy is captured in Nazi-occupied France, making for an exciting adventure story about courage and friendship.
The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)
Hazel is sixteen and living with terminal cancer. When her doctor sends her to a support group for kids, she meets Augustus—also a cancer survivor—and together they contemplate the meaning of life and death.
There’s no better time than summer to help kids discover the pleasure of a lazy afternoon immersed in a book that they can’t bear to put down. What must-read books would you add to this list?
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