Teaching Reading to Children

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Teaching reading to children is a science, but there is an art to it as well.

We repeat activities that bring us pleasure, which is why teaching reading must be fun.

When we enjoy something, we are bound to try harder, do it more often and keep coming back to it even if we mess up a bit. That is basic human nature.

quote about teaching reading to childrenWhat teaching reading to children means.
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Teachers know how to make teaching reading a pleasurable activity.

We want our students to grow as readers, so we make it an enjoyable experience. Many of our kids never had "lap time" - when mom or dad read to them just for fun.

A national reading assessment of fourth-grade students found that reading for fun had a positive relationship to performance on the NAEP reading scores.

87% of students who reported reading for fun on their own time once a month or more performed at the proficient level, while students who never or hardly ever read for fun performed at a Basic level.


Best Practices for Teaching Reading

One of my favorite books about reading instruction is What Really Matters for Struggling Readers by Richard Allington.

There is so much politicizing and rhetoric about how to reform literacy education, and Allington cuts through it all to get to the root of the situation.

As teachers, we all know (or should!) that so much data and research is misinterpreted and misused. 

Heck, we're handed out "research-based" programs like they are candy. We're just supposed to "eat them" and not ask questions.

Often these programs aren't evidence-based - there's no real data to support using them. Allington goes back to four grounded principles that we know actually works:

  • kids need to read a lot (provide time in class for reading)
  • kids need books they can actually read independently (districts must provide money for classroom and school libraries)
  • students must read fluently (prosody, accuracy and speed)
  • children have to develop thoughtful literacy habits (discussions about books and creating opportunities for kids to develop meta-cognition)

Embedded in these four principles are numerous strategies for teaching reading to children, with a special focus on our students who struggle with reading.

Every year I re-read this book in August (along with The Daily Five) to keep me grounded and focused on what really matters - and to shut out the noise and fluff that doesn't truly help kids.

Tips for Teaching Comprehension


Strategies for Connecting Children and Reading

  • Read aloud every day, and put your heart and soul into it.
  • Provide them with opportunities to share what they are reading (have your students do a weekly Book Talk).
  • Let them read with each other, and let them choose who to read with.
  • Keep your classroom library fresh and well-stocked with the best children's books you can find. Face them out so kids can see the covers.
  • Ask them about their books - they want to share with you.
  • Do not make them answer questions or write a report for everything they read - too many many people think this is teaching reading to children, and it's not!
  • Incorporate more teachable poetry for fluency and comprehension in your lessons.
  • Provide special books to check out and take home for parents to read to their children.
  • Let them earn a Read-In (an entire afternoon of reading, with crisps, soda, and pillows).
  • Encourage them to get involved in a series, like Geronimo Stilton.
  • Let them read what they like as often as you can: comic books, magazines, animal books, picture books, anything!
  • Present a Book Blessing every other week - go to step two under How I Do An Author Study.
  • Use author studies like Patricia Polacco and Kevin Henkes


one unusual Tip for teaching reading to children

Turn on the closed captioning on the "education shows" we all like so much on a Friday afternoon.

This way the students end up reading the words on the television as they are watching the show. Sneaky, but effective (credit to Jim Trelease from The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition).

I even do this to my own three boys at home. I don't know if they necessarily love reading because of it, but their fluency and vocabulary have sure improved!



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