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Ways To Help Your School-Age Child with Reading

It seems like a basic concept, a "no-brainer" if you will: the more you read, the better you get at it. But it was good to be reminded of this proven fact at the Literacy Summit sponsored by the Monroe County Community School Corporation last week. Dr. Richard Allington, Professor of Education at the University of Tennessee was one of the featured speakers. He underscored research demonstrating that the number of minutes spent reading outside of school directly correlates to how well you read. Like anything else, reading takes practice to get good at it. A former elementary school classroom teacher before beginning his career as a teacher educator and instructional researcher, Allington also emphasized the importance of allowing children to choose for themselves what to read. "Students must have choice along with interesting texts -- things they want to read," he said.

I Don't Like to Read! (well, really, I do)

We are just starting our First Grade Tours here in MCPL Children's Services, and it motivated me to try to remember some of my own experiences in the first grade. One vivid memory is going on our first visit to the school library - I was so excited it was lucky I didn't toss my cookies! The thrill was tempered a little by the fact that I could hardly read - in fact, I was in the "lowest" reading group in my first grade class. (Not that the teacher told us which group was the lowest, of course - we just all knew.) I apparently told my mom of my frustration and fear about not reading well, and she told my teacher. Before I knew it, I was reading with the top group, and understanding what I read! I'm still not sure exactly what my teacher did, but apparently that extra bit of attention and encouragement, both at home and at school, made a huge difference. (It didn't hurt, either, that the top reading group had more interesting fare.) After thinking about this, I looked for a picture book that reflected a little of my experience.

Parents' Choice and the 4Cs of Learning

I've been following the Parents' Choice blog: Read More. Play More. Learn More recently via Twitter. The Parents' Choice Foundation was established in 1978 as a nonprofit guide to quality children's media and toys. You may have seen their round labels of recommendation on toys, but they also review books, audiobooks, DVDs, music, magazines, television shows, videogames, websites and software -- including mobile apps for kids. You can use their online product finder to search for their award winners by type of product, the age of the child for which the product is designed, and more.

But their blog caught my attention because the title echoes philosophies of Children's Services at Monroe County Public Library: reading is a key to learning, children learn through play, and learning is fun! Our Summer Reading Game is designed to promote these concepts, and now as children head back to school we find ourselves thinking more about essential skills and knowledge for children. Traditionally, essential skills have been described as the 3Rs: Reading, (w)Riting and (a)Rithmetic. But as a recent post to the Parents' Choice blog reminded, essential skills for the 21st Century include the 4Cs: communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.

From Phonics to Fluency

I recently attended a fascinating seminar on reading sponsored by the Monroe County Community School Corporation. The presenter was Dr. Timothy Rasinski, a professor at Kent State University who authored From Phonics to Fluency: Effective Teaching of Decoding and Reading Fluency in the Elementary School . The topic of the seminar was fluency in reading. While some school systems equate fluency with reading speed, Dr. Rasinski described it as a bridge between reading mechanics and comprehension. Children need to achieve accuracy in the surface or mechanical level of reading which includes phonics, spelling, and vocabulary to progress to the deep level where they make meaning. The link between the two is fluency. Fluent reading involves automaticity, or dealing with the mechanics of reading without stumbling and struggling. Fluency also requires prosody, the ability to read aloud or silently with proper phrasing and expression. Dr. Rasinski shared several methods that teachers and parents can use to help students improve their fluency. I was thrilled to hear that we public librarians have been promoting and supporting these activities at MCPL for years. His presentation focused on singing, poetry, and reader's theater.

Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl

Looking for a fantasy story that treads new ground? Look no further than Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch. This refreshingly offbeat graphic novel tells the story of a young girl in an isolated community who wants to be a dragon slayer. Mixing elements of fairy tale, Yiddish folklore, and small town dynamics, Barry Deutsch has created a coming-of-age hero tale that is also a magical and poignant picture of Orthodox Jewish life. Recommended for grades 4 and up.

Where the God of Love Hangs Out

Amy Bloom, who used to be a practicing psychotherapist, has won many awards for her short stories. Her latest collection Where the God of Love Hangs Out examines love in many aspects. Bloom shows how it's possible to fall for an older man with a beer belly who suffers from gout and a life-threatening heart condition. The book features two sets of interrelated stories, the first about two couples--close, long-term friends--whose lives are broken apart and rearranged in new and unconventional ways. The second set of stories explores the lives of a jazz musician's widow and her young adult son, Lionel. These four stories reveal how grief makes some people emotionally vulnerable and susceptible to poor life choices.

Graphic Novels for The Afraid

I will come right out and say that I do not like superheroes (movie or print) and I didn't read comic books as a kid, so I am not naturally drawn to the graphic novel format. Because I'm kind of a nerd, what I do like is big fat novels and dusty historical nonfiction. So color me surprised when recently I've been enjoying more graphic novels. Last night as I finished Mercury by Hope Larson I began to wonder and hope that the reason went beyond the fact that I can read one in a single sitting -- though that is very satisfying too! My rationale is that I've been craving something different. I have read enough fiction to be somewhat bored with a traditional storyline. I want to think while I read -- to be engaged! And picking up some graphic novels has been the way to do that recently. I've tried to compile a list of graphic novels for the hesitant -- for anyone who thought that they weren't interested. Give one a try, you might be pleasantly surprised.

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