Readers are Created not Born

There’s a wonderful public school initiative that asks children to read for 30 minutes a day. I think it’s a good start but the “art” of reading is not in the “time spent” but about comprehension.

I say this with some hands-on experience in my day care situation. One of my charges is a fourth grader who asks me to keep track of his after school reading period. The sad part is his reading is done with one eye on the clock. I ask him about what he’s read. Occasionally, he has an answer but most often, he doesn’t have a clue.

A few days ago, I asked him to read his book out loud to me. He’d chosen a book about the American Revolution which, by the sparkle in his eyes, was a topic of interest. As he read, there was stumbling on unknown words. Many of these words were critical to his understanding. I pronounced the words and gave him the definitions. Light bulbs of understanding and interest were coming to light like I had not ever seen with him before.

In addition to listening, I was reacting with excitement to the content. “Wow! The colonists were really out numbered!” …” Of course the king would be angry. He wanted their money and obedience to continue, don’t you think?”

Well, the 30 minutes turned into almost an hour without one glance at the clock. He clutched the book like a newly discovered treasure when he packed to go home too. My friend went from reading to reader without even realizing it. I told him to look for a book about Valley Forge if he wanted to know more about the trials of war. (I cannot wait to see if he does.)

So, there is a difference between minutes spent reading and the sharing that makes a kid into a reader.

Curious fun fact~ The very first entire book that I read, in one sitting, was in sixth grade and was Washington at Valley Forge.

Washington at Valley Forge
Washington at Valley Forge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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A kind word

There’s no substitute for the feeling one gets from being generous. Even though it is hard for little kids to share, they catch on to that feeling. We want kids to develop this generous nature but I do not think we should reward them with gifts.  I award my day care friends with a kind word and a hug. By giving kids rewards of tangible objects, we are sending the message that they get some thing for all their kindness. Isn’t what we want them to learn that kindness is its own reward?

I’ve had fun through the years training my pet dogs. I am no expert but I have read and studied about dog training. At the risk of sounding weird, I think toddler training and puppy training are very similar. I’ve noticed that the commands that I use are the same. Sit,stay,wait,come,good boy, are applicable to kids.

Kids and dogs both want the same thing. Positive attention is their favorite reward. They just really want to please their care giver more than anything.

My Jack Russell Terrier can be a stubborn little cus. I’ll let him out,once in awhile, in the middle of one of these balmy nights to do his business. I can tell he would prefer to linger. On occasion, I have lost my cool and growled at him to hurry up! I finally found the key. I start praising him in a gentle voice. “Come on my good boy.” “That’s MY good boy”. Works every time. I follow it with a few warm pats. (offering him a piece of ham never worked.) The essence is to make him want to come in. I use our friendship as the prize and he deems that a great trade.

My favorite prize for my children is a comment, “You made me smile!” or “I can tell that that made you feel good. Way to go!” A kind word and a hug  is a very powerful tool when it is sincere. Certainly, it is rewarding to all!