How to Grow a Reader

Blog, She Wrote How to Grow a Reader

My guess is that as homeschooling parents, we all want to have great readers. Isn’t it the first milestone a homeschooling parent needs to meet? The inevitable, “Is she reading yet?”. We have four excellent readers in our house and while the jury is out on a great many things about our kids, reading is mission accomplished! Today’s post is all about How to Grow a Reader.

Babies, Toddlers, & Books

Books have been a large part of our family culture since our first son was a newborn. Spending time with your babies and toddlers with books gives them the best start possible to becoming readers themselves. It’s one of the most important things we can do as new parents, but it is often overlooked until kids are older.

  • Read aloud to your babies- Since Ethan (who is now 16) was a brand new baby, we’ve been reading to him. Listening to the sound of your voice and snuggling or even during the dreaded “belly time”, is an all time favorite of babies. Stories are wonderful when you’ve run out of things to say!
  • Be friends with books and teach babies how to be kind to books- We talked a lot about how to treat books when our kids were babies and though we have many books with worn covers due to being read a lot, our babies didn’t mistreat books. It might seem silly, but from the start we spent time teaching our babies and toddlers how to treat books. You could often find them flipping through a story and showing off pictures.
  • Have fun with books- We were always playing, singing, and inventing activities to go with books. When our 16yo was 2, I would make felt activity sets for his favorite books and I made sure to include the thing about a book he loved the most.

Preschoolers and Books

As your toddlers grow into preschoolers, keep playing with books. Making stories come alive is fun and it helps kids to enjoy books and the stories within them.

  • Play Out Stories- Do you remember the Playhouse Disney Show, Out of the Box? In it, the hosts would bring children into the story by playing games, listening to the story, building craft props, and acting out the story. It was a whole show about a story world and it engaged kids. We did this all the time on our own with our children’s favorite stories.
  • How to Spend Time with Preschoolers- Activities for preschoolers including a large section on books. You’ll find some fun book specific activities to make and enjoy. This is an older post which could stand an update.
  • Enjoy playing with books- Use books such as Before Five in a Row, Five in a Row, and Picture Book Activities have wonderful ideas for enjoying books with children whether it’s crafts or snacks or fun games and songs.

Blog, She Wrote Growing a Reader

Elementary Age Children & Books

This is the age where children will begin to read on their own (some preschoolers do begin to read as well) and it’s a time for continuing to enjoy stories while reading instruction is taking place. How do you enjoy books with students from ages 6-10?

  • Require kids to read- Why are we so afraid of this? Practice gets us closer to perfect and reading is a skill that must be practiced, whether our children enjoy it or not.
  • Improve fluency- Once students have mastered phonics, the goal is increased fluency. The mechanics of reading have been figured out and it’s time to practice and get better. How to Turn Emergent Readers into Super Readers gives perspective and lots of ideas on how to do this.
  • Read aloud- Honestly, this is the single best thing that you can do for students of any age. Even when they are working on their own reading skills, they can listen to elaborate stories in fun settings with great adventure. It raises vocabulary levels and keeps kids interested in the goal of reading on their own. Don’t feel like you have to stick with one story. Have several going at once. It’s an investment of time that pays back big dividends.
  • Immerse kids in the story world- Find ways to brings stories to life. Make crafts, play pretend, try out something from a book like cooking a meal in the story or building a secret hideout.
  • Talk about stories- This is a great way to bring dad in on the fun. Tell updates at the dinner table and find out what everyone thinks will happen next.
  • The Role of Non-fiction- Teach your kids to use non-fiction reference books. Start with topics they love and expand to help them discover new things. Google is great for a reference sometimes, but having a whole book devoted to a topic is worth the cost both in dollars and in space.

 Middle Grade Students & Books

Blog, She Wrote How to Grow a Reader

By the time children are in middle school, they likely have been reading on their own for some time. It’s important at this stage to up the ante on difficulty. Seek out books which challenge your kids on several levels such as readability and topic.

  • Assign more difficult books- This is a great time to begin introducing more classic literature if you haven’t already.
  • Start a book club- Book clubs give kids incentive to try books outside of their comfort zone. We’ve been hosting a girl’s book club for almost two years and they’ve read a lot of books they might not read on their own.
  • Try book projects- Our 14yo daughter has been doing historical fashion projects and one of her first was with a steampunk gown made while she was reading Around the World in 80 Days and learning about Jules Verne. The Jules Verne study of literature, fashion, and history was a fun way to introduce lots of Verne which she did read beyond the required books. It also produced some wonderful results in the steampunk gown.
  • Find out more about an author & the book’s context- This is a great idea for tougher books. Right now our daughter, who is ninth grade, is reading Wuthering Heights for the book club. One of our other member moms is a great cheerleader and often brings resources to give the girls new insights to difficult books.
  • Keep talking about books! We talk about the books our kids are reading all the time. Ages 11-13 is a great time to extend the conversation beyond simple narration. You can talk to your kids about ideas and intentions and what they think about a character’s behavior.

High Schoolers & Books

As our young children become high school students, we still play with books. It looks different than it did when they played out stories, but we still spend time in story worlds.

  • Story analysis- One of the most important skills we can give our homeschool graduates is the ability to analyze text and write about books. Comparing two and synthesizing an opinion is probably the thing I did most in graduate school and if you are studying anything but science in an undergraduate program, your college students need to be able to do this well.
  • Book discussions- By high school, you can have long conversations on books and for parents it’s a great way to communicate with your teen about all sorts of things in those final years at home. I’m preparing a post on discussions because I think it’s important and not all parents feel equipped to take advantage of these moments.
  • Introduce Controversial Books- No, I’m not talking about explicit content, but I am saying try not to avoid anything questionable such as Dracula or Frankenstein. Classic literature isn’t always in line with our values, but it does give us excellent talking points with our high schoolers.
  • Book Clubs- Again, these provide prescribed books and discussions which can open up new worlds to more reserved readers and gives them a chance to talk about books with peers.
  • Literature Studies- High school offers the opportunity to take on studies of literature in a more formal way. We use Excellence in Literature and our 11th grader is taking a Potter School class on Fantasy & Science Fiction literature. He adores this class.
  • Writing their own stories & Creating their own other worlds- This is a fun idea whether you have a natural writer or not. Extending story ideas or writing fan fiction is one way to enjoy a story world. Do you have a writer?

Measuring Success as a Reader

So, how do you know if your kid is a big reader? I bet many of you with older kids might say, “But my kid doesn’t like to read”. We think of readers as book worms with their noses in a book all the time. Sometimes it doesn’t look like that. You have a reader if:

  • Assigned reading is completed- and can be narrated successfully
  • There is reading for information- this is my own “go to” for reading. I rarely read just for pleasure. I read for information and to be able to communicate with my kids on books. If your child reads to complete a task or investigates on his own by reading, this is being a reader!
  • Reading for book club- or another outside motivator (but not always for tangible rewards)

Not everyone who can read well enjoys reading all the time. And that’s ok! Recognize that success is being able to read when it’s time and doing so when he or she finds it necessary to work on what he or she does love.

It’s never too late to start if you feel like your child is not a successful reader. At any age, you can work in the books and I would argue that it’s worth the time it will take to make a new effort.

More Posts about Reading on Blog, She Wrote

Blog, She Wrote The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home

Focusing on the power of reading for long term value in a child’s life, is a great priority for homeschoolers and traditional schoolers alike.

Why a Good Book is Like a Secret Door

A great way to approach growing a reader is to figure out how to make books real to kids. As our young kids grow older, the way to make them real changes but it’s always about how to help students engage with a book and to help them take something away from it. We have daily spirited conversations about the contents of books whether it’s an assigned reading, something our kids are reading on their own, or something they’ve been digging into for class or book club.

I came across this TED Talk on Why a Good Book is Like a Secret Door and I thought it summed up our experiences with books pretty well. It’s worth the 15 minutes to add a little whimsy and imagination to your day.

Will you be intentional about opening the door to reading for your students? How will you help your students to find the secret doors? Once you find them, will you invite the story world into your own, so that the book discussions can continue?

Make books an integral part of your family culture and watch your kids bloom into readers. Academically, it’s the biggest investment you can make.

Today other bloggers at the iHN are writing about Growing Successes. You’ll find encouragement in every post!



facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmailby feather

How to Turn Emergent Readers into Super Readers

Blog, She Wrote: How to Turn Emergent Readers into Super Readers

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

We hope that when our children learn to read they will be on fire for reading and will devour books left and right. But, how do you get there? How do you move from early reading to consistent independent reading?

Our Experience with Reading

Before I answer the big question, I want to make the disclaimer that I am not a reading specialist nor do I have formal training or classroom experience in reading instruction (outside of graduate school courses in reading within content areas- science). What I have is the experience of a homeschooling mom who has taught 4 children to read.

  • Children who have varying abilities and interests.
  • Children who learn in different ways.
  • Yet they all have one thing in common. They read often and they read very well.
  • All of our veteran readers started reading independently at different ages.
  • Each of them came to the skill in a similar way through different learning styles.
  • One of them came by way of apraxia, a severe speech delay- a condition which often rears its ugly head when it is time to begin reading. Often the same pathway disruptions that affect speech are the ones necessary for reading as well.

I also want to say this post is not targeting children with other special learning issues that might influence their reading progression from the start. However, I think some of the tools I mention will be helpful to all emerging readers.

What Is an Emergent Reader?

An emergent reader is a child who has mastered phonics and has begun to read words on his own, but is not reading fluently yet. This is for parents who want to know what happens after the completion of a phonics program before a child is reading independently by choice and doing it well. Maybe you see your child in the following situations:

  • We are finished our  “x,y, z” reading program. What do I do now?
  • My child is not really reading much independently. How do I get her to read more?
  • You want more phonics instruction because your child just needs a bit more or somehow there must be a magical stepping stone of workbooks or short readers that will bridge the gap between just starting to read and reading on their own all the time.

Blog, She Wrote: How to Turn an Emergent Reader into a Super Reader

What Do You Do When the Reading Program Is Complete?

I have concluded there is just one remedy for the “the space between”. My answer every time is just have your children read!

  • Sometimes but not always, an emergent reader is reluctant to read independently so, I have my kids read to me.
  • When children know the mechanics but are not reading fluently yet, I have them read to me out loud often. If she can’t read for long, it doesn’t matter. I like to switch off while we read. So, we sit down and the student reads a paragraph to me and I read the next paragraph to her. We keep going like this for a chapter at a time at least.
  • As the student practices, his fluency will improve.
  • If he can only begin with reading a sentence at a time, then just start with alternating sentences.

The idea is to have them read to you and practice. With time, their reading will improve. It just requires consistency, appropriate book choices, and time.

I have my kids read to me regularly and I grab any moment for the task. I love to be read to while I make dinner, for example or in the car! If I need to sit with my child and alternate at first, it is always time well spent. I will often do it at the expense of other lessons for a time.

The time you put into hearing your child read will pay back dividends far beyond any extended workbook or hands on activity when it comes to improving fluency. Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook, gives many compelling examples of how reading improves with practice and that as parents we should not be afraid to require it often.

My other secret weapon is to continue reading aloud to my kids even as they become better independent readers.  I will see my kids start to read a new series of books if I read the first one. Sometimes I even start reading one aloud until they love it and then leave it around for them to pick up on their own. I have opened up many book worlds by reading it aloud first.

Blog, She Wrote: How to Turn Emergent Readers into Super Readers

How to Choose a Book for Emergent Readers

What about book choices? I know a lot of people like phonics type books and books that are more like guided readers than interesting children’s literature for those just starting out. I prefer trade books for this purpose and not ones designed to be “readers” at any particular level. I tend to let my kids try reading any book which meets the following criteria.

  • Contains young reader friendly text- which means the text on the page isn’t tiny, there aren’t a million words on a page, and it has plenty of margin
  • Is emotionally appropriate for her age- this can be tough as readers get better fast and I have another post on that topic. Just because a child can read a book, doesn’t mean they should.

What not to choose?

  • Anything marketed as the next step, unless you have it on hand or it can be borrowed- this stage is a short one so the investment is not long term on these products
  • Books so far beyond their ability/emotional level that it will only serve to frustrate the new reader. Text that is easy on the eyes counts here too. It’s ok for text to be somewhat challenging. That’s how students grow and get better, but you don’t want it so difficult that it’s discouraging. Use discernment here!

Blog, She Wrote: Summer Reading Challenge without the Carrot & the Stick

Resources on Reading at Blog, She Wrote

There are a number of posts on reading here on the blog. Books are an important part of our homeschool culture.

Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home- This is one of my favorite posts and it’s all about growing life long readers.

Organizing Your Homeschool Library- How to keep a home library which is easy to reference and maintain.

How to Homeschool with a Kindle- Our Kindles are one of the best tools in our homeschool. These links will show you all the ways you can enhance your school, but one of the most basic is allowing your kids a portal to many, many books. Your kids can be reading new stories in seconds. This is great for busy homeschooling moms!

100 Books to Read by the Time You Turn 20- How about a book list? These books aren’t just for older kids and teens. Get a good start on some fantastic stories.

Summer Reading Challenge without the Carrot & the Stick- How do you motivate kids to read more? How do you do it without all the rewards? I’ve put together some tried and true methods of engaging kids with books. This post is a great reminder that kids don’t have to like reading. They just have to do it! Find out more.

Take the Time to Read

Perhaps you have a child whose reading switch has been clicked but, he is not yet a fluent reader. He is officially in that space between. The best thing for him is to keep reading and then read some more. What a joyful sound to hear the voice of a new reader!

There are so many products marketed to parents and homeschoolers to help early readers. You can find any number of helps on websites and blogs for printables and ideas. Many commercial products are available as well. Yet, in my experience the best thing for improving fluency in new readers is not packaged in any form and comes at a very low price. The only currency needed is time- time for listening and reading with your child and time for taking trips to the library for more real books.

Take pleasure in hearing that new reader’s voice and share in the joy as he becomes more and more confident and fluent. Before you know it, he will be reading all on his own and it will be mission accomplished!

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmailby feather

My Top 10 Most Popular Posts for 2014

Blog, She Wrote: My Top 10 Most Popular Posts for 2014It’s fun to take a look back over the blogging year and see what posts were the most popular among readers. Ready for a year in Blog, She Wrote view? Here’s a list of My Top 10 Most Popular Posts for 2014.

Life of Fred {Homeschool Math}- This is also the most read post of all time here on Blog, She Wrote. It’s all about our experience with the math books from Life of Fred. We have used Apples through Trigonometry and our 11th grader is poised to begin Calculus. Read about why we love Fred.

Organizing Your Homeschool Library- As a homeschooler you probably have plenty of books in your home. How do you organize them so they can be found? This is a look at where books are found in our home and how we keep them ready for reading.

Top 10 Toys for Open Ended Play- A look at the classic toys which offer years of open ended play in our home. From the toddler and preschool years on up, this is a list of the tried and true.

The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home- This is one of my personal favorite posts of all. All four of our kids are readers whose paths to fluent reading were all different. Yet, they are all voracious readers. How do you get there? This is for parents with kids from 0 to adulthood.

Blog, She Wrote: 100 Books You Should Read by the Time You Turn 20

100 Books You Should Read by the Time You Turn 20- It must be the compelling title that makes this one clickable. This is a list of 100 books the teens in this house declared must reads!

Our {Close to Home} Summer Bucket List- People longing for a simpler time love this post, I think. This is a list of great things to do when circumstances keep you from traveling during the summer.

100 Sewing & Handicraft Projects for Homeschoolers- Another fun 100 Things post with lots of projects for sewing and handicrafts of all kinds from yarn crafting to sewing and nature crafting.

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2014-2015

Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2014-2015 – Back in August I posted what the kids would be working through this year. We’re still enjoying all those choices!

My Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens- Homeschooling high school is a hot topic these days. How many of us are homeschooling our high schoolers? Find encouragement with this set of Pinterest boards.

10 (or So) Best Tinkering Gifts for Your Inventor- This is a very popular post for folks who have kids who like to figure things out, build, and generally tinker. It’s a nice list of toys and gadgets perfect for a kid who likes to engineer.


Other bloggers from the iHN are sharing their Top 10 Posts from 2014 today. Drop in and see the great posts you may have missed!

iHN: Popular Posts from 2014

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmailby feather