By Sanne Rothman | Categories All | Challenges | Choices | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Engagement - Family | Games | K-5 Literacy | Listening | Parents | Reading | Reading Instruction | Results | Social Emotional Learning | June 4, 2021

We want our kids to reach for the stars, dream big, think for themselves and grow up with a life and career that they happily built. But how when the winding path to achieve such goals involves so many variables and, sometimes, challenges that may be out of our control? Well, there is a way, and the path is actually straight forward. I’ve walked it myself with the many students I’ve had the honor of teaching. It’s a ticket that our children can take anywhere and it opens all doors no matter the variables. It’s Reading to be a Critical Thinker.

In education, all roads converge with Reading. Reading is key to becoming a Critical Thinker. And Critical Thinkers reach whatever stars they set their eyes on. Simple Reading strategies to obtain Critical Thinking Skills are easy and exciting.

The technical definition of Critical Thinking is to utilize data, decipher fact from fiction, gather information to synthesize, reflect and find resolution. Because our kiddos are not quite ready to knock out a dissertation, it’s easy to swat the entire concept away. After all, we want them to enjoy reading. Not to fret. The real-world, enjoyable, application of Critical Thinking that I teach is much smoother: Emphasize conversation not curriculum.

Two simple strategies reap indispensable rewards:

  1. Set a comfortable reading routine; 20-30 minutes daily and if the child wants to read longer, then great. However, never allow reading to be a chore or punishment.
  2. Check in with your child by asking about what they read; a 5-10 minute conversation twice a week can accomplish this and when you can do more, then great.

Yet, there isn’t always time to read every word your child read. So how will you know what to ask? Simply ask anchor questions like the examples below and keep the conversation lighthearted. When a child has this consistent interaction, they naturally find deeper meaning as they connect to the story and build a greater awareness of the world around them.

 

Ask about any fiction book:

 

Ask about any nonfiction book:

 

Playing an active role in a child’s reading is nothing less than exceptional. Encourage them and you will engage them. Have fun involving your child in book selections, yet also expand their palette by seeking a variety of fiction and nonfiction. Soon, it will be second nature for your extraordinary child to read beyond the page. Critical Thinkers are lifelong learners, reflective, more responsible, innovators and their opportunities are plenty. They pave their own road ahead and won’t just reach for the stars, they will probably find and name a few new ones. So begin sharing the joy of reading today.

Sanne Rothman engagement

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By Dr. Corey Hall | Categories All | Challenges | Choices | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Events | Games | Inclusion | K-5 Literacy | Listening | Opportunity Gap | Parents | Reading | Reading Instruction | Social Emotional Learning | STEM | Writing | May 14, 2021

When it comes to STEM and literacy, one can’t exist without the other. STEM teachers emphasize the Engineering Design Process and computational thinking, as well as technology tools. But the work of engineers and scientists goes much further than the traditional STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math. They are also communicators, collaborators, writers, readers, and global citizens.

“The work of engineers also involves collaboration, communication, global citizenship, and literacy skills.” – Jorge Valenzuela, education coach and author.

STEM initiatives abound, from the Department of Education to the National Science Foundation. And for good reason; recent studies show a correlation between early STEM experiences and success in school in later grades [1]. Also, exposure to STEM relates to more students pursuing careers in STEM fields (an important factor in global competitiveness). Probably most importantly, STEM comes naturally to most children. Experimentation, problem-solving, and creativity are traits we see when we watch kids at play.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics put out a joint statement detailing the importance of STEM in elementary, and even pre-school education [2]. The American Association of School Librarians and the International Society for Technology in Education both integrate information literacy standards that include STEM learning.

 

Standard #3, ISTE Standards for Students

 

 

 

Explore Foundation, AASL Standards Framework

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Integrate Literacy and STEM

The  Common Core State Standards (CCSS) indicate for K-5 students, there should be a 50-50 balance between nonfiction information texts and fiction. STEM and English Language Arts teachers can communicate and collaborate so that the standards are implemented across the curriculum. Interdisciplinary units can be developed and co-taught so that skills are reinforced in multiple ways.

Fiction + STEM

Work with your English Language Arts teacher or school librarian to find a high-interest novel that connects to your content. You can also find recommendations on the School Library Journal Website. Here are a few ideas:

 

Nonfiction + STEM

Whether you are reading them aloud or providing independent reading time, nonfiction texts are a great way to integrate literacy into your STEM classroom.

 

Speaking + Presenting

Speaking and listening are Common Core Standards and are also life skills needed in all occupations, including STEM careers. Here are a few ideas:

 

Regardless of which strategies you choose, integrating literacy and STEM will strengthen your curriculum and improve teaching and learning.

References

[1] McClure et. al; https://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/jgcc_stemstartsearly_final.pdf

[2] NAEYC https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/position-statements/psmath.pdf

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By Lois Letchford | Categories All | Challenges | Choices | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Diversity | Early Education | Educators | Equity | Inclusion | K-5 Literacy | Learning Loss | Listening | Opportunity Gap | Parents | Reading | Reading Instruction | Social Emotional Learning | Writing | April 30, 2021

In 1994, my 6-year-old son Nicholas failed first grade. Testing revealed he could read ten words, showed no strengths, and had a low IQ. The prognosis was dire, his future bleak. Finally, the diagnostician called him: “The worst child I’ve seen in twenty years of teaching.”

I had the option to remove my son from school for six short months.  Teaching him myself, I began by using a recommended standardized set of books, titled Success for All. Their focus was on decoding of isolated words. They too, were an abject failure. Nicholas appeared to have no memory for letters, sounds, or words.

It was at this point, I was given some unforgettable advice from my mother-in-law: “Lois,” she said, “make learning fun.” Now I have no books and a son to teach. I felt totally responsible for his learning. Having a blank slate forced me to examine my son’s learning. What can he do? Does he have strengths? I recalled some previous successful learning activities. He can see patterns and he can rhyme words.

Poetry. Write a poem. But I don’t write. I, too, am dyslexic. Despite this being an enormous challenge for me, I felt pushed – no, driven to try something—anything.

Putting rhyming words together into a simple poem was easier than I imagined. The act of writing a poem transformed our little classroom, as I read the poem to him. Nicholas laughed. We found more rhyming words, illustrated the poem, and finally, he recited the poems from memory to his family.

Every day, I had a new poem waiting for Nicholas. He blossomed. Instead of panicking about learning, he recalled the words in the poems. Poetry provided a cocoon for letters and sounds. Illustrating the poems engaged us in multi-sensory activities and in reciting and performing words as we searched for deeper meanings.

But it was the poem to learn the oo sounds as in book, look, and cook which metamorphosed our learning. Instead of talking about cooking, I wrote about Captain James Cook, one of the last great explorers. Through poetry, we explored the changing map of the world to which Cook contributed greatly.

Nicholas asked:

“Who came before Captain Cook?”

“Who came before Christopher Columbus?”

His questions stumped me. I could not answer many of them and I thought these were not the questions that come from a child with a “low IQ.” Using my son’s learning, I became a literacy specialist, teaching children who failed to learn to read in normal settings. I developed the knowledge and skills to turn around children’s lives.

What can parents do?

  1. Turn fictional texts (books or short stories) into plays or dramas. Why? The child is connecting the text with actions. Book language varies from oral language. By re-writing the story, the child is now the “author” and can change the words in the text to use their words.
  2. Read and recite poems. Poetry is the foundation for phonemic awareness. (Phonemic awareness is the ability to play with letters and sounds.) Building on rhyming poetry, the parent enables the student to hear the rhyming words and sounds.
  3. Sing and enjoy songs, rhymes, & limericks. Use the beat and the words to engage the child with words and actions.
  4. Show language as “dynamic.”  Find, read, and tell jokes and riddles. Jokes and riddles often depend upon wordplay. Many students with learning disabilities see the world “concretely.” They struggle with the abstract nature of language. Enjoy the language and wordplay and teach children how to “look” for additional meanings.
  5. Use audiobooks! Audiobooks or reading to a child is the most powerful way to engage the child in literature.
  6. Above all, enjoy learning. Make it a game. Find time to enjoy learning together. When children “fall in love” with books and learning, it becomes an activity they want to do. That’s when learning happens.

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By Ann (Ana) Morris | Categories All | Book Deserts | Curriculum | Diversity | Early Education | Equity | Inclusion | K-5 Literacy | Opportunity Gap | Parents | Reading | Reading Instruction | Summer Reading | Writing | April 23, 2021

All children like to read things they can relate to or that make them feel good. And the best children’s stories I “read” were those on the laps of my parents.

In order to write books for children of a different mold than our own, we need to know them. I grew up in a homogeneous environment. When my junior high social studies teacher inadvertently opened my eyes to the fact that youth around the world had many things in common, my interest was sparked.
My first goal achieved was learning the importance of communication. Not only in English, but in Spanish. I lived and studied in Spain, where I achieved fluency. It has served me well!
I taught Spanish and used Spanish language children’s books as motivators for my students.

I worked for the employment/unemployment office in Iowa’s capital. We had many Latino clients. I did much translating and interpreting to help communicate a concept difficult for many people in their native language.

Aside from this, I had many stories in my memory that I wanted to share with children and those reading to them. That is where my dream launched.

I wrote my first picture book, Mommy and Mikel Go for a Walk. It was a memory from the mid-1980s with my son Mikel. After writing it in English, I decided to tell it in Spanish, too. Working with many Latinos in the USA has taught me that Spanish in Spain is not the same as Spanish in the rest of the world. I was glad to know alternative words to use that would be more neutral help me communicate better.

I learned that not only native language readers liked each language, but learners of the other language.

My second book, Surprise in Auntie’s Garden! made me pause. I am blonde, as is most of my family. Many young people would not relate to blonde people in every book. I decided to use different race and ethnic characters in each book to include other young readers and parents. This time I used Latinas as the characters. My messages are universal, so this merely allowed different readers to see themselves in my books.

My first three books were published in pairs. One in English and the other in Spanish. I had requests to try publishing the stories as bilingual stories to include both languages in one book. I did this with Do It Again! and Lexi’s Special Tooth Fairy Pillow. The reception was wonderful.

During this time of writing, I also began working with Royal Promise, a mission that works with underprivileged children in Anun-Asikuma, Ghana, West Africa. This opened the door even wider. My new friends and the students loved my stories because they knew me and were eager for new literature. I feel very connected to them and feel the need to assist with their literacy opportunities.

It is important to include many aspects of childhood in the characters as well as the stories. Literacy is important to all people and gives them the confidence and initiative to seek and achieve new and unforeseen goals in life. Invest in our future and include everyone, at home and abroad.

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By Casey Wente | Categories All | Challenges | Choices | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | K-5 Literacy | Listening | Reading | Reading Instruction | Summer Reading | February 26, 2021

Although we don’t generally think about it, every experience we have adds to a repertoire of events that create “us” – our background. The stories we share with friends, the lessons we teach our kids, and the bank of knowledge we use to make decisions in the moment. Everything we encounter adds to this background, called schema, which we use to put new information into meaningful context.

Schema is added to and shaped by new experiences and lessons. Throughout the school years, teachers and parents expose children to new information, adding their own background information to the lessons. It is in this way that many generations of humans have passed down information that is important; although, how we share these stories has evolved over the centuries.

Schema Theory uses open-ended questions to encourage students to use their backgrounds to dissect and comprehend media or a situation. Since this is a blog about reading, lets focus on using Schema Theory with books. As mentioned, you can help activate and build children’s schema by asking them simple, open-ended questions. Often it is easiest for children to focus on the relationships in a story since the ups and downs of a relationship are familiar to them. For example, if you just finished Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you might discuss with your child the following:

“At the end of the story, Charlie wins. What character in another story has to pass a test to see if they are worthy of winning something?”

This is an example of a “text-to-text” comparison question, where one story is used to put another into context. Kids Read Now uses questions written in Schematic Theory as a ready-made guide for parents and educators to expand comprehension of what is being read. Every Kids Read Now selection has 4 questions written at the reading level of the book, called Discovery Questions. Each question uses a different aspect of schema theory to encourage connections.

The first 3 questions are:

The final question Kids Read Now adds to a book’s set of Discovery questions is a creative question. As we look back to our example of Roald Dahl’s classic, we might ask readers to invent 5 rooms in the chocolate factory with different candies, and then have them describe how these candies might get naughty children in trouble. Have them draw these rooms and tell you out loud, so you can ask them questions and have fun!

My final tips on building schema are to celebrate discoveries and help them share what they know! The confidence in their new connections will encourage them to continue to expand and grow!

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By Emily Randall | Categories All | Challenges | Choices | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Educators | K-5 Literacy | Parents | Reading | Reading Instruction | Social Emotional Learning | STEM | Summer Reading | January 29, 2021

Pleasure reading and assigned reading are not mutually-exclusive activities

Have you ever taken pause to consider your personal literary history? I remember back to my senior year, an honors English class where I was asked to do this very exercise. It is remarkable how influential the very first pieces of text you consumed are. They can influence your life and relationship with reading. As a recovering perfectionist, I struggled to find the joy and adventure in reading. The fear of receiving a poor grade due to not recalling a piece of text often overshadowed the book in front of me.

I remember back to second grade and the textbooks that would weigh down my small backpack. I was terrified of the reading tests that would follow each chapter we read. It was at that point I began to associate reading with work or something I had to do. This struggle between associating reading with work or fun would continue throughout most of my K-12 career. Reading textbooks, tests, book reports, and presentations were not things I looked forward to as a child; however, there were several books that would eventually mean the world to me as I yearned to keep reading from being a chore.

The first book was Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. In fourth and fifth grade my evenings were filled with reading A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. In sixth grade we were asked to read a particular book that was accompanied by a lime green workbook. This book in particular caused me to resist reading. In high school, books like The Bell Jar and 1984 (though assigned reading) kept alive the joy of reading.

This pattern and struggle between reading for assignment and reading for pleasure persisted until a couple of years into college when I was truly able to let go of the idea that I would be graded or forced to recall the text I just read. I cannot help but think of the couple key books that kept my love for reading alive. The freedom to select books I wanted to read helped me overcome anxieties related to assigned reading.

Research shows, “Students who engage in pleasure reading experienced marginal average increases of .11% in English and 1.71% in science and higher increases of 4.43% in mathematics and 2.05% in history”. It is imperative we teach and model pleasure reading to the children in our lives regardless of our positive or negative past experiences. Recently, I have found a love for reading self and professional development books in addition to assigned readings. I have realized the two activities are not mutually exclusive. It took a while, but I have gotten to the point where assigned reading no longer replaces or interferes with pleasure reading. Have you given yourself the opportunity to read for fun regardless of your past experiences with reading?

The Kids Read Now Wish List includes over 120 popular titles, so please contact us to learn how we can help your little readers find new books they’ll love to read!

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By Leib Lurie and Barb Lurie | Categories All | Challenges | Choices | Critical Thinking | Early Education | Engagement - Family | K-5 Literacy | Listening | Parents | Reading | Reading Instruction | January 22, 2021

Young kids love to read the same book over and over again. Their developing brains see new things in the pictures and better understand the story each time they read it. Plus, the consistency of seeing the same story unfold the same way each time helps children develop a strong sense of sequencing and process.

Sometimes the world can be a scary place for kids, especially when families are stressed by job, healthcare, and quarantine issues. Books provide a comfortable escape and a way to see that things work out at the end of the story. So, please, don’t feel badly if you’re bored as an adult reading the same story again to or with your child. You are helping your child learn to deal with the world!

Even the smallest child can memorize a dozen of their favorite books. This repetition also helps kids remember ‘sight words’, the many words that don’t conform to phonics or ‘sounding them out’, like DOUGHNUT, which a child might try and pronounce like DOO-G-NUT or THROUGH, which phonetically should sound like THROW-GH or KNIFE may sound out as K-nife. These are called sight words, where children need to see and hear them repeatedly to know them by heart.

Reading aloud lets children hear the words and (by pointing at the words when you read) see them and match them with the story. This builds their vocabulary, and they start to understand the many ways words are used in sentences and actions to describe what is happening. This can make for a richer, deeper understanding and love for the printed word. Perhaps the most important reason to read to your child is to create a strong bond; a lasting experience of memories reading together. Give your child a sliver of your time and a big piece of your mind.

What to read? Almost anything your child loves. The most requested books we gift to kids are those with a funny story, or those that talk about gross things!

Kids Read Now has many “read-to-me” books. Many of the words will be too big and hard for a learning reader to read on their own; but they will understand the story and the words, especially if you stop and ask questions such as:

No matter whether your child reads alone, or you read to him or her, encourage reading every day. Building reading skills at home is the best way to reinforce those taught in school and will make your child a better reader and a stronger student.

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By Rachel Benedict | Categories All | Choices | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Engagement - Family | K-5 Literacy | Listening | Parents | Reading | Reading Instruction | Social Emotional Learning | Summer Reading | December 11, 2020

As your fairly typical “boy mom”, I can tell you I’ve seen just about every kind of graphic novel for kids. Long before my son discovered Marvel and DC superheroes, he found Captain Underpants, The Adventures of Dogman, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, to name a few. Perhaps at first glance, graphic novels or comic books can appear silly, without substance, or unlikely to help your child read.

Those preconceptions couldn’t be farther from the truth. Don’t make the mistake of thinking graphic novels aren’t “real books”. Graphic novels can be the picture book for the middle generation of reader – the platform between easy beginner picture books and long chapter books. If your kids are anything like mine, silliness and goofiness are one surefire way to get and hold their attention. This is one of the most important stages in encouraging reluctant or emerging readers. Let them choose, watch the graphic novel grab their attention, and watch their imaginations soar to new heights!

Graphic novels are an excellent way to inspire your child to get excited about reading. The flow of the graphical storytelling, the fun and quirky characters, and the use of onomatopoeia are sure to form a lasting – KAPOW! – impression on your child’s imagination. If your child struggles with following a printed storyline, the pictures and flow of a graphic novel can help bring the story to life right before his or her eyes.

Graphic novels also help develop analytical readers. Your child will focus on the visual storytelling, looking for graphical plot clues, scenery insight, or to interpret character behavior and body language. Your child may not realize it, but graphic novels get the brain’s neurons firing – ZAP! – forming new creative and analytical pathways to decode the story. Decoding and processing the story through words and visual clues enable children to start thinking abstractly about their reading material.

Graphic novels can also inspire kids to create their own stories through drawing. Use this as an opportunity to encourage your child to recreate his or her own fantastical graphic world where protagonists can wear their underpants on the outside, be empowered by a radioactive spider, or even be a reflection of your child’s inner superhero. Allow your child to imagine a world where anything is possible!

Kids Read Now is proud to offer several graphic novels each year on our Wish List. We want kids to get excited to read, not just because they think the book is cool, but because we’re helping build their superhuman brain power – BOOM! If you have any questions about the Kids Read Now in-home reading programs, please contact us.

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By KRN Admin | Categories All | Challenges | Choices | Critical Thinking | Curriculum | Early Education | Educators | Engagement - Classroom | Engagement - Community | Engagement - Family | K-5 Literacy | Learning Loss | News | Opportunity Gap | Parents | Reading Instruction | Results | Writing | December 9, 2020

Kelli Bush with Elizabethtown Independent Schools highlights 5 keys to a successful summer reading initiative, such as Kids Read Now. In her eSchoolNews, December 2020 article, she explains how her district’s dedication and the Kids Read Now in-home summer reading program are changing her students’ reading habits for the better. Read the full article here.

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By Glen Miller | Categories All | Book Deserts | Curriculum | Educators | K-5 Literacy | Learning Loss | Opportunity Gap | Reading Instruction | Results | Summer Reading | November 27, 2020

Many kids survive in a “book desert” without access to books. Let’s rain books onto every child to create a book oasis instead.

Something that provides refuge, relief, or pleasant contrast.” Oh, wait… that’s an oasis. During this current crisis, many of us have spent time creating our own oasis with multiple trips to Home Depot, pouring over Pinterest, and getting a new best-seller every two weeks from Barnes and Noble.

I’ve always been able to create “pleasant contrast” by escaping through the magic of a great book. But what if you’re a second-grader living in a two-bedroom apartment on the sixth floor of a housing project in Philadelphia with your mom, 2 siblings and another family of three. There’s a TV but mom’s boyfriend is in charge of that. You’ve got the basics: food (sort of), air, water, and shelter but where are the books? There ARE no books. Nothing to read or feed your imagination. Nothing for your mind to dream about. No “refuge, relief or pleasant contrast” to your current situation. You’re surviving in a Book Desert.

The Global Book Desert Map sponsored by Unite for Literacy is a grim depiction of our current situation. It also may offer an explanation as to why 79% of low income fourth graders are not proficient in reading. (Annie E. Casey Foundation – 2020) Seventy nine percent. Let that sink in. Whose fault is this, anyway? Let’s pass a law that requires kids to read by third grade. That’ll work, right? It hasn’t yet and this idea continues. Let’s encourage mom to take them to the library and give her a robust (and costly) summer school option; we’ll even send the book bus to the housing project on Thursdays from 9 to 10. Oh, wait… we’ve been doing all of this for decades and still: 79%.

Maybe it’s time to dig deeper into why our kids are struggling. Could access and opportunity possibly have anything to do with it? Mom is working two jobs and relies on public transportation. What if access and opportunity arrived in the mailbox every 10 days? Can a mailbox really be an oasis?

Kids Read Now is committed to making this a reality. Kids create “refuge and relief” by choosing the books that will arrive each week. Mom receives a text (in her native language) with four key comprehension questions to ask. Everyone wins. Join us as we focus on rain not blame. Let’s rain books on to these Book Deserts turning them into an oasis of opportunity and possibility for every child in America, not just the lucky ones.

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