Ah, Valentine’s Day!
A day in which we show the people who are important to us just how much we care for them. Much of that affection is shown through red and pink gifts of candy, cards, and maybe a trinket or two to play with, but the best gift you can give a child is time.
From birth through the time children go to college (age 18), there are 936 weekends. That sounds like a lot of time until you consider that when they start hitting middle school years, they will have activities, sports, friends, and all manner of other entertainments to occupy their time. Those weekends can go quickly, and when you think about how fast that time can fly, it’s easy to see the value of sharing time with your child whenever possible.
The gift of time relies on the quality of the time and much as it does the quantity. Being in the same room together doing different activities is not the best gift you can give; focusing on the child is the real gift. The importance of time spent focusing on children holds true in school as much as it does at home.
Countries like Finland, considered the gold standard in education by many, spend roughly 700 hours in front of students, while in the United States we spend nearly double that. Spending time does not have to be hours on end. It can be playing a tabletop game or cooking a meal together. Reading is a fantastic way to spend a little time together.
Selecting the right books can be a springboard for other activities through the year; as your child asks questions, you can plan events to help them answer them. As a teacher, you can develop lessons in the future that address student questions while still fulfilling state requirements.
What other gifts can spending time with books provide?
- Building a love of books – Young children will mirror the activities of the people around them that they love. If they see their favorite teacher, or parent, enjoying the time they spend reading, they are more likely to pick up a book for pleasure.
- Expanded vocabulary – The more children read, the more they are going to have to learn the meaning of the words in their favorite books. Instead of sitting down and teaching them words, they organically build their vocabulary. This will also lead to…
- A curiosity about the world around them – It is a big world out there, full of dinosaurs and families and stories about raining food! One way to get to explore it is through books. Journeys can be started at the library and continued at museums, stores, and even in the kitchen.
- Improving social skills – Being quiet while a parent or teacher is reading is a polite way to enjoy a book. Waiting until someone else is done talking to speak is an important skill to develop. And the only way to enjoy a book read by an adult is to listen intently. While children become engrossed by tales of cats in hats, they are also learning valuable social skills.
- Better behavior – Children do not always know how to ask for what they want. If they feel they are being neglected, or are frustrated, they may act out to get the attention they crave. By giving that attention without asking, it will keep them better behaved at home and in the classroom.
Sitting down with a child to read a book shows you love them in a variety of ways. You are spending quality time with them (which they love!) while teaching them skills that are going to help them in school. It provides benefits they may not appreciate when they are young, but they will as they grow older. Along with the card and some sweets, plan on giving them a book and spending some time with them. It is a Valentine’s Day gift they will treasure forever.
It’s no secret teachers work hard during the school year, but they enjoy their time off as much as the students do.
However, even in their off time, teachers spend time getting ready for the next year, brushing up on new skills and techniques, and staying abreast of any changes made in national policy. Researchers are discovering another way for teachers to prepare for the next school year; read more children’s books.
A 2011 study authored by Burgess, Sargent, Smith, Hill, and Morrison, discovered that teachers that read children’s books had a significant advantage. They engaged in industry-recognized best practices far more often than their peers. They have a better understanding of what is popular in children’s literature. This insight provides the ability to cater their lessons to address what students might be reading outside of the classroom.
Beyond the technical help educators can provide, their understanding of children’s literature allows them to pair the right student with the right book. That can be an important spark in getting a student to read for pleasure. We wrote recently about how giving the student a choice in what book to read is important for building new readers. Guiding them to the books they are likely to enjoy helps them find stories they may not have discovered on their own. Sharing the same information with their parents brings them into the process as well.
And the best reason of all? Some of the children’s literature out there is just amazing. Brain Pickings featured seven beautiful children’s books released in 2017 recently. They are not only visually stunning, the stories they tell rival any book for adults on the shelf. Many well-known authors of adult books have also written a book or two for younger readers. They bring the same attention to craft and detail to the work.
When teachers love to read, it shows, no matter the book’s target age group. This enthusiasm for reading can be infectious, and spreading that excitement is the best way to get a student to read. Giving a student a book about a subject they love is one thing; handing it to them with some hints about what lies within the story they are about to consume takes it to another level.
The late Maurice Sendak once said “I don’t write for children. I write. And somebody says, that’s for children.” There are beautiful stories for adults to discover in children’s books. When teachers begin to find those wondrous places, they can share them with their students. They can start their journey of finding more literature that they can share with the class. Showing their passion for reading to the classroom will help it spread like wildfire. It is a lesson that has to be experienced by the class, not taught.
Encouraging children to read at a young age offers benefits that last through their life.
Educators witness advantages that range from building a strong vocabulary to developing positive feelings about reading. At school age, children are very impressionable and become interested in what their parents are doing. This time is an opportunity to build that love of reading.
It sounds like an easy task, but it is more complicated than it would seem. A desire to learn everything can be a curse; it can be difficult to encourage young readers to focus long enough to read. Or to be interested in a passive activity when there is running around to do and games to play. Convincing children that reading a book is fun may seem like a monumental task. With the right incentives, a child reading a book on his own could occur more frequently than you think.
Building an internal desire to read is the most significant motivator when it comes to reading for pleasure. We have discussed the benefits of external motivators previously. They work well when used appropriately, but they do not substitute that inner fire for reading.
The goal is to encourage children to take the initiative out of a desire to read.
- Grab a book off the bookshelf out of love,
- Ask for books to be read in class,
- Take a trip to the school library,
- Bring their books to class for show and tell, and
- Allow them to read some selections out of it. Or read it to the class for them!
These are all opportunities to build that internal flame. They are reading, and being read to, because they love to read.
That devotion to reading will require effort from teachers and parents. One of the most significant ways to show a child that reading is a delight is through example. In school, if students are working quietly in class, read a book. It is a great way to give the mind a little break while demonstrating reading for fun!
If a student asks what you are reading, it is an opportunity to give them a brief description of the book. See what piques their interest as far as themes, subjects, and styles. Experimenting with different books is a great way to probe their interests. Bringing those topics to different lessons can keep their interest longer when trying to teach subjects like science and history.
No class of students is going to agree on one topic. This difference of opinion provides an opportunity to give them some control over the stories enjoyed in the classroom. It does not have to be a wide range of material; two or three books are more than enough for young students. Allowing the class to vote on the book, or giving students a choice as a reward, is another motivator. Those decisions will be part of the lesson, possibly introducing students to new books or topics!
Strategies like this work in the home too. Allow them to see you reading at the kitchen table in the morning or before they go to bed at night. Ask them to grab their book and join you. Children love to do activities with their parents, and this will encourage them to do it more often. Discussing the book as they are reading helps with their vocabulary and their understanding of the story. These are simple activities that reinforce to them that reading is something they want to do!
Intrinsic motivations drive children, and most people, more than external ones. Vansteenkiste, Lens, and Deci did a study in 2006 that found that learning done for private interest encourages a deeper understanding of the material as well as a desire to find out more. It develops good learning habits early, with an impact that will help them grow through the rest of their lives.
Kids Read Now, a local non-profit organization dedicated to building literacy rates for young people across the country, announced it has moved to a new location in Troy, Ohio to accommodate its rapidly expanding summer book-reading operations.
On Dec. 15 Kids Read Now completed its move from a smaller shared space on the east side of Troy into a 16,000 square-foot property it will lease at 155 Marybill Drive. The larger facility will allow the organization to add up to 20 more employees, including four to six permanent employees over the next year, as well as 12 warehouse seasonal workers for the busier spring and summer months.
Currently among the top three literacy programs in the country, Kids Read Now expects to become the largest provider of summer reading materials for kids in kindergarten through third grade. The Kids Read Now business model is different than traditional summer reading programs that require kids to travel to libraries, camps or other community reading centers to access books. Instead, Kids Read Now sends books directly to students’ homes. After students finish reading one book, Kids Read Now sends out another one through the mail. And the best part — students get to keep all of the books they read during the summer for free.
Since its inception in 2010, the Kids Read Now summer reading program has helped tens of thousands of children. In 2017 alone, Kids Read Now distributed more than 80,000 books to more than 12,000 children in 34 school districts. Kids Read Now expects to increase that total to 50,000 children in 2018 and to 500,000 students in school districts across the country within three years.
“Moving into this larger space matches our business goals to expand our summer reading program significantly over the next few years,” said Leib Lurie, who founded the program along with Barbara Lurie. “We were fortunate enough to find a facility in Troy that meets our current needs yet offers flexibility for growth as we continue to attract more school districts into our summer reading program.”
Industrial Property Brokers represented both buyer and seller in completing the deal. Tim Echemann, a Broker for the company, said, “We are pleased to be able to help Kids Read Now relocate to a facility with the right space and amenities to suit their growing operation. The new location has the added benefit of a property owner who supports the Kids Read Now mission and vision.”
Industrial Property Brokers, located in Piqua, Ohio, is a premier full-service real estate company offering sales, leasing, investment analysis, tenant representation, and property management throughout Western Ohio and Eastern Indiana. For more information on this or other properties, visit www.IPBindustrial.com or call 937-492-4423.
For more information about Kids Read Now, visit kidsreadnow.org or call Mary Beth Reser at 937-681-2185.
The constant concern of parents and educators alike is an addiction to glowing rectangles.
From the pocket-friendly cell phone to the new 60-inch plasma screen in the living room, the digital world is always beckoning. Studies show that by the age five, children are spending an average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised their rules for screen times for two to five-year-olds recently. One supervised hour of screen time a day can help them learn new vocabulary. This is not the most efficient way of teaching young children new words. That comes from a much older technology: ink on paper.
When children are using screens, it is rarely for reading. An Australian study showed that even when a device had eReading capabilities on it, they often went unused. In fact, they were often distracted from reading by other capabilities on the device, like surfing the Internet or playing games.
These constant breaks in concentration reduce the amount of information they are absorbing. The more they used devices to read, the less interested they were in reading and the more they wanted to use the other capabilities of the device. It reduced the amount of information they were absorbing from the book. This is not how good readers get their start.
Another major drawback to children reading on tablets is the amount of interaction with people around them. The Conversation did some research on their own. The outlet found that when a parent reads with their child on an eReader, the child does not get as much from experience. There is no appreciable difference in what the child retains. The difference comes from the interaction between the two. Because of the design of an eReader or tablet, children become more focused on the device and not the person reading with them. When they are reading from a book, the two laugh and discuss the story much more.
That interaction gives the edge to the traditional book for teaching young ones how to read. Many applications and programs can help kids build their reading skills through engaging children. Not just by reading, but by saying the words out loud and showing images, so the concept becomes associated with an image. Tools like this rely on stimulating other senses but need a parent or teacher there to reinforce the learning. Handing a young reader a digital device does not provide the same engagement in learning that sitting and working with them does. It does not create that warm, positive bond that associates reading and spending time with a parent.
Digital teaching and learning tools may be receiving a major media push, but traditional books are still the preferred way of reading. Ebooks have made inroads into the literary world, but sales of physical books are growing. That includes the growth of children’s books by 16% in 2016. Books, their vivid colors, tactile pages, and the ability for two people to engage in reading at the same time, remain the best way to introduce children to literacy.
Strategies to get students to read more have many similarities to strategies for getting children to eat more vegetables.
Much like vegetables, when it comes to getting children to read, giving them the ability to choose what they want to learn will get them to read more. Choices, like reaching for carrots instead of chips, put children into a situation where they are encouraged to perform the task that is better for them makes them more interested in doing the work.
A 2010 article by Jenna Cambria and John Guthrie offer choice as one of the key motivating factors for getting students to read.
This is not to say that everything they read has to be their choice. Lessons can be broken down to give students options for how they approach the material. What character are we going to read about today? Which lesson are we going to learn? Who wants to be the reader for specific pages?
Offering choices give a certain amount of ownership. The teacher is still controlling the direction of the class, but the students have a small say. That small investment keeps them interested in the subject at hand.
Reading about something they have selected keeps students motivated on the topic. Required reading can be a drag. It is a challenge to keep students moving forward in a book they show no interest. Even if the book is required reading, there are ways to give students a choice. Like becoming an expert on one of the topics or characters. This gives them some power over the assignment, giving them the encouragement to keep reading.
When students have the opportunity to read for pleasure, offering a wide selection of books is critical. Children today have dozens of options for how they can spend their time. Choosing the books they want to read puts that activity to the top of the list. Spending time reading for pleasure, on a topic they enjoy, encourages them to read more. More frequent reading offers a wide variety of benefits, including building a more extensive vocabulary. While having a library in the home is ideal, introducing students to the school library and the public library will help with that diversity of options.
When students read, they want the experience to be more than a required activity they have to perform. The material they are reading should be something they enjoy, not a checkmark in a box. They do not want it to be eating their vegetables because they have to. Vegetables are best when they taste good or make the meal better. Giving the students choice in what they read, either in the narrow terms of a lesson or the full range of shelves in a library, bring students closer to becoming readers that are always looking for their next book!
Kids Read Now, a 501C(3) nonprofit, was founded in 2010 to expand summer learning and eliminate the summer reading slide. Since its creation, this summer reading program has made an impressive impact on the tens of thousands of children that have participated. They have received books that they choose weekly, encouraging them to read by giving them material that interests them. Impacts that large are difficult to hide, and people have been taking notice. The Clinton Global Initiative was one of the first to recognize the outcomes of this program, followed by South by Southwest (SXSW). We are pleased to announce that we have been recognized by another group and have formed a national partnership with the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) to spread the program to a broader audience and help even more students become lifelong readers.
The NSLA, also a 501C(3) nonprofit, is no stranger to the achievement gap. They started working with students in Baltimore in 1992, helping disadvantaged students stay motivated to learn. In 2001 they expanded and became the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University, and then the NSLA in 2009. Their mission is “to deliver high-quality summer learning opportunities to our nation’s children and youth that help close the achievement gap and support healthy development.” They collaborate with local programs to make them more efficient and more affordable to the communities they serve. Not only do they work hard at the grassroots level, but they build national awareness of the issue. This effort pushes more resources into school districts to help all students keep pace with their peers. Their focus includes monitoring policies that could impact funds directed to those that cannot afford the loss.
Our NSLA partnership’s goal is to make our program more affordable to school districts that serve rural and urban populations. These two groups see the most challenges when it comes to accessing quality learning opportunities over the summer. In addition to the partnership with the NSLA, Kids Read Now is also working with the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation (GKCCF) on a multi-year, 1 million dollar research grant which will further help school districts afford our turnkey program. Our program is also eligible for any Title I funding received from the government. We are always looking for ways to bring the proven, data-driven results of our work to any school district in need. One of our most important partnerships is with the communities that benefit from having children that are passionate about reading and education.
As we see the costs to school districts fall, we witness the number of students helped dramatically increase. In 2017 alone, our dedicated staff distributed over 80,000 books to over 12,000 children in thirty-four school districts. By the time we get to 2019, with the help of the NSLA and GKCCF, we are anticipating serving over four times that number. We have started in three states, and with the help of our partners, are looking forward to expanding and aiding more of our neighbors in the near future. Kids Read Now is honored work with the NSLA to support their goal of building more successful students through summer learning.
The number of elements it requires to build students into lifelong learners is breathtaking. It takes the commitment of parents, teachers, principals, local leaders, and the determination of the students to stay on a path that turns reading into a hobby instead of a hurdle. Without the basic building blocks of reading, books, all that effort is for naught. A variety of books is critical; as a home library builds, having books for all seasons and moods is essential for a young reader. It is essential for ANY reader.
Studies show that as literacy builds for one child in the home, other members of the family, from sibling to parents, show more interest in reading. Oxford academic journals show overwhelming evidence, as part of a global survey, that easy access to books is a crucial element to building readers. It is one of the driving forces behind why Kids Read Now distributes so many books to students in need around the country.
Our program receives such impressive results because of the number of books delivered to our students. Thousands of books are sent to homes every summer, building those in home libraries. Because of the generosity of our supporters, we have warehouses full of books. Books that explore all topics, from historical events to comic book heroes. That has provided us the ability to help more than just the homes of the students that are part of the program. Kids Read Now has been able to help the schools these children attend as well.
We have been seeing the number of students, and schools, that have participated in stopping the summer reading slide increasing over the years. Last summer, we were able to support those schools by building their libraries. Our program donated 100 brand new books to seventy elementary schools in Ohio. Those books help over 12,000 students, giving them more reading options. The more options children have when they want to pick up a book, the more likely they are to reach for one as a source of entertainment. We have seen it in our research; those 12,000 students have read over 80,000 books, close to seven books per student!
Our access to low-cost books has benefitted students in need outside of the Buckeye State. When Hurricane Harvey ripped through Houston, many of its schools were devastated. Some were able to open in mid-September, some were facing the prospect of never reopening again. The reasons for permanent closure ranged from overwhelming structural damage to loss of educational resources, including whole libraries. Kids Read Now was able to help one of those schools that were in danger stay open by donating over 2,500 books, preventing Texas from being forced to close it.
The staff and volunteers at Kids Read Now know the importance that books play in the lives of children, and those who are educating them. As our program grows, we are helping more and more students not just for one summer, or even two. By providing one of the fundamental building blocks of literacy, books, schools and families can build libraries. Libraries that are offering easy access to tales that entertain and educate families. Kids Read Now is thankful that we can play a small part in developing literacy in so many communities.
In 2014, the state of Ohio instituted the Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
Created in 2012 by local state Senator Peggy Lehner, this program is designed to ensure that students are underperforming in reading receive resources to help.
Students in public and public charter schools need to pass their third-grade reading proficiency test with a 77% before they are allowed to move to fourth grade reading. Failing that test means they have to stay with third-grade reading, but can be promoted to fourth grade in other subjects. This effort came after a decade of stagnant test growth by fourth graders. While it may seem like this legislation was enacted to boost test scores, there are much more important reasons to push students to read well by third grade.
Many educators, and other experts in the field, recognize third grade as a critical time for students. This time in their education is when they switch from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”
In Ohio, many school districts end reading classes after the third grade, though some extend them to fourth grade. Students who are not reading at grade level by the third grade are more four times less likely to graduate from school. Poor students who cannot read at grade level by that time are thirteen times less likely to graduate, according to a 2011 study by the American Educational Research Association. These are some daunting numbers, but there is a silver lining. When schools invest in early education programs, they can drop those the number of students needing individual plans to catch up by thirty-two percent.
To help schools improve student scores, some of the state budget is earmarked to bring in resources to help. And help is needed. Many children that are in the lowest percentiles of learning have multiple challenges to overcome. Some of them are transient. They may start in one school district, and end up in another one by the end of that year. This can make it a challenge to bring up test scores, as not every school has the same reading standards. Students may read at first and second-grade levels when they get to third grade, increasing the challenge for teachers. Children that live in houses with lower incomes have additional obstacles to overcome, as we have discussed in other articles.
In spite of all these challenges, there have been some encouraging results. In the first few years, schools have seen a 94% success rate of improving student reading scores. This has been a product of the extra focus on reading and the additional resources provided to underperforming school districts. The Ohio Department of Education has created a guide to help school districts understand the program as well as find ways to fund it. It is possible to spend Title I funds on outside resources that move students closer to the Third Grade Reading Guarantee goals. The early successes of this program are giving school districts using its optimism for the future of their students.
The impetus for building student literacy is typically school-related. Teachers and administrators want them to be successful in school because they know the importance of early education on the child’s future.
There are also the state-mandated goals that measure student achievement and can affect the school district in many ways. Beyond those two significant incentives, there is a third one that is important to the student. Low levels of literacy have an impact on the student outside of the classroom. And not just their ability to get homework done.
Coming from a home where the parents struggled in school can inhibit the growth of a student. Parents with low levels of literacy tend to have lower incomes. With fewer resources, there is a higher probability of housing and food instability. Students without this stability concern themselves less with the grades they are getting and more with how will they provide the familiy their next meal. Possibly where they will be staying that evening.
Parents working hard to make ends meet do not have that extra time to spend speaking with their children or helping them with homework. One indicator of student success is their vocabulary as they come into school. In a study done by Hart and Risley, students in low-income families are exposed to just one-third of the words that students in professional families. And vocabulary is essential to student growth.
With time being at a premium in low literacy homes, the learning experiences children have there can also be limited. There are very few trips to bookstores, museums, libraries, or other areas students can have educational experiences outside of the school.
Those trips may be limited by geography; lower income houses are typically not located near these centers of learning. Another limitation is their connection to the community that can help them find these unique places.
Those with low literacy work hard to hide their lack of reading ability. They use isolation as a way to protect their secret, not being involved in their community or school. Staying separate from these resources may mean they miss valuable opportunities to help their students, or themselves, outside of school.
Staying healthy can also be a challenge. From reading labels on food to understanding the medicine a doctor prescribes, low literacy has an impact the general well being of a family. Even common health issues can be exacerbated when medication is not used correctly, causing the student to miss more time from class.
They are either ill themselves, or they may not be able to leave home because of a sick relative. Missing this time can put students further behind, adding to any frustrations they may be having in school.
Schools offer a unique opportunity to break this cycle of illiteracy. Building a love of learning in school may inspire the rest of the family to improve their literacy. Siblings may be drawn to mimic what their brother or sister is doing, and become interested in reading themselves.
They may become the readers in the house, helping parents interpret bills or introducing them to new places to go in the area. Getting a parent to build their skills, through inspiration from a child or working with them personally, is a mechanism that can stop that vicious cycle.