10 Ways Parents Can Support Reading at Home

Often, I am asked a version of the following question“When it comes to fostering a lifelong love of learning, what can parents do to support reading and literacy at home?”

One of the greatest gifts a parent can give their child is to foster the love of reading. It is through books that young readers can travel to faraway places, develop empathy for someone different than themselves, or learn how to build the ultimate fort out of things they find in the garage. While most parents agree that reading is important in all areas of life, how to foster a love of reading and support their young readers remains a mystery.

Here are 10 Ways Parents Can Support Their Young Readers:

  1. Read Aloud – The single most important activity for building literacy experiences is reading aloud to kids of all ages. From birth to age 3, young children who are read to develop listening and verbal skills at a greater rate. They also start to associate reading with the pleasant sound of their parent’s voice, understand how books work, and begin to use early literacy skills in play. Students of all ages benefit from hearing books read aloud to them by building background knowledge, hearing good readers use the dimensions of fluency, as well as enriching their own vocabulary. (Inspired by Steven)
  2. Choice, not Chore – Another way parents can support their young readers is to present reading as a choice, not a chore. Encourage their literacy journey by giving them choice in what they read. Giving kids a choice in what they read not only improves their literacy skills but also increase engagement. When parents focus less on minutes read and more on providing book options in areas that interest their kids, everyone wins.  (Inspired by Mr. Vince)
  3. Find the Right Book – While not every book can be the one that hooks a lifelong reader, any one book can, so never give up. When a child loses interest in a book, has trouble reading for a sustained amount of time, or complains about a book it’s time to close the cover and find a new one. Children do not have to read every book they choose from beginning to end. In fact, children may abandon a book for a variety of reasons before finding one that captures their attention. The key for parents is to never give up. Continue to share books, articles, and magazines that may interest your child. Visit the library and find support in librarian who have a number of titles they can share based on interests, genres, or authors. Websites for finding books for kids: BiblionasiumGoodreads Kids ListWhat Should I Read NextCommon Sense Media Best Books for Kids, Children’s and Teens Choice Book Awards.  (Inspired by Helena)
  4. Fostering Curiosity – Another way parents can support their young readers is to demonstrate how questions can be answered through reading. Reading is both for pleasure and for learning. Ask questions, spark wonderings, and then turn to books and text as a way to find answers. This powerful process of answer-seeking not only demonstrates ways books can be used but also helps to make the thinking visible and hopefully transferable into their own life. Reading, writing, and thinking with their child promotes the recursive nature of the three.  (Inspired by Fran) 
  5. Model a Readerly Life – Parents, teachers, and peers influence a child’s life with parents and teachers having the most impact. When parents model a readerly life this transfers to their children. Making time to read each day with your child and talking about books models habits that readers do and in turn children mimic. Parents can model a readerly life by simply reading their own book at the same time their child is reading their book. When children see their parents valuing reading they understand the importance of a readerly life.  (Inspired by Amber)
  6. Make it Social – In school, reading is often times done in isolation. Minutes are tracked, tests are taken, and projects are done for an audience of one. As adults, when we turn the final page of a book that we can’t put down we immediately want to talk about it, interacting with others who may have read it, or sharing in hopes that someone else will be inspired to read. Parents can make reading social with their child in a variety of ways, ask questions and listen when a child finishes a book. Read a book together and use an interactive method (Dialogic Reading) of reading to encourage talking about a book. Parents can also make reading social by participating in book clubs with their children or sharing online interactions with other readers through websites such as  Goodreads (if a child is old enough have them create an account and start sharing). When parents think of a sharing good book as they would share and talk about a good movie, children shift from viewing reading as isolating to a social activity.
  7. Surround Children with Text – Good readers often recall being surrounded by text in the home. Parents should fill not only their child’s bedroom with books and other types of text but multiple areas in the home. Books on shelves, magazines on tables, poetry on the wall, and kindles on the sofas immerse students into an environment that promotes reading. Not all books need to be new or owned, garage sales are perfect for finding books and libraries help to keep new books in the home. When children have access to books and are surrounded by text they are more likely to pick it up and at least thumb through the text.
  8. Digital Text – Through digital text parents can also support young readers. Access to books, nonfiction, and poetry has never been easier than it is currently. While many parents are hesitant to use technology to provide access to reading material the thing to keep in mind is that it doesn’t have to be either print books or digital, but instead it is both. There are many apps, websites, and resources that parents can use to foster a love of reading with their child. Epubs, audio texts, and interactive books can all have a place in the routines established. Check out EpicStorynory Project GutenbergNewsela, Unite for Literacy, Common Lit.
  9. Interest not Level – Another way that parents can support their young readers is by making reading joyful and engaging by keying in on your child’s interest rather than focusing on reading level. While it is important to decide if a book is developmentally appropriate for your child, as well as being accessible, limiting what your child reads because of their designated Lexile or reading level doesn’t take into account the picture of the whole child. Children who are interested in a topic or have experience and background knowledge are likely able to read and comprehend difficult text. Listening to music and discussing song lyrics from their favorite artist is another way to spark interest in reading by recognizing your child’s interests. Have a child who loves to write and read poetry? Introduce contemporary writers whose novels are written in verse helps to ignite your child’s love of reading. By starting with something children are familiar with and passionate about instead of their reading level helps children enjoy reading. (Inspired by Erin) 
  10. Community Connections – Finally, parents can support young readers by taking advantage of community connections. Visit libraries and partake in their free reading programs for kids (This year’s summer theme is Imagine Your Story). Check out the free Audible Stories, most recently made free and no login needed. Make time to stop into the bookstore and explore the shelves. Build your own Little FreeLibrary and place it somewhere in your neighborhood to spread the joy of sharing books. Reach out to schools and retirement homes to inquire about opportunities for your child to read to or with adults. Reading is a priority across the nation, in communities, and schools; making those connections with your child makes it a priority in your home as well!

Reading is joyful, social, and a lifelong skill that every child needs throughout their life. Parents can play an active role in their child’s literacy development through a variety of ways. The possibilities are endless and the above 10 are ones that were inspired by friends, fellow educators, and my own learning in the area of literacy. Please comment below with additional ways parents can support their young readers. Did I miss any of your favorites?

Special thanks to the following who all contributed to this post in thoughts and words:

Steven Anderson

Amber Teamann

Erin Olson

Fran McVeigh

Helena Brothwell

Mr. Vince  

ISTE LITERACY PLN: 5 Point Friday

Recently, I joined the ISTE Literacy PLN leadership committee, a group of literacy educators with a variety of roles in education who convene around the shared of passion of technology shaping reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Every Friday, a member of the team writes and shares a “5 Point Friday” listical. Last week was my first submission and I wrote and shared resources for Media Literacy. Below is my post:

Technology has increased the consumption of information at a rate unseen before and only promises to grow in the future. On average, we spend over 6 hours online every day! As we flip between social media platforms and news sources, having the skills critically discern information is a necessity. Yet, little attention is given to the teaching of media literacy in schools. 

The spread of misinformation and disinformation is rampant. We can no longer rely on past methods, checklists, and resources to help us, and our students, navigate digital information, multi-modal modes, and deep fakes. Recognizing fact from fiction takes both human and machine learning, requiring educators to stay current in the resources available.  

Here are 5 digital resources for media literacy to consider:

  1. Games:  Which Face is Real? Learn how to distinguish between a real face and one computer-generated. Factitious – A Tinder-like game involving news instead of potential dates. Bad News – Places players in the role of the ones who create bad news to gain followers and fame. 
  2. Fact-Checking: Media Bias/Fact Check – MBFC is dedicated to educating the public on media bias and deceptive news practices. Snopes – started out as a site that checked urban legends but now encompasses general fact-checking of viral misinformation. Lead Stories – one of the longest-running, internet fact-checkers out there.
  3. Politics: Politifact – PolitiFact’s core principles, “independence, transparency, fairness, thorough reporting, and clear writing,” and if you are unfamiliar with the Truth-O-Meter, it is a must click link! Factcheck.org – is a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. AllSides – Interactive for users, AllSides exposes people to information and ideas from all sides of the political spectrum so they can better understand the world.
  4. Extensions: SurfSafe is a browser extension for Chrome with one goal, to detect fake or altered photos. NewsGuard is a browser extension to add to your Chrome or Edge browser which gives websites color-coded ratings based on their trust and accountability. Nobias alerts you to the political slant and credibility of news articles and authors before you even read them.
  5. Websites: KQED/PBS – provides a Media Literacy Educator Certification through Micro-credentials free for educators. NAMLE – The National Association for Media Literacy Education is a national organization dedicated to media literacy providing resources for educators. News Literacy Project – excellent resource to teach students how to know what to believe in the digital age. 

Finally, and probably the source I call upon the most, a creative commons ebook by Mike Caulfield, Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers. It is time to toss out the CRAAP checklist and replace it with the methods and moves he shares to best equip our students with the skills needed for contemporary discourse!

Are you a member of ISTE? Consider joining the Literacy PLN to get updates, resources, and connections to other EdTech Literacy Fanatics!

Writing Prompts to Kick 2020 Off Right!

Within the next week or two, educators will return to school and greet the smiling faces of the students whom we have not seen since 2019. And with the new year, a new start is often viewed as an opportunity to set new goals or create new habits.

It’s the beginning of a new year and a new decade; 365 opportunities to dream big and accomplish something new (or something that has been an unreachable goal until this year). For many students, it will be time to reconnect with friends and teachers that they haven’t seen for a couple of weeks. Some students are beginning new coursework, attending a new school, or even planning for graduation in a few months.

As a teacher, returning from winter break was always my favorite time to have students write. Students wrote about their dreams, goals, and ambitions, plus, it went perfectly with the start of a new year and helped to build a community of writers!

Here are 3 WritingIdeas to Kick Off the New Year:

  1. Dream Big – Like a New Year’s Resolution, this writing assignment is filled with questions to consider and write about in hopes that what’s important to them at this moment rises to the top. The Dream Big writing prompt allows students to not only voice what is important to them but identify the steps necessary to accomplish their goal(s) and a timeframe in which to aim. 

New Year, Dream Big…

  • What are my dreams? In school? Life? Friendship? Activities? Etc. (Identify one to write about)
  • Why is this dream important to me? Why did I choose this one?
  • Is this a new dream? Old dream? Habitual dream?
  • What do I already know or understand about this dream?
  • What steps do I need to take to make this happen? Have I already completed or started any of these steps?
  • What help do I need to achieve this dream? Who or what can help me?
  • What is my timeframe for accomplishing this dream? How will I know I succeeded? When will it be time to give up?
  • Closing thoughts and reflections?

2. One Word – Instead of having a lengthy dream or resolution, why not have students identify and write about their One Word for the new year. Every year, educators and students alike choose and share their One Word publicly, but where do you start? And How do you help students identify their One Word? Once done, I always had my students create a visual to post on their blogs sharing their #OneWord or #OneWord2020 Here are a few questions to get them writing:

  • Reflect on who you were this past year? How would you describe yourself? How would others? 
  • Identify the type of person you want to be in the new year? What is your aspirational identity? 
  • Identify the characteristics and qualities of your aspiration or the person you want to be. 
  • Choose your word. Does it call you to action? Ooze passion? Reflect the person or the characteristic you want to be/portray?

3. Habits – Finally, many argue that resolutions are pointless and are quickly forgotten, and it is habits that we need to focus on. Habit tracking helps people identify the small consistent things they do daily that amount to a larger change.

Habit tracking allows one to make changes in their life that will last a lifetime, not just the first month of January 2020. Using a habit tracking app like Google Keep, Bullet Journals, or even Sticky Notes makes your progress visual and encourages continuation. I mean, who doesn’t like checking off a box on a list or calendar. And if you miss a day or two, habit tracking allows you to pick up your goals the very next day. 

As a teacher of writing, I knew the importance of modeling the process for students. When they wrote, I wrote. So be sure to include your own Dreams, One Word, Habits, or Resolutions with your students. And revisit them throughout the rest of the school year, reflecting on progress and where to go to next! 

So consider having your students write to start off the New Year. Help them vocalize their dreams and make them a reality! And enjoy your 2020, I know I plan to make this my best year yet! And my #OneWord for 2020 in case you are curious #Value

I am Not a Reading Teacher, I Am a Gatekeeper of Information

Working with hundreds of educators over the past ten years, the phrase I hear most frequently is, I am not a reading teacher. From science teachers to math teachers, when you ask most Middle School and High School educators what they teach, reading is the last response (if at all) you typically hear…unless you ask a literacy teacher.

When this occurs, I can’t help but think of them as  “Gatekeepers of Information”. An educator who claims no responsibility in the teaching of literacy strategies because they are not the “reading teacher” can most definitely be classified as such. With this stance, students are denied skills, strategies, and opportunities to understand content specific discourse. The teacher, once again, becomes the “gatekeeper” of information; the lone expert in the class, able to decode foreign concepts or understand information as if by magic. This logic only strengthens the dependency of the student on the teacher, contradicting the goal of education; to move all students towards independence.

Take, for instance, the following example of a typical 8th-grade science test question:

The annotations I provide highlight areas that a science teacher could model as literacy skills. The goal of literacy across discipline areas is not to have all teachers require and teach a classroom novel, but to teach students the necessary skills needed to read, write, and think like a “scientist” or “mathematician”, etc.

Most educators enter the profession with an open heart and a passion for teaching. They often find teaching students how to read and write a daunting task. They do not know where to start, how to assess, or lack confidence in their own skills. With this in mind, I offer the following advice.

5 Ways to Tackle Content-Specific Literacy:

  •  Vocabulary – Identify common words that are specific to content areas, terms that are needed to build a foundation.
  • Structure/Format – Recognize the format a text uses is important to understand the type of reading required. Headings, Bold-Faced Words, Glossary, Pictures or Diagrams; all of these things provide information for the savvy reader.
  • Organization – Content-specific text often has repetition in the organization. Cause/Effect, Chronological, General to Specific; identifying and modeling how the author organizes the text will help students locate needed information.
  • Mentor Texts – This term often confuses many educators because of the formal tone, but simply stated, a mentor text is a specific example that students can approach from a variety of angles because it has so many things done correctly. Students use mentor texts reflectively and ask themselves, how can I parallel what that author did in my own work? All teachers should have a collection of mentor texts (including their own writing examples) that students can dissect, study, and keep as a reference.
  • Model your thinking – Finally, as the expert in the room, modeling your thinking aloud makes clear strategies used to comprehend the text or question. This consistent modeling, paired with gradual release, will increase a student’s own learning and provide needed practice which eventually leads to independence

Being able to support students as they encounter discipline-specific texts means ALL educators support and teach literacy. Remember, you are the expert in that content area and need to unlock how to read like a… historian, mathematician, musician for students!

15 Book Quotes About Friendship

“Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends…”

The Beatles

Today we celebrate International Friendship Day. A time to reach out to our loved ones, that are more like family than mere friends, and celebrate the richness they bring to our lives! Whether reminiscing about the beautiful moments collected together or the perilous obstacles conquered with your Bestie by your side; today we honor them! Here are 15 Friendship Quotes from books we love.

Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…” – C.S. Lewis, Four Loves

“Life is an awful, ugly place to not have a best friend.” – Sarah Dessen, Someone Like You 

“At an early age I learned that people make mistakes, and you have to decide if their mistakes are bigger than your love for them.” – Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give 

“We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses, there is at last one which makes the heart run over.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“Look at the mirrors in your friends eyes. That’s all anyone ever needs. Too see beauty and reflection in others. Those are real mirrors.” – Kwame Alexander, Solo 

“She is a friend of mine. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.” – Toni Morrison, Beloved 

“Anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.” —John Green, Turtles All The Way Down 

“‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.’” —E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web 

“You are my best friend as well as my lover, and I do not know which side of you I enjoy the most. I treasure each side, just as I have treasured our life together.” ― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

“Friendship- my definition- is built on two things. Respect and trust. Both elements have to be there. And it has to be mutual. You can have respect for someone, but if you don’t have trust, the friendship will crumble.” ― Stieg Larsson, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

“There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends.” ― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

“It’s not enough to be friendly. You have to be a friend.” ― R.J. Palacio, Wonder 

“One friend with whom you have a lot in common is better than three with whom you struggle to find things to talk about.” Mindy Kailing, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

“Maybe, the only thing that has to make sense about being somebody’s friend  is that you help them be their best self on any given day. That you give them a home when they don’t want to be in their own.”  — Elizabeth Acevedo, The Poet X

“I have your back. I didn’t mean only when it’s easy. All the time.”– Veronica Roth, Divergent

Did I miss any of your favorites? Be sure to take time today to show your friends some love, and why you are at it, why not share these 15 quotes to tug at their heartstrings and let them know you were thinking about them and you love and appreciate them!