Read More Usborne

Building literacy one children's book at a time…

Wow! That’s A LOT of Reading!

I have been meaning to write about children needing 1,000 hours of “lap time” before they’re ready to read so it was sort of serendipitous to see Read Aloud Dad‘s recent blog about kids (and adults) needing 10,000 hours of practice to become the best of the best at anything – including reading.

Long before our kids can start logging those 10,000 hours of practice reading, they need to learn how to read and that’s where the 1,000 hours of lap time comes in.

The National Institute for Children’s Health and Development has said that young children need 1,000 hours of lap time before they will be ready to learn to read. So what counts as lap time? Reading books aloud counts, but so does talking, singing, rhyming and chanting.

Wow.

1,000 hours is difficult for me to get my head around.

So how about we break this down into manageable chunks…

  • If you are smart enough to start while your baby is just weeks or months old, your child will be ready to read (by kindergarten) with only about 1/2 hour of lap time every day.
  • If you wait until your child is 2 years old (about 3 years before kindergarten), you will have to play catch up and invest 1 hour every day.
  • If you wait until the year before kindergarten, you’ll need about 3 (yes, that’s THREE) hours of lap time every day for that entire year! Yikes!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that parents who haven’t invested any lap time in their child for the first four years are probably not going to invest 3 hours per day in that magical year before kindergarten. Starts to shed some light on why some kids are so unprepared to learn when they enter school.

So back to Read Aloud Dad… If a child needs 10,000 hours to become a best of the best reader, that could mean

1 hour of reading per day for 27 years

2 hours per day for 14 years

3 hours per day for 9 years

Double WOW!

I think the message here is START TODAY! Read aloud to your children no matter how old they are. And be a fabulous role model – let them see you reading books, newspapers, magazines, and online content.

You say you’re already doing this? Good for you!

Could you be doing more?

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“Rope ‘Em” by Stacy Nyikos

Rope ‘Em by Stacy Nyikos is a fast-moving underwater western starring Scout the yellow seahorse and Virgil the purple octopus. Scout is the best herder around and Virgil is the best roper, using eight lassos at a time. You’d think they’d make a great team, but you’d be wrong. But when trouble in the shape of a bull shark arrives at the O.K. Coral, the two have to learn to work together to save the ranch and the cowfish. This is a fun book to read aloud with a cowboy twang and has lots of action to keep kids engaged – highly recommended! You can watch the trailer below.

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Games Make Reading Fun!

As promised in an earlier post, here are some great games mentioned in Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox. Games can make reading aloud more fun for both you and your child and add spontaneity to learning!

  • Turn the book upside down and start reading (or start reading on the last page of the book) and see if your child notices and corrects you. I don’t do this very often, but it’s funny to see my daughter turn into a little teacher/parent when I do. “No – this way!”
  • Read the wrong words. For example, if reading Little Red Riding Hood, begin with “Once upon a time there were three little pigs…” This game teaches that the illustrations should match the words. This one elicits giggles and “That’s not what it says!” responses.
  • Sometimes skip reading altogether and just discuss the pictures with your child. I think my daughter really likes this because she has more time to really absorb what’s in each illustration and find all the hidden gems.
  • Point out words that are repeated and see if your child can spot more. I admit that we have only done this a couple of times and not very successfully.
  • Seek out letters on the page. For example, if your child’s name begins with “M”, see how many “M”s you can find on the page. One of my favorite letter recognition memories is when we were driving by the Golden Arches of McDonald’s and Maddie pointed and shouted excitedly “Big M! Big M!”
  • Stop mid-sentence and let your child finish (works best with favorite and familiar books). This also can let you know if your child is bored and not paying attention (and you haven’t noticed) – then you can find ways to re-engage.
  • Allow your child to turn the pages. Along with teaching the child left-to-right reading and page-turning, this game also helps keep an easily distracted child focused on the book and invites participation.

More games from Fox to help pre-readers learn include the following:

  • Use alphabet fridge magnets to write your child’s name. Also, these can be used to spell a simple word such as “can” and change one letter at a time to make different words like cat, rat, rut, rub, etc.
  • Encourage “writing” (scribbles).

Above all, keep reading aloud light, fun and spontaneous. Don’t bog your child down with too many rules and it’s best to leave out fun-killers like “Don’t be silly! Sit Still! Pay Attention! No! That’s Wrong!”  You get the idea…

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More Reasons to Read Aloud

We read to children for all the same reasons we talk with children: to reassure, to entertain, to bond, to inform or explain, to arouse curiosity, to inspire. But in reading aloud, we also

Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
Create background knowledge
Build vocabulary
Provide a reading role model”

From the Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure. This line caught my attention. Isn’t it amazing how we are conditioned to enjoy certain things?? (Now if only I could condition myself to despise chocolate.) And isn’t it interesting how easy it is to fall into old habits – even when we think we’ve conditioned ourselves to enjoy new habits (regular exercise, for example, comes to my mind). So let’s all start our children on the right path and condition them to enjoy reading!

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Voice Magic – Tips from Mem Fox

I really enjoyed reading Mem Fox’s Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. She has some great tips for using your voice to transform books from ho-hum words to magical music. All you drama majors can stop reading now, but for those of us who majored in more technical and less expressive subjects (yes, I know… BORING!), here are Fox’s voice tips that I have found so helpful:

  • Sensationalize the opening line of a book to grab attention.
  • Savor the closing line. Say it slowly to make it “more delicious” and create a transition from the book to next activity (hopefully bedtime!).
  • There are at least 7 ways to vary your voice. Think high/low, fast/slow, loud/soft and pause.
  • Pay close attention to the story line to know how to vary your voice using these “7 ways”.
  • Take cues from the written words. For example, consider how you might express “the wind whispered…” vs. “the wind howled…”
  • Aim for highly interesting.
  • Experiment and develop your own style.
  • Use a sing-song voice to make the story like music.
  • Read a book the same way each time to help children remember the tune. This will also make them more likely to practice “reading aloud” to themselves.

Some don’ts from Mem Fox…

  • Don’t be overly expressive.
  • Don’t be cutesy, sugary, patronizing.

I will share more tips from Mem Fox’s book soon – she has many more ideas for creating reading magic and I love her ideas for reading games to play. In the meantime, you can learn more about Fox and watch videos of her read alouds here.

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Interactive Read Aloud – Quick Tips

I admit as a first time and busy parent (with zero experience around young children in my adult life) that I thought reading aloud was about getting through the story. Check! One more book finished! (Maybe it’s the engineer in me?)

Since I’ve been learning more about the importance of reading aloud and how to foster reading comprehension, I’ve made some easy tweaks to my read aloud methods over the past few months that have reaped big rewards. I can already tell that my kiddo is more engaged while we’re reading and more eager to read when we’re not. (“I want to read a book!” has become a common request.) Here are some quick tips from the experts that have helped me:

  • Talk about the book before reading it – especially the first time. Look at the illustrations on the cover, title page and back cover and ask what the book might be about. Then maybe  say “Hmmm…. I think this book might be about sea turtles. What do you think?”
  • Ask the child to turn the pages. This may seem like a “duh” suggestion, but I was interested to learn that my daughter didn’t even know when to turn the page and I still have to prompt her in many books. It is my understanding that the timing will eventually come naturally to the child.
  • Allow the child to finish lines. This works best with rhyming books and books that are familiar to your child. Start using this technique with his favorite books so that it will be easier for him to “get it right”. For example, “Hickory dickory dock, the mouse ran up the…” [pause for child to say “clock”].
  • Ask questions throughout the story such as “What do you think will happen next?” and “Why do you think the fox did that?”
  • Define vocabulary words as you go. For example, “Canine is another word for dog.”
  • Discuss the story afterward and ask questions such as “What was your favorite part of the story?” and “Why did you like that story?” and “What would have happened if…?”

It’s OK if you don’t make it all the way through the story the first time or two. Pick the book up again tomorrow and you’ll breeze through the parts you already discussed. Another option is to just start incorporating one or two of the techniques until the timing feels right to add more. Sometimes I only use one or two and other times I use them all depending on which book were reading, how much time we have, and our moods.

Try these suggestions and I’ll bet your child will gain big dividends in vocabulary and reading comprehension. Have more tips?? Leave a comment – I’d love to hear from you…

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Top 5 Reasons to Read Aloud to Younger Children

There are oodles of reasons to read aloud, but these are the current top 5 reasons why I read aloud to my 2 year-old:

1. Bonding, quality time together – What better way to spend quality time with my kiddo than to snuggle up on the couch with a few great books and share my love of reading!

2. Calming effect when kids are climbing the walls – Anyone out there have an active child?? Oh yes, books are the great “calmer”. Reading aloud is especially useful before nap time and bed time or any other time when we need to reduce the energy level in the Miller household.

3. Expands basic knowledge of the world(s) – I have been amazed time and again at concepts that appear in children’s books that I either hadn’t thought to point out or discuss or that took the material to a new level of understanding. For example, I love On the Moon‘s real NASA photos (with cartoons added) that show Earth from the moon’s perspective. We’ve talked about the moon since Maddie was a baby, but how do you explain what it’s like on the moon without some visual aids?

On the Moon

4. Expands vocabulary, understanding of language – The beauty of books is that written language is more complex and varied than spoken language. Some self-reflection has made me realize that I tend to use the same sentences and phrases over and over again with my daughter – usually along the lines of “No! Stop that!”  I understand that a lot of repetition is necessary for kids to learn language, but it’s also a good idea to expand their horizons. And lucky day! Books can do that for us without us having to think too much.

5. Foster love of books, learning – I want my daughter to love books and learning as much as I do. ‘Nuff said.

If you read aloud to your children, what are your top reasons?? I’d like to know! Please leave a comment…

Stay tuned for more reasons to read aloud, how-tos, book reviews and whatever else I can think to write about… Read on!

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