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Posted by on in Literacy

Reading aloud to kids is an experience that almost everyone who has spent time with children has in common. Whether you're a veteran teacher or a teenage babysitter, you've probably touched the magic that we create when we take the time to read with kids.

I've had some amazing experiences as a parent and a caregiver of reading aloud: the moment when a child recognizes the letters in their name, or a common word, or a rhyming pattern in the text or a repeated phrase or sound that they love to yell out at the top of their lungs.

"Clang Clang Rattle Bing Bang, Gonna make my noise all day!"

~ Robert Munsch, Mortimer ~

Equally amazing are the books that make me cry, the books during which my kids know they can expect mom to get choked up "Mommy, why are you crying... again?!? You know how it ends."

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Posted by on in General

Celebrate your freedom to read. Read a banned book! That's right, celebrate your freedom to read. It's an important freedom, and it's protected by the First Amendment. Celebrate the right to read which books we choose. Censorship is censorship. There's a fine line between challenged and banned books. Sometimes it's fine and, sometimes not.

Banned Books Week, promoted by the American Library Association and Amnesty International reminds us freedom is not easily maintained. We must retain our ability to think, reason and have access to thoughts different from our own.

Banned Books Week, Sept. 23-29 '18, is really about perspective. What you think is offensive, may not offend me, and vice-versa; who decides? I mean, who decides what we can read, as children and later as adults?

Books are still being banned. In 2018! Really. As of this writing, I have not been able to find a simple definitive figure for the number of books challenged and banned this year, on the ALA website, which I find disappointing. 

Well, in truth, the law actually already decided this very issue. Based on the First Amendment, librarians may not restrict any materials; in regard to children, only parents may do so. In Texas v. Johnson, ('89) Justice William J. Brennan gave this opinion: "If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea solely because society finds that the idea itself is offensive or disagreeable..."  

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Posted by on in General

There have been numerous education initiatives proposed, adopted, and later left on the side of the road during my teaching and administrative career. Initiatives involve ideas, programs and techniques that often are created, analyzed, and deemed viable options by the individuals farthest away from the students who will be impacted.

Teachers are sometimes selected to serve on steering committees which will make recommendations to administrators. However, administration has the option of accepting such suggestions or discarding them and making a completely independent decision. Unfortunately, many initiatives are chosen not on the basis of student success, but upon financial savings instead.

And many of the teaching strategies that follow are misguided, failing not only students but their teachers as well.

When I started first grade in 1965, I was already a good reader. Despite the fact that my parents had little money, they provided my siblings and me with books and plenty of one-on-one support in learning how to read those books on our own.

I entered school, and my love for reading was instantly extinguished. There was a heavy emphasis on phonics - in sounding out the letters of every word before we could read the stories in our readers. Phonics is an extremely important piece of the reading process, but I was already far ahead of my classmates, and I did not need the constant drill. Differentiation for all students had yet to become a buzz word, much less a highly-regarded practice in American schools.

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Posted by on in Literacy

Young boy reading manga

I've had a couple of parents approach me recently with questions akin to: "How do I get my child to read something else besides graphic novel? I want him to read real chapter books." To which I say: "Why do you need to do this?" If your child is reading graphic novels, then he is reading. Graphic novels are real books. If your child is reading graphic novels avidly, then my suggestion is not to try to push him to chapter books. My suggestion is to find him more graphic novels.

Now, I will concede one issue that I've run into due to my daughter's devotion to graphic novels. There just aren't as many graphic novels as there are chapter books. This means that we can actually run out of books for her to read that are even remotely age appropriate (and believe me, I have stretched this upwards). She doesn't help matters by having only passing interest in fantasy - she wants thick, realistic graphic novels only. And she pretty much has all of the ones I can find that she can understand. She simply reads those over and over again. I'm fairly sure she must know Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham's Real Friends by heart.

Because of this shortage I have tried introducing some notebook novels into the mix. These still have plenty of illustrations, but also have more text. My daughter is having none of it. This means that unless I can find new graphic novels that she likes, she ends up reading less. Which is certainly not the goal. But I personally think it would be worse to push her to read books that she's not interested in. So I don't.

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Posted by on in Literacy

For the first time, maybe ever, I can't keep up with my reading.

My stack of novels grows, but I don't speed read these. I savor every word. Reading for information is different, I can adjust my rate to match the material, and routinely do so. I find myself reading a mixture of info-text online, newpapers and books. I don't use a Kindle. Just never wanted to. Always liked the feel of a book in my hands, pictures, the miracle of what lies in between the covers.

I also spend time popping onto Twitter, teacher and leadership chats, reading blogs, checking my emails, reading links to various research sites, both good and not so good. My two Facebook pages are time intensive. Besides cat videos, I scour a lot of relevant research on various things I'm interested in.

We spend time working with kiddos on their reading fluency, but I'm thinking now that we all could stand a refresher course, mini-lesson Twitter style, how to pick up our own pace, to meet vast needs, keeping current in our minute to minute changing world. The future is now. What works for kids, works for us too, so use these reminders for your students or yourself. You might enjoy online or old fashioned personal charting of your increased speeds, by following one or more of these success secrets.

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