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9/9/2010 9:47:01 AM
Home School Legal Defense Association
HSLDA's Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner Newsletter

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HSLDA's Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner Newsletter
September 2010--What's on the Menu of Your Child's Reading Diet?"
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Serving a Variety of Books to Your Child

By Faith Berens, M.Ed

I went recently to a new, local restaurant for dinner and was
surprised by the many choices on the menu, all sounding so deliciously
tempting! Similarly, when one sets out to choose appropriate books
and materials to support a child's reading instruction, the "menu" of
selections can often be overwhelming and confusing, especially for
parents who are new to homeschooling. In this article, I will
describe some of the most commonly used texts for reading instruction
and define the purposes of the various types of books. I will also
discuss the need to provide a variety of books to your child and offer
some tidbits of advice and guidelines to help clarify and simplify
this process.

Let's start with beginning readers. The earliest reading books
typically fall into two categories: predictable or pattern text and
phonetic or "decodable" books. Both types of books are beneficial and
should be used with beginning readers. The thing to keep in mind is
that both types of early readers serve different purposes, and both
types of books can be used effectively for beginning reading
instruction and practice.

Predictable or pattern books, (as a reading specialist in the school
setting, I referred to them as "little books" or sight word readers),
are texts that have the same basic line repeated throughout the book,
with one or two words differing on each page. For example, the first
page may read, "I see the cat." The next page would say, "I see the
dog." Each page following would have the same format, beginning with
"I see the ____________." At the end of the book, there may be a
variation in the text, for example, "I see the BIG lion! Roar!" thus,
presenting the reader with a bit of a surprise and some
problem-solving to do.

The pictures in this type of book match the text and are critical
because they help the beginning reader to figure out the new or
unknown words. Predictable books teach children important beginning
reading skills such as:

> Utilizing illustrations for support,
> Basic sight words,
> Establishing left-to-right directionality of print,
> One-to-one or voice-to-print matching,
> How to use the surrounding contextual cues and initial letter or
phonics cues to solve the new or unknown words.

Critics of these "little books" argue that the child isn't really
reading because he can memorize the book. However, besides the
literacy skills previously mentioned, predictable books are a
wonderful way to boost your child's confidence and show him that he
can read. This early success empowers the child and will motivate him
to want to keep trying more and more!

ESTABLISH A PATTERN

The next type of book, the phonics or decodable reader, focuses on
specific letter or phonetic patterns. An example of this type of book
is the Bob Books series http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=9019
published by Scholastic. For example, in this type of book, a certain
phonic or letter pattern, such as the short "o" sound is taught by
using "silly" sentences that are replete with words with the short "o"
sound: "Tom is a fox. The fox got on the box. Tom has a mop." I
have used these "silly little stories" as both a parent and a reading
specialist. By isolating and focusing on a particular sound or
phonetic pattern and presenting it in a repetitive and funny way,
hopefully the student will remember the skill and then transfer it to
new and other reading contexts. Because these types of books focus on
a particular aspect of reading (phonics), they are easy to use with
follow-up lessons or as reinforcement.

So as you can see, both of these types of beginning readers,
predictable books and decodable (phonics) readers, have their place in
beginning reading instruction, however, they should not be the only
books in your child's reading "diet." These types of books are not
very "filling" or "satisfying" in that they do not lend themselves to
deep meaning and comprehension, higher level thinking and vocabulary
development. It is critically important that every day you read good
quality children's literature to your child, discuss new words, and
ask comprehension questions. By implementing daily read aloud time
using trade books or picture books, living books, novels, and poetry,
you will provide your child well-balanced reading "meals."

As your child begins to develop as an early reader, gaining more
phonics skills and sight words, he moves into the transitional or
developing reader phase. At this stage you can introduce him to easy
readers, such as the I Can Read! Series
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=9020 , simple leveled readers, and
easy chapter books, such as Frog and Toad and Little Bear.

IMPORTANCE OF LITERATURE

As your child continues to develop and moves toward becoming a fluent
and independent reader, he should have access to picture books,
textbooks, living books (both fiction and nonfiction), chapter books,
reference materials, and online texts. We want our children to read
for real and meaningful purposes. Having children only read textbooks
or a basal reader is not a well-balanced literacy diet. I truly do
believe in the importance of a literature-based program with a strong
phonics foundation. In her significant book, "Beginning to Read:
Thinking and Learning About Print"
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=9021 , Marilyn Jager Adams supports
this position that the best reading programs combine phonics with the
use of real books and meaningful reading for real purposes.

For instance, with my second-grade daughter, we use the Pathways
Readers http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=9022 , but I also read
picture books to and with her, as well as poetry for shared reading;
in addition we use children's literature for read aloud, the Mini
Page, nonfiction living books connected to science or history, and she
always has a chapter book that she is reading for her independent
reading time. While it is important to use a published reading
program or intervention materials (such as Abeka, Bob Jones, Scaredy
Cat Reading System http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=9023 , or Verticy
Learning http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=9024 ) to systematically
teach phonics and reading skills, such as word attack skills, it
should not be the child's only source of reading "nutrients," so to
speak. If these are the only materials we are giving our children to
read, they will quickly become bored and unmotivated, frequently
moaning and sighing when it is reading time!

Living books and picture books are wonderful resources and are often
misunderstood. According to the Charlotte Mason approach to
homeschooling and the Simply Charlotte Mason website,
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=9025 , "living books are usually
written by one person who has a passion for the subject and writes in
conversational or narrative style. These books pull you into the
subject and involve your emotions, so it's easy to remember the events
and facts. Living books make the subject 'come alive.' They can be
contrasted to dry writing, like what is found in most encyclopedias or
textbooks, which basically lists informational facts in summary form.
You might be surprised to find that living books are available for
most school subjects--even math, geography, and science!" Living books
are great for all readers!

GET THE PICTURE

When some people hear the term "picture books" they think this refers
to a book for little kids with many pictures and few words and even
confuse them with baby, board books. Many parents feel picture books
are only appropriate for preschool or kindergarten-age children. While
it is true that many picture books are written for young children,
ages 3-6 years, there are a plethora of picture books written for
older audiences that portray important topics for students in upper
elementary and middle school. Topics such as the Civil War,
segregation, The Underground Railroad, biographical stories, Native
American legends, space exploration, and folk and fairy tales from
around the world can all be explored through picture books! The
artwork and illustrations in picture books are enthralling and help
convey the author's message and the story plot. Picture books are
engaging and are typically 30-plus pages in length. They are meant to
either be read aloud to children 4-7 years of age or can be read
independently by older students.

Both picture books and living books are effective for making subjects
come alive and transporting readers to different time periods and
events in history! When choosing these types of books for your
student, keep in mind your child's level of maturity, topics currently
being studied, the appropriateness of the material, and your child's
interests. Struggling readers who may find chapter books daunting or
informational texts and textbooks overwhelming can find success when
reading a well-written, top quality picture book, particularly if it
is on a topic of their interest!

Another important thing is that beginning and early readers love to
listen to books on tape and compact disc! Hearing books on audio
helps readers to develop fluency, vocabulary, and language skills.
Your local library is an excellent source for books on audio, as well
as Audio Books, http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=9026 . Books on
audio are a great option for students with visual disabilities and
dyslexic students, as well. Another source for obtaining books on
audio is the Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic organization
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=9027.

The menu of choices for books to use for reading instruction is full
of variety and flavor! It is important to give your child a
well-balanced literacy diet. Don't be afraid to be adventurous and
have your kids try something new and tasty....they will keep coming
back for more!


READ MORE

Resources for sight word readers, decodable books, leveled readers,
and high interest/low readability books:
EPS Books http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=9028
Curriculum Associates http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=9029
High Noon Books/Academic Therapy
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=9030
Remedia Publications http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=9031
Audio Books http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=9026
Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=9027
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