Teaching My Baby To Read

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A Dream Library for Your Children

Excuse me while I drool. For part of my Inspired by SLE a Reading List for Children Part #3 I purchased Who Was Anne Frank, Who Was Charles Darwin and Classic Starts: Frankenstein. Now it’s only a matter of time before my wallet starts burning  and I order a whole bunch more from both the “Who Was” and “Classic Starts” series.

Bruce(7) was already familiar with the “Who Was” series, because it is responsible for his highly detailed knowledge of the Beatles and Harry Houdini. When I sat down to read the Anne Frank and Charles Darwin books, I was really impressed by how the publishers covered serious material in a safe way for children. That they could make history seem so entertaining for young readers, was an added bonus. Unfortunately, our public library system only has a handful of the “Who Was” series, which is really disappointing.

As for the “Classic Starts” series, I was totally unfamiliar with it until I read their version of Frankenstein. I was really impressed how the publishers were able to translate the story into something that was easy and fun for kids to read, without losing the big-picture themes of the story. There are discussion questions at the end of the book, as well as a short essay for parents by Arthur Pober, EdD. This is what he writes:

“Reading an abridged version of a classic novel gives the young reader a sense of independence and the satisfaction of finishing a “grown-up” book. And when a child is engaged with and inspired by a classic story, the tone is set for further exploration of the story’s themes, characters, history, and details. As a child’s reading skills advance, the desire to tackle the original, unabridged version of the story will naturally emerge… When we look at the issues, values, and standards of past times in terms of how we live now, we can appreciate literature’s classic tales in a very personal and engaging way.” (pp.151-152)

Exactly! That’s exactly what I’m trying to do with my kids through all three of my Inspired by SLE Reading lists. I know my seven-year-old was able to finish off that version of Frankenstein in less than 40 minutes, but I also know that since it will be floating around our home library for the next few years, that he is likely to read it again and again. Gouge me in the wallet now, but I want the entire “Classic Starts” collection!

Here’s what I’m going to do in the meantime (before I win the lottery).  I’m adding both series to my Grandma Please by This! page. That will at least be a good start. Any of these books would be great future presents for Grandma and Grandpa to buy.

Grandma Please Buy This!

Organizing Your Home Library

(Our current set-up)

When I first started my blog early in 2011, my son Bruce was five and a half years old and reading at about the 3rd grade level. I wrote a post about how I organized our home library to support Guided Reading.

(Earlier in the year)

Since then, Bruce has entered first grade, had a birthday, and is now reading at the fourth or fifth grade level.  My husband has brought down even more books from the garage, and our home library/playroom has gotten a bit hairy. So today I tackled the mess. Luckily for me, Jenna(2.5) is the rare two-year-old who is not a “dumper”. For some reason it has never occurred to her to empty out one of the Guided Reading baskets, even though she is now tall enough to reach them. This has continued to allow me to organize our chapter book collection thematically and by author.

It would be better to have sturdy wooden or plastic boxes for this system, but the drawer organizers I purchased from Ikea are a lot cheaper, and do the job in a pinch.

If I had more space, I would continue the box system on into the picture books, but that is simply not an option unless I purchase more bookshelves (and had space to put them). So for now, masking tape has to suffice. As you can see, not all of the books are organized. The rest could be labeled “General Fiction”, but I didn’t want to be too neurotic!

There is an empty basket near the recliner in the corner for Jenna to dump books that she has finished reading. That way I can put them back myself in order, and keep tabs on what she’s looking at. Having a “return basket” is also a tip you could use if you had a nanny. That way you could see what books your child was reading while you were at work.

If you turn a lot of our books over, you will find the Guided Reading level written on the back with Sharpie. An alternative way to organize your box system, is by actual Guided Reading level. In many Balanced Literacy classrooms you will see a K box, an L box, and M box etc. The benefit to having the Guided Reading level on the back of your books is that it helps you and your children choose books at the appropriate reading level. Jenna is not ready for this to make a difference of course, and Bruce is way beyond needing this type of assistance. But for beginning readers, this can really work wonders.

It takes a lot of time to look up and label the Guided Reading level of each book, but an additional bonus is that it will help you quickly assesses and monitor your child’s reading level. You simply pull down a book and see if your daughter can read it. If it’s too hard, move back in the alphabet; too easy, move ahead. Just right books are ones where a child makes no more than three mistakes on the first page.

Looking back through all of these pictures I keep thinking to myself “Holy cow, that was a lot of work!” But as a former teacher, I know that organizing a classroom library helps kids feel less overwhelmed by their reading options. It can also help reluctant readers gain footing on the path to becoming strong readers. Once they find the type (or box) of books they like, they know where to start. Hopefully, once they start reading, they will never stop.

Jessie Wise’s Library List

For those of you familiar with The Well Trained Mind, this will be old hat to you.  Today I typed up Jessie Wise’s library selection guidelines and “laminated” a little card for our library bag using mailing tape.  For those of you unfamiliar with the WTM, here is the list:

Jessie Wise’s Library Selection List, from pp 6-7 of The Well Trained Mind

  • One science book
  • One history book
  • One art or music appreciation book
  • One practical book (a craft, hobby or “how-to”)
  • One biography or autobiography
  • One classic novel
  • One imaginative storybook
  • One poetry book
  • Anything else they please!

The idea is to take your children to the library every week and use the list to make sure you are selecting a wide range of topics.  Our family goes to the library frequently enough that we are on a first name basis with several of our librarians, but I haven’t tried using a selection process like this yet.  We are going to go to the library tonight and give it a try.