March is National Reading Month [Here's the Challenge...]
Hello, my fellow book-loving friend!
One of the defining moments in my therapy-life was with Lucas, a language-challenged second grader. He stopped mid-sentence during one of his practice sentences, looked me the eyes, and said, “Mrs. Boshart, when is it my turn to learn to read?”
I shamefully said to myself (not to him), ‘Oh honey, we’re not working on reading, we’re working on your oral language; you get your reading from the resource specialist.’
Lucas had learning disabilities, ADHD with huge attention issues, a crummy home-life, very few friends, and the biggest, most generous heart.
Do you have a ‘Lucas’ on your caseload? Several of them? Bless them; a life of reading struggles is a tough life.
My focus on “reading” has changed due to seeing the benefits with my kids, several good seminars, and reading research.
I strongly believe in the advantages and benefits of infusing print language into my oral language therapy. But, here’s a separate challenge….
The Challenge: Do “Storytime” with Your Language-Kids!
The typical Reading-Month activity is to ask kids to read a book-a-day, or so many minutes a day, etc. However, asking some of my kids to read even 5 minutes a day is like asking them to walk through fire. Well, let’s do it for and WITH them.
Read an interesting, exciting, humorous storybook with (not just to) your language kids, several times (repeated readings), over several sessions during the month of March.
All children--but especially our kids--require several exposures to learn, incorporate and use new words. Vocabulary is king.
I’m paraphrasing here, reading develops vocabulary, among other things, via: repeated readings, retelling, defining words [incorporating child-friendly word meanings], and repeated exposure to new words in other contexts. (Snell, Hindman, Wasik, How Can Book Reading Close the Word Gap? Five Key Practices from Research. Reading Teacher, April, 2015.)
Options and Ideas
- Tell your kids (while looking at a calendar), “March is a very special month, and it has to do with YOU. We’re going to add ‘Storytime’! Together, we’ll learn how to enjoy and have fun while reading stories.”
- Consider adding Storytime at the end of your therapy session (for example, the last 5 or so minutes). During the first read, stop half-way through at an exciting part. Create anticipation.
- Give them three book options, for example; let them choose the one they want to read. Read either from a hand-held book or a digital book. *Interactive reading is interactive reading; kids benefit from both.
- Change the environment: Either do away with the therapy table and just sit in chairs in a small circle or sit on the floor. If it’s nice, go outside to read; generate positive associations. Make Storytime special and a time they look forward to.
- Before you read the story, do a brief “prior knowledge” activity. Lead a discussion where everyone participates with questions and answers. Begin the discussion with a question that relates to the book topic and THEM. If the book is about a cat, ask them to tell about their cat, ask others to ask questions within the group, etc. This provides learning associations.
- Do “performance reading.” Read with fun and varied expression (vocal and facial); vary your pitch, loudness, intensity, and gain eye-contact along the way. Capture and keep their attention.
- Do “echo reading.” As you progress, ask them to repeat a word, phrase or short sentence to help you read the story. Great for word pronunciation, saying and learning new words, comprehension, grammar, syntax, and reading fluency. (**Homan, Klesius, and Hite, 1993.) Echo reading is a terrific technique for low- to non-readers. They don’t have to decode or create the words, they get to participate in the story, and feel what reading fluency feels like. At first, if they don’t repeat it correctly, that’s okay, just move on; they’re participating. After you’ve done it 2 to 3 times (over several sessions), contrast their phrase with yours, and encourage a correct production, i.e., do therapy.
- In subsequent readings, add gestures and/or sound effects; this makes new vocabulary fun and memorable. Come up with Tier 2 synonyms. Discuss child-friendly word meanings, and the meaning of sayings and idioms, point out irregular plurals, contractions, etc. Love the framework and context of a narrative.
In my estimation, the four most important things to incorporate when it comes to reading is to:
- Read relevant books, i.e., topics they like and enjoy,
- Do repeated readings,
- Incorporate echo reading, and
- Instruct pronunciation of new and difficult words—the kids will not learn or use them if they can’t say them.
A Couple Added Resources
For professional book-readers, go to www.StorylineOnline.net. I love this site! Get on there and subscribe; it’s all free; it’s all fun.
To determine a book’s lexile level, try the app “Book Leveler for Teachers”; $4.99. Also, Google, “lexile level chart;” there’s a bunch of chart images.
By the way, all Therapy Matters this month will be devoted to reading.
Let me know what book or books you chose and how your kids did!
Char Boshart, M.A., CCC-SLP
*Neuman, Wong, Kaefer, 2017. Content not form predicts oral language comprehension: the influence of the medium on preschoolers’ story understanding. Reading and Writing Journal, Vol 30, Issue 8, 1753-1771.
**Homan, Klesius, Hite, 1993. Effects of repeated readings and nonrepetitive strategies on students’ fluency and comprehension. Journal of Educational Research, 87, 94-99.
- Charlotte Boshart