A parent asks, “Why does my daughter keep bringing home books that she already knows how to read? How is she learning anything by reading the same thing over and over again?”
Familiar books are books that the children have read before. It is important that they read books that are easy over and over again to practice reading fluently, which means that reading should sound smooth, not choppy. It should sound like talking, with expression and intonation. Children need to practice familiar books many times before their reading sounds quick, expressive and like spoken language. Good fluency leads to good comprehension, an easier transition to the next reading level and confidence.
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST OUT OF FAMILIAR BOOKS:
1) Take a sneak peek yourself before you read it together
This will enable you to give the child a brief overview of what the story is about, the characters’ names and activities and a sense of where to direct the pre-reading conversation to ‘activate’ related vocabulary and / or any prior life experiences that will help your child connect on an emotional level to the book.
2) Have a quick look through the pictures together before reading the book, then ensure that your child knows to glance at the picture on each page before reading the words, and look back at it when needed.
Looking through all of the pictures prior to reading will give the reader a reminder of the entire story, from the beginning to the end, and will help him or her to predict what is coming up as he or she tackles the words and phrases on each page. It also helps refresh the reader’s memory for new vocabulary and character’s names to avoid stumbling on them in the middle of a sentence.
3) Take turns reading by alternating pages.
Your reading sets an example and the pace for your time together. It also helps you get through more stories in less time! Another perk? Reading comprehension. An experienced reader can bring characters to life with exaggerated voices, sound effects and expression. Check out this video of master storyteller Robert Munsch for example:
Another perk of shared reading is that both partners can be listening to ensure that what is being read makes sense. Want to jazz it up with a little humor? Check if your little reader is paying attention by throwing in something bizarre at the end of a sentence when it’s your turn to read something…
i.e. Once upon a time, there were three little pigs. The first little pig lived in a house made of gummy worms…
4) Keep it short and sweet!
A parent knows their own child best. Goal number one is to ensure an enjoyment of books and reading. Lighthearted fun, praise for a great time together and some laughter is a positive outcome. For four to eight year olds? Five to twenty minutes per session, max! (And for goodness sake, move around!)
Tell everyone you know how much fun you had reading together (in earshot of your little reader).
Why create a Personal Alphabet Book for students when it is so much easier to have everyone learn that A says ‘a’ in apple and C says ‘k’ in cat?
When I taught Reading Recovery to grade one students early in the school year, creating a personal alphabet book was one of the first things we did together when we started lessons. It wasn’t until seven years in to my teaching career that I understood the benefits of a personal alphabet book, and I have Dr. Marie Clay and my Reading Recovery teacher leaders to thank for that.
In Literacy Lessons Part Two, Dr. Clay explains:
The alphabet book is merely a record of what is known with spaces for what is ‘yet to be learned’ That gives the child a sense of the size of the task and a feeling of control over his own progress. It also provides a location to return to when a troublesome letter, still being confused, turns up. (p37)
She explains that children do not generally learn to identify letters by name or sound in alphabetical order and that identifying a letter by name or sound is equally useful for a child early on, as it is most effective to teach both name and sound together.
In my own personal experience with teaching children at the earliest stages of literacy, I have seen great value in personalized alphabet books. When children have one word for each letter that he or she knows for sure makes that letter sound, they use it as an anchor, a concrete example to hold all other words against for comparison.
When they have their own sound alphabet that they have created from the words most meaningful to them, the words that pop into their minds with the initial letter sounds and that association gives them confidence that they know that particular sound. It gives them the confidence to ‘spit’ that sound out when they see an unknown word on a page when they are reading, or put down that first letter when attempting to write a word they have never attempted before. The personal alphabet book is the ultimate, at-a-glance reference guide. It is meaningful to each child, because that child constructed it from people and things that are meaningful to them already. The connections are already in place.
The key to the effectiveness of a personalized alphabet book is in its construction. It must be done slowly but with enthusiasm, following the child’s lead, reviewed often and used as reference.
I did create a kit as a time-saver for teachers (pictured below) but it is very easy to create a personal alphabet book. Here’s how.