Sunday, December 13, 2015

Winter Break is Here- 10 Ways to Get or Keep Your Kiddos Reading!

Winter break is upon us!  Most kiddos will be home from school for two to three weeks in late December and early January.  Literacy development does not stop when kiddos are home on break.  This is the perfect time of year for parents to play a major role in the joyful literacy development of their preschool and elementary school age children.  Reading must be a playful fun endeavor for our kiddos.  There are many ways to make that a reality at home.  Last year around this time, I gave a few suggestions for keeping your kiddos' literacy development on track while school is not in session (you can find that here).  Below are some new suggestions to end 2015 and start 2016 off on the right track.  Enjoy, friends!

Winter Break is Here- 10 Ways to Get or Keep Your Kiddos Reading!

1)  Reading Out in the World
A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of taking two kindergarten classes on a reading walk.  We slowly walked around the school to point out and talk about everything we might be able to read:  exit/entrance signs, welcome signs, room labels, numbers on rooms, names on the wall, posters, signs posted for parents, etc.  This activity was a fun modification of the first lesson in the kindergarten Reading Units of Study from Lucy Calkins and crew.  The kids, teachers, and I had a blast!  It's truly wonderful to see a group of five year-olds giggle with excitement when reading walls, signs, and anything adorned with with letters and numbers.  This can be easily replicated outside of school.  It can be started by simply saying to your kiddo, "Did you know that we can read things other than books?  We can actually read the world.  Reading is everywhere!"  Then, start pointing out all that can be read while on a walk, at the store, or even in the car on a drive.  Words and language are everywhere.  Kiddos can start reading the world even before kindergarten.

2)  Trips to the Local Library

The public library should be the exciting cornerstone of every child's early literate life.  Library cards are free, and the choices of books are endless!  Choice helps promote engagement.  Bringing your kiddo to the library once or twice during the week to choose their own books is a huge motivator for reading.  Plus, it's absolutely free!  In addition to picking their own books, kiddos will also enjoying hearing stories read aloud from the librarian.  Most public libraries host regular story hours free of charge for all children in the area.  Take a look at your local library's website to find out their story hour schedule.

3)  Reading and Volunteering
On Christmas day this year, I'm spending a couple hours visiting a local senior citizen who is going through the holiday season without family.  This is something I am really looking forward to!   There are senior citizens, kiddos in shelters, and many other people in all of our communities across the country who would love to hear a holiday story from a kind and friendly voice.  Perhaps that voice can be yours or your child's.  

4)  Neighborhood or Sibling Story Time
Playdates with friends are fun.  Outings with friends to the park, museum, and zoo are fun as well.  Why not schedule reading and story dates with friends?  Encourage and invite your kiddo to choose a book to bring over to a neighbor's house to share.  We have the power to make reading and sharing books just as exciting as playing with Legos and soccer in the backyard (two other activities that I also highly value!).  Instead of asking your kiddos to sit down with the iPad, TV, or video games with their friends, encourage them to sit down with a stack of favorite books- maybe even their favorite holiday stories for this time of year!  To make it sweeter, why not make hot cocoa as a treat to enjoy while reading with friends and siblings.

5)  Reading Stamina Practice & Goals
If your kiddos are in schools and classrooms implementing Reading Workshop, they are working on
From The Units of Study for Teaching Reading
by Lucy Calkins and colleagues at The Teachers
 Reading and Writing Project
their reading stamina in class everyday.  In the kindergarten, first, and second grade classrooms I work in everyday, I see kids practicing and setting goals around their reading stamina.  This is an exciting thing for all kiddos engaged in the goal setting activity.  Most classrooms started with a goal of independent reading for 10 minutes.  The goal then becomes 15, then 20 minutes, and so on.  Teachers and students celebrate every incremental step that the class makes.  This can be done at home as well.  Consider creating a Reading Stamina chart at home.  Celebrate every step achieved (see the chart to the right).  If starting at 20 minutes seems like too high of a goal, start at 10 or something manageable for your kiddo.  If you have a little one at home who is not yet reading in the traditional sense, remember, sitting down with a stack of familiar books, turning pages, and "reading" the pictures independently counts!

6)  Read to Your Elf on the Shelf
I'm sure that Elf would love to hear a good holiday story every morning!

7)  Record Your Kiddo Reading a Story and Post it on Social Media or Email to Relatives
There is nothing cuter than hearing a little one read or recite a familiar story
from memory.  Familiar story books play such a critical role in the early reading lives of our little guys.  Read one book with your kiddo over and over again.  Then, invite your kiddo to make a virtual holiday card for a family member.  Record your kiddo reading a favorite holiday book (partially reciting from memory and talking about the pictures counts!).  Then, send the recording to family through email or post it on Facebook for all your friends to see.  If we celebrate reading, so will our kiddos.  Might I suggest starting with How the Grinch Stole Christmas?

8)  Read Holiday Cards Together & Write Back! 
Receiving paper cards and any type of correspondence from loved ones in the mailbox is such a novelty these days.  Take advantage of this literacy promoting novelty!  Read every card you receive this season together with your little ones.  Then, ask them if they'd like to write back.  Writing back to everyone might be a little overwhelming, so perhaps pick one family member or friend to write back to each day or a couple times a week.  Don't forget that swirly drawing and those glorious zig-zaggy lines all over the page are the first stages of writing.  If your kiddo isn't writing words yet- still encourage all forms of pen to paper, and make sure to name them as writing when talking with your child!  The earlier our kiddos regard themselves as readers and writers, the better!

9)  One Holiday Book a Night 
Start a new tradition that promotes literacy and reading in your home!  In addition to presents, place a slew of holiday books under the tree (head to the library or book store if needed!).  Each evening, invite your kiddos to pick a book from under the tree for family reading time.  Here's a list of a few of my favorites: How the Grinch Stole Christmas Too Many TamalesLight the LightsThe Polar ExpressThe Gingerbread ManDream SnowOlive The Other ReindeerLatkes, Latkes Good to Eat, and many many more! 

10)  Give a Book! 
There's nothing I love more than sharing books with children.  I've never met a child who didn't love to hear a good story or talk about a shared book experience.  If you have gift exchanges coming up- give a book.  If you aren't sure what to buy your niece or nephew for the holidays- give a book.  Do you have a holiday giving tree at work- buy the requested present and add a book.  When people ask you what your kiddos would like for Christmas- suggest a book.  Are you bringing your kiddos shopping with you this holiday season?  Might I suggest stopping at the local bookstore (or Target or other place that sells books), and invite them to pick out a book to donate to a local charity or children's hospital.  Nothing is more special than giving the gift of reading.

Happy Holidays, Friends! 

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