Friday, March 5, 2010

Note from the Principal-How can I help my child prepare for MCAS and do better in school?

Many parents often ask me, “How can I or what can I do at home to help my children do better on MCAS and in school?” Parent involvement in childhood literacy is one of the greatest ways to help boost MCAS performance and determine later success in school. A great way to promote childhood literacy in the home is through a Read Aloud.

The point of a Read Aloud is not to simply get through a story. Often when I was in school there was an understanding that the reader (parent, teacher, and librarian) would start and finish the book without stopping. There was a fear that to do so would ruin the flow or the pleasant sound of the words.

However, this is not the case. When reading a story to a child, it is of enormous benefit to stop and ask questions. This enriches the story and builds up reading comprehension. Part of the enjoyment we have as adults when we read is talking to other adults about what we have read. A Read Aloud provides a means for parents to model and actively engage their children in this practice. It serves as motivation for children to want to read. People will buy more of a product if it is advertised daily as being entertaining and pleasurable. A daily Read Aloud will make a conditioned response with a child’s brain that reading is fun. The more Read Aloud experience a child receives the more the reader and child will enjoy it and getter better at it.

If wondering what book to use, a great resource is your child’s classroom teacher and/or a librarian. Listening skills and reading comprehension congregate typically around age 13 or eighth grade. That being the case, a Read Aloud book can be at least three grade levels above where a student is currently reading. Also, it is great fun to read not just fiction, but non-fiction. In fact, a large majority of the MCAS requires the reading of non-fiction text.

A Read Aloud has many added benefits. It builds attention span in students. The reader serves as a model for how to show enunciation and expression while reading. Also, a Read Aloud exposes children to rich language and vocabulary. In fact, if one were to compare a conversation between two college graduates to a Read Aloud, one would find three or more times as many uncommon words in the children’s book. Moreover, when reading fictional text it provides knowledge of story structure. Listening comprehension is the preview or appetizer before we receive the restaurant’s main entre, reading comprehension. In addition, a Read Aloud provides bonding time. With all our demands as parents to stay on top of email, the ringing cell phone, and work, a Read Aloud might be the only part of a day when a child could have a parent’s undivided attention.

There are several ways to incorporate questions and higher order thinking. Some of the most common ways to incorporate this in a Read Aloud are:

• encourage and model making text to text, text to self, and text to world connections

• ask your child to retell the story or chapter after you have read to him/her

• encourage your child to make inferences – ask how or why questions rather than who, what, or where questions

• don’t show the illustrations in the text you are reading and encourage your child to visualize what he/she is reading and describe their “picture in their mind” to you

We are so fortunate at Pine Glen to have wonderful instructors who are experts at these strategies. A child will not get hurt re-doing the same strategies used in school. In fact, it will be really beneficial. Your child’s teacher can serve as a great resource in answering questions about strategies you can practice at home and in fun way. In addition, two books that are a great resources for parents on the topic of Read Aloud are (1) 7 Keys to Comprehension: How to Help Your Kids Read and Get it! (Hutchinns, C. & Zimmerman, S. 2003 New York, NY: Three Rivers Press) and (2) The Read-Aloud Handbook, (Trelease, J. 2006 New York, NY Penguin Group).

Don’t feel you need to read these reference books to do Read Aloud at home. As a parent you can do the items mentioned in this Blog. All you need to start a Read Aloud is being willing to accept the fact that you will have uninterrupted time with your child that will build strong relationship bonds while simultaneously helping him or her become a better reader, and showing them a daily expression of your love for them.

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