5 Ways To Create A Love Of Reading With Children

Harry Potter

I’ve been helping kids create a love of reading for 25 years.

Some days, I think I’ve nailed it. Others, it’s more of a struggle.

Yesterday, for example, my 8th graders rushed into class babbling about the first chapter of The Pearl; they couldn’t believe it when the chapter was over, and how fully Steinbeck had loaded it with intrigue. And it’s an assigned text.

That’s a win.

Over the last month, though, I’ve been helping one of my struggling readers build up his confidence. He fought me. He pretended to read. He insisted he understood what he was reading. And one day, he broke down in tears.

We had a talk. We found books that were at his reading level (four grades below) and that had interesting topics. And he reluctantly started to read.

He didn’t stop until he had blown through three books and asked if he could try something longer.

This week, he’s pushing himself.

The struggle for the win.

Finding ways to get kids to love reading takes some tenacity, some audaciousness, and a bit of luck. I’ve noticed that the faster we’re accustomed to acquiring information, the less interested many kids become in persevering through a text. They want the answer now, the ending fast, and want to be entertained all the way through.

Kind of like a video game.

So as a middle school teacher, figuring out how to hook kids often makes me feel like an entertainer, a magician, and a task master all rolled up into one tired teacher.

It’s a good thing I like a challenge.

I’ve come up with 5 ways I’ve found to create a love of reading in children. Some are simple, some will take more effort on your part. But all of these will work to develop children who love to read.

How to create a love of reading:

  1. READ every day.

This is sometimes easier said than done, but it really is the number one way to create a love of reading. Think of reading as part of your routine. If your children are pre-readers, read to them. If they are independent readers, schedule blocks of reading time. Teach them that reading time is relaxing, not rigorous. Let them choose what they read, and watch what happens:

It all adds up. Supposing a kindergartener reads/is read to for one minute a day. By the time they reach 6th grade, they will have read for a total of three school days, 8,000 words per year.

If they read five minutes per day, they will total up to 12 school days or 900 minutes and 282,000 words per year.

But if they read my suggested amount of 20 minutes a day, between kindergarten and 6th grade, they will have read for 60 school days, 3600 minutes, or 1,800.000 words per year.

With all those words and all that time, they will be hooked.

     2. READ all types of text.

Read all sorts of things – not only books but also show them print in all forms. Re-read their favorites over and over – when they (and you) have it memorized, they’re internalizing story structure, language skills, and feel successful. Read greeting cards and magazines and board game directions and recipes. Don’t worry if they’re not reading ‘classics’ – just keep trying until they get hooked. Older kids are quickly engaged by graphic novels and books about sports or hobbies. Whatever they’re interested in, find something about it in print and READ.

     3. LABEL everything.

My kids went to a Spanish Immersion school, and to increase vocabulary in their kindergarten class, everything was labeled in Spanish. Do the same thing in your house. Start in their room, and write labels for their boxes of Legos and art supplies. I used index cards and covered them with packaging tape to make them durable. READ the labels as you move around your house. You don’t have to do everything at once – make it a game, and see if every day they can spot the new labels. Pretty soon they will have a huge vocabulary of sight words!

     4. Go to the library.

Make library visits a regular part of your calendar. Schedule a day each week, if you can, to spend an hour browsing and playing. When your kids are little, have them pull out a stack of books and find a cozy spot to read together. As they get older, you can bring your own book to read while they look around. Find out about storytimes or programs you and your child can participate in. Create a ‘library play group’ with a few other kids and take turns being the parent in charge. Celebrate the day they’re old enough to be issued their own library card. Going to the library will open the door to a world of opportunity – and it’s all free!

     5. Create your own books.

Staple together a few pieces of blank paper (or better yet, purchase a bound sketchbook) and help your child draw pictures of their day. Cutting up magazines is also an option (and often old magazines are free at the library). If they’re able to write, have them create a caption. If not, they can dictate it to you. Creating books is a fun way to document a trip, a special day, or just the extraordinary, ordinary life of being a child. Make sure to date the pages- you’ll appreciate that when they’re older. Teens will enjoy having a special journal to draw or write in – a spiral notebook works just fine, and they can customize the cover with cut-outs, stickers, and photographs. Cover with packaging tape to make it durable, and they have their own personalized book.

Even if your child already has a love for reading, adding in new and exciting opportunities to explore text will enhance their abilities and open up new ways for them to learn.

photo credit: A Look Back At Harry Potter via photopin (license)

photo credit: Reading for baby via photopin (license)

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Excuses Are Useless In Middle School

excuses are uselessI get really tired of excuses. In fact, in my classroom when my 8th graders try to excuse their behavior, lack of homework, or unpreparedness I tell them kindly yet firmly, “Excuses are useless.”

Initially quizzical looks form on their faces, and then they start to stammer…which is exactly when I interject my reasoning. Everyone has issues. Everyone is busy. Everyone can blame someone, something, or some “whatever” for anything. But what’s the point?

Last week I had a day ‘off’ to attend a workshop. For teachers, attending workshops is equivalent to taking a course for a day, except that we have homework before (lesson plans) and after (fixing up messed up lesson plans). I knew I’d have a mess to fix up when one of my college interns texted me to tell me how horribly things had gone in my absence. She was absolutely devastated.

I wasn’t surprised. Kids don’t always make the best choices with substitutes, right?

To find out what happened next, please visit The Educator’s Room, where I share stories about education and life as a middle school teacher – it’s a terrific site full of thoughtful and well-written articles by a diverse group of educators from around the United States.

http://theeducatorsroom.com/2016/03/teaching-teens-making-excuses/

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Something Cool From My Classroom: Presenting With Prezi

Have you ever heard of Prezi? I hadn’t until I started searching for ways to bring my classroom into the 21st century.

I’ve been teaching middle school for 25 years. I’m credentialed to teach K-9th grades, but somehow, I’ve stayed with the crazy, hormone-infused, physical awkwardness times of grades 7 and 8.  And most days, I love it.

When I’m in the classroom with my students, I see so much potential. These kids are ripe for change; they’re still not committed to much of anything, and most of them see their future spread wide open before them. It’s the perfect combination to see real human development.

When I’m in my groove in the classroom, the curriculum becomes a quest to combine not only the California state standards (yes, I believe in Common Core), but also to ignite my students’ passions. That can sometimes be a tricky combination, to be sure.

For reluctant readers, finding some sort of hook is key. This month, I’m introducing our next novel, John Steinbeck’s The Pearl. I’m a huge fan of Steinbeck, but that’s often not enough to get kids to believe that what I’m asking them to read is actually something they will like.

So I’m taking a back-door approach. Using Prezi, my kids are becoming professional researchers.

using Prezi
8th grade students in my classroom doing a Prezi presentation on scorpions.

Before we even checked out the book, I created (actually, updated) a research project designed to get them asking questions, thinking, designing and creating a presentation about pearls, pearl diving, scorpions, John Steinbeck, La Paz, Mexico and the Sea of Cortez. They don’t quite know the connection to the novel yet, but they sure dug into these topics!  Back in the day, we used to do this project creating handmade brochures. But now that I have enough Chromebooks for each kid in my classroom, the possibilities are endless – so we’re using Prezi.com, a cool website that combines elements of Google Slides and PowerPoint. It’s another tool for their educational toolbox, I say.

The best part, for me, is that my students are learning skills that they will take out of the classroom and into their lives. They’re collaborating with a partner online. They’re creating questions about things they don’t know and finding the answers. They’re designing a presentation combining visual and verbal elements, and they’re standing in front of their peers and presenting.

Some of them even dressed up for the occasion.

This is the kind of teaching I love – when I prepare an overarching idea, and the kids make it their own. I love their smiles, their laughter, their frustration, and their pride with what they’re doing. It makes teaching 13 year-olds a real treat.

If you’d like to read more about this project, visit The Educator’s Room using the link below. It’s a great place for all things related to education – great for parents and teachers, too.

http://theeducatorsroom.com/2016/01/inquiry-based-research-john-steinbecks-novel-pearl/

 

 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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My Advice For People That Want To Work With Children

I must warn you that if you are thinking about working with children, it’s not for everyone. Whether you are planning to be a teacher, nanny, PSA or even set up a creche, you’ll be faced with many challenges. I think the biggest problem here is that many people believe if you’re a mom, you’ll automatically be good at working with children.  To work with kids I think you need to be patient, understand the difficulties and know how to be a figure of authority. With that in mind here are my tips for those hoping to work with today’s youth.

Sammy teaching kindergarten

Your first step is deciding on the path you’re going to take to work with kids. For instance, if you want to work in a school and you have a degree you can sign up for a one-year teaching course. After that, you’ll start gaining experience, first hand in the classroom. If you are thinking about being a teaching assistant or preschool teacher, you will require less training. But, you will need to understand the responsibility you’re taking on. Teaching assistants often work with children who have special needs such as ADD and on some days may face bigger challenges than the teacher. If you want to be a nanny, you still need qualifications. You will have to take one of the early childhood courses available in your area. By doing this, you’ll gain all the information you need to work with kids. The experience will come later.

Understand Modern Challenges

The world has changed, not always for the better. Teachers, parents and anyone else whose life revolves around children are facing new difficulties. Self harm has doubled in the last year in children under 16. Researchers believe the number could be as high as seventy percent of all children will self-harm at some point in their life. Bullying is also on the rise but now takes place outside of the classroom, online. If you’re working with children you can’t underestimate the effects these issues can have. Bullying victims can believe suicide is their only option if the issue is not dealt with. Children don’t self harm for no reason and there will be an underlying cause. If you take on a duty of care, it’s your responsibility to notice the signs and help the child in need.

Know Who You Have To Be

If you’re working with children, it’s important you know what and who you have to be. As much as you may want to, if you are working in a school, you shouldn’t strive to be the child’s friend. Instead, you should be someone they can look up to and that they can trust. Perhaps most importantly, you should be someone they respect. You must be careful when walking the line between being a child’s friend and an authoritative figure.

I hope you find this information valuable. Remember, when you start working with children, you will be a part of what shapes who they are and who they become.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Honoring Our Boundaries: “No” Is A Complete Sentence

“No” is a complete sentence.”
Anne Lamott

That sentence used to drive me crazy when my kids were little. Remember those days when every request, every plea, every last ounce of your mommy-breath received a “No”? Do you remember their determined little faces, squeezed into such ferociousness, fists in the air?

And now I realize my toddlers had a point.

The last few weeks were a doozy. Nothing particularly earth-shattering or heart-breaking happened, just weeks when I said ‘yes’ more than ‘no’ and let my boundaries get far too loose. Weeks when I had to dig deep for courage, weeks when I was tired, hungry, and felt like I didn’t give myself a moment to catch my breath.

And I did it to myself. I have no one to blame. I didn’t say “No.” Not once.

That old adage about putting on our own oxygen mask first is absolutely true.

 

 no boundaries

I’m spending the weekend trying to re-center and re-capture the fleeting muse of Persistence – sometimes is the only way I  make it out of bed in the morning. Does this happen to you?  When did you agree to do one more thing, schedule one more meeting, help one more person when what you really needed to do was stop, breathe, and help yourself? What did you say “Yes” to when you really wish you had screamed “No!”

What happened?

“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice.”
Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

I didn’t set good boundaries. I let other people put me in places that made me feel resentful and  frankly, worn out. I forgot to hold myself accountable for my own happiness. I lost my center.

Being a teacher mom is a delicate balance, especially at stressful times of the school year – like the beginning and ending. And grading periods. The anxiety and busyness families feel at the start of the school year is definitely felt at my house, too. I still have to get my family back on a routine, make sure that my kid is ready for classes and homework and studying and sports. I have to get myself out of summer mode and suddenly, after 8 weeks of being mostly at home, I’m gone all day long. And sometimes into the night, too.

Teacher moms get the double back-to-school whammy. We get the sometimes unexpected bliss of watching our own children walk out the door and into new adventures alongside sometimes expected unhappiness of watching our life go back to bells and grading and teaching routines and behaviors and meetings and meetings more meetings.

We’re trying to make everyone else’s school year start off smoothly, and oftentimes around mid-September, we crash.

How much time do we give to our jobs versus our families? It’s why I’ve never become an administrator. I cherish the eight weeks of summer, the weekends and evenings when I don’t have to technically be responsible. I get to choose.

During this school year, I’ve been choosing to work late Friday nights. It’s quiet time for me – time when I can think, breathe, spread out and center. It’s my way of setting my weekend boundaries; if I leave it school ready to go for Monday, my brain spins much less over the weekend. I give up a few more hours on Friday to allow myself to get more space to choose.

One of my ‘extra’ jobs is training new teachers; this year, I’m working with two adults who chose teaching as their second career. All three of us have families and responsibilities at home. I’m reminding myself to walk my talk – teaching them to set personal and professional boundaries is so important as they begin their careers. I want them to learn not to promise too much – it just ends up disappointing everyone.

“If your boundary training consists only of words, you are wasting your breath. But if you ‘do’ boundaries with your kids, they internalize the experiences, remember them, digest them, and make them part of how they see reality.”
Henry Cloud

jumping sunset unsplash

Ultimately, it swings back to me. How do I teach my children to live their life within their own boundaries? How do I model for them a life that balances work and home? How do I show my kids how to follow their passion and not lose the trail back home?

I think it goes back to Anne Lamott – I think I’ll teach them that “No” is a complete sentence.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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