Welcome to Engaging Readers! Families matter deeply when it comes to growing engaged readers. With appropriate resources, information, and opportunities for conversation and collaboration, Engaging Readers promotes the ideal that families can support young readers with enthusiasm, confidence, and heart .
We all want to raise “good” kids – kids who look out for others, develop and exhibit empathy, exude kindness and goodwill… the list could go on and on. Mostly, we want kids who are learning to be respectful, accepting, and contributing citizens of their communities (however small those communities are at the moment). We can help our kids learn to value and embrace these attributes in many ways, but books, in particular, can be a great vehicle.
Here are few of my favorite new-ish picture books that lend themselves to conversation about the kind of people we do (or don’t) want to be:
Ashley Spires wrote this wonderful picture book about a girl who is going to make the “most magnificent thing” along with her very best friend, a dog. It’s a story that highlights and shows the value of persistence, creativity, inventiveness.
Peter Brown, author and illustrator of The Curious Garden, wrote this funny story of a child who assumed his teacher was a monster before getting to know her. As he gets to know his teacher, as a person, his notion of his teacher, shifts. A great story to help us think about what it means to know someone and why it’s important to take time to get to know others.
Gaston is a dog who isn’t sure what it means to belong or fit in – is it about appearances or about feeling connected. This dog story is about a dog getting to know himself but also about a dog getting to know more about family and that a family is about love not appearances.
Jenny offers a wonderful window into the ways that sharing stories with her daughter provides opportunities for conversation and for making sense of that which is hard to make sense of in our world.
Her words ring true to me. As my children and I accumulate a shared repertoire of stories, words, rhythms, characters, problems, and themes climb into our lives. In my house, we often quote Peggy Rathman, author Ten Minutes Till Bedtime, as we scurry around getting ready for bedtime ourselves. We embody Mercy Watson as we indulge in “toast with a great deal of butter on it”, and we take on the voice of the peddler and shake our fingers at each other saying, “You monkeys, you…” The ways in which our books come to life in our daily interactions bring humor and lightness to otherwise frustrating or uninspired times.
What do you think? How do stories find their ways into your family life?
To my dearest daughter,
I was deceived to believe that the answers to my parenting questions could be found in the non-fiction section of any bookstore. My analytical mind wanted to solve each problem like a complex scientific experiment. This method worked in the beginning. When you cried, I made a hypothesis and tested it. Did you need your diaper changed? Were you hungry? Did you need to be burped? As the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, my ability to correctly project the outcome improved. I really believed that I had nailed this parenting thing.
As you grew, your “Whys” sent me running to the reference isle of the library in search of answers to questions ranging from how many people live in China to why are there different types of clouds. I still found the answers in the non-fiction section, but these books cannot…
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I love this video for many reasons. I love that a group of teenagers are so connected to reading that they collaborated with teachers and librarians at their high school to make a video about it. I also love it because the message feels so right.
Sometimes we get stuck into thinking that kids need to be doing all sorts of work when they read. We get stuck in the skills, the performance, the growth we think they should be making. More important than any of these things, however, is that we help our kids find books they want to read and support them to keep on reading.
For some children this is harder than it is for others. The same is true for us as adults. Some of us just naturally find what we want to read with greater ease. Jim Trelease writes about helping kids find their “home run” book, a book that is going to hook them into reading and make them want to come back for more. If our kids haven’t yet had their “home run” reading experience, we need to help them find their way there. This might be in the form of a paper book, or it might be in the form of an audio book. This might be a book that the child reads independently or it might be a book that we read to our child. It really doesn’t matter how it is consumed or what the book is. The really important part is that children experience the connection and feel inclined to keep going back for more.
There are loads of resources (some of which are on this website) to support us in finding books that our kids will love, but we also know a lot as readers and parents ourselves. We can talk to our kids about our own experiences choosing something to read. If we’re having a hard time, what does that feel like and what do you do about it?
It is all about those books… find a good one and keep reading.
I can picture my daughter sitting in her little chair on the floor in our living room with a stack of books to her left. As a three year old, she would sit for long stretches of time, reading to herself. She turned pages, she looked at pictures, she talked to herself and to the characters or images in the books. When she was done reading one book, she would put it on the floor to her right and move onto the next book in her pile. Many would ask, but is that really reading?
As a parent and an educator, one of my biggest concerns in thinking about young readers is about our (parents, educators, publishers, nation-builders) lack of a shared, respectful, and appropriate sense of what we mean when we talk about young children as readers. I firmly believe that children are, and need to know they are, readers long before they can decode and “read” the words with independence. As a result, I have been looking forward to reading Kathy Collins and Matt Glover’s new book, I Am Reading: Nurturing Young Children’s Meaning Making and Joyful Engagement With Any Book, and I was especially excited to find a video of these two amazingly thoughtful early childhood educators and authors talk about the essence of their new book. Check it out here. Kathy and Matt talk about supporting young readers to develop their language capacity and independence before they are decoding. I love it!