My Child Didn’t Like to Read

A few years ago, I was talking to my then 6-year-old son.  He was in the midst of first grade and learning how to read.  I was beyond excited for this stage in his life.  I had dreamt of having him sit on my lap to read one of our favorite books to me in that sweet innocent voice.  But in fact, this was not our reality at all.  My child did not enjoy reading.  He only practiced when forced, and complained about reading every single time.  It wasn’t only a struggle at home, but at school as well.  Even though he was learning and making progress, the love and curiosity of reading was sadly missing.

 

My entire job as an adult was teaching children.  Not only did I love teaching, but I felt it was my duty as a teacher to instill the love of learning and reading.  I was so passionate about teaching kids to read.  I loved showing them strategies to be successful and confident readers.  To enable them to independently escape into a book while learning new vocabulary and reading skills.  And in my very own home, I was struggling to help my own child.

 

Needless to say, I pulled out all the stops, and after some trials and failures, I was able to figure out how to have more successes than failures. Below are some of the reading strategies that helped my son slowly gain that love of reading.

 

Shared reading

Many kids look at a page of text and crumble.  They get overwhelmed with the amount of words and often give up or feel frustrated before they start.  I have found that taking the pressure off my child from reading all the words can be very encouraging.  We take turns reading, which not only motivates the kids to read longer, but the other reader is able to model fluency, syntax, and pronunciation of vocabulary.

 

Image heavy texts

From my own experience, my son starting getting excited about choosing his own texts when he started reading graphic novels.  These types of books, as well as books with a lot of great illustrations, lure the kids into the story.  The illustrations are also a great tool to help students who may struggle with reading, and gives them imagery for story context.

 

Choose texts based on their interests

This seems like an obvious one…but it makes a difference.  Kids will want to read about what they like.  If they love animals, try reading animal books.  If they love soccer, find some books about famous soccer players or a storyline that revolves around the sport.  The more they are intrigued about the subject matter, the better chance they will try to find out by reading it.

 

Use various forms of text

Sometimes, all kids need is a different format to read from.  I love eBooks to change things up.  I take advantage – when my son really wants to use the iPad, I have him read an eBook before he plays a game.  I love the eBooks and content on Genius Plaza, because there are so many different types of books that intrigue him.

 

We must remember that reading is a lifelong process.  All it takes is one book, one topic, one person to change the course of our child’s love for reading.  Being supportive and continuously providing engaging material are the most important things we can do to make our child’s reading career a successful one.

 


A Letter for Christopher – Teaching My 3rd Grader About Kindness

 

As parents, we want the very best for our kids. However, as the world becomes more connected, desensitized, and seemingly more harsh, my aspirations list for my kids becomes shorter and increasingly simplified. As my son started third grade, I wanted to remind him what’s really important and what things our family values and deems successful. I also wanted to remind him we are always in his corner.

Teaching my 3rd Grader About Kindness

Dear Christopher,

You are about to start 3rd grade. I can’t believe how fast you are growing and how proud you make me. The word looks a bit different now than when I was in school, but so many things remain the same. I know you will face similar situations. There will be times when you will be nervous, uncomfortable, and scared and that’s okay. In these moments is when we are being molded into the person we are growing up to be. Sometimes we will have success and other times we will be a big failure. Both of these outcomes make us grow. These are never wasted moments.

I remember when I was in 3rd grade.There was this boy in our class. He was different than everyone else. He looked differently, dressed differently, and he talked differently. Everyone, including me, pretended for a long time that he wasn’t there. He didn’t come from where we did. He didn’t talk like we did. As silly as it sounds, I think we all felt that if we talked to him, we would become “different” just like he was. I knew he was sad. I wished that he would do something so that he would be included and popular. But instead, I watched him get teased and bullied. I stood by and did nothing, all the while waiting for someone to step in and do something. I still think about that kid today. I wonder what it would be like to be surrounded by people who pretended you weren’t there. Or worse, knew you were there but made you wish you weren’t. I was a bully. I may not have teased him or said cruel words, but I stood by and did nothing and that is being a bully, too.

As you enter a new school year, I want you to do something for me. I want you to start noticing your surroundings. I want you to pretend you are a classmate who is looking at you. How do they see you? Is Christopher the kid who always says “hello” to all his classmates, or does he go straight to his seat without a word? Does he help a friend if they drop something on the floor, or does he just walk on by? Does Christopher invite a kid to play if he notices he is by himself on the playground, or does he ignore him completely? Is Christopher a bully?

Every year as you get older, the kids and adults that surround you are going to be different than you. They are going to talk differently, dress differently, their families may look different than yours, they may have different beliefs than yours. Maybe these kids will be bullied. Sometimes people are scared of what they don’t understand, and rather than try to find out, they are mean and try to make others feel alone. Many times those that feel alone lose their voice. They don’t know how to stand up for themselves, and feel scared to defend themselves and their differences. Be their voice when they lose theirs, because sometimes another voice helping them is all they need to realize they don’t need to change, and are perfect the way they are. Differences are not a threat to you, but quite the opposite. How awesome is it to be surrounded by so many new experiences and so much diversity…the amount you can learn from each other is far greater than if you were surrounded with others who are just like you. Ask questions, listen to their stories, and be respectful of their differences.

I know you may not think it is ‘cool’ to do all these things. But I will tell you what is cool…a kid who is kind to everyone. Your dad and I don’t care if you are the smartest kid, the best athlete, the class clown, but we most certainly care that you are ALWAYS KIND. This is non-negotiable. If I had to choose between you getting a 100% on your math test or inviting a classmate to play because he was playing alone, I would choose being kind to the classmate EVERY SINGLE TIME. I promise if you focus on being kind, you will be successful.

I will continue to ask you “how did you help someone today?” when you come home from school. I will call you when you are an adult and ask you this as well, so don’t ever break the habit. In this world, we need each other and we belong to each other. Your heart grows bigger and stronger when you choose kindness and compassion over hatred and ignorance.

My beautiful son. I know you will do great things, and all great things starts with kindness.

I love you.

Love,

Mom

 


To All Kindergarten Parents

Dear Kindergarten Parent,

As summer comes to an end, many of us find ourselves in new territory.  We have a child entering kindergarten (cue sobbing parents everywhere).  Now, as a mom of three and a former elementary school teacher, I have to affirm that the first day jitters don’t only happen at home.  Teachers both old and new see the new school year as a fresh start.  The classrooms are ready with freshly sharpened pencils, neatly aligned crayons, and bright unused markers.  The glue sticks are sticky as ever and the first few weeks of lessons have been mulling over in the teachers’ minds all summer.  There are new posters on the walls and lesson plans neatly filed in a plan book.  The teachers are ready for the routine, and for the fresh faces to walk through the door.  The kindergarten teachers are especially excited, as they have the privilege to be the first teacher that our kids have ever had.  They are ready to love our children and watch their progress from the beginning to the end of the year.  The physical, social, emotional, and academic progress is always a sight to be seen.

kinder

These new experiences can be so exciting for our blossoming kids and eager teachers, however, it can be slightly more terrifying for us parents.  Will our kids be challenged?  Will they be nurtured?  Will they make friends?  Will they tell someone if they have a problem?  These are questions that parents around the globe are asking of our teachers.  As a mom sending her second child to kindergarten this year (with one more entering next year), I have more assurance and confidence in myself, my teachers, and my kids than I did the first time around.  But, of course the concerns are still there because every child is different, and after all, we are sending our babies out in the world.  (How will they survive without us all day?!)  I do know more about what to expect and what I can do as a parent to make this a successful first year for my child. Here are a few things I have learned.

Don’t stress on what they don’t know.

More than any other grade, kindergarten students enter school at all different learning levels.  Some have been to preschool, while others have never set foot in a school.  Some can read, while others don’t know the alphabet.  Obviously, the more they know, the easier the content will be, but ALL students will make progress, no matter where they start.  

Advocate for your child.

No one knows your child better than you. Be assertive and be prepared to talk with the school regarding anything that will make your child unsafe such as allergies, health issues, emotional issues, etc.  Don’t ever feel that you are being pushy or annoying.  WE MUST ADVOCATE FOR OUR KIDS.kinder classroom

Stick to the basics at home.

For many kids, going to school is their first time without parent assistance.  Going to the bathroom on their own, dressing themselves, opening lunch items, and washing hands can be tricky and stressful events for them during the day.  Packing lunch items they can open on their own, encouraging independence with the bathroom, and self-care are all things we can do at home to make them more successful.

Prepare for exhaustion.

Our babies will be tired.  Expect meltdowns, short tempers, lack of motivation after school and extra cuddles (it’s not all bad).  It is a long day for the new kindergarteners, and the new schedule is going to be a lot for them to get used to.  Limiting after school activities is a good idea, at least for the first few months, until they get accustomed to the new schedule.  Also a prompt bedtime and a good night’s sleep does wonders for a child’s temperament.  Our once napless children may start taking naps again.  They have been busy at school, so having a less stressful and flexible schedule at home may ease their exhaustion…and moods.

 

I want to wish all your babies good luck on their new adventure.  It is emotional, so don’t be ashamed to cry tears of simultaneous joy and sorrow as we watch our kids enter this next stage of their life.  I know that when my kids get home from school each day, I hug their little bodies tighter from missing them.  Enjoy their excitement and innocence as they embark on their new adventure.  When you feel nervous or scared, especially the first few weeks just remember…the kids will be all right.


The “T” Word – Technology

We all know that today’s classroom looks very different than it did 50 years ago.  It looks different than it did five years ago.  Technology is not only changing the face of our society and how we live, but it is changing the way in which we teach, learn, and value education.  However, classrooms all over the country and world are facing new challenges.  I am not talking about the obvious challenges, because we know teachers face huge challenges every day.  I am talking about the less obvious challenges.  The challenges that are often viewed as “gifts” or “teaching tools.”  The “T” word: technology.  Technology tools are supposed to make teaching easier and more accessible, but are often viewed as obstacles.  But why?

Schools all over the world are in need of money.  Budgets, funding, grants…all schools need it, all schools want it, and they want as much as possible.  We work hard for money because this money is most likely the key to getting the very things our kids need to succeed.  No school wants to deprive their students and teachers, no matter the zip code.  Then, we get our money.  Hooray! (Usually not as much as we want, BUT hey, it’s something.)  Then, what happens when we get our money?  The most common answer for many schools is TECHNOLOGY.   Schools are desperate to get their hands on the latest and greatest programs, computers, tablets, professional development, etc.

This seems like a dreamy scenario, but for many it is a scary, untraveled road.  A road that many teachers don’t want to go down.  It is new, it’s a bit terrifying, and it is, more importantly, time-consuming.  Let’s face it, time is a luxury teachers do not have.  Most of us don’t have it, but teachers barely have time for a bathroom break, let alone create a whole new curriculum integrating technology WHILE learning the technology themselves.  Before we teach, we must learn.  But what happens when we get new Chromebooks or tablets that we have never used before?  I will tell you what happens, a teacher says, “So you are telling me that I have to learn how to use this, teach the kids how to learn how to use it, and then use it for my lessons??  AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!”

No one is denying that it is hard.  It is different, and for many veteran teachers, it is a whole new ballgame.  However, I urge anyone who has received the extraordinary gift of new technology (because it is a gift) not to turn your back on it.  Be an advocate.  Be brave and don’t give in to what is easy versus what is the best for your students.  Because I promise you, you are not doing any favors by depriving kids of learning through new technologies.  You are also not doing yourself any favors by not learning the technology yourself.  If you are asking how to integrate new technology or are “asking for a friend,” there are a few things that can help.

START SMALL

We all need to start somewhere.  Start at the beginning.  Day 1: Learn how to turn computer on and log in.  Day 2: Read an eBook together.  Day 3: Check out one page on the internet, literally.  Soon you will be assigning students homework ONLINE.  I am not kidding; this is so doable with minimal effort.  The rest will come.  If you start with too much, it will most likely become overwhelming, and you may give up before you start.

SEEK OUT THE TECHNOLOGY GURU IN YOUR BUILDING

Every school has one.  While they may not all have the same skill sets, there is always one teacher (sometimes more) that gets it.  It comes easy, they have fresh ideas, and believe me, they want to share.  Bribe them with cookies and amazon gift cards if you have to.  The best part about working in a school is that you have several people doing the same thing as you.  They have trialed, they have errored.  They have faced similar challenges; they may have it figured out.  They may need you to figure it out.  You all need each other.  Use each other.

 

HAVE YOU MET MY BEST FRIEND, GOOGLE?

Seriously…Google it.  Remember when I said that teachers want to share the knowledge?  The best educators do it on the internet.  They are so tech-savvy that they share their tech-savviness using technology.  They have done it, they know what works.  They have received the gift of technology in the classroom and they have figured it out.  They have spent the time learning and integrating the tools so you can spend half the time they did and just read about all the work they did without doing it all yourself.  And often they speak in laymen’s terms, using step-by-step instructions.  They are teachers.  They get it.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT/LEARNING PROGRAMS THAT COMPANIES MAY OFFER FOR TECHNOLOGY

Here at Genius Plaza, nothing makes us happier than when teachers and students use our platform.  But like I said before, learning something new is always time-consuming.  We are begging you…please let us help.  PLEASE.  We offer (included in price) 4 professional development programs to teach teachers how to use the platform and how to most effectively implement it in your classrooms.  We want to help.  We want to show you how to use the tools and create the amazing lessons that you have always dreamed about.  When searching for new technology to use in your school or classroom, don’t overlook this vital piece.  It’s like finding treasure buried in the sand.

New things are hard.  Whether you are a child or an adult, there is always a learning curve with everything.  Don’t underestimate your students.  They are growing up in a world where they not only want technology, they need technology in order to be a successful, and be a contributing member of our ever-changing society.  Let’s give our students the tools they need to succeed, rather than denying the natural order of progression.  Ask for help.  Doing it alone is not an option.  Be patient and optimistic, and the end result will be worth it, I promise.