Thursday, February 7, 2013

A child's literary bill of rights

Your child, at home and in the classroom, has these unalienable literary rights...

  1. A child should have a wide variety of books available at school. A classroom that uses only textbooks limits a child’s reading to only what the teacher (or the established curriculum) has chosen for the class. A classroom library should be organized by topic so a child can become immersed in a topic of interest. Use plastic storage bins labeled by topic and add books as you acquire them. This way you know which topics need additions.
  2. A child should have a wide variety of books available at home. Naturally, your home does not need to look like the children’s section of your local library. However, you should have a rotating rack of books for your child’s selection at all times. Rotating? How does that happen? Easy – trade books with friends, go to a local book exchange, set up a book exchange in your child’s school.
  3. A child should be encouraged to read at least half an hour each day. How do you do that? The best way is by role modeling. If families set aside a Family Reading Time after dinner or before bedtime, the children will begin to expect this activity and plan for the next book they want to read. Teachers don’t have this same luxury because they are bound by a strict schedule and curriculum. They can, however, provide guidelines for implementing the Family Reading Time at home (see the end of this article).
  4. A child should be encouraged to share the knowledge gained from reading a book. You don’t have to have a classroom or family weekly book club discussion, although that might not be a bad idea if you can find the time! Instead, you could have a family book bulletin board where family members post the title of book they just finished with a brief summary or a drawn picture. Divide the bulletin board by age range. Decorate it seasonally – make it attractive to encourage participation!
  5. A child should enjoy reading. This is the single most important item in a Child’s Bill of Literary Rights. If a child enjoys reading, he or she will develop a mature vocabulary that will help him to lead a successful life in school and beyond into adulthood. Consider these statistics and then restructure your family time to include a time to help children enjoy books of all kinds – both fiction and nonfiction:

· Children learn an average of 4,000 to 12,000 new words each year as a result of reading books. (Scholastic: Understanding How Classroom & Libraries Work: Research Results -

· Between grades 1 and 3, it is estimated that economically disadvantaged students' vocabularies increase by about 3,000 words per year and middle-class students' vocabularies increase by about 5,000 words per year. (University of Oregon: Big Ideas in Beginning Reading -

· Research has shown that children who read even ten minutes a day outside of school experience substantially higher rates of vocabulary growth between second and fifth grade than children who do little or no reading. (Robert C. Anderson, 1992, Center for the Study of Reading)

How to schedule a Family Reading Time

The concept of a Family Reading Time may be foreign to some families who are bound by busy sports schedules, an overload of assigned homework, and general housekeeping duties. Here are some ideas for starting and maintaining a Family Reading Time.

  1. Set aside even a half hour every day for reading. This will benefit your children enormously. Be a strong role model by having your own book (either paper or electronic) handy. If you use an electronic book, don’t cheat and read emails while your children read Harry Potter.
  2. By the time children reach school age, their reading habits have already been established. Even infants benefit from the cadence of a parent reading Dr. Seuss to them. Reading aloud while others read silently can be very distracting. Tell the older children that you will be having a special Family Reading Time with the non-readers.
  3. If you read to them only before bedtime, they will come to view reading as something to cause sleepiness. Schedule a Family Reading Time before prime time TV to avoid conflict with preferred programming for the children and the adults in the house. After dinner is a good time for most families.
  4. Sometimes it is difficult to schedule a common Family Reading Time. Ask your children for their input and see if you can establish a common time when they can all agree to read their favorite books. You may only be able to establish a Family Reading Time once or twice a week, rather than once a day. That’s okay! Reading every Sunday night is better than not reading at all.
  5. Remember that the Family Reading Time is for extra reading. Assigned reading for school or work belongs outside of the FUN Family Reading Time. Magazines don’t count, either. People tend to look at the pictures rather than read the stories and articles they contain.
  6. Schedule a monthly trip to the library. Most libraries have four-week intervals for their circulation. Know how many books your child will read in a month and only get that many. If you overload a child with ten books when he or she may only read two in that time period, your child will become overwhelmed and may jump between books without finishing any of them. Be prepared to renew a book for two more weeks if your child doesn’t finish in time.
  7. Take a break from the Family Reading Time occasionally to have a Family Book Event. That might be the creating of book marks (put out poster board, markers, crayons, etc.) and then laminate them. Or you might simply have a discussion about books in general. See what everybody likes about the books they have read. Keep the discussion positive. Don’t allow negative comments. You might even decide to all read the same book and then watch the accompanying or related movie. However, everyone, even the adults, needs to agree to read this book! If only one person does not want to read the book, this event won’t go well. Consider using this time to write letters to grandparents, telling them about the book that their grandchildren just read. What fun!
  8. Set up a reward system for reading the books. I don’t mean you should offer candy for each book read. I mean that you should verbally recognize the reading your child has done by discussing the story. Tell about your book, as well, so he understands that reading isn’t just for kids! Consider creating a Family Reading Time bulletin board where you post titles of books currently being read, or that your family has finished. You might even have a thermometer poster where the red goes up as the number of books read increases. When the red reaches a certain level, go out for ice cream, pizza, or a movie. Get creative with your reward system and customize it to your family’s interests.

Note from Entelechy Ed: The EnteleTrons books are a perfect addition to a teacher’s bookshelf and Family Reading Time. Why? Because our books deliver educational topics in a fun manner. Children learn intellectual STEM topics and moral lessons while they increase their literacy and love of learning through reading about the adventures of the EnteleTronsTM. Enjoy our books as part of a larger unit on those STEM topics or character education. They might just jump start your children to a lifetime of learning through books!

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