“The love of books will last forever,” Susan B. Neuman on summer reading

We were thrilled to have author and literacy expert Susan B. Neuman join us on Tuesday for a live Facebook chat on summer reading. It seems like everyone is talking about the importance of keeping kids engaged during the notoriously lazy, hazy months of June, July and August, but Susan offered fresh and unique suggestions for how to keep the reading momentum going. Susan shared with our Scholastic Parents community a few important strategies for encouraging reading growth. The takeaways? Read often, re-read favorites, and read for enjoyment. Here are a few more from Susan’s list.

Re-read kids’ favorite books. Children develop an understanding of words and concepts when they hear these words again and again. Further, they come to believe that they can be capable readers and writers. This is the goal of summer reading–to love it and to understand that it is the gift that keeps on giving!

Simply put, read a lot. Generally it’s hard during the year to read regularly. But this is an ideal time and will help prevent what we call “summer reading loss.”

Choose challenging but achievable books. Make sure the books you read have interesting and new vocabulary that you might want to support.

So pick up on kids’ interests and go with it. For some children enjoyment-and -information go hand-in-hand. It can be interesting and fun to read.

Susan also fielded some incredible questions from parents. Read on and maybe she’ll have addressed a few of your own!

Q: “My oldest reads, picked it up at a very early age…my 5 year old is still having trouble recognizing letters and combos…do you recommend the Tag learning reader? the little pen and special books….”

SN: “Here’s what I’d recommend for your 5-year old. Read something that is really special to him or her. Maybe its an interesting book like Freight Train which children tend to love at this age. At the same time, point out the letters (first letter only) after you read it a second time. The best way to learn how to read is by seeing these letters in context, especially when they are meaningful to the child.”

Q: “Should my children read independently? I usually have them read outloud to me.”

SN: “Great question. It depends on how old they are and the complexity of the text. I generally encourage you to read to them. After all you are the better reading, and the purpose of summer reading is the sheer enjoyment of the reading experience. We want children to hear the language of text, and when they are reading aloud, they emphasize the sounds of the words, but not their meanings as well. I’d recommend continuing to read to them.”

Q: “I am a 5th grade reading teacher, but the mom of preschoolers! I want to know what’s the best approach to get them reading by end of summer?”

SN: I think your most important effort should be to get your child on the road to reading, rather than actually reading text on his or her own. Here’s what I’d recommend: Read lots of great books–classics are important since teachers will be focusing on these wonderful books–read something as special as Charlotte’s Web or Velveteen rabbit, and sometimes you can point to letters and the sounds that they make. But the central purpose of the summer should be to encourage children to hear the vocabulary of books. So read alot for enjoyment and information.

Q: “What are some pre-reading activities I can do with my two year old son??”

SN:  ‎”This is a wonderful time to start children on the road to reading. I recommend books that have a simple, though lyrical structure to them. For example, your child will just love “Brown bear Brown Bear, What do you see?” He or she will begin to read along with you.”

Q: “What can i do this summer to help my 8 year old, who will be entering 4th grade, work on her comprehension? Her fluency is great but she struggles with comprehension.”

SN:  “Great question. There are definitely some wonderful strategies that you can do to help your child with comprehension. Generally comprehension difficulties are related to limitations in vocabulary and background knowledge. I’d do the following: Ask your child what he is most interested in learning about: whether its the ocean, or physics it really doesn’t matter. Then go to the library and find some good information books. You might help him learn some of the complex vocabulary that he will certainly find in texts in subjects like science. Some of these information books have great graphics that will help him interpret the meaning of the words.”

Q: “Nowadays some parents try to train their children to read earlier such as since 1 year old with any methods that are recommended for … How about your idea? Is it better to do these ? or just read for them and one day they can read by themselves ?”

SN: ‎”Very interesting question. We just completed a trial on one of these programs that professed to teach children to read at one-years of age. It turns out that these products are not producing the so-called evidence they claim. Children do not learn to read this early on. Rather, they do learn about the love of books when you read a lot to them. I’d save your time for reading to your child. The love of books will last forever.”

Q: “Susan, My son is 7 and entering 2nd grade in September, he reads and comprehends at a 6th grade level. How do I help him find books that will challenge him but keep it age appropriate? Thanks for your time.”

SN: “Morgan, that’s an important question, and there’s much you can do. Here’s what we find is so useful. Take him to the library, and let him select a book that is interesting to him. Then, say, “Do you think this book is challenging enough for you? ” Let’s look at the pages, and if you know all the words on one page, that means its too easy for you to read. Generally the rule is that we want children to read challenging but achievable books. This means, an average of 5 words out of 100 should be new words for the child. We want to keep your son developing his great vocabulary and comprehension skills, and your modeling of how to select books will help him.”

Thanks, Susan!


Independent reading tips and a giveaway!

As you already know from Dana’s post, we here at Scholastic are very excited about the launch of Jennifer Serravallo’s newest program, Independent Reading Assessment: FICTION. I was lucky enough to catch up with Jennifer and ask her for some tips that will help teachers and parents when it comes to independent reading for their children.

Here’s what she had to say:

Remember that successful independent reading isn’t just about having kids sit and read – teachers should be teaching WHILE kids read. Conferences and small group instruction are essential, and you’ll see the most growth when the work you’re doing with students is focused on a clear goal. Continue reading Independent reading tips and a giveaway!

In Our Feeds: Disappearing books, Big Ben, and Shakespeare!

Every Friday, we share a handful of links we find interesting, provocative, funny — or just plain cool. We call it In Our Feeds. Enjoy!

Happy Friday! Well, it’s been kind of a slow news week…just kidding, of course. Between yesterday’s healthcare ruling from the Supreme Court (and the mess it caused on Twitter) and a bunch of OOMers birthdays (both Alex and I celebrated yesterday, and Lia is celebrating today!), we’ve had quite the week! If you have, too, and you worry you’ve missed some cool stuff that’s been floating around the webs, read on — we’ve got some neat stuff to point out!

First, both Michael and Jessica shared the same link with me (no surprise there…those two are thick as thieves!) about this new concept in book publishing: printing books with disappearing ink! The ink gradually fades away over two months. Quite a marketing hook to get people to read quickly, eh? There’s a video, too.

Meanwhile, the Bard takes on ebooks! Nadia sent me this link from Mediabistro about how Shakespeare’s sonnets are now being offered (for free!), and the newest edition from Faber and Touch Press will include videos of celebrities reading each of the 154 poems.

Alex must know I’m a big fan of London, so she wanted to share this news about Big Ben, parliament’s famous clock tower. It’s to be renamed Elizabeth Tower in honour of the queen’s diamond jubilee, officials announced on June 26. Cheers!

Lia shared this piece from Time Magazine about why libraries are so much more than just places we can check out books — they’re actually smart investments for our future.

Any readers out there living in Tampa? Apparently, tomorrow is officially Social Media Day in your fine city! You join 13 other cities and just two states in officially marking the day.

And finally, Megan wanted to share the Library of Congress list of 88 books that shaped America. It’s a fascinating look at our history!

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Balancing ‘conceptual’ and ‘procedural’ understanding in math

This is one in a series of posts examining the Common Core State Standards and the conversation surrounding their impact on teaching and learning.

A quick math quiz for you (no paper and pencil or calculator allowed!):

Tell me an example of a number that is greater than 1/5 and less than 1/4.

Is that easy for you?

I heard a presentation today from Jason Zimba, one of the lead authors of the Common Core State Standards for Math, where he put this question up on a slide. (I didn’t copy down the exact wording, so I’m sure I phrased it differently than he did.)

One of the key points he made today was about the importance (as outlined in the Common Core) of students mastering “conceptual understanding” of math in addition to “procedural understanding.” Too often, he said, students memorize the procedures of math without actually understanding the concepts. And asking students carefully-selected questions like this can get to heart of whether they actually understand fractions.

Marilyn Burns of Math Solutions often makes a similar point, saying that students need “math reasoning skills” in addition to learning the algorithms of math. She’s made sensational videos of students being interviewed by teachers where the students are asked questions (say, 1,000 – 998) and asked to calculate that without paper and pencil and then explain HOW they got the answer. Easy, right? Well, not for a huge number of students. A lot of students will use their finger as an imaginary pencil and pretend to write out the calculation on the desk, writing 1,000 and then 998 under it and then subtracting one column at a time. Students like this have learned the algorithms, and in some circumstances can “get the answer right.” But they lack conceptual math understanding, which is key to making connections to the real world and to higher order math.

The Common Core standards say children should build fluency with math facts, but they should also be taught math reasoning skills.

Want to quiz yourself some more and see how your own math reasoning skills stack up?

(Flickr photo by alancleaver)

Book nostalgia: Goosebumps

Three weeks ago, Nadia introduced our new summer blog series on book nostalgia. No book nostalgia list (in my opinion) would be complete without mentioning the Goosebumps series. Growing up I was a Goosebumps fanatic, to me R.L. Stine was (and still is) the master of creating creepy, scary stories with characters you love and root for throughout the book.

It was a tough decision, but I decided to read “SAY CHEESE AND DIE!” A classic if you ask me. My original plan was to only read the first chapter; however, before I knew it I was engulfed in the book wishing that Greg would stop taking pictures of his friends and family! A nostalgic moment indeed after finishing the entire book in 20 minutes! Continue reading Book nostalgia: Goosebumps

Writing about reading: a “My Bookprint” guest post

Our summer intern Catherine Wang is here, talking about the five books that most influenced her life! Do you share any with her? Check out You Are What You Read to create your own Bookprint!

Deciding what to write your college application essay on can be a stressful task. But for me it was a no-brainer. The prompt on the common application allows students to write about a topic of their choice—so of course I chose to write about my love for reading.

Since I was a little girl I was obsessed with reading, and when I wasn’t running around the soccer field I had a book in my hand. As I divulged in my college application, reading became much more to me than a hobby. And after completing my essay I realized how much of an impact it had on shaping the person I am today. My application essay took the admissions committee through many of my adventures in reading and although my list of favorite and influential books could go on for pages and pages, I chose five of my ABSOLUTE favorites to share with you:

Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree was one of the first books my parents read to me, as well as one of the first books I learned to read to them (probably because I heard it so many times I had it memorized)! To this day, almost two decades later, it is still one my favorite books. Not only because of the memories the book is part of, but because of the message it sends—one that I only realized after re-reading the book later in life. The Giving Tree taught me that the relationships we build with people, places and things shouldn’t be taken for granted and to appreciate the things around us.

Continue reading Writing about reading: a “My Bookprint” guest post