This past week I had the pleasure of presenting to some local mothers who, like parents everywhere, are eager to make sure their children are on a path to reading success. I told them about the science around reading development, and I explained that there are 3 types of skills children need to be strong readers, and that those skills accumulate over time, from birth. Then they started asking questions.
And when these eager and savvy mothers started talking, it confirmed for me, yet again, what I so firmly believe and why I founded PUP Reading: Parents need/are grateful for the tools to understand whether their babies, toddlers, preschoolers or early-elementary children are reaching well-established reading skill benchmarks. They also really want concrete information on how to help their own children build these reading-related skills all through the years. That’s what PUP Reading sets out to do (and why I included a sample tip below :).
In the end, teaching children to read isn’t a parent’s job. Keeping tabs on their reading growth and helping to build up each type of skill as they go about their days, however, really should — and could — be.
Sample PUP Recommendation –
A concrete tip to build Vocabulary & Knowledge through reading together:
For ages – ~3 yrs to ~7 yrs. A child at a number of different developmental stages could be challenged to think a little deeper and talk about more complex ideas with this book as a jumping off point. You can use/adapt these specific suggestions below, or just read them through to get an idea of the kinds of conversations that build a child’s Vocabulary & Knowledge.
Read… If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Have a casual but thoughtful conversation… include more sophisticated words and language, and create a chance to talk about something that is beyond the book. For example:
- Do you think moose really eat muffins?
- I’m curious about what real moose eat. I know they’re in the deer family, and maybe eat similar food, but I don’t know that much about what a deer’s eating habits are, either, come to think of it. Let’s do some research on what moose eat in the wild — want to?
Then either right away or at another point in the day/week, maybe for your research you could…
Watch this short video, or read a non-fiction book to learn more about what real moose eat:
Then ask your child questions such as –
- So do you think moose eat muffins? (plants-only diet – they are herbivores).
- Why do you think so?
And maybe go back to the book again, if interest is high:
- Say you’re curious about what the moose was eating in the book before the story starts. (Talk about what the moose is eating on the title page, and what made the animal turn his attention to the house.)
- Ask how the moose knew there were muffins baking. (He smelled the aroma from the oven).
- Talk about how the illustrator describes what happens through the drawings she creates.
For fun, and if you are all-in on the moose behavior discussion… Watch this short video, and then talk about what else moose need to eat (salt), and how they might get salt in the wild!
Remember that the facts about moose are less important than the conversation. Why? Because the conversation gives your child a chance to hear and potentially use sophisticated language (that he will later encounter in books he reads on his own); plus, the conversations help him think and talk about all sorts of things – the difference between behaviors of a fictional moose and a real moose, what family of animals the moose is in (and, in fact, that there are families of animals), the idea that illustrators can play a role in advancing a story, etc. We can all look up facts on our phones; your kids will be able to do that in the future, too. What will matter is how well they can read and think critically, and use strong communication skills to articulate their thoughts. And that’s why from an early age the kind of talk you use and the kinds of conversations you encourage make all the difference in building Vocabulary and Knowledge and preparing children to be successful readers. Reading books together can give you opportunities to make those conversations happen.