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What are the job requirements when it comes to the role of raising strong readers? In other words, what are schools counting on parents to do early, and what does that look like during reading time at home?

A. Of course there is the primary and critical job of giving a child the love and attention needed to feel safe and trusting from the earliest days. That is the foundation of a child’s core development and everything is based on the sense of self that results from a strong core.

Beyond that, and specifically related to later reading and academic skills, a parent’s job comes down to this:

B. Helping a child’s language grow through playing with sounds and making the learning of new words fun, and consistent, from the start. Talking about words and how they “work” helps, too. (And throwing in some fun with letters and print is a bonus.)

C. Building up a child’s knowledge, through reading and talking about books and talking about other experiences.

D. Creating routines and expectations at home that help a child with self-regulation – controlling his mind and body in a way that allows him to successfully take in the learning opportunities around him – and self/social awareness – so he can see others’ perspectives and get along with peers.

And then there is the part of the job that seems equally crucial to me some days:

E. Knowing enough about a child’s strengths and weaknesses to be able to support him at home, and have discussions around his needs/advocate for him with pediatricians and teachers.

 

Here’s a book example explaining how to fulfill those job requirements — for a 3-8-year old, say, depending on how engaged and interested the child is on any given day. (Note that the letters refer to the bullets above):

 

Read Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss

  • Sit together in a cozy place and enjoy the story!
  • Talk about one or more of the following, but make sure it’s natural and not forced. (The information below could cover a lot of readings of this book!)

  • The name Yertle      (This will help build phonemic awareness, the ability to distinguish and manipulate sounds).
    • Why do you think Dr. Seuss named the turtle Yertle?
    • What if he wanted to choose a name with the /b/ sound? What would the turtle’s name be? (Bertle)
    • What name would you have chosen?
    • Often when words rhyme, they are spelled similarly. Look at the words turtle and Yertle. Are they the same? I wonder why Dr. Seuss didn’t spell Yertle with a u like turtle?
  • Yertle’s role as king      (To build up conceptual knowledge and encourage critical thinking. Start with the information in the book, and then expand to a larger idea.)
    • I was surprised to read that Yertle was “king of the pond.” Were you?
      • Does he look like the king of the pond on that very first page? Why/why not?
    • What do you think you will see when you see a king? Do you think turtles have kings? That’s a funny thing to think about, isn’t it?
      • Why would they need a king? What do kings do anyway?
      • Yertle seems to think that kings rule over what they can see. What do you think about that? I wonder why Yertle thinks that.
    • How the other turtles feel      (To encourage Awareness & Regulation: in particular,  building empathy and perspective taking)
    • How would you feel if you were at the bottom of the pile? Do you think the other turtles felt like Mack did?
    • What do you think about the turtles who were close to the top?  Let’s look at them and see what their faces show us.
    • How do you think the other turtles felt when Yertle fell into the pond?
      • In some ways I felt sad for Yertle at the end. If he had just enjoyed his life in the pond from the start, he wouldn’t have ended up so miserable. How did you feel about Yertle at the end?

 

  • Any vocabulary word that could get him thinking differently/expand his mind – challenging him at any age. You’ll know if it makes sense because he will listen and engage, but if he doesn’t seem interested today, try again with another word tomorrow or soon!
  • Rights – That’s an interesting word Mack uses, actually. It’s not right meaning right or left, or right mean correct. It means that the turtles should all have the power or freedom to act in a certain way. People have rights… (etc.).