Saturday, August 13, 2011

Library "Daze" - 3 Easy Strategies to Enhance Learning and Enjoyment During a Shared Reading Experience

It's been a little while since I've had a library "daze" post.  But we have been frequenting the library, don't worry.  The library books that we've recently gotten have been a real hit with baby bookworm, and I think she'll be sad to return them!  I won't be nearly as sad to see them go because we've now read them hundreds of times. 

So for those of you who are tired of reading the same books over and over and OVER like me, I thought I would share a few simple strategies than can make for a more enjoyable and educational shared reading experience (even when you are on the 101st read through). 

These strategies can be used with any books, of course, but you might want to check out these ones below that baby bookworm LOVED.  Most of the books we've checked out recently have made it into other posts, but Peek-A-Moo, Edwina: The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct, and Shout! Shout it Out! are good ones.

Strategy #1: Focus on concepts of print.

SO before you even begin reading that favorite book AGAIN in the same way that you've read it the last 102 times, begin at the beginning.  And I'm not talking about the first page, I'm talking about the front cover.  So take a breath before flipping mindlessly to the first page, and talk about different aspects of the book first.  In doing so, you are teaching your young child concepts of print (an understanding about how language is printed), or important skills that will help your baby bookworm learn to read.   

Now, there are several concepts of print that you will want to work on with your child, some more basic than others.  Since baby bookworm is only 20 months we have stuck to some of the easiest. Here's how I've taught her a few concepts of print. 

1. How to hold the book upright: This is the most basic concept of print, and I think you can teach your child how to hold a book upright as soon as they are old enough to hold a book.  Baby bookworm mastered this skill at a young age, and it was as simple as turning the book around!  And don't fret if all your baby wants to do is eat the book too.  That's OK!  Wait for him to be done with his snack and show him how to hold the book right side up.

2. How to identify the front and back of the book:  I will say to her, "Can you show me where the front of the book is?" or sometimes I might add, "Where is the page with the title?" or "Where is the beginning of the book?"  Then I say, "Show me the end of the book," or "Where is the back cover of the book?" 

In all honesty, I've been showing baby bookworm the front and back of the book, long before she could really fully conceptualize it.  But, she's got this one covered, I think (at least most of time anyway). 

3. Where to find the book's title and author: I say to baby bookworm, "Show me the title," followed by "Show me the author's name." Both of these are hit and miss with baby bookworm.  Sometimes she identifies the title and author without any assistance needed, other times she mixes them up.  That's OK though because even in her mistakes she is showing me that she understands that spoken words and written words are connected, and that words are not the same as pictures (another important concept of print).  She will also often say to me, "author - the person who wrote the book" showing that she understands (on some level) what the word may means.  Baby bookworm does know some author names from memory, which has blown my mind because they aren't always easy names!

4. Where to begin reading.  OK, so now you get to open the book.  I usually say to baby bookworm something like, "OK, now let's read the book together.  Let's find the page where the story begins.  Here's the first word."  Then, as I read I point to each word.  This activity not only reinforces the concept of what a word is, but it shows the direction of reading (from left to right).

5. How to turn pages and read from left to right (this is known as directionality).  What I usually do is encourage baby bookworm to turn the pages for me.  It not only helps to keep her attention because she's waiting for me to tell her to turn the page, but she's learning about how a book is read.  When I give her a book on her own, she doesn't always turn the pages in this way, but again, that's OK - it's a learning process, not a pop quiz!  And with time, she'll get it.

Some other higher level concepts of print include knowing:
--the concept of a word
--the concept of a letter
--the concept of uppercase and lowercase letters
--the function of punctuation

The library book that we used to work on concepts of print this week is a great book for a wide range of ages. Shout! Shout it Out! by Denise Fleming is a first word book, counting book, and alphabet book combined!  Oh, and colors are thrown in for good measure. 

In addition to working on concepts of print with this book, here's what else you could do:

--if you have a 1 year old, you might try working on their receptive vocabulary by asking them to point to the objects in the book (such as train, plane, cow). 
--If you have a 2 year old, you might want to focus on colors and teaching your child to differentiate them.
--If you have a 3 - 4 year old, you might want to use this book to work on letter recognition and letter-sound associations. 
--If you have a 5 - 7 year old, you might want to focus on the last page of the book where all of the words are listed without pictures; try to see if your child has learned a few of the words in the book from sight, or encourage them to sound out the words.  

Strategy #2: Think Aloud.

Basically let your free flowing thoughts be heard by your baby bookworm.  In doing so you are teaching him how a fluent reader thinks, and that thinking and reading are connected. 

Here's a recent account of my think-aloud lesson with baby bookworm using the book Peek-A-Moo written by Marie Torres Cimarusti and illustrated by Stephanie Petersen.  This is a perfect book for newborns and babies, but toddlers still love playing peek-a-boo too!  I highly recommend this book if you have a child under 2. 

Mommy Bookworm: "Hmm....what is this on the cover?"

Baby Bookworm: "It's a cow. Moooo....."

Mommy Bookworm: "That's right.  This book has a picture of a cow on it.  I wonder if the book is about farm animals?"

Baby Bookworm: "yea"

Mommy Bookworm: "And the title is Peek-a-Moo, which reminds me of the game Peek-a-Boo.  Maybe in the book the farm animals are hiding."

Baby Bookworm: "Peek-a-cow?"

Mommy Bookworm: "Well, let's open the book to the first page and see. Oh, look at that, it's a lift the flap book.  Each animal is playing peek-a-boo, like I predicted. Except rather than saying boo, each animal makes their sound."

Now, if it IS the 103rd time that you have read the book, hey, I say "think" (aloud) your way through the whole book.  Make predictions about what will happen next.  Cover the text and guess what it says based on the pictures (that is if you don't have the text completely memorized). 

Strategy #3: Play fill-in the blanks.

This strategy can work well with a book that is very very familiar to you and baby bookworm, or a brand-new book, but the learning benefits are different.  What I generally do with baby bookworm is I cover a word or words (with a post it) in a sentence and let her figure out the missing word.  Now, if it is a 104th read through, then she's generally using her memory to fill in the blank.  When I tear off the post it, I show her the word that she read from memory; in doing so I am helping her make the word-print connection.

If it's a new book, it is much more difficult to get the word "correct" but encourage your baby bookworm to use the cues in the sentence and the pictures in the book to figure out the word.  You can also cover parts of the word too, like everything except the first letter or last letter.  Trust me, this can provide hours of fun, and you'll even forget this is the 105th time you've read the book.

What if your baby is too little to speak?  That's OK!  Ask and answer yourself.  Your baby will delight in creating a homemade flap book.  At least these are flaps that he can tear off without you feeling guilty that he "ruined" the book!   

The library book that we most recently used to play fill-in the blanks was Edwina: The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct by Mo Willems.  It's a fun book about a dinosaur that everyone loves - except Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie, who knows that dinosaurs are extinct!

I hope these suggestions will brighten up your next reading session!

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