Monday, July 18, 2011

Reading Choices for Parents and Children

What better time than summer to look at reading choices for parents to read to their children and for children to read on their own?

Pam Allyn, literacy educator and founder of the world literacy project LitWorld, has provided a great resource for parents with her book What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read with Your Child -- and All the Best Times to Read Them. Allyn writes, "Through books and stories that are meant to be read alound, we convey to our children the beauty of language and the joys of rhythm and rhyme; and in the books we choose to read and the way we read them, we also convey the values we hold dear."

Further, research suggests that reading alound to children, even after they are able to read fluently on their own, also improves their vocabularies and reading comprehension abilities.

While reading stories aloud, parents have the opportunity to:

  • model the habits of good readers: making predictions, asking questions, recalling previously stated information from the text, and drawing from prior knowledge and experience
  • familiarize children with common text structures
  • expose children to various genres
  • build children's critical thinking skills by critiquing books together
  • teach children about the world around them

After the introductory chapters, What to Read When is split into two sections. The first, called "What to Read Alound at Every Age" lists great books and brief descriptions to match a child's cognitive development from birth until ten years old. The next section, called "The Emotional 'When'" is arranged into fifty themes. Parents can select books to accompany the joyful times in a child's life, like Birthdays, Feeling Silly, or Loving Music, and can help guide them through difficult times with themes like Divorce, Coping with Illness and Loneliness. Bookshelves in the children's section can be overwhelming places. What to Read When is an insightful guide to help parents navigate.

And what about independent readers?

Finding the right book for a child to read on his or her own -- especially for a reluctant reader -- can be a struggle. The International Reading Association's (IRA) Fantastic Children's Choices lists make the process virtually painless, however. They go straight to the source by collecting opinions from real experts on children's literature -- the kids themselves. Since 1974 approximately 10,000 children from kindergarten through sixth grade have voted on their favorite books. The resulting list of winners is available on the IRA's website. Also available on the site are Children's Choice lists from past years, Young Adults' Choices, and Teacher's Choice lists. Each list includes the title, author, and a brief description of selected works.

Children's choices provides children with the opportunity to voice their opinions about books, and serves as a great resource for both children and adults. Check out these great lists, and encourage the kids in your life to investigate it, too. After all, who could provide a better recommendation than kids themselves?

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