No sooner had Jen Robinson finished her Ten Tips for Growing a Bookworm series and her daughter arrived - ten weeks early. Ten tips ... ten weeks. Coincidence or just an anxious bookworm? Ah, the mysteries of life.
When Jen announced the birth of her little bookworm, she also explained that she was taking a hiatus from blogging. On Mondays, Jen often starts us off with Literacy 'Lights, a quick roundup of family-reading related ideas and tips from around the kidlitosphere. For the next few weeks, while Jen is enjoying all of the joys that come with bringing home a new baby, Susan Kusel will be here on Mondays and I'll stop by on Wednesdays with Bookworm Basics.
Jen and her passion for growing bookworms is the inspiration for my column. I wanted to do something that complements what she does AND celebrate bookworms of all ages. So each week I'll offer ideas about literacy and reading in the context of how a reader grows, from emergent literacy (infant/toddler) through fluency (third grade). I will incorporate my Prompt Ideas, too, when they fit. This week, I thought I'd round out National Poetry Month with ideas that draw on a poetry theme.
Emergent Literacy - Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers
When we think of poetry for kids, we often think of rhymes, which are perfect for this audience. At these ages, kids are exploring, testing, and repeating sounds ... a lot! The sillier or sing-songy the sound combinations, the better. In the process, these pre-readers are learning how to make sounds and give them meaning (gurgles to dada); discerning words and vocabulary (recognizing that shluba is a silly word and tuba is a real thing); and beginning to connect a letter sound with the symbol.
Nursery rhymes and silly words - like the ones we think of as "classic" Dr. Seuss - are great ways to combine poetry and learning. In this YouTube video, a young boy is "reading" by exploring the sounds in Dr. Seuss' ABC Book An Amazing Alphabet Book. The video is about 4 minutes long, but you can get the idea of how he is exploring words and sounds with about 45 seconds.
Early and Transitional Literacy - Kindergarten to Second Grade
Now that they can recognize individual letters and sounds, readers-to-be are ready to start combining them into words and learn how one letter (silent e) affects the sounds of others around it (star becomes stare). Rhyming and repetition often remain central to helping kids build vocabulary and pronouncing words they don't quite know yet. Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, and Kenn Nesbitt are wonderful children's poets who combine rhymes, recognized song lyrics, kids' favorite (and least favorite) things, and silliness to engage kids as readers - without them even knowing it!
One way to engage kids in creating their own poems (and silly words) is to add a set of poetry magnets to the fridge. Every time someone reaches for the milk they can create something new! This is an activity that lest kids stretch their imagination, explore language, and work on spelling all at the same time. It's also a game that everyone can play ... including Mom and Dad. To help with the (dreaded) weekly word list, you might try making some magnets of your own using materials from a craft or hobby store.
Fluent Readers - Third Grade and Beyond
This is the group of independents (in more ways than one). Once kids are reading at a third grade level, they have mastered the strategies they need for reading without help. They have the tools to put understanding, vocabulary, and spelling together and combine them in whatever format is presented. They also compose lengthier original works, from synopses to full-length stories and reports.
Those rhyming books they loved last year are now "for babies," though there are exceptions. The magnets on the fridge can come in handy, because they let your reader independently explore their creative side. And Mom and Dad sneak in a little writing!
Another idea would be to pull out their old alphabet letters and let them "text" on the refrigerator. I know, it confuses me too, but there is research that suggests texting can help kids with spelling. If the study doesn't convince you, maybe this video by Mr. J.A. Gill, an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, will add a perspective that makes sense.
There are some great resources to help you engage kids as readers across the spectrum of development. Reading Rockets, for example, has some wonderful parent guides with tips in English and ten other languages. I have always loved their practical ideas, and I was tickled to find their new parent tip sheets for babies and toddlers.
One of the great things about growing a bookworm, as Jen has explained, is that the old can become new again. Reading aloud to them as infants and beyond (Tip 1) might just lead to them sneaking a flashlight to stay up late and read under the covers (Tip 10) . At least we can hope!
Note: Dr. Seuss ABC Book title link goes to Amazon.com and the Reading Tub affiliate. Purchases made through that link may generate income for the Reading tub, a 501c3 nonprofit.