Why we do what we do in the after-school program- highlights for parents to consider by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Why we do what we do in the after-school program- highlights for parents to consider by Dr. Sam Bommarito

atwell quote from Molly Ness

Screen capture from the website https://www.drmollyness.com/

We are about to go on Christmas Break and I want to let the parents in the after-school program (The Reading Club!) know some of the key things we are doing in my part of the reading club activities and why we are doing them.  Members of the Club are in 1st and 2nd grade.  I think the readers of my blog will find what we are doing in the Reading Club quite interesting and informative.

  1. We start each session with a BRIEF read aloud by Dr. B.. Dr. B. tries to use his story telling voice and even talks about how to read like a story teller. Dr. B also notices tricky words. Some of the tricky words are not spelled the way they sound, so they can’t be sounded out (e.g. said, of). We are getting together a list of tricky words that we are learning by heart. THESE ARE THE ONLY WORDS WE MEMORIZE. For most words we try to figure out our own words (sound it out OR say the first sound and think of the clues). Dr. B. has been reading a lot of Eric Litwin books to them and all these books go into the choice library that they pick from for the start up of the reading session.


(WHY DO WE DO THIS). I am trying to model for them how to read like a story teller. Reading this way (instead of reading like a robot), results in much better development of meaning making skills and strategies. I am guided in how to teach them to read like story tellers (prosody) by the work of Tim Rasinski. The key thing I learned from Dr. Rasinski is that in order for a reader to read like a story teller they must REALLY understand the story. When they really understand the story they know how those characters should sound as they speak (e.g. villain, hero, etc.).  They know when they are at an exciting part of the story (so sound excited) or scary part of the story (so sound scared!). Reading like a storyteller promotes reading with understanding. Dr. Rasinski calls reading with prosody (reading like a story teller) the gateway to comprehension.   You can find out more about what I learned from Dr. Rasinski by reading my blog post about his presentation in St. Louis. ( https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/05/04/the-teaching-of-reading-as-both-science-and-art-a-report-evaluation-of-rasinkis-recent-presentation-in-st-louis-by-dr-sam-bommarito). Also be sure to visit his website.(https://www.timrasinski.com/index.html)


  1. Each student gets to choose a book to read at the start of the Reading Club. They then share their book with a partner, they choral read i.e. they both read aloud together. They read each of the books  using a story telling voice. In that way they can help each other with tricky words. Many of these books are by Eric Litwin (Pete the Cat, Groovy Joe, et. al.!). As they finish each book they talk about their favorite parts before moving on to the next book. They know it is ok to read a book they’ve already read before if that book is a real favorite.


(WHY DO WE DO THIS). Teachers would call what we do at the start of book club self selected wide reading.  This is a powerful educational technique. I often tell the children that if I were their track coach I’d ask them to run. I’m actually one of their reading coaches, so I ask them to read.  BTW- that is also why I send home KEEP BOOKS each week (http://www.keepbooks.org/). This gives them books they can go home and read (and reread and reread). By the end of the year each child will have a large collections of books that belong to them. For readers not familiar with keep books, they are short predictable books, published by Fountas and Pinnell. They are inexpensive and designed to be taken home and keep (hence the name!). Each student gets to pick one book each week to take home and keep.

I am using Eric Litwin’s books for the in class weekly read aloud activity because they fit what research suggests good children’s books should do. Early level children’s books should include rhythm, repetition and rhyme. Reading such books actually help to lay down the neural networks children need for reading.  Brain researchers have found that over time, wide reading actually rewires the brain in a way that helps the child understand how to read. Eric’s books are exceptional in the area of having all three of these features. I’ve found the children love them. By now most of your children have a favorite Eric Litwin book. Ask them about it. Maybe visit the library over the break and check out that book for them (or better yet, make that book one of their Christmas gifts!). The important lesson the children have learned is that all readers should find favorite authors and read lots of book by them. After the upcoming break for the holidays we’ll be looking at some other authors and encouraging children to find a favorite author of their own. Visits to the library would help with that.

  1. Children are encouraged to have conversations about books after they read them. So far, we’ve kept these initial conversations simple, what is your favorite part? What do you think might happen next? THESE CONVERSATIONS ARE NOT TREATED AS TESTS. Here is a look at conversation starters we use and conversation starters that will be adding after the break.


Conversation starters

Why are we encouraging meaningful talk after completing the story? Children need to learn that reading is more than just saying all the words right. Reading includes making sense of what was said. Having conversations with their reading partners after finishing each book helps them understand that reading is all about understanding the message of the author.  At the very end of the whole session we try to have a whole group share time where they get to talk about their books with people other than their partners.  Try talking with your child about some of the stories they’ve read using some of these conversation starters. 

The preceding description of what we do in reading club and why we do it does not include all the activities done each week. Instead I focused on the activities we do that promote wide reading and conversations around books. Experts in the reading field say such activities are crucial. To find out more of what they say you might want to download this pdf from the International Literacy Association that came out just this week:



So, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday break. I hope you encourage your child to READ FOR FUN as part of that holiday break.  I hope you will have some wonderful conversations with them about what they are reading (and what you read to them). I promise you if they apply the idea of reading like a story teller it really helps make reading fun and something they really want to do. I will leave you with a quote from another of my favorite children’s authors. Here is what Mem Fox said about reading aloud: ““When I say to a parent, “read to a child”, I don’t want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate.”

So…, be sure to share some “chocolate” with your child over the upcoming break!


Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, book lover & chocolate lover)


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Copyright 2018 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.


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