Introducing the special edition of the Missouri Reader- Poetry- a Path to Literacy by
Dr. Sam Bommarito, Co-Editor of the Missouri Reader
You may know that one of the hats I wear is that of Co—Editor of the Missouri Reader. Missouri Reader has been publishing for over 40 years now. We publish between two and three issues a year. We are peer edited and have a highly qualified review board. We do publish some very well-known literary leaders. But we also give teachers a chance to publish right alongside them Most often those teachers are graduate students at one of our state’s universities, though we do accept articles from all over the United States (and Beyond!). Details on how to submit are always found on the last page of each issue of the journal. This latest issue is something very special. As you both read about it and then actually read the journal itself, you’ll see what I mean. For me personally the timing of this issue couldn’t be better. It’s my birthday today (don’t ask!). It’s also the first anniversary of this blog. Over 10,000 people have read it since beginning it last year. In a way, things have come full circle. That first blog entry was written at Tan Tar Ra (Lake of the Ozarks, Mo.) at last year’s Write to Learn Conference. Next week Glenda (my Co-Editor) and I will be at this year’s conference making a presentation on Friday, March 1st.. It will be about this issue of journal (it’s that special). If you’re in the Midwest region come see us, links to all the registration information can be found in our journal. We are part of the Missouri State Literacy association which is a co-sponsor of the Write to Learn Conference.
Readers. I now want to editorialize a bit. Please indulge me. It relates to the theme of our special issue, Poetry- a Path to Literacy. Lately I’ve been wondering aloud why we have so many people writing about the need to return to joy in the reading and writing field (lots of titles about that lately). Why do we have a famous video called Don’t Read Like a Robot. Why are some so determined to turn reading into a race? Do we really need a nation of Robot Readers and Auctioneers? Or do we need a nation of students who know how to read like Storytellers? Storytellers around those long-ago campfires were the beginnings of what we now call civilization. The historian in me thinks they were at the heart of the movement that separated human kind from the rest of the living creatures on our planet. To read a story like a story teller you’ve got to understand the characters, know what they act like, what they should sound like. I think that is why Rasinski calls prosody the gateway to comprehension. To read like a story teller is to return to the most basic of basics. All the authors contributing to this very special issue of our journal hope that our readers find the ideas and resources in this issue that will help them get back to the real basics. Learning to read poetry well is one of the key things that make up what I call the real basics. I also hope the readers of this issue will find much of what they need to help create a nation of readers who know how to read like story-tellers. Perhaps then we would not have to worry about how to bring joy back to all aspects of literacy. The answer is so very simple. Read (and write) because you want to. Let your children do the same.
Pardon me, it’s nighttime and I suddenly feel the urge to build a very nice campfire. Then I think I’ll get out a copy of the new journal. I hear there are some wonderful things to read in it, poems and such. I hear that there’s a whole world of joy to find if you’re just willing to look. Please do have a look. You deserve some joy and so do your children.
The following is based on a presentation I’m scheduled to give next week to a group of parent educators in St. Louis. Here are some of the key ideas from that presentation.
Key Take Aways From My Presentation
About those reading wars: The past 50 years has seen a spirited debate on how to best teach beginning readers. This presentation is based on a balanced, middle of the road approach. For most children phonics needs to be taught. However, there are several ways to teach phonics (see my blog posts under the categories Decoding & Phonics and Ending The Reading Wars). I argue that since research supports the position that no one beginning reading method works with every child, that the key to successful reading instruction in early reading is to match the child up with a method that works for them. Fit the program to the child not the other way round. Starting with the First Grade Studies and through the work of Dick Allington research has consistently demonstrated that teachers make more difference than any one method. This means that in-servicing teachers in a variety of methods is critical to creating successful early reading programs. Participants are cautioned to examine the claims of some successful one size fits all “reading” programs. Too often these programs based their claims on measures of decoding skills only. The proponents seem to argue that reading achievement and comprehension automatically follow once decoding skills are established. Extensive work with comprehension is delayed, often until third grade. Teachers like myself who have worked with children who are the product of such approaches are skeptical. Too often such an approach produces “word callers”, children who decode well but don’t remember or understand what is read. These children can be mistaken for children who have learning disabilities. This presenter takes issue with any approach that fails to include meaning making as part of the reading process. I recommend an approach that teaches decoding strategies and comprehension strategies concurrently from the very beginning stages of reading instruction.
Ages and stages When should formal instruction on letters sounds and letter names begin, how should that be done? We will review research like that presented in http://www.theorganizedmindhq.com/reading-too-soon/?fbclid=IwAR0XtYp8TuvrDHiTclb9_J4nLI0A_-MKBw79WjAV-A6zTkTTirUznYtnrhc The conclusion is that for the early years (birth through three), it is counterproductive to try to directly teacher letter sounds and names. The brain literally isn’t ready for that yet. The key is to use a discovery approach to learning. Parents need to create a print rich environment in which children learn all the various Concepts About Print (print carries the message, in English writing goes from left to right, et. al). At this stage it is vital that children have things read to them, talk about things that are read, hear the various sounds that make up our English language. This work in ages birth through three lays the foundation (creates the schema) for the formal instruction about how words work, letter sounds and letter names et. al. That instruction can (and should) begin starting no sooner than age 4. Many children will leave the early stage (birth through 3) already knowing letter sounds and names. For those who don’t, instruction in those things can be provided using method(s) that best fit each particular child.
THE NEXT FEW SECTIONS REFERENCE THE PARENT HELPSHEET I WILL DISTRUBUTE TO THE PARTCIPANTS OF THE PRESENTATION
Supporting the emergent reader- Helping them Work for Words
While your child is reading to you, if they are stuck on a word don’t just give them the word. Instead try to help them work it out using the tips above. If they still don’t get it, then give it to them. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many words they’ll get on their own if you just give them that first sound to start with.
Also, everyone can make mistakes on their first cold read of a passage. If the child is in the habit of noticing their mistakes and correcting them THAT IS HUGE. Encourage it whenever it happens.
Supporting the emergent reader- Reading to Remember/Talking About Books
You can ask about any one of these three things (not all three at once!). Use any of these three as a starting point to talk about the book. You can also ask them about favorite characters or favorite parts or new things they learned. THIS IS NOT AN EXAM. The idea is to get them to talk about their story. Knowing that you want to talk about their book encourages them to READ TO REMEMBER!
Supporting the emergent reader- Learning to Book Shop/Visiting the Library
Shop for books by interests not by level. Help them find that series or author that they want and they may “binge read”. Binge reading beats binge watching Netflix all to pieces! If the book they want is to hard for them to decode, still check it out and read it to them. Read it more than once. Share the reading with them. Make it a goal to visit the library periodically and check out books for them, books about things they are interested in!!!
OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS
Reading Like a Story Teller
Rasinski & Smith Have a wonderful book called The Megabook of Fluency. Use the EARS rubric from that book to guide you into better fluency. Read with Expression, Automatic Word Recognition, Rhythm and Phrasing, Smoothness. The rubric is on page 316 of the book. Also check out their help sheet about reading with expression found on page 309. In addition to these two resources, the book has tons of other activities parents can do to help their child read with fluency (PROSODY!).
Supporting the emergent reader- Parents Should Act Like Books are Important & Wonderful (Because they are!)
Books can be (and should be) presents. With Christmas coming up look over some of these suggestions for books for preschoolers and emergent readers.
I’ve found it to be an excellent site for getting literacy ideas to use with younger children.
Parents should think hard about making a book one of this year’s Christmas presents. It can be the start of a great family tradition.
So…, that’s the advice I’ll be giving to parent educators about what to say to parents. It’s advice that can set the child down the path of becoming a lifelong reader. It’s advice that’s grounded in a solid research base. It’s advice that can give their child a world of wonderful new experiences.
Happy Holidays- and KEEP READING READING READING!
Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, book shopper, advice giver, lifelong learner)
P.S. If you are a visitor from the internet and liked this blog please consider following it. Just type in your e-mail address on the sidebar of this blog post. THANKS
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.
Developing the Concepts About Print Provides the Solid Foundation Early Readers Need to Become Successful Readers. By Dr. Sam Bommarito
In a little more than two weeks, I’ll be doing an hour long in-service for a group of parent educators from a local school district. In the way of full disclosure, my wife is among those parent educators. That fact makes me want to do an extra good job. Thinking of what I should say to them has caused me to synthesize some views I’ve been expressing over the past few months. The core of those things is that one should fit the literacy program to the child, not the other way round. What does literacy for our very youngest children look like? What should it look like?
The topics of phonics and phonemic awareness will come up. My audience is going to want to know what to say to the parents of children ages Birth through 3 (the core group served by the Parents as Teachers program) and children 4-5, the children in preschool (some children from this group are also served, though they are not the predominant age group served).
The first thing I will tell the parent educators is that it is likely they wouldn’t be gathering for an in-service at all if it weren’t for the influence of the First Grade Studies. It’s been over 5 decades since the First Grade Studies were completed. For readers not familiar with this landmark study, the First Grade Studies compared the efficacy of the major approaches to reading of that era. Overall, they found no one approach worked best, every approach worked better when used with a phonics supplement and that teachers made more difference than methods of teaching in predicting the variance of reading achievement tests. The methods of analysis were not as sophisticated as those employed in today’s metanalysis, but these pioneering studies did have a major impact on our thinking about how to teach reading. Among the things that resulted from these studies was the conclusion that if we want to improve reading instruction for all children, we should invest in in-servicing our teachers. This makes sense. If one approach doesn’t work for a particular child, teachers would become knowledgeable in other approaches that might work for that child. The whole business of providing in depth in-service for teachers in a variety of literacy practices began with the First Grade Studies. My own take about this point is that the education world recognized there would likely never be a one size fits all solution to the task of teaching literacy skills and strategies. So rather than promote a single method, our resources would be best used to train teachers in a variety of methods. This was based on the finding that good teachers seemed to make more difference in reading achievement than using any one particular approach or method. The First-Grade Studies are also credited with a shift from the Reading Readiness model of early reading, to today’s current model of Concepts About Print as the core of an early reading program. So what advice will I recommend these parent educators give to the parents of very young children?
First and foremost- encourage parents to create and foster a print rich environment for their children. That means parents should be reading aloud to their children. It also means the parents should be providing that rich constellation of experiences that foster the development of the Concepts of Print. Children also need to see their parents reading and know that their parents consider reading an important life skill. Parents need to talk about what they are reading to their children, so their children can learn how stories work. That includes talk around non-fiction and fiction (expository and narrative) works.
Currently, there are actually folks telling us to abandon the constructivist approaches often used with these youngest children and to revert back to directly teaching letter sounds and names from the very earliest of ages. Put all the meaning making on the back burner and get the decoding skills done first. The problem is that the research seems to favor folks using approaches like Reading Recovery. Those approaches combine meaning making and decoding. It is no accident that Marie Clay, creator of Reading Recovery is also the creator of the CAPs test. That is because CAPs form the core of her highly successful program in beginning reading. Reading Recovery remains the most successful approach in improving reading achievement in early readers. Readers are welcome to review the evidence I’ve compiled to demonstrate that the aforementioned conclusion is a research-based statement. The entries can be found under the Reading Recovery category on the side column of this blog.
Turning to things on the CAPS list, as children are read to, they learn important things about how print works. It is print that carries the message. In our system of reading, print moves from left to right. They learn to hear the sounds of various letters, the phonemes that are the building blocks of the written word. At this earliest stage it is not important that they be able to name particular letters and sounds (though they certainly can if they want to). Rather through listening, through talk, the child builds a background knowledge of the various sounds that are used to construct the written word. In addition to learning how words work, they also learn how stories go. They learn about beginning, middle and ends of story. They learn how some stories simply give information. They learn about the meaning carried by the print.
As children reach the age of 4 of 5 they are ready for more direct instruction in how words work. This does include phonics instruction. But as readers can tell by reviewing my entries about phonics, there is more than one way to teach phonics. Chief among them are analytic and synthetic phonics. Again today there are folks who would like to ban the use of anything except synthetic phonics. That position flies in the face of decades of research demonstrating that different children learn by different methods.
I expect that most of the parent educators I will be talking to are already more than familiar with the idea of developing the Concepts About Print. In that sense I will be preaching to the choir. But I will be making them aware that there is a large body of research supporting the kind of things the choir is doing. I also will make them aware of Rasinki’s work around fluency. In my opinion (and the opinion of many other folks in the reading world) Rasinski is today’s foremost authority on the topic of fluency. He views prosody as much more than improving reading rate. He wants readers to learn to read with expression. His newest book, The Megabook of Fluency contains a large number of resources to help teachers help students to obtain that end. He provides a rubric based on EARS, Expression, Automatic Word Recognition,Rhythm and Phrasing, Smoothness. The final page of his book lists 20 different strategies readers can employ to develop prosody and gives connections to pages in the book where teachers can find specific activities and resources. Rasinski views comprehension as an integral part of the reading process. For him, prosody is the gateway to comprehension. You see, for a reader to understand what voice a character might use, what the characters might sound like, the reader must first develop a basic understanding of the story as it develops. Readers who understand the story also understand when the story calls for an excited voice, a worried voice a happy voice et. al. This is another approach to teaching beginning reading that embraces the idea the meaning making and encoding are entwined (and should be entwined) from the very earliest states of learning to read.
So, that is the foundational work I’ll be calling to the Parent Educator’s attention. Job one for kids birth through three is to promote a set of experiences that promote all the Concepts About Print. Readers are invited to notice the impact that reading the right kind of books at this early age can have. My friend Eric Litwin talks about how his books do exactly that in a comment you can now find at the end of this post. I have to say that I agree that his books are among those I would use as read alouds for children birth to three in order to provide them with the rhythm, repetition and rhyme they need to hear in order to lay down the neural networks they will need. His books are also easy to talk about (and worth talking about). Talking about books after reading to children is a habit every parent of the youngest children should get into. Next week I will turn to some of the specific parent help sheets and ideas I’ve found on how parents can grow lifelong readers. These are readers that want to read. These are readers who understand from the outset, that reading is all about meaning making. More about that next week.
So until next week, this is Dr. Sam signing off.
Dr Sam Bommarito (aka, the CAPS guy, aka the reading is meaning making guy)
P.S. The study that came to be known as “The First Grade Studies” was done by Bond and Dykstra in 1967. It appeared in RRQ (see screen capture below). It has been the subject of a great deal of analysis and commentary including a special edition of RRQ in 1997 that marked the 30 year anniversary of the publication of the study.
Copyright 2018 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any particular group or organization.
Making use of the Resources in the Megabook of Fluency and the books and songs of Eric Litwin (Part three)
Doctor Sam Bommarito
For the past two weeks I’ve been talking about the work I’m doing with an after-school group. The group meets for an hour each Tuesday. It is voluntary. We call it the Reading Club. My partner in the endeavor is the building learning specialist. In addition to the 20 club members, who are 1st and 2nd grade students, there are also 6-7 upper grade students who come in to help with centers, paired reading et. al. For my part of the program I am using ideas drawn from the Megabook of Fluency and selected materials for Eric Litwin. Last week I focused on my use of ideas from Megabook of Fluency. This week I’m going to talk about how I am using/will use resources from Eric Litwin and from selected web-based site to help implement that program. I’m also going to talk a little about the way I teach word strategies.
The after-school program is meant to be a supplement to the building program, not a stand- alone program. I’m trying to motivate the students to want to read, to read with prosody and to use word strategies based on both analytic and synthetic phonics.
For the kids I talk about two different ways to figure out words. One is to “sound them out” (traditional synthetic phonics). The other is to “say the first sound and think of the clues” (my adaption of analytic phonics). I tell them to use the one that works best for you first. I also tell them if one way doesn’t work, try the other. I want to point out to any readers who might be nervous about my promoting “word guessing”, that in fact what I’m promoting is “educated word guessing” based on crosschecking. Marie Clay talks about “crosschecking”, i.e. using more than one of the cueing systems concurrently. That means making sure that the “guesses” make use the visual clue (first sound) and work with the meaning clue (picture or how the story is going). So if the child was guessing the word “sun” for something they see in the sky, but the text actually says star I WOULD NOT accept sun. I would prompt near point of error by saying that “ ’sun’ is a very smart guess, but does sun start with the ‘st’ sound and look at that picture. What other word would work here that starts with the ‘st’ sound and goes with the picture? (The picture, of course, is a picture of a star).
As I’ve already mentioned I picked Eric and his books for our groups first favorite author because his work incredibly motivating and it promotes the use of crosschecking as I’ve just described it. They are predictable and engaging. They often include real life lessons or teach relevant literacy lessons in an entertaining way. Kids REALLY want to read his books. I told my kiddos that I learned that it pays to find a favorite new author from time to time. It pays to learn all about them and to read lots of their books. I told them that for our first favorite author, the after-school group would be explore books by Eric Litwin. I also told them if they wanted to find their own new favorite author for the year I would help with that. They know that later in the year we will all talk about our other favorite authors and pick a new author for the group to focus on after Christmas.
I read/sang some of the book to them. Rather than go straight to the full book, I then used the session to practice the song “If your Happy and You Know It”. That fit in exactly with learning to read/sing a new piece and then practice it for future performance.
Here’s how I expect this to play out over the next few weeks. Eric’s site is a treasure trove of songs and videos (see for yourself https://www.ericlitwin.com/). It includes free downloads of songs and lively video renditions based on his books. For instance, the Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes has a free download of the song. So does his new book. I’ll be encouraging parents to let their children visit the site and listen to the songs. I’ll also encourage them to use these books as night-time read alouds, and even let the children join in the reading. Parents are welcome to buy them if they want, but they are also readily available at the public library. Because we meet only once a week, the VOLUNTARY performance songs/poems practice during the week (recommended by Rasinski) will be done once a month rather than weekly. I’m also trying to get permission to use one of the several programs that allow students to share videos with parents and students within the class (and only within the class). In that way their “performance” is something they can share with the whole group. There are also other things going on within reading club, especially as it relates to direct instruction in phonics & other reading skills, that I will discuss at a future date. This includes sharing how to “talk big about little books” .
Now I want to take a moment to talk about an important UPCOMING EVENT here in the Midwest. The Early Childhood Conference, which is usually held at Lake of the Ozarks each year is being held at Harris Stowe University in St. Louis. MARY HOWARD will be one of the keynotes. Bill and I will be leading a panel discussion at one of the sessions. If you are in the Midwest Region please have a look at the website.
Happy Reading and Writing
Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, big fan of Eric Litwin)
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PLEASE USE THE LINK BELOW THE PICTURE TO GO TO CONFERENCE SITE
I’ve already discussed how one educational leader, Timothy Rasinski, uses songs as an important part of his fluency program. Today I have very a special guest on the blog, Eric Litwin. Eric is a well-known children’s author and educator. His website describes him as follows:
“Eric Litwin is a song singing, guitar strumming, # 1 New York Times Best Selling, award winning author who brings early literacy and music together.
He is the original author of the Pete the Cat series as well as the author of The Nuts and Groovy Joe.
Eric believes early literacy is more joyful and successful when the child is fully engaged with the book. He calls this interactive reading.
Eric’s books have sold over 12.5 million copies, been translated into 17 languages, and won 25 literacy awards including a Theodor Geisel Seuss Honor Award.”
Regular readers of my blog know that I first met Eric when he did an all-day presentation about music and literacy. In an earlier blog, I described how he engaged teachers, myself included, in a day long workshop at the annual Write to Learn conference in Missouri @WritetoLearnMO. It was held in February of this year. By the end of the workshop he had us all writing our own songs- songs that were designed to help our students on the road to literacy. He also shared his wonderful books with us. I talked with Eric after the workshop and he agreed to be interviewed by the Missouri Reader for the fall issue. Glenda Nugent, my co-editor on the Missouri Reader has completed that interview. More about that a little later. I asked Eric if he would consider talking to the readers of this blog about the topic of Singing Your Way into Fluency. He agreed.
I asked Eric how music can help readers, especially beginning readers. Here is the core of what he had to say:
“The components of song including melody, rhyme, rhythm/cadence, and repetition facilitate prediction. Prediction is essential for an emerging reader to successfully read a book. This combined with appropriate phonetics and sight words is empowering for emerging independent readers. I really do believe early literacy is more joyful and successful when the child is fully engaged with the book. This is the heart of interactive reading. This is the what my books try to do, engage the child and at the same time teach the child things they need to know in order to become successful readers.”
He went on to say:
“When I’m writing, a critical issue for me is to clarify my book’s message. The main message of a book can be incorporated into the song increasing the success of the message. One example of this can be found in The Nut Family, Keep Rolling.The song says, “Keep Rolling”. This reinforces and communicates the essence of that book’s message.”
Eric has certainly written books that do all the things he talks about and more. Here is an example:
Groovey Joe Dance Party Countdown! was the winner of this year’s One Book 4 Colorado program. That’s the governor of Colorado reading the book aloud to a group of children. This book is a perfect example of what Eric was talking about. I can guarantee it is engaging. It is definitely predictable. Got a copy for my grandchild. She loved it! She just finished preschool. This book, and others like it, really do lay the foundation for so many things. That includes building the background that children need to effectively use phonics. Just as important it gives the children experience in how to make meaning from the words they see, hear and sing. Visit Eric’s website to see for yourself. https://www.ericlitwin.com/. When you do be sure to scroll down the page and click on the audio link for the song Disco Party Bow Wow which is pictured below. We got to see him perform it live at our conference, and the teachers in the room all loved it. More importantly, so did my granddaughter. I predict that your beginning readers will also love it and learn from it.
This song uses a form of “call and response”. Sing it with your children. It helps when children look at the lyrics of a song when they sing. Use the book. You’ll be amazed at how much they pick up when you use that strategy. You don’t need to be able to sing yourself. Eric’s audio does that for you. I’ve spent lots of time already exploring this site- the downloads, the newest books. It is a treasure trove of materials that can help you help your beginning readers. I think Eric’s work is an example of reading instruction that is both art and science. He is serious about both. His musical books are unique because they bring narrative and music together. Want to read more about Eric and his thoughts about literacy? Check out the fall issue of Missouri Reader. It’s free. To subscribe go to the current issue https://joom.ag/8cML and click on the subscribe bar on the left side of the reading page. Once you are subscribed, you’ll receive future journals, including Glenda’s interview with Eric in the upcoming fall issue.
Here are some additional links to Eric’s materials:
Next week I will expand the blog topic. It will become “Singing and Writing Your Way into Fluency”. I’ll tell you about some of my other favorite children’s books that include the use of music. Not all of them are just for beginning readers, some are for older readers and deal with topics that are important to them. I’ll talk about how to look for writing craft in these books and teach your students to use that craft in their own writing. That way they can also write their way into fluency! As always- I value your comments and suggestions about the blog and its content.
Happy Reading and Writing
Dr. Sam Bommarito (a.k.a., fan of Eric, friend of Groovy Joe)
Blog content Copyright 2018 by Dr. Sam Bommarito
Content from Eric Litwin’s website is copyrighted & used with permission