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Archive for March, 2009

For Anna, it’s all about the page count

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Motivation is a huge topic in reading. So many parents and teachers deal with motivation issues every day. I saw this quote recently; I think it applies nicely to reading: Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going. (Jim Ryun, author and runner)

Yesterday’s trip to the library was an interesting lesson for me about Anna’s motivation to read. After Anna slipped 3 or 4 really thick books into our bag, I had to ask her about it.

Me: You sure are getting some big books this time!
Anna: I know! Look! This one has 261 pages. And 18 chapters!
Me: Really! Wow. What’s it about? And what IS THAT on the cover?!

Anna is motivated these days only by books that make her feel older and more like a “real reader.” I remember her going through a similar phase when she wanted to make the jump to chapter books a little before her reading skills were ready (thank goodness for Amanda Pig and Henry and Mudge!)

What motivates a reader to read? For parents, it may mean gathering books about a vacation spot or one that matches your child’s current hobby, keeping the reading climate at home fun and engaging all the way from A-Z.

For teachers, motivating a reader might mean hooking them in through high interest-low vocabulary books or through some outstanding non-fiction picture books, or by getting the family involved through family literacy bags.

Whether you’re a parent or a teacher (or both!), I hope you’re able to find an extra minute or two today to figure out what’s going to create a habit for a special reader in your life.

Kindergarten “red-shirting:” What about summer birthdays?

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

It’s that time of year when parents are facing a tough decision: another year of preschool for their child with a summer birthday? Or send them to kindergarten as one of the youngest in the class?

We faced this very decision in our family. Twice. Molly’s birthday is August 13; Anna’s is July 2. Two summer babies, two very different children. I’ve blogged about this before, actually twice!, and those posts have generated many comments. Clearly we weren’t alone in our worrying.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review recently carried a story Kindergartners “Redshirted” to Gain Edge, in which Harvard researchers suggest that red shirting (1) increases the potential for high school drop outs and (2) threatens depressed lifetime earnings because the student’s entry into the labor market is reduced by a year. Pretty grim stuff!

Are you facing this decision? I wish I had an easy answer for you. We waited with one, and sent the other. In both cases, I’m pretty sure we made the right decision. But our decisions weren’t based on my background as a teacher or reading specialist, a Harvard study or any other panel report. It really came down to our parental instincts about each girl.

As an educator and as a mother, I would recommend waiting if you’ve got a child who isn’t ready academically, socially, or emotionally. It’s a fast-paced world, and I don’t see the need to rush into it. Kindergarten is a much different place than it was 10 years ago.

I’m going to talk about this our school’s principal and some of the kindergarten teachers soon, and I’ll let you know their opinions too. But for those facing this decision now, what are your thoughts?