Ten Ways to Get Primary Readers to Read by Kimberley Moran
As he sounds out the word painfully slowly, he looks desperately to the illustration for assistance. He looks at me. I look back blankly. He says each sound separately, but blends it incorrectly. He shakes his head. He looks at me. I look back with my gentle smile. He glances over at the boys reading through the books in their book boxes effortlessly, happily even.
The silence is loud and a little too long. I want to cover my ears, but instead I hold my hand over my mouth. I must not tell him the word. He should be allowed to feel that power of saying the word and recognizing it first. I am his teacher. It is my job to align the planets so that this miracle can take place. There is only so much I can do.
- Introduce books as if they are an ore newly discovered in Minecraft. State loudly and with gusto, “You won’t believe it! The book I ordered came in last night!” Hold it high above their heads as if you won’t let them touch the rare gem.
When he smiles as you read the book, give yourself one tally mark.
- Read every single book as if you are auditioning for a shot in a Scorsese film. You are a teacher and, if no one ever told you this before (let me), you are an actor.
If he shakes his head at your impression of the fox in William Steig’s Dr. DeSoto, push yourself to overdo the way this same fox talks with his mouth glued shut.
- Order everything connected in any way to a book that has a child excited. Instant gratification is a not a virtue anywhere (you may have heard) except in the reading world. Use your library, bookstore, friend, or Kindle to get them in their hands in 48 hours or less.
When everyone is admiring the newest Bink and Gollie or Babymouse, pull out Little Mouse Toon books. Make sure he knows he gets them first. Put a finger to your lips to signal that he should keep it to himself.
- Stop everything some days and make everyone read wordless picture books. Let them tell the stories to each other. Let them write the stories too. This is a surefire way to accomplish the ultimate in differentiation. There ain’t no one you can’t reach with a wordless picture book.
He will look at these with the kind of discernment that reminds you of all that goes on in his beautiful brain. You will remember to align the stars more completely for this child. He deserves it.
- Follow bloggers who care about books as much as they care about their own children. If you just have to pick two, follow Carrie Gelson and John Schu. You could live on their recommendations for the rest of your career.
- Connect books to other things in their lives. Show them how Minecraft books can help them build electrical systems. Share this video before reading Kate Messner’s Under and Over the Snow. Then have the kids create a classroom mural of the Subnivean Zone.
Make sure you tell him you know about his drawing skill. Ask him to draw the fox. He will practice for two days before coloring and adding it to the mural. He will stand back to look at it for a minute or two before taking out a pencil and writing F-O-X in careful penmanship.
- Write about what you read. In order to write we must process, we must think. If you help students write about what they read, you will help them think about what they read. It’s a little like a magic trick.
As he sits down to write a letter to Ivan, he takes a long time to process and get the words on the page. He brings the paper to you and waits. “Dear Ivan, I’m sorry you were captured by bad people and made to wear clothes. I hope the zoo and the other gorillas made up for the bad stuff.” You tell him his piece is thoughtful and kind. You tell him how proud you are to have a student like him in your class. He smiles and asks if you can read another chapter together.
- Teach your kids to speed date with books. Invite them to bring a great book to their table spot. Have them all sit down at different table spots. Set the timer for two minutes. They must open up the book to any page and read for the full two minutes. Then they get up and move to a new book. Do this three times. Then let them choose new books for their book box.
He will open his book and happily try to read something his peers have chosen and loved. He will find some words he can read and he will want to work to read them. He will add a book or two to his book box.
- Read two picture books a day every single day. No targeted lesson can do what being a well read person does to further reading ability. Having experience with many different kinds of books will make reading easier. Period.
As you pull out That’s Not a Good Idea, he will raise his hand to let you know that he’s read other books by this author. You will smile and agree, but it isn’t until later that you will realize that he has read “Mo Willems” on his own.
- Make it your business to learn about every new and good book out there. Read The Nerdy Book Club voraciously. Follow great teachers, librarians, authors, and illustrators on Twitter. Become close friends with your children’s librarians. New fantastic books are published every day. These new books support all kinds of young readers where they are in the reading process and reach them with current topics that matter to them.
One day, as you are busy with another student, he will come up to you and wait silently at your left shoulder. You will remind him that you are not to be interrupted, but you are curious because he doesn’t usually initiate conversation. You tell him that he can wait. As the student walks away, he says quietly “I think I read a whole chapter book by myself.” “You think?” you ask. “Yes I’m not sure. Can I read you some?” He goes on to read slowly, meticulously, but completely accurately. He looks up at you as he ends the sentence and smiles. The planets are aligned.
Kimberley Moran is a second grade teacher who lives in Hampden, Maine. She has two children and one very nice husband. Kimberley would like her bio to make her sound brilliant, witty, and kind because she knows that when you write and read you get to be anyone you want to be.