Archive for the ‘Teach Your Child to Read’ Category

“Libraries Are the Medicine Chest of the Soul”

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010



This quote, an inscription over the doorway of the library in Thebes, appeared in a friend’s blog (  Her blog entry prompted me to write the following:

Books we’ve read reveal
who we were at a certain time.
Leafing through them
we see snapshots of who we were.
Why was that novel chosen?
And what did it mean to us then?

Great books we’ve read
take us back to a moment in time.
They’re like a visit with a good friend.
The conversation resumes
and we settle in and enjoy.

Every home should have a library which includes your favorite books.   Children’s bedrooms should have a bookcase filled with treasured books.  Be sure to add to their collection through trips to bookstores.

If on a budget (and who isn’t?), borrow books from the library or buy them through the “gently used” bookstore run by your local library.  Should your local library not have one, you can usually find a used book bookstore in your town.  At a quarter per book, you will soon have a box of books to take home. 

By making a trip to the library or bookstore a highlight in your child’s week, you are embarking with your child on an extraordinary journey, filled with great characters and wild adventures.  Books like good friends can comfort us during difficult times as well as inspire, teach and entertain.  Good books are lifelong friends.

Our High School Curriculum Fails Our Students — What Can Parents Do?

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

An article in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal reported that fewer than 25% of this year’s high school grads who took the ACT college-entrance exam, had the necessary academic skills in math, reading, English and science required to pass entry-level college courses.  Yet elementary school students improved on national achievement exams.  So why the desultory results for our high school students?

Experts, quoted in the Journal, fault the lack of rigor in high-school courses.  “High schools are the downfall of American school reform,” said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy.  “We haven’t figured out how to improve them on a broad scope and if our kids aren’t dropping out physically, they are dropping out mentally.”

Looking ahead, what can parents of elementary school children do to ensure this does not happen to their children when they reach high school?  Make sure your child reads at least at grade level, preferably above grade level.  Fill you home with books.  Read to your child.  At the same time, set the example by reading not only the daily news whether in a newspaper or on your PC.  Read for pleasure.  Go to the library together and pick out books. Make books a vital part of your life.  If you do this, your child will develop the necessary skills in reading and English.

As a former university English composition instructor, I can attest that the students who loved to read and were voracious readers had the greatest fluency in writing.  They knew how to compose coherent sentences and paragraphs and knew the rules of grammar.  They also had excellent vocabularies. 

Encourage your child to read across disciplines.  Bring home science books and history books to expand your child’s horizon.   Have a summer reading list.  If you’re child is going to be busy with sports in the fall, why not ask for next year’s reading list and have your child read some of these during the summer? If you begin this in the elementary years, you more than likely have turned your child into a good student.  Continue this in middle school.   In high school, have your child take AP course, the most rigorous courses.  If not available, seek a better school or supplement your child’s education with your own reading list. Take your child to museums if you live in a big city.  When you travel, seek these out.

Regrettably, reform in our schools comes slowly.  The teacher’s union is powerful.  It is resistant to change.  Good teachers tire of battling complacent administrators and leave.   Parents tire of battling administrators and opt to homeschool.  Whether you homeschool or not, recognize that YOU are your child’s first and primary teacher.  The school may schortchange your child but you as a parent should not.

……………………………………………The WSJ article can be found at:…/SB20001424052748703824304575435831555726858.html

Any Correlation between Your Child’s Reading and Writing Skills?

Friday, May 21st, 2010





All the recent news articles, keep focusing on recruiting and retaining the best science and math teachers but  why the scant mention of recruiting and retaining the best  English teachers?  


As a former college English composition instructor, I saw first-hand the deplorable state of freshman writing.  Not only is it’s used incorrectly as a possessive when it can only be the contraction for  it is but an apostrophe + s was added to nouns to form plurals!   Yes, dear reader’s, this is true!  Alas, what is one to do?


Studies have shown that there is a high correlation between reading skills and writing skills.  Not surprisingly, students who were voracious readers were excellent writers.  Students who love to read are text savvy.  They know what paragraphs look like.  They know paragraphs open with a topic sentence supported by facts and examples.  Good readers are familiar with rules of punctuation and the grammar.  Good readers develop an extensive vocabulary.


Parents, I urge you to read to your toddler.  Make sure your first through third graders learn to read and encourage them to read to you.  If your child loves to read, your child will love learning.  An added bonus:  your child will become a proficient writer.


Encourage your children to design and write their own books.  When they come home from school with their artwork, take the opportunity to not only display it on the fridge but write a story about their drawing.  Talk about how now they are not only the illustrator but the author of a story.


Every time I read a picture book to my children, I would read the names of the author and the illustrator.  Sometimes they were one and the same.  Teaching your child to love books is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child.


little-rabbit-foo-fooLittle Rabbit Foo Foo, a storybook by Michael Rosen, charmed my  three and four-year old grandchildren while visiting in California. No matter how many times we read it, they couldn’t wait to turn the page and see Little Rabbit Foo Foo bop yet another creature on the head despite Good Fairy’s warnings!  



Little Rabbit Foo Foo turned out to be a real page turner!  Within one afternoon, the three-year old twins had memorized the book, could pick out the words: little, rabitt, foo foo and good fairy among others. They also knew when to turn the page. My daughter grew up with the song/game so it was fun to see her children enjoy it so. The illustrations by Arthur Robins of Rabbit Foo Foo riding through a forest on a motorbike, red mallet poised in the air are delightful as is the put-upon Good Fairy. For the children, it was thrilling to see naughty Rabbit Foo Foo defy the Good Fairy but there were consequences.  Your little ones will love it!


Be sure to also teach your children the game.  Children sit in a circle and recite the verses as a child in the role of naughty Little Rabbit Foo Foo circles the group and then lightly taps one of the children on the head who in turn becomes Rabbit Foo Foo.


The lesson in all this is:  share with your children the JOY of reading good books.  You, the parent, are the Good Fairy who can turn your child into an avid reader and a skilled writer! 










Movie Scripts to Teach Your Child to Read?

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Monday I posted tips on teaching your child to read in Teach Your Child to Read.  In my blog, I suggested downloading scripts of your child’s favorite movies from

 I just logged on to this site.  Out of 100+ scripts,  I found the following scripts that might interest your child:

Back to the Future,  Ferris Bueller,  Indiana Jones,  Jurassic Park, Princess Bride,  Spider Man,  Star Trek,  Stuart Little and Toy Story

You can decide which would be most appropriate for your child.  The format is easy to read as the descriptions are brief and the rest is dialogue.  If you can’t find a script for a favorite movie, you can often find the novel such as The Karate Kid, one of my son’s favorite movies.

My experience as both a mom and a university English teacher is:  discover what your child is passionate about and find books that nurture that interest.  When your child has a question, google the question or go online to wikipedia.  Thanks to the internet, we all have extraordinary resources at our fingertips.  Remember a parent is a child’s first and primary teacher.

Teach Your Child to Read

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Often parents ask me for tips on teaching their children to read.

My recommendation:  find books on subjects that interest your son or daughter.  What is she/he passionate about?  In the 3rd grade, my son was into karate and loved the movie, The Karate Kid.  I bought the novel, which is not too long and fairly easy to read.  So over the summer we read it page by page.  I made a vocabulary list of the words he had trouble with and put these on flash cards for review.
English spelling makes reading difficult. To read proficiently, children need to develop word recognition/decoding skills..  They need to know the vowel blends (oa, ea, ou etc) and consonant clusters (ch, sh, tr etc).  They should also associate the word with word families:  pack, lack, tack, etc.  Teach them about “silent e” at the end of a word.  Look at not/note, cut/cute, rat/rate, bit/bite, pet/Pete.  The silent e makes the vowel sound long. 

When reading out loud, if your child does not know the word, have him/her read the entire sentence and see if the context tells what the word is.  Vocalubary lists are hard because the word is in isolation. Let’s say your child can’t read the word: elephant.  But if it appears in a sentence, she/he most likely would be able to read it:  The circus had lions, tigers and elephants.  Context makes all the difference.  
Children need to recognize word patterns:  “right, bright, flight” to build proficiency in reading and spelling.  Also good is to teach them to  recognize prefixes, suffixes, base words and their meaning.  Fortune and misfortune?  Does the meaning change when you add the prefix?  What about like and dislike? Keep flash cards or have a “word wall” in your home.
Sit next to your child and take turns reading paragraphs, run your finger along the sentence so your child can see the word you are reading.  Some children read better if they use a bookmark under the sentence.  This helps with focus. 

 Make copies of your child’s book so you can mark up the text.  Try one color for vocabulary words, another for the main idea, another for difficult words.  What I did for my son, was to buy a set of school books for home.  You can buy these through the publisher or through Amazon.  So this way, there was never any “I forgot my book at school.”  Also we could read ahead and, of course, mark up the text.  Textbooks are not inexpensive but consider them an investment in your child’s future.  They are cheaper than tutoring or failing assignments and developing poor self-esteem. 
Another idea:  which movie is your child’s favorite?  Go to and look for these.  You can download scripts for free.  Description is quite brief and the rest is dialogue. Have your child play different roles. Most kids would find this fun.  Or buy a subscription to a magazine that would interest your child. Have your child write his/her own book.  Reading with your child pays enormous dividends.  A child who is a proficient reader is likely to be a good writer.  There is a direct link between writing and reading.