Reading to Our Kids


As I write ICS's application I think about the details of what your children will do all day with our teachers. Of course reading, or listening to their teachers read, will be a big part of the program.  For you, it's a big part of what you already do with your kids, even if they are not in school yet.

When we read to our kids we have various goals. In the long term of course, we want to create independent learners. Children who will grow up to be curious, creative, contributing citizens who stand on their own and speak, articulately, for themselves and their community. Folks who recognize both the beauty and the ugliness that surrounds them.  Who, as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, can "see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise."

To achieve this long-term goal, we  must help them become independent readers.  And one surefire way to do this is to expose our kids to a lot of books.

Screenshot 2013-11-25 11.28.24
Screenshot 2013-11-25 11.28.24

How many books are we talking about? The data in the table to the right, from a study of 260 kids in central Illinois, point out the gap between a good reader and a really good reader is big.  Almost an hour a day big.

So how do we get there?  One tool we'll use is explicit phonics instruction; another is exposure to complex texts. How does this come together?

Doug Lemov is (among many things) a father of three young kids and the author "Teach Like a Champion," a how-to guide that holds pride of place on my teaching bookshelf. Recently he revisited Mary Poppins with his youngest child. For many of us, Doug included, it's hard to wipe away what Disney has done in popularizing many classic tales. But try, he urges, for underneath your fading memories of Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews lies a phenomenal, complex story that is perfect for early readers. Doug tells us that his daughter is "just learning to read on her own" and notes:

there’s a temptation when kids are at Little’s stage to only work on decoding. Let me just say that I am all about the phonics as an educator- think it’s a huge disservice to skimp on them. I guess what I think I’ve realized is how necessary a combination of learning the mechanics of reading (phonics) and hearing more difficult text is the ultimate synergy. In fact the more you do of one the more you should do of the other- reading a wild joyous imaginative book like Mary Poppins is motivating to Little. She wants to read even more so she can unlock that world on her own.

I've reprinted below the list of books and poems  we hope your children will be reading, mostly independently, in the upper elementary grades at ICS.  See any of your favorites? Are we missing a childhood classic you loved?  Let us know.