Reading is a wonderful and enjoyable pastime that can transport the reader to interesting times and places. Reading, however, is not just for enjoyment and this is something we should be teaching our youngest readers. Think about all of the reasons you read things in a day. The grocery list, street signs, novels, news articles, recipes, bills, social media…
In addition to being a piece of magic that can transport the you anywhere you want with the flip of a page, reading is a powerful tool that unlocks the keys to health, financial stability, job security, community engagement, and overall success.
If we can help families set a purpose for reading, we can encourage more diversity in the types of reading that are happening at home. Families will be more likely to read nonfiction books together, to reread favorite books with different purposes in mind, and to consider reading materials that fall outside the norm (letters, encyclopedia articles, comic books, manuals, recipes, catalogs, atlases…) in their reading logs.
But, this is for young children…so it has to be fun, it’s better if it’s colorful, and it’s best if the kids have some ownership of the task. So, let’s make it a game. How about BINGO? They can color their squares, use BINGO stampers (available at the Dollar Store) or stickers… Kiddos can invest in the task by helping the teacher (or their families) put different reasons to read in the grid and by selecting which reasons they want to do during the month.
By creating a game with students and sending it home (with an explanation!), teachers are able to accomplish a few things:
Letting families know that even if they aren’t reading books, reading is still valuable! Personal story: The school where I began my teaching career sent home a reading survey during the year and a large number of families indicated that they had 5 or fewer books in the home. Remember that books are luxury items and many families may not be able to afford them. Those same families often also have difficulties with transportation and may not be able to access the library regularly. Families may also have very busy schedules and may not always have a book to read while they go from activity to activity; a game like this will encourage them to read something with their kiddos no matter where they are!
Encouraging children to find different reasons to read. Reluctant readers (like my Tiny Human) may have absolutely zero interest in reading a picture book, but will read every single label in their Minecraft inventory or a simple recipe for pudding. Games like this let kids know that they are still reading and it’s still awesome.
Here’s an example: Tiny Human doesn’t like to read. He is a reluctant reader. So, I found workarounds. They’re not books, but he’ll read balloons all day if he gets to pop them! I just get a bag of balloons from the dollar store, blow them up (if you under inflate them a little, they’re harder to pop…), write words or decodable sentences on them, put them in a laundry basket and let him go. If he reads it, he can pop it. Only rule is that you have to pop it with your body, but you can’t use your mouth or your hands. Instead of battling over 15 minutes of reading a book, I just get a bag for the popped pieces of balloon.
Learning more about the home lives of students. You will be able to learn more about families by which purposes they pick. You could also send home a blank BINGO grid and let families fill in their own ideas.
Setting up rich opportunities for oral language development. By asking open-ended questions about the purposes students picked, some really amazing conversations can be had. Whether you discuss it during small groups, circle time/morning meeting, or individually at a conversation station, following up on this game can be incredibly powerful for both language and strengthening the home-school connection. Prompts like, “I see you read to keep in touch. Can you tell me about the person you are keeping in touch with?” can yield rich conversation and show students that you care about what they’re doing at home.
Whether it’s this game or another, adding layers to home reading can make it a much richer experience for you, for your students, and for their families.
In the spirit of this post, let me update the reading log that I posted yesterday with this:
Download your own copy here: Book Log (1)!