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How Do I Know If My Child is Ready to Read in Kindergarten?

Posted on January 23, 2017


Readers are made starting from the moment they’re born, and the work continues until they begin kindergarten. The transition from preschooler to “schooler” can be emotional and difficult for both parent and child, especially if you’re unsure whether your young student is ready to sit in a kindergarten classroom. By reading, playing and talking consistently in your home from birth to “bookworm,” you can effectively prepare your child for school. Here’s what your child should be able to do before they begin their kindergarten year:

1. Say/sing their ABCs.  Your student should be confidently sounding out their letters in the alphabet. This is how you know they’re ready to start putting it all together to sound out words.

2. Recognize some sight words. If a certain part of the story reminds you of a person, place or experience in your child’s life, mention it! An example may be, “The girl is going to the zoo. Do you remember the animals we saw at the zoo?” Try to draw comparisons; this piques their interest and makes reading fun.

3. Point out letters while out and about. Use opportunities in the car or at the grocery story—really, anywhere—to gauge how well they recognize letters out of a storybook context. They may notice a letter that’s in their name, or their siblings’ names and say “There’s a little n!” This is a good sign they’re ready to move forward.

4. Write their name. Of course, this is something they will practice frequently in kindergarten. But if they can write their name before they’re in school, even better. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Be sure to encourage them in their writing as well as their reading! Praise them for specific improvements in their letter-writing.

5. Listen well. They’re about to enter a world where their teacher will give them lots of instructions about what to do and how to do it. Make sure they can pay attention long enough to listen to directions—it will be valuable in their reading journey!

6. Understand how a book works. Not only should they know that books are special, they should know how to properly hold it. Your child should have a sense of a typical book’s structure—that it has a beginning, middle and end—and that it contains characters, conflicts and resolutions. Though their vocabularies will not be advanced enough to say “conflict” and “resolution,” they will understand that a character has a problem and must do something in order to fix it. If they grasp that, they’re well on their way to reading successfully.

Keep in mind that every child is gifted differently, and every child learns at his or her own pace. That is nothing to fret over! Your child may be able to perform all or just some of these tasks by the first day of kindergarten, and that’s 100 percent okay. With daily practice, constant encouragement and wonderful instruction from MISD educators, your student will be on track to reading success.

Sources include the PBS Parents blog and Teach Mama blog.

 

4 Ways to Converse With Your Child While Reading

Posted on January 12, 2017


As University of Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson and former NFL player Tarell Brown— both Mesquite ISD alumni—remind us in our latest ReadPlayTalk video, even babies and toddlers benefit from being read to. Although they may not be able to understand everything happening in the story, being read to helps young children master word comprehension. And the more words they know, the easier it is for them to learn. Toddlers and preschoolers especially should be exposed to lots of different books and conversations long before they start kindergarten.

One way to combine reading and talking is to develop some simple conversation starters you can use with your child while you’ve got a book in hand.

These questions and suggestions are geared toward toddler through preschool-aged children but could be adjusted for younger or older children with simple changes in vocabulary based on their needs.

1. Discuss the illustrations on the page.  While pointing out dynamic colors, specific characters or interesting objects with your finger, talk about what you see. Try asking what your child notices and use that to build a conversation. If you can, introduce a new word based on what he or she points to or seems drawn to.

2. Make connections. If a certain part of the story reminds you of a person, place or experience in your child’s life, mention it! An example may be, “The girl is going to the zoo. Do you remember the animals we saw at the zoo?” Try to draw comparisons; this piques their interest and makes reading fun.

3. Compliment and praise. Your child’s self-esteem related to his or her reading is very important, and it’s developed early. Build them up by saying they’re doing a great job of listening, thinking and noticing key information in the story. This helps establish positive feelings and memories around reading.

4. Ask questions. Be an example of an inquisitive mind, but avoid sounding like it’s a quiz or test—they have lots of time for those later on. Explore open-ended questions about your child’s predictions, feelings or observations on the story. Ask things like “What do you see on this page?” or “I wonder what will happen next?” or “I wonder how he is feeling after that happened?” to spark conversation.

These are not “one size fits all” suggestions—there is freedom to start all kinds of engaging talks with your child based on the book, their mood and their age. Whatever works for you and your child is what’s best. And remember, it’s never too early to read, play, talk.

 

Source: The Incredible Years, Carolyn Webster-Stratton, Ph.D. For more information, visit www.incredibleyears.com

 

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19 Classic Storybooks to Read With Your Little One

Posted on December 5, 2016


What you may not know about your home is that it is full of teaching opportunities you can seize each and every day. Not only can you find little moments throughout the day to teach a new skill or word to your child, but you can also use the gift of books to spark conversation with him or her. Reading is inexpensive, accessible and has lifelong benefits including relationship building between parent and child.

We’ve gathered what we think are some of the best books out there to read with your child, no matter his or her age. You can pick these up anywhere books are sold, or you can check them out from the Mesquite Public Library for free. Also check any of our Mesquite ISD campus libraries for these titles. And rest assured, these are all “kid-tested” by MISD families. These are just a few of our favorites.

Ages 0-2

Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton
Everything by Sandra Boynton is perfect for toddlers. Her books are musical when you read them out loud.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault
An alphabet book that reads like (percussion!) music. Silly and nonsensical.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Big pretty pictures with few words make it easy to read to little ones, and it’s a classic.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
A lovely book that small children love, and it’s a great pre-bedtime activity.

Little Bear’s Little Boat by Eve Bunting
A story about a bear who outgrows his boat and has to pass it on. Perfect for toddlers becoming big brothers/sisters and learning about sharing.

Highlights Hello
Not a book, but a magazine for babies. They are sized for small hands and made with tear-proof paper. The issues contain little poems, songs, or very short stories - wonderful for toddlers.

 

Ages 2-4

How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen
Fantastic artwork, great message about going to bed nicely and not very many words per page, so good for short attention spans.

Over at the Castle by Boni Ashburn
This one’s rhythmic, fun to read aloud and it’s a counting book with great artwork. Meanwhile, there are several jokes/storylines going on in the background of the artwork that are fun to discover.

Little Pea/Little Hoot/Little Oink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Stories about a pea that doesn’t want to eat candy, an owl that doesn’t want to stay up late and a pig that doesn’t like to be messy. Precious and entertaining.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Adventurous and fun, but also sweet and deep (can lead to conversations about tantrums, anger, forgiveness and steadfast love).

Big Frank’s Fire Truck by Leslie McGuire
This day-in-the-life book is a favorite, and it’s a realistic portrayal of the adventures of a fireman.

Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things that Go by Richard Scarry
Lots of storylines/jokes to follow and detailed pictures.

Flora’s Very Windy Day by Jeanne Birdsall
Great for siblings, this one’s a story about a big sister, a frustrating little brother she loves unfailingly, and their adventure to the moon and back.

 

Ages 4 and Up

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
Funny, imaginative, classic book. Kids pore over the intricate artwork.

Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
Fun as a “read aloud,” the text is rhythmic, and the story is funny.

The Pirate Cruncher by Jonny Duddle
This one’s a story about ridiculous pirates and the consequences of greed. Amazing artwork, with a gorgeous fold out surprise at the end. Half the story is told in the background of the pictures - you must have sharp eyes to really see what’s going on!

Winnie-the-Pooh and House At Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
These two chapter books are hilarious, with a lot of jokes that will go over the heads of younger kids.

The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey
The text is repetitive (in a good way), and the story is classic. So many well-written phrases make this one fun to read aloud.

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
An imaginative story that transcends time.

Don’t forget - during the reading process and after you’ve finished reading, talk with your little one about what you’ve read. Ask questions about the characters and the conflicts. Make the book a conversation starter, because “talking about anything leads to learning about everything.”

 

5 Great Apps/Websites to Help Your Child Read

Posted on November 9, 2016


Although we believe the very best thing you can do for your child’s literacy is to sit and read, play, talk with them, we recognize that there are lots of wonderful technological tools out there that could be helpful in the home. Since 55 percent of children have access to a tablet and more than 70 percent have smartphone access, technology will be a key component to your child’s reading progress. And if you’ve heard the phrase, “There’s an app for that,” know that literacy is no exception. To supplement your normal reading time, keep your iPad, laptop or iPhone handy for your child to grow and learn online with these apps:

  1. Starfall.com (recommended by Mesquite ISD teachers) - This website promotes reading with phonics for kids preschool aged through second grade, and most of its content is free. Through animated songs and reading activities, your young child child can easily navigate this site in a way that entertains and teaches them letters and words. Additionally, the site has introduced some math curriculum.
  2. Homer - Touted as a top at-home reading program, this app and website boasts proven results. It was designed by teachers and allows parents to track their child’s progress. After a free trial, Homer costs $7.99/month but comes highly recommended by educators.
  3. Read Me Stories - To work on reading fluency and practice vocabulary words, download this app. Your little student will engage with audiobooks and enjoy the colorful graphics alongside the app’s storytelling.
  4. Word Wagon - Using Word Wagon will expose your child to all kinds of letters, words and phonics. Preschool, kindergarten and first-grade students will also be able to practice spelling four and six-letter words using this app.
  5. Bob Books #2 - Reading Magic HD - Based on a book series, this app is available in iTunes to help your child make connections between letters and sounds, sound out and spell simple words.

Remember, there is no substitute for picking up a book and reading with your child, because “readers get their start in the lap of a parent.” But no doubt, technology is an important instrument in improving your child’s literacy.

 

6 Literacy “Field Trips” to Take With Your Child

 

Posted on November 1, 2016


Part of Mesquite ISD’s goal with #ReadPlayTalk is that families would commit to doing it every day. Children thrive when they have routine and consistency in their lives. Additionally, we seek to create a culture of #ReadPlayTalk that is embraced throughout our entire community — not just within our schools.

We want Mesquite kids reading on grade level by the time they get to third grade. One way to help your child grow in his or her literacy is to practice reading outside the home on little “field trips.” These trips can be totally free and already be part of your routine, and what's even better? They all involve reading!

 

  • The grocery store// Have your child help you write a grocery list before you go, then while there, point out different items to get them talking. For example, “Do you know how apples are grown?” or “What are the differences between a carrot and a cucumber?” Encourage them to think about color, size, shape — and teach them new words along the way!
  • Restaurants// Talk about the menu. What kinds of foods does your child like? Have them explain why. Discuss texture, smell, taste and looks. This will increase their vocabulary.
  • The post office// Are there any directions posted around the post office? Explain to your child how mail is sent and received around the world. For an extra challenge, have your little one write a short letter to a loved one, then mail it together.
  • Museums// Dallas’ Perot Museum of Nature and Science offers weekly Early Childhood Classes for kids as young as 12 months and as old as five years. Topics include reptiles, space, autumn, birds, oceans and bugs. The cost is $20 for the first child; $10 per additional child and $10 per adult. Another opportunity to get your child reading and talking? Mesquite Arts Center events, including local theatre and art displays. Many events are free, and all of them will pique your child’s curiosity.
  • Concerts// The Mesquite Community Band and the Mesquite Symphony Orchestra offer concerts year round that are perfect for the whole family. Ask your children what their favorite part of the music was and why. Point out the different instruments. For an added challenge, ask them to describe the tone of the songs, for example: dark, joyful or tense. They’ll one day be using words like this to describe the tone of the book or passage they’re reading!
  • Around town// Note any text you see on marquees, whether it’s a McDonald’s or Walmart sign, a church billboard, traffic signs or otherwise. Start a conversation about what the sign says and what it means.

Hopefully, you see that it’s important to provide your child the opportunity to read all types of material and text, not just storybooks. Informational/ reference and environmental texts are just as useful in getting your child to think, talk and read.

Don’t forget: share your “field trips” with us using the hashtag #readplaytalk.

Some ideas developed by and adapted from Achziger Elementary Instructional Specialist Rebekah Brantley

 

7 Easy Ways to Boost Literacy In Your Home by Playing

Posted on September 26, 2016


The greatest memories are made when we play and laugh with our kids. And there are added benefits to being silly with your child. When you play with children through songs or with toys, you spark imagination and conversation. Through play, children learn to verbally interact with the world around them. Research shows that playing lays the foundation to discovery and a large, descriptive vocabulary.

Here are just a few ways to cheaply and simply promote literacy through everyday play:

  1. Make words using alphabet pasta
  2. Write letters in shaving cream in the bath tub
  3. Keep magnetic letters on the refrigerator and have your child spell words out while you are cooking
  4. Help mom or dad write a grocery list or to-do list for the weekend
  5. Create birthday or holiday cards for relatives
  6. Write letters, names or word wall words with sidewalk chalk outside, with dry erase markers and boards or by pressing with your finger on a sealed Ziploc bag filled with gel. You can also try rolling out play dough to form letters
  7. Play rhyming games or sing rhyming songs while driving

Remember, as you play with your child, movement is key! As motor skills are developed, learning pathways in the brain become more defined, resulting in improved brain processing. Research shows there is a strong connection between developing fine motor skills in early childhood and later success in math, science and reading.

Have a blast playing, and feel free to document your play using the hashtag #readplaytalk.

Play ideas developed by Austin Elementary teachers Melody Glenn and Amanda Cason

 

Five Questions to Ask Your Child Every Day

Posted on September 8, 2016


Did you know that frequent conversations lead to early reading success? Even the simplest conversations help kids learn vocabulary words and improve their listening skills. Young children may not understand every word you use, but research shows that daily verbal interactions are crucial to development, comprehension and literacy.

To ask questions, you don't have to change anything that you're already doing at home. Use your daily routines, including time spent in the car, getting dressed or preparing meals, as an opportunity to start a dialogue. Questions should be open-ended—that way your child will be encouraged to use more advanced vocabulary rather than "yes" or "no" responses. Open-ended questions lead into longer conversations and lay the foundation for a close child-parent relationship.

Here are five questions you can ask your preschool-aged child all the way up to second grade and beyond EVERY DAY. Daily, challenge them to use different words than they used the day before, and try to ask follow-up questions to keep the conversation going.

  1. How do you feel today?
    (Depending on the child's age, encourage the use of words besides "happy" and "sad." Use this as a teaching opportunity for words such as "troubled," "content" or "joyful.")
  2. What made you smile today?
    (Try asking him/her to be as specific as possible with any details about what made him/her smile. How did it feel/smell/taste/look/sound? This invites the child to access his/her vocabulary and creates more questions.)
  3. What was hard for you today?
    (Again, ask for specifics. Have the child explain what made it hard and what solution he/she found, if any, for the problem.)
  4. How did you help someone today?
    (Even if your little one was home with you that day, and you already know the answer to the question, get him/her talking, and ask follow-up questions like, "How did you feel when you helped?")
  5. What did you learn today?
    (It doesn't have to be something academic. Children can start learning how to do basic chores around the house beginning at an early age. Showing them how to get the mail, sort laundry, wipe down a countertop, or put their dirty plate in the sink can be a lesson. Don't feel obligated to take your child on expensive field trips; your home is a place of learning).

Check back next week for more ideas on creating a culture of #ReadPlayTalk in your home.


How many words will your child know by age four?

The most important thing we have is our children. In order for our kids to become the successful adults we desire them to be, they must be good readers—and the earlier, the better.

Research shows that children progressing from kindergarten to grade 3 who were in the lower ranks of reading achievement were likely to stay there. In one study, children were observed over the next four years after third grade, and the struggling readers continued to fall behind their peers who were reading on-level. Students who are reading below grade-level and living in poverty struggle even more. Plus, studies indicate a significant correlation between strong literacy skills and higher socioeconomic status.

The most staggering statistic? The finding by researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley (1995) that some children hear 30 million fewer words by their fourth birthdays than others.

We have every reason to encourage literacy in our schools, but Mesquite ISD Superintendent Dr. David Vroonland knows that's not enough. He wants to provide parents the resources to make major strides in improving reading ability at home so that students will be equipped before they ever start kindergarten.

To support the district's Pre K-2 Reading Initiative, we're launching #ReadPlayTalk, a resource for parents, educators and community members to use with young students. This Conversation Starters blog will offer specific ideas for fostering a rich learning environment in your home through conversation, storytelling, frequent play and of course, reading good books. We want to make it simple for you to create a culture of #ReadPlayTalk in your home every single day. We hope these suggestions will allow for the making of lifelong memories and help develop your child into the best reader he can be.