Have you ever heard a good baggie book system before? Let me explain a little bit more. I like to encourage my students to read at home, perhaps because I spend time at home reading on a regular basis! Reading is a free activity that any student can enjoy given the access to books. I think broadly about access to books, where books come from, and involving families. I do not want this to be a “task” for me or my students. Nor do I want to restrict the activity in a way that makes it difficult to participate.
Over my years of teaching, I have developed this attitude about running an at home reading program. Make it as easy on myself as possible which means it is also ease for the kids! With that in mind, here are some tips about structuring reading at home:
1. Children can read anything they want for reading at home. During whole group time, I offer guidance about this by a discussion and creating a chart of ideas that come from the children and gets posted in the classroom. We revisit the topic during the school year as needed and make a new chart as the children gain confidence as readers. I take a picture of the class chart and send it home with the children. Some children read books from home or the library if they have access. Others take home books from the classroom.
Most children do both. All the children have a gallon size freezer bag with their name on it in permanent marker for taking home any books to read that come from school. This is the beginning of our baggie books system.
2. As one of my weekly tasks, I have a brief conversation with them about their independent reading: what is going well, what is challenging, what is the favorite thing they have read. I often do this as the children come into the classroom in the morning as not everyone comes in at the same time. Sometimes I recommend books or authors during the conference. Sometimes I listen to the child read a page. What happens during the conversation is depending on the child and the need. This means that each week I am conferencing with all of my students depending on the size of my class. I scramble the names for each week so the children do not know when we will be discussing and talking about their baggie books. This is my system for monitoring the reading at home. Easy peasy, lemon squeazy! 🍋🍋🍋
3. Each child also has a bookmark with reading strategies. This bookmark is a generic bookmark that I have used across all the grade levels that I have taught [ 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade]. My students use the reading strategy bookmarks as they read their baggie books
4. Finally, I have a sheet for parent/guardian who is listening to the child read about things to say. I find that most parents either say “Sound it out” or they tell the word when they listen to their child read. The sheet for parents includes tips like:
o Wait! Give your child 5 or 10 seconds to think about the word on his own. Your child needs to know you will not just tell them an unknown word every time, that you have confidence he has ways to figure it out.
o Ask “What do you think the word could be?” if you give the age-old shoulder shrug then say, “What would make sense and sound right to you there?” Or, “Maybe rereading will help.”
o Ask, “What word would make sense and start with those letters?” Then say, “See if that works.”
o Notice that saying, “Sound it out.” is not on the suggestion list. There are many words that cannot be sounded out and as a parent you do not really know the phonics skills that have been taught at school. Avoid that comment unless you are sure the child knows the phonics skill to apply.
o If a word is particularly difficult, just tell the word so that your child does not lose track of what the reading is about. Afterall, the reason we read is to make sense of the story.
o Last, praise for a good try is always important. Start with the language “I like the way you (put in whatever the child tried to do).” This will encourage the independence you are looking for in your child as a reader!
Parents tell me that these tips are helpful. They want to be helpful but also want to maintain the parent relationship!