Mennonite in a Little Black Dress {book review}

It’s my mom’s fault I am such an avid reader.  In the 35 years that I have known my mother, I have never known her to have fewer than five books checked out of the library at a time.  There is a spot near their fireplace that is a bottomless piles of books–the titles change each time I am there, but the pile is constant.

Mysteries are my mom’s brain candy of choice and I would not be surprised if she has read every mystery in our local library.  Twice.  From time to time she will read a non-mystery book that someone recommends to her.  (In fact, she picked up The Great Gatsby after my review of the movie.)  A couple weeks ago she asked me if I had ever read Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen.  It was autobiographical and pretty “cute” my mom said.

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How to Read With Your Child

Eddie is only 3 and a half and he has already been dubbed “Teacher’s Kid.”

He was counting up to 20 by age two and now sounds out the first letter of words.  He can count up to 40 without help and backwards from 12.  He is VERY interested in words and has also taken an interest in learning to subtract.

People say to me, “well of course. He’s a teacher’s kid.”

Sometimes this is flattering, but mostly I brush away the compliment and put it back on Eddie.  He has a natural curiosity and flair for learning.  It has nothing to do with my being a teacher.  I mean, I was naturally bright and my parents weren’t teachers.

I will admit, however, that because I am a teacher, there are strategies I use with him when we read that I know will help him be a more critical thinker and better reader as he gets older.

I thought I would share those with you today.

How To Read With Your Child

1. Read Read READ! 

I know we have all heard it before, but it is NEVER too early to introduce your children to books.  I used to read to both Eddie and Charlie before they were even born.  Plus because they both had the extra bonus of having an English teacher as their womb, they both heard some fascinating American Literature while they baked away in there.

The nursery is also filled with books.  Our living room has my bookshelves, but it also has lower shelves filled with kids books.  Eddie’s room has shelves of books.  Literally every room that you can relax in in our house has books in it that are accessible to the kids.

2. Ask Questions

I have a wall in my classroom that says “Good Readers…” and at the top of the list is ASKS QUESTIONS.  Even before my boys could talk, I would ask them questions about the books they bring me.  With Charlie, he will have a board book and I will ask “What is this book about?  Do you see the duck?  What does a duck say?  Quack Quack?”  He can’t answer my questions yet, but hearing them asked helps him associate books with inquiry.  It’s also a good opportunity to model language.  I don’t usually read a whole book with him, but I let him flip the pages and I will ask questions and point to things as we “read”.

With Eddie the questions are more complex because he can answer, and because we have always asked questions with books, he now asks most of the questions. His questions are usually “what is that?” or “why is that like that?”  And I usually ask him questions about the pictures or about what happens at the end.  For example we have been reading the board book version of Peter Rabbit lately, and I will ask him “What happened when Peter didn’t use his listening ears and do what his mommy said?” and “Why did Peter have to go to bed earlier than his sisters?” or “Why is Peter running in this picture? Do you think he is afraid or excited?”

3. Make Predictions

This is easiest with new books, but we do open ended predictions with old books too.  With new books we do a lot of “Oh my!  What do you think is going to happen next?” and then we talk about if we were right or not.  With books we’ve read a zillion times, I’ll ask that question at the end of the book, when we don’t get an answer given to us. “Do you think the boy will plant a new Truffula tree with that seed?  Why?  Were would you plant it? Why?”

4. Make Connections

Eddie and I do a lot of “hey, you have a bike like that!” and “that is just like in this book/show/movie/etc!”  and “what happens when you are not kind?”  Making connections between pieces of literature, other media, and their own life is a critical thinking skill that will help with problem solving later on.  When kids can naturally connect new things they learn with previous knowledge, they will be able to understand new concepts quicker.

5. Have Fun!

This may seem obvious too, but reading should be seen as a fun thing.  We never force books on either of the boys.  They are available, and have become part of our daily routine.  Every night Eddie gets to choose either a “real” book, or a book on either my Nook or Cort’s tablet.  If he didn’t want to read, we wouldn’t make him, but he has never said he didn’t want to read.  In that same strain, we don’t make him finish a book if he doesn’t want to.  Some nights we start a book and he says, “I don’t really want to read this one.”  So we quit.  Finishing a book shouldn’t be a chore. At Charlie’s age, if he brings me a book we look at it until he doesn’t want to.  I don’t force him to sit and listen to me read the whole book.  He’s too young for that kind of focus.  I’ll read the words until he flips the page or flings the book down and moves on to something else.

My hope is that my children will love to read as much as I do, but I know that might not be the case.  But even if they are not devouring novels by the pile, I want them to be good readers.  I want them to have critical thinking skills.  I want them to be able to problem solve.

What kinds of things do you do when you read with your kids?  What are their favorite books?