April 19, 2024
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April 19, 2024
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Don’t Forget to Read

The annual school cycle has ended. Teachers have finished scurrying like squirrels to bring about a smooth closure to the school year. We’ve assessed for academic progress, met with colleagues and supervisors to plan for the next academic year, set new goals, evaluated prior goals and assigned final summer work. There were end-of-year parties with sticky, sugary candy galore, the kind that only children bring in and can digest. You know the kind of stick-to-your teeth candy we also ate with gusto a long time ago. There were also discussions about summer day camps, sleepaway camps, mini sleepaways, family vacations and my endless reminders to “keep up the great reading over the summer.”

Then there were the bittersweet goodbyes, because after a year of teaching these students we really got a handle on what makes them tick. It was time to hand them over to the next link in a long chain of education and educators. Our students might still smile and say hello to us in the hallways next year, but their focus will be on new classes and new teachers. It won’t be the same. This is an important rite of passage that teachers and students go through each year. Summer vacation comes, students and teachers recharge and then it’s on to a new class in September.

Once the children trudged out of school with their overloaded backpacks, they boarded buses. It was finally time for us to go as well. Hallways that were a hub of frenetic activity were eerily quiet. Walls that had been adorned with student work and art were stripped bare, and ready for a fresh coat of paint. The sound of voices reverberated in the halls as we walked back to our rooms to retrieve our personal items and summer essentials.

When I arrived home that first afternoon after school ended, I received an email from a parent who told me that her child was already working on the summer reading packet that I had prepared. Yes! This a reading teacher’s dream, because my hope is that parents and students will find time to continue reading over the summer months. Reading is a skill that needs to be reinforced by parents, especially for those children who are not yet fluent readers. Decoding is the actual reading of words and sentences, and comprehension is the understanding of the meaning of text. To be an effective reader, both skills need to work hand in hand. Children can be proficient readers and not fully understand what the story is about or what the author is attempting to convey.

I’m always excited when my students discover their personal joy of reading. Sometimes, it’s a matter of finding a specific genre or an author. Some students adore Harry Potter books, and others enjoy biographies or realistic fiction. There are also students who are fascinated with the classics. Over the summer, it’s the perfect time to explore the libraries and book stores for the books that are most appealing. For early-stage readers or for those who have not yet attained fluency, this means reviewing phonics and completing summer work from teachers. It’s vital to continue reading over the summer, and further stretching those muscles.

By the way, reading doesn’t have to be just a nighttime or home activity. Bring books to the beach, the park or Grandma’s house. Together you can share a book and take turns with the paragraphs and add interesting Broadway expression. Go for it! Have fun discussing elements of the stories. Start by asking the five w’s: who, what, where, when and why. Who is your favorite character? Why did that happen to Andy Russell? Let’s make a prediction: What do you think will happen next? Where does Katie live? When will the problem be solved? Your children will appreciate the shared activity, and learn by your example. In order to reinforce decoding skills, you can work on all kinds of phonics and word games. There are also wonderful phonics and reading apps online.

As a closing activity at school, I asked my first-grade reading class to write what they love about reading on note cards.

“I learn a lot of stuff.”

“I love reading because I love figring [figuring] out what hapins [happens].”

“When you read you can get smart.” The note card that particularly touched my teacher heart had an illustration of two figures, one with a pretty hairband and the other taller and standing next to her, and it said, “I love reading with Mrs. Kook.”

I think Dr. Seuss, the famous children’s author, said it best. “The more you read the more places you will go, the more places you go the more things you will learn.”

By Esther Kook

 Esther Kook is a reading teacher at Yavneh Academy and a part-time writer.

 

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