Dr. Connie Hebert helps kids, parents, and teachers by helping them become experts at catching "the teachable minute" anytime, anywhere! My Teachable Minute Blog offers quick tips on how to engage with younger and older kids. Comments, questions, and reflections are always welcome . . . let's catch a million teachable minutes together!

Archive for August, 2012

What’s a Book Box? Why do Kids Need One?

Please check out this blog posting for information that I shared with Victoria Vila when she interviewed me about reading and book boxes for kids . . .



Hope it’s useful to all! Catch a book box….SOON


Six Common Habits of Falling Readers…Catch Them Quick!

What are six of the most common habits of readers who begin to fall? Why do we need to be aware of them? How can we help children break these habits so that they can move forward in their literacy development?

I began to raise these important questions after assessing and teaching hundreds of falling readers. I observed the variety of unusual ways in which they decode, comprehend, and respond to challenges in their books. I watched what they did with their eyes, lips, and fingers. I analyzed their behaviors as well as their substitutions for new and difficult words. What I discovered was that struggling kids commonly adopt coping behaviors for deal with what is too difficult or frustrating. If left unchecked, these behaviors often become habits. Habits, as we all know, are hard to break and new strategies are even harder to put in place!


You may want to visualize these coping behaviors as ‘red flags’ that signal problems with the way in which a reader is trying to learn to read. With this in mind, the first step to catching a falling reader is by becoming a careful observer so that you can identify behaviors that may, or already are, habits. The second step is to make the child aware of the habit and simultaneously offer alternative strategies for coping with the text. The third, and most important step, is to be consistent in finding ways to help the child to break the habit. Reminding the child one or two times will not do it! The verbal prompts that we use to break habits and instill new behaviors are critically important. By using consistently using the same verbal prompts, you will ultimately lead the reader to more effective strategies. This leads to success, success increases confidence, and confidence moves the child forward in new ways.


So what are the most common habits of falling readers and what should we do about them?


Habit #1: Look Up and Wait

This is perhaps the most common behavior that many children adopt when they are learning to read. If the text is too difficult or when readers don’t know what else to do, they simply ‘look up’ off the page and wait for someone to rescue them! Over time, this behavior happens more frequently and the child begins to depend on others to problem solve new and difficult words. It is critically important that teachers, particularly first grade teachers, deal with this behavior as soon as possible. We do this by frequently reminding the child that looking up will not help. Then, we should jump in with a verbal prompt that will promote an action from the reader.


Examples of verbal prompts are as follows (not necessarily in this order):


  • “Did you make the first sound? Try it!”
  • “Why did you stop?”
  • “Did you remember to check the picture?”
  • “Tell me what’s happening in the story?”
  • “What part of that word do you know?”
  •  “Why are you looking up? That won’t help you. What else can we do?”
  • “Use your finger to break that word up. Now try it!”


With consistent and firm prompting during reading instruction, the child will come to realize that looking up and waiting just doesn’t work because nothing happens!



Habit #2: Skip the Word

Many emerging readers are prompted to “skip the word” when they come to words that are new or difficult. The basic philosophy behind this strategy is that by reading ahead, you will ultimately figure out what is happening and gain meaning. This is often true, but the problem with telling young readers to “skip the word” is that they don’t automatically return to figure out the word! Skipping the word is really a higher level strategy that is mainly used once a reader moves towards reading proficiency. In other words, good readers at higher levels will sometimes skip a difficult or unfamiliar word, but they will always return to decode that word. Young readers who are taught to skip words without ‘working out the word’ begin to rely on this behavior as a way of coping with challenging words. Over time, the reader begins to skip many words and this eventually backfires because the text no longer makes sense when reading ahead.


Breaking this habit requires consistent teaching in phonetic decoding and the way “words work.” In order words, children must be prompted and expected to check specific visual cues within a word instead of skipping and forgetting it. Verbal prompts include:


  • “Let’s take a look at that word you skipped. I didn’t hear you make that first sound. Try it…that will help you.”
  • “Take your two ‘pointer fingers’ and frame a little part you know in that word.” Now try it.
  • What word would make sense there? Does it ‘look right?’ Check it.
  • Give the child 3 choices of possible words: Could it be _______?

Could it be ________? Could it be ______? How do you know?


Skipping words is an easy out! Unless you’re going to teach them how to go back and problem solve the new word, don’t encourage skipping until they are more experienced readers.


Habit #3: Sounding Out Every L-e-t-t-e-r

We’ve all worked with readers who ‘sounded out’ every letter when they came to a new or difficult word. This type of behavior focuses on distorting the sounds in a word, rather than instantly recognizing it or decoding it. For example, a child who resorts to sounding out the word, would, might verbalize w-o-uh-l-d. They could do this all day and never get the word! More importantly, the flow of the sentence and meaning of the text are lost due to the time it takes to stop and distort the word by individual letter sounds.


Why do falling readers resort to ‘sounding out’ individual sounds within words?

Here are a few reasons:


  • For years, someone has told the young reader to ‘sound it out’ when they read. That’s what they’ve been told, so that what they do!
  • Readers don’t know what else to do because effective strategies and skills have either not been introduced or they are being ignored by the reader. In the later case, falling readers find it easier to stop and ‘sound out’ because eventually someone will come to their rescue and tell them the word.
  • These readers often ignore clues from the meaning and structural (grammatical) cueing systems, thus only relying on the visual (phonetic) system.
  • Over-emphasis on isolated phonics skills without a link to context was taught, in the early years, to the exclusion of processing strategies. These strategies include sight word recognition, searching pictures for meaning and inference, rereading the line when stuck, checking for grammatical ‘sense,’ and identifying common chunks within words.


The ‘sounding out’ habit is very hard to break, but it must be broken or readers will continue to struggle. This habit often stops the flow of the story. When this happens, there is little, if any, fluency and this can limit comprehension.

So what do we do about this habit?


  1. Tell your struggling readers that ‘sounding out’ every letter will not help. Say, “What can you do to help yourself?” If they don’t know, remind them of a few key strategies such as first sound, rereading, and looking for known chunks within the word.
  2. Verbal prompts that you give to a reader as they’re reading are vitally important for breaking ‘bad’ habits. Be sure to prompt the reader to look for parts that they know in the word, search the pictures and check the first sound, look for common endings, break apart the word with their finger, etc. Your prompts should be consistent in their wording and your voice must carry a sense of urgency so that the reader will engage in the action you are seeking.
  3. Increase daily practice with sight words (both while reading and writing) so that a strong bank frequently used words are instantly recognized. This will increase confidence and free the student’s attention for problem solving new and difficult words.
  4. Add writing instruction (shared writing and interactive writing) to reading instruction time; both in small group and whole group settings.


The bottom line regarding the ‘sounding out’ habit is not to tell young readers to ‘sound out’ in the first place!



Habit #4: Guess the Word

Readers who guess word and go on to the next words are simply not checking on themselves. In technical terms, they have not learned to self-monitor and cross-check multiple sources of information. They may look at the word, “winter” and say, “water.” They may frequently guess at words that start and end the same, but they fail to check medial sounds and meaning! They may get close to the meaning, however, so they accept their substitution and move on. An example of this would be when the reader says, “shrieking” for “shouting.” The beginning and ending sounds are similar. The guess is grammatically correct and the reader is able to get a sense of the meaning. Early on, the reader learns to merely guess, without checking to be sure the word is correct. This habit magnifies itself in upper grades, where guessing many words results in poor comprehension and the inability to recall details.


Here are a few suggestions for breaking the guessing habit:


  • Don’t let it get started in the first place! We all need to take risks at words when we’re reading, but our brains tell us to ‘check it’ for accuracy. Prompting early readers, as their reading, will help to get them off on a good start. Verbal prompts might sound like this: “You said, ground.” “Check it! What letter would you expect to see at the end of ‘ground.’ Were you right?” Make certain that your prompts include the phrase, “Were you right?” This prompt needs to be firmly established in the head of a falling reader. Without it, they will simply guess and go on to the next word.
  • When the reader guesses at a word, take their finger and show them how to look at a part in the word that will contradict the guess. For instance, if the child read, “shrieking” for the word, “shouting,” say, “I see a chunk you know in the middle of that word. Take your fingers and frame that chunk, “out.” Then ask, “Can it be ‘shrieking?” Try it again and look for parts in the middle of words.
  • As they move into higher grades, readers no longer read ‘out loud’ to themselves. They read internally. This is an important transition and one that usually happens naturally. However, it is important that we still hear children read aloud in order to check on fluency and accuracy. You can’t be in the head of a child while they’re reading silently! But, you can ask them to read aloud when you come behind them and you can take frequent running records in order to determine whether ‘guessing’ is a problem, or not.


Habit #5: What’s That Word?

Ah, now there’s a line we’ve all heard a million times! Readers come to a word they don’t know and shout, “What’s that word?” Why is this question a problem that needs to be addressed? It is a signal that the reader is learning to depend on others to solve print problems. Every time the child asks the question, he/she relies on someone else to give them a prompt, a clue, or the word! If done often, the question replaces good reading strategies and behaviors that will lead to independence. Remember, the idea is to gradually release responsibility to the reader. This is the heart and soul of our work with falling readers. They must not depend on others to simply tell them the word.


Easier said, than done? You bet! So what do we do about those kids who keep asking us what the word is?


  1. Prompt the reader by saying, “What do you notice? What’s that first sound?” “Try it!” “Go back and try it again.” “What can you try?” These are all verbal prompts that will encourage the child to take some sort of action. You may still decide to tell them the word, but not until you’ve given the child a chance to take some action on his own. If done consistently, this will move the reader away from constantly asking you for the word. Consistency is the key word, however.
  2. Be sure that you are matching the right books to the right readers. By this I mean that if the reader is asked to apply strategies on text that is too difficult, he/she may simply ‘give up.’ In the process of trying to read something that’s frustrated, the child has no other choice but to depend on you for the words. So he says, “What’s that word?” each and every time he feels defeated. Proper book choice is a key to preventing this habit.
  3. Readers who already rely heavily on this habit will need to back up to easier texts so that they feel successful with the strategies you are teaching. As you slowly increase the level of difficulty, you can prompt the child to try that word again or you can ask, “What can you do to help yourself?” This is, ultimately, what we want all readers to be saying when they come to new challenges in their texts. Right?


Habit #6: Reading Word By Word

One might say that reading ‘word by word’ or what I refer to as painful reading, might be merely a lack of fluent phrasing. You would be right to assume that, but what happens when this ‘painful reading’ becomes the status quo? What happens when, to the child, is it the way they read and that’s that? Now, it’s a habit and we know how hard those are to break! So, we need to move readers forward with fluency so that they don’t get use to hearing themselves read word by word.


Why do many falling readers read this way? One theory is that they are encouraged to use their finger to point to each and every word, long after they need it. What is the pointer finger for, anyway? In beginning readers, we encourage children to point to their words so that directionality and voice/print match will be firmly and consistently established. This means that while they’re reading, they don’t add any words, take away any words, skip any lines, or miss any pages. Once these early strategies are in place, however, the reader needs to begin to use his/her eyes to scan. Good readers move their eyes ahead as they read. Think about yourself as you are reading. Your eyes are never actually ON the word that you are reading. As proficient readers, we scan our eyes ahead and this leads to fluency or ‘putting our words together like we talk.’ Fluency increases our reading rate and ultimately, our comprehension of the text.


So what do we do about ‘word by word’ readers?


  • Encourage the reader by saying, “Now read it with your eyes. You don’t need your finger anymore!” You could also say, “Now try it again and use your eyes to read it like you talk.”
  • Once readers have established directionality and voice/print match or one-to-one correspondence, you can begin to flash sight word phrases daily. This will increase instant recognition of sight words while also building visual scanning and fluent phrasing skills. Tell your readers to ‘read them fast’ and play games with phrases so that the task is fun and engaging.

Note: My 50 Sight Word Phrases (Sets 1 and 2) are available through Crystal Springs Books (www.crystalspringsbooks.com).

  • When a child is reading word-by-word you might say, “I’ll read a page, you read a page.” Just by hearing you read fluently, the child begins to imitate the way you sound. Modeling is extremely important and it works like magic!
  • Say, “Try that again and this time, put your words together like you talk.”
  • Encourage fluent reading by engaging students in Readers Theater. There are many books that lend themselves well to this approach. Simply assign parts and have the children perform the story with expression, fluency, rhythm, attention to punctuation, and good diction. I have the children turn their backs to the audience (or the teacher) so that they stay ‘on their toes’ when it’s their turn to read. This also keeps the audience engaged, as well. If done often, Readers Theater is a wonderful way to build fluency, confidence, visual scanning skills, and a movement away from word-by-word reading. Try it!



If we truly want to catch every falling reader, then we must strive to be like doctors; observing and analyzing symptoms, prescribing antidotes for addressing these symptoms, and recommending preventative care for the future. This is a tall order, given the structure and organization of our schools. Ideally, we should be providing one-on-one, short term intervention for each and every child who starts to fall. Bad habits are hard to break and even harder to stop…especially when a child’s ability to read is at stake.



Catching Falling Writers…Here’s the Scoop on Praise

Offering a Pinch of Praise

If you want to make most things taste good, add a pinch of salt or sugar. If you want to help a falling writer, add a pinch of praise.

Praise is a funny thing because if we give too much, it loses its value and power. If we give too little, it fails to serve as a catalyst for motivation and pride. Falling writers benefit most from praise that is ‘just right’ and meaningful. The whole purpose for praise is to help the individual judge when his/her work is on target or not. Otherwise, anything goes and everything would be accepted as grade level writing. We live in a society where there are standards and without some measure by which we can analyze our own work, we have no way of knowing if we are doing what is expected or not.

The best way to get good at offering praise is to develop a repertoire of phrases and behaviors similar to what a spice rack might look like. One has oregano, basil, and parsley for most Italian dishes and cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice for many desserts! Similarly, we want to accumulate verbal and written phases for praising falling kids while also developing a sense of the way we deliver praise through our behaviors.

Let’s start with a list of things we might actually say to a writer as they are writing. Note: These could also be written on a child’s paper or story if it is a more appropriate form of praise, depending on the circumstances for offering feedback.

  •  “I like the way you stopped and really thought about what comes next in your story.”
  •  “Good! You are thinking and writing at the same time.”
  • “You went back and read it over to see if it makes sense. That’s what good writers do!”
  •  “I like the way to fixed that. Good writers fix things along the way.”
  • “Super job of remembering to put an upper-case letter at the beginning of each sentence.”
  •  “Good for you! You are thinking about where to put the punctuation marks in your story.”
  •  “You are staying really focusing on doing your best writing. Keep going!”
  •  “I am amazed at the way you are really thinking about what you are writing. Keep thinking!”
  • “Nice! You underlined words that didn’t look right to you on your first draft. Now what will you do to fix those?”
  • “Good writers reread their stories to see if they make sense. I noticed that you did that. Good for you!”
  •  “You did what good writers do when they get stuck. You stopped to think about what you have already and what more you need.”
  •  “I am so impressed that you asked yourself what else you could do to make your writing better! All good writers do that. Keep it up!”

Now, let’s examine our own behaviors for delivering praise, both orally and in writing. This is an important step to catch falling writers because we must praise them in ways that assist them internalizing writing actions and strategies so that they will employ them on a regular basis. Otherwise, what good is praise and constructive feedback? It is the writer that must be able to ultimately praise him/herself and we can help this along by examining HOW we deliver praise to those who fall. Here are some reflective questions you may want to ask yourself when working with struggling writers:

  • What am I physically doing when I praise kids?
  • Am I standing directly in front of the child looking down on him/her?
  • Am I sitting across from the child engaging in eye contact as I praise him/her?
  • Am I standing behind the child offering quiet feedback into his/her ear?
  • Am I pointing to a specific part of their writing that I am praising them about?
  • What is the child’s physical reaction to my praise?
  • What is the tone in my voice? Is it effective and how do I know?
  • How is the volume and pitch of my voice when I am delivering praise?
  • If I am praising him/her in writing, what color pen am I using?
  • Where have I written the praise, i.e. top of the page, side margins, directly above or below the child’s writing, bottom of the page, end of the story, etc.?
  • Knowing this particular child, what is the best way to deliver praise of his/her writing attempts?
  • What can I do to give praise while simultaneously work to create independence within the falling writer?
  • How is my attempt to praise this child going to actually help this child become a more self-sufficient writer?
  • What does this individual need from me in terms of praise and constructive feedback? Should I say it or write it?
  • How often does this student need praise when writing and how do I know this?

Offering praise is nowhere near as easy as adding a pinch of salt or sugar to something we are cooking! It requires reflection, practice, more practice, trial and error, and student feedback in order to know if what we are offering actually works. The tricky thing is that the type and amount of praise that work for one child may not work for another child. It is what some might call the craft of teaching and it is not easy, but it is essential for catching falling kids. Keep at it until you find just the right pinch of praise for each and every falling writer you work with.


A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words…Catch the Power of Wordless Books

Using Wordless Picture Books

If a picture can get a child to talk, why not use it?

Wordless picture books can reveal a great deal of information about a child’s oral language development. We can hear how they use words to convey meaning when describing something. We can observe how they retrieve words and connect them into phrases and/or sentences. We can note their diction, phrasing, and intonation. Much can be learned from asking a child to ‘read’ the pictures in a wordless book.
Wordless picture books can easily be divided into three main levels. Book levels are based on a combination of picture complexity, implications for meaning, sequence of events, objects and/or actions on each page, ‘story-line,’ picture support, and oral language requirements for clear understanding. A description of each level is as follows:
Level A: ‘Small Talk’ Books
This level includes books with the following characteristics:
• One or two pictures on each page.
• Limited story plots (if any).
• Interaction involves mainly ‘point and say.’
• Familiar objects, animals, colors, and shapes.
• Large pictures; sometimes using both left and right pages for one scene.
• Details within pictures tend to be large and simple.
• Book titles and cover pictures are simple and ‘to the point.’
• Limited inference and prediction needed to gain meaning.
• Early concepts about print can be reinforced easily.
Level B: ‘More Talk’ Books
This level includes books with the following characteristics:
• Fairly detailed pictures on EACH page.
• Greater opportunities for predicting plots in sequential order.
• Several objects and/or scenes on each page.
• Include concepts such as shapes, colors, school, curiosity, mischief, eating out, etc.
• Story titles require more inference about the main idea.
• Detailed cover pictures, requiring greater prediction and more complex vocabulary.
• Picture layout includes pictures on left and right pages with NEW events and/or objects on each.
• Requires that students make predictions, draw conclusions, search for details within scenes, analyze cause and effect relationships, and interact more with the book in order to draw meaning.
Level C: ‘Big Talk’ Books
• Requires greater attention to details, event sequences, complex predictions, and more descriptive vocabulary.
• Pictures are filled with details and clues that call upon critical thinking and problem solving skills.
• Pictures include artistic details that reveal facial expressions and body language; more complicated and detailed then easier levels.
• Multi-snapshot scenes that resemble hand-drawn filmstrips, offering opportunities for reinforcing directional movements, return sweep, voice/print match, and sequencing of events.
• Offer more opportunities for fluent oral phrasing, vocal expression, oral sentence structure, and diction.
• Serve as a writing prompts for stories that can be written to accompany these books.
Below are suggestions for reading wordless picture books together:
1. Discuss the title and cover picture. As, “What is this story about? How do you know? What do you notice in the cover picture? Tell me more!”
2. Begin ‘reading’ the story by modeling complete oral sentences. For example, “One day, a bird was sitting on a tree and he saw a big, red apple fall off of a branch.”
3. Let the child tell the story, using the pictures for support and meaning. Encourage him/her to speak in complete sentences. Take turns doing this if it is difficult for the child. Encourage descriptive talk such as, “What color is it? Where is it? What else can we say about this dog? Is he happy, sad, small, or big?”
4. As the child open-ended, ‘prediction’ questions in between pages: “What do you think might happen next? What makes you think so? Can you guess what they might do on the next page? Do you think they are happy? How do you know?”
5. As the child to reread the whole story, this time without questions or interruptions.
6. Encourage the child to dictate a sentence to you about the story and/or write their own sentence to go with a picture in the story. You can write the dictated sentence on paper and then ask him/or to draw a picture to go with it.
By reading wordless picture books, a child’s literacy development will benefit in many ways. By using wordless picture books as an assessment to learn more about the way in which children use oral language to convey meaning, we are able to learn a great deal about what the child brings to early literacy development. Wordless books not only serve as great oral language tools, but they also provide wonderful writing prompts for students who just often say, “ I can’t think of anything to write!”
Remember, a picture speaks a thousand words . . .

Q & A with Dr. Connie: What Parents Want to Know About Teaching Kids to Read & Write

What Parents Want to Know about Teaching Kids to Read & Write:
Q & A with Dr. Connie Hebert

Q. In your opinion, what is the appropriate age range for a child to begin formal reading instruction?
A. As an educator, reading specialist, and mother of 3 children, I strongly believe reading instruction should begin in infancy! Talking and reading to babies is essential for a strong literacy foundation. As for school instruction, the appropriate age for ‘formal training’ begins around 5 years old, depending on the child’s maturity, social skills, concepts about print, book handling skills, and self-confidence. This varies from child to child, but in order to prepare children for what lies ahead during the crucial first grade year, formal instruction generally begins in preschool and kindergarten programs.

Q. Do you believe formal literacy instruction at an earlier age is inappropriate or even harmful?
A. This depends on the child. Some children are ready to read and write at 3 years old and others are not ready until around 6 years old. The most important thing is to help each child feel confident as a reader and writer, even if they are only ‘reading the pictures’ or ‘dictating the story.’ All early attempts should be validated and encouraged. If your learners are pushed to read and write before they are ready, they will find ways to avoid literacy activities. They may also develop inappropriate behaviors when dealing with difficult or unknown words and these behaviors can become habitual. Habits are hard to break and I explain the six most common habits of struggling readers in my first book, Catch a Falling Reader (2008, 2nd ed).

Q. At what age should a parent be concerned if a child has not yet begun to read?
A. Teachers and parents should be aware of ‘red flags’ that signal potential literacy problems during the Kindergarten year. By late fall of first grade, struggling students should be promptly evaluated and a plan of action should be implemented to ‘catch’ the child before the achievement gap grows too large.

Q. Reading is a complex process. Why do kids begin ‘to fall’ as readers and writers?
A. This is different for every struggling learner. For some children, phonological and phonemic awareness is difficult and frustrating due to many factors during the preschool years. For others, using graphophonics to decode new and difficult words is a big challenge. Still, there are children who can decode words competently, but they lack fluency and comprehension when asked to read increasingly difficult text. For this reason, educators must be able to ‘diagnose’ students so that they can become experts in determining the greatest challenge for individual students. Using assessment data as a means of informing instructional practices is so important.

Q. In your experience, what are 3-4 of the most common problems you see in children that prevent them from making steady progress in learning to read?
A. The most common problems that frequently prevent children from progressing steadily are as follows:
* Lack of motivation for reading and writing and/or a lack of confidence which often leads to frustration, anxiety, and despair among struggling students.
* ‘Sounding out’ every letter within a word as opposed to using parts of words and other much more effective strategies.
* Looking up and waiting for someone to tell them the word or to read it for them.
* Reading ‘painfully’, word by word. Visual scanning skills and tracking are limited and thus prevent the child from reading fluently. Fluency is the key to increased comprehension. Check out my bestselling packs of sight word phrases to help with visual tracking and fluency! Flash them to your falling readers DAILY. Available at: http://www.conniehebert.com
* Lack of writing instruction! What they can write, they can read. We increase reading skills by addressing writing skills. We all have kids who read well, but can’t write well. But, we have NO kids who can write well who cannot read. For more on writing for young learners, check out my 2nd book: Catch a Falling Writer (2010) Corwin Press or Amazon.

Q. About what percentage of K-2 children have such problems?
A. Approximately 20 – 30% in most districts, with greater percentages in urban school districts, struggling socio-economic areas, and/or rural areas of the country. We must work to catch ‘falling readers’ in grades K – 2 before the gap gets too large to catch them up. We must implement strategies and approaches for addressing our growing second language learners and support children with special needs in ways that will help them move towards reading ON or ABOVE grade level as soon as possible! They must READ and WRITE DAILY to get better at READING and WRITING. They simply are NOT reading and writing enough.

Q. How can parents be most helpful to a child in these cases?
A. Parents should ask good questions and demand answers about their child’s literacy development. First grade is the most important year to begin questioning their child’s progress, but each year is crucial for understanding how to support and encourage children at home.

Q. In your opinion, is memorizing spelling or text, or studying phonics, helpful in preparing a child to read?
A.The best ways to prepare children for reading is to read to them, give them daily opportunities to scribble/color/write, make words with magnetic letters, tell them hundreds of stories, and allow them to listen to audio books as often as possible. Help your child create their very own BOOK BOX. Together, you can gather reading materials that are of interest to the child to place in the book box for ‘reading time.’ Materials might include maps, catalogs, recipe books, favorite books and interesting books, phone books, menus, comic books, newspapers, a dictionary and a thesaurus, and anything else the child might want to read. Encourage the child to change what’s in the box once a week!

Q. Many parents today feel they must relentlessly quiz their pre-K kids to get them “ready” for reading. How do you feel about this?
A. Although parents of preschoolers mean well, they may actually be causing problems for their children by quizzing them on words, spellings, meanings, etc. The best way to prepare Pre-K kids for literacy is to read to them, talk with them, and write with them! When preschoolers ask how to spell a word, the most effective action is to write it down, as opposed to spelling it aloud. This helps to commit the word to the long-term memory because the child has to see it, read it, and copy it.

Q. What is your opinion of “Super Baby” products (Apps, CDs, DVDs, Software programs, etc.) marketed to parents of children 6 months to 4 years, with the claim they will put the child at the head of his/her class?
A. I think it depends on whether a child responds to games/software like this. If they are motivated to want to use technology to read, spell, and learn sight words, that’s fine. Kids are especially good at technology because they take risks and receive instant feedback. If they enjoy it, they should do it. If, however, there is pressure to reach certain levels and scores then this will only cause problems in the future. Some children who have problems with fine motor skills will respond better to the keyboard and game pieces. All children, however, should be constantly encouraged to handle books, color and draw, listen to stories, talk about what they see, hear, feel, and to listen to stories. Vocabulary development is crucial to the development of higher-order thinking, reading, and writing.

Q. What harm might they do?
A. Children who are exposed to extreme pressures, time constraints, too much time with devices and not enough time speaking, reading, and writing with adults are often kids who fall as readers, writers, and thinkers.

As parents, teachers, and administrators we must work together to catch falling readers, writers, and thinkers…while we can!

Let’s catch them ALL…

Bring Dr. Connie to your school, parent literacy event, or conference. More information at: http://www.conniehebert.com

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