The just 1 book feature is a little something new over here, sharing our love of literature and the power of books. Guest writers are invited to share a book that moved him or her:
‘all it took was just 1 book’. . . to get you thinking, get you moving, get you arts-and-crafting, get you talking, get you writing, get you counting, get you traveling, get you thinking, get you cookin‘, dancin’ or dreamin‘.
So, I’m over the moon excited to kick off the just 1 book series with a guest post by a fellow educator and lover of hands-on learning. . .
Vanessa Levin is an Early Childhood Specialist with more than 18 years of experience working with young children and educators. Since 2001, Vanessa has provided the early childhood community with an invaluable resource through her popular and helpful website, Pre-K Pages. She is a leading expert on creating developmentally appropriate activities for young children with an emphasis on fun, hands-on learning. Vanessa’s collection of children’s books currently fills her entire garage and is threatening to take over her house.
- just 1 book: guest post
How Laura Ingalls Wilder Taught Me to Read,
by Vanessa Levin
In the fall of 1975, Laura Ingalls Wilder taught me how to read; with a little help from my mother of course. I had recently turned five and my aunt Johanna had given me a copy of Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder for my birthday. My mother, who was dealing with a difficult pregnancy, had to find a way to keep me occupied in the afternoons until my father came home. A self-described bibliophile and later in life a children’s librarian, my mother devised a simple plan that involved— you guessed it: books.
I was hooked after the first chapter. Laura’s world and her adventures completely enthralled me. I couldn’t get enough of Little House on the Prairie; I longed to be just like Laura and even took to calling my parents Ma and Pa. I curled up next to my mother every afternoon and watched as she slid her bookmark down each row of text as she read aloud. I loved hearing new and strange words like papoose, harness, and hatchet— these were words that didn’t appear in the picture books I was used to. Soon, I began to notice a pattern, many of the sentences started with the same words. I would point and ask “Is that the word the?” It wasn’t long before I had learned to read many of the simple, repetitive words that appeared at the beginning of sentences.
Next, I moved on to other words, listening for the beginning letter sounds in the sentences. I would point and ask questions such as, “Does that word say horse?” I was thrilled when I was right and when I wasn’t my mother would patiently say, “No, that says house, the words house and horse look similar,” and she would point out the differences to me. Sometimes when my mother wasn’t looking, I would pick up the book and try to read it by myself. When she realized I could read most of the simple words and had memorized some of the larger ones, she started having me read a few sentences here and there. By the time we reached the end of the book, I was a reader. For Christmas that year I received the boxed set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books and embarked on my own journey as a bibliophile.
My experience of becoming a reader has helped shape my philosophy of teaching as an early childhood educator. I firmly believe that young children need to be engaged and challenged. They can learn anything if it is presented in fun, developmentally appropriate ways. I have found that if you take time to get to know your children and make connections with them you can find out what really motivates them— this is the key to real learning. I was clearly motivated by the language and writing in Little House on the Prairie as well as the quality time spent with my mother.
Unfortunately, the at-risk students I work with have not had the privilege of lap learning like I did. They often come to me with deficits in oral language and very limited vocabularies. I have had to resort to other strategies to reach my students, but the end result is still the same, they make great progress and learn to love books and reading just as much as I do. If you’re wondering how you can motivate young children visit my website to learn more about the strategies I use.