If I think about it too much, I seriously might burst into tears. Weren’t they just in diapers? Crawling around on the floor? Where’s the time going?
Though Cora and I will soon adjust to our new norm and have lots of cool things in store for us this year, I am feeling so incredibly blue today. So after we played in the sunshine at Cora’s preschool playdate, we ran some errands, had a quiet lunch, and spent some time doing one of our favorite things–reading.
On my way up to her room, I grabbed a library book that must have been put on top of the pile by sheer luck because it was a book that fit perfectly into our day. It was a book that gave us reasons to chat about Cora’s upcoming school year, to talk about what she remembered about last year and what she looked forward to this year.
It helped to remind Cora that very soon she–like Owen and Maddy–will be starting a new school year, in just a few weeks. And Cora’s new school year will be just as important as Owen and Maddy’s.
It was a book that provided us the opportunity to make connections to Cora’s prior school experience and between Cora and the characters, connections between Cora’s memories and the events in the book. It gave us a good reason to do some back-to-school chatting, which I hope qualms some of my tiniest’s back-to-school anxieties.
Here’s the skinny:
- Making Back-to-School Connections in an Interactive Read-Aloud: Any book that features D.W. is a winner for Cora, and this book was no different.
I knew from the bat that Cora would be interested in this one, since immediately after I said, Okay, this book is written by one of our favorite authors, Marc Brown, and it’s called ‘D.W.’s Guide to Preschool‘, Cora said, I’m going to preschool!! D.W.’s just like meeee!
So making connections during this read-aloud was a natural next step.
D.W.’s Guide to Preschool is just that–D.W. giving readers the lowdown on what preschool is like, from the pets in her classroom, to the daily schedule, to eating snack and going on field trips. It’s a great picture book for kiddos who are Cora’s age and who will be tackling preschool in the near future. It’s upbeat and positive and is spoken in familiar D.W.’s confident voice.
I wanted to have her think about other preschool classrooms and compare them. Until today, she was pretty convinced that she’d be returning to her last year’s classroom.
What do you think about this year? What animal do you think you’ll have? (Very quickly she said she thought they’d have a fish, some gerbils, and definitely a small brown bear.)
In our frantic hurricane-prep, my husband and I scattered flashlights throughout our house, and coincidentally, Cora had one in her room. So we used her flashlight to ‘shine’ on her answers to the questions I asked. She loooooved it, because she looooves playing with flashlights–especially tiny ones. And in our house, because we lose power so often, flashlights are not toys; they’re tickets to sanity when we’re powerless, it’s nighttime, and it’s cave-dark in the kids’ rooms.
- on the page about free-play— Looks like D.W. has a fun classroom! What do you have in your class that’s the same as D.W.?
- on the snacktime page— I know you love snacktime at school. Shine your light on the snack that you love the most. Which of D.W.’s friends has the same face that you do when you’re eating snack. Tell me why you chose that little girl.
- on the park time page— I see kids doing so many things here. What’s your favorite part of the park? Why?
- on the numbers page— They’re learning their numbers! How high can you count, Cora? How did you learn to count that high?
- on the field trip page— You have been to so many cool places, during school and even this past summer. Shine your flashlight on things that you have seen on trips to museums.
- on the school page— Wow! This is a busy class! What would you be doing if you were in D.W.’s class right now?
And before we knew it, the book was over. I loved how the emphasis was on how exciting it was that parents returned to pick up their kids and that school was so fun, D.W. couldn’t wait to come back the next day, because even at the park playdate, not two minutes after we arrived, my tiny said, Mommy, you’re not leaving, are you??
I think this is a definite library book renewal; we’ll read it a few more times before Cora starts, and hopefully the connecting and chatting will help ease her into a happy 2011-2012 school year!
The interactive type of read-aloud we did today happened naturally and I think may be just what the doctor ordered (I hope I hope I hope I hope).
Cora made connections, but more than just giving me simple one-word answers to my questions, more often than not, she was doing what McGee and Schickedanz refer to as an ‘interactive or dialogic’ read-aloud, one that results in gains in vocabulary, comprehension strategies and story schema and concept development’. These authors contend that ‘merely inviting children to talk’ during read-alouds is not sufficient for helping them develop their literacy skills; rather, they need to engage in ‘analytic’ talk–predicting, inferring, connecting from different parts of the story. Not always easy, I know, because kids–and parents–have to be in the mood for adding the ‘think’ element.
But teachers and parents can ‘boost the value of reading’ (I love that phrase!) not only through ‘analytic talk’ but also through:
- encouraging retelling or dramatic play;
- reading several books and playing with concepts or characters that bind them;
- reading the same book repeatedly;
- describing illustrations;
- inserting short definitions for unfamiliar words and having kids use those words in other situations.
Do check out the article, ‘Repeated Interactive Read-Alouds in Preschool and Kindergarten’ in May 2007’s The Reading Teacher for more specific information; I found it incredibly informative.
But you know what? If you can’t manage a whole lot of ‘analytic talk’ during your read-alouds, don’t sweat it.
Any and all reading we do with our kiddos counts, and we’re ‘boosting’ their academic success and school readiness just by reading what books we can, when we are able.