Lower School Reflections: From the Desk of Dr. Gosnell

Published On: January 5th, 2023 | Categories: Food for Thought |

January 2023

Happy New Year!

The new year brings an opportunity to pause, reflect, and recommit to reading routines at home that help our students to thrive at school. As educators, we continually discuss small shifts that we need to implement in our instruction to stay current with reading research and best practices aligned with the science of reading. To this end, we continually seek professional development opportunities for our teachers and have conversations with experts in the field.

In the past couple of years, we have implemented daily, systematic, and explicit phonics instruction across much of lower school in addition to word study routines. We recognize that the use of decodable text and building phonemic and phonological awareness is most important. We also see the value in introducing high frequency words and using predictable text strategically to support student fluency and build confidence in reading. We value small group reading instruction for students. We utilize different levels of text depending on learning targets. We make space for all students to read to self, read to someone, and/or listen to reading every day.

When students come home with reading bags and/or reading work, we appreciate your partnership in prioritizing this work. Here are seven ways to reinforce learning and build consistent routines at home:

  1. Create predictable routines. For instance, after your child gets home, puts school stuff away, has a snack, and plays outside, spend intentional time on reading work, followed by more time to play or relax, dinner, and bedtime routines. While there will always be days where extra things are going on, avoiding having your child overscheduled can be helpful in creating calm and focused work time. If there is a particularly busy evening, something is better than nothing, particularly in the early grades when children depend on family members to help facilitate reading work.
  2. Provide lots of encouragement. Reading is not about perfection. A child can read fluently and struggle with comprehension. Alternatively, they can have fantastic comprehension and struggle with decoding. Praise effort over ability. Make this a low pressure time. Reading with your child can support bonding, particularly when the focus is on the joy of reading.
  3. Give your young child some choice about the order in which they complete reading tasks, if applicable. As children get older, increased choice in when they prioritize their responsibilities, holding off on preferred tasks (e.g., screen time) until after work is complete. It is important to encourage independence and accountability for completing work, including reading routines. Creating a distraction free workspace with your child is paramount.
  4. Model reading. Read yourself, with a physical book, when possible. Talk about what you are reading with your children. Ask them about their favorite books.
  5. Create a reading rich environment. Visit libraries often. Participate in reading challenges. Gift books for special occasions.
  6. Read aloud with your children often. A book before bed is a great way to do this. Let your child choose a high interest book. Talk about what you are reading together, ask questions about the story, point out familiar words, encourage your child to sound out unfamiliar words, look at the pictures, try out some character voices, enjoy it!
  7. Step outside of your reading box. This comes from a fourth grade classroom I visited this week. The students were talking about genres that are inside their reading box and exploring what they might read if they were to step outside of their box. Encourage your children to read what interests them, but also to step outside of their boxes and try on some different genres. Consider stepping outside of your own reading box as well.

If you ever have any questions about your reading routines or need help troubleshooting, we are always here to help. Thank you for your continued partnership in supporting our students as lifelong readers.

~Dr. Cait Gosnell
Lower School Director

For additional tips, check out these articles:
How to Raise a Reader – Books Guides – The New York Times
Fall in Love with Reading: Ten Simple Things you Can Do at Home | NAEYC