Tuesday, February 11, 2014

From the Office of the Future of Reading

Please join me in welcoming today's guest blogger, Carrie Gelson. Carrie teaches at a small inner city school in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. She shares her love for books on the blog There’s a Book for That and highlights the learning and book love in her Grade 2/3/4 classroom on the blog Curiosity Racers. You can also find her on Twitter

As a primary teacher, my biggest priority is growing readers. I know there is much book love inside of my classroom, but I have always wanted to do more to support families to help their children become lifelong readers. Last June, I had the opportunity to offer a literacy workshop for parents and caregivers at my school. I had the pleasure of spending a morning with families interested in learning more about how to incorporate reading and literacy activities into their daily lives with their children. The workshop was called: Celebrating the Love of Reading.

I made a flexible agenda and had numerous reference charts available. But the most important things I brought to the workshop were bins and bins of my favorite books (all genres and formats) and my enthusiasm about the importance of daily reading.

We began with this message: Your job as parents/caregivers is not to teach your child how to read (we do this at school) but instead to help encourage your child to want to read. A collective "phew" could be felt in the room. Once the pressure to improve their child's reading skills was off the table, parents were able to hear me when I explained that their role was to help create access to books (big cheers for school and public libraries), to make time in daily routines, to be a model (let them see you reading) and to be an active participant.

I also told parents that I needed to scare them a little bit. We talked about the summer slide and how children who did no reading over the summer would return to school in the fall behind where they were in June. Yet, if regular (ideally daily) reading was happening over the summer, their child's reading skills would have actually improved.

We had an important discussion about why children needed to be reading. Parents commented that they hadn't really thought about how many things solid reading skills supported.

We spent a lot of time discussing the variety of ways we could share literacy experiences at home. I had a long list and modeled with a wide variety of books. I had some Grandpas in complete hysterics when I shared a guessing book about animal behinds (Tushes and Tails by Stephane Frattini). Parents who were not confident with their English skills or their reading fluency got very excited about audio books (I played a few during the workshop) and the idea of “telling” a wordless book together.

Months later, I am still hearing from parents about how this workshop has helped them support their child.

"Thank you for saying that rereading favorite books is okay. My son and I have stopped arguing about reading harder books and started snuggling and laughing through picture books we love."

"This made me excited to find books to share with my daughter. We listen to books as we make dinner. We now go to the library every week."

I plan to continue giving these literacy workshops at my school. It is such a fantastic way to really honor the importance of the home/school partnership in raising readers.

Carrie, this is a fabulous idea and one that seems doable. Drawing on my past experience with PTA, it seems like that sort of organization could be called on to help plan and support such a workshop. Thank you for going the extra mile to build solid reading habits.


  1. a terrific blog. especially nice is the concept of encouragement with young readers rather than the assumption that caregivers have to teach. this is true with other arts too, I think

  2. Very nice! I wish all parents could participate in workshops like this!

  3. Thank you to everyone for reading and commenting! I really want to do more of these workshops in the future. I certainly learned a lot from the experience.

  4. I love your post! The words...
    "Your job as parents/caregivers is not to teach your child how to read (we do this at school) but instead to help encourage your child to want to read. A collective "phew" could be felt in the room."
    had me hooked! This is a message I work to give my parents each year and still I get "He won't work with me at home." YIKES reading should never be work at home. Reading should be a way to relax, connect and enjoy time alone or with your family, but never work!
    I'd love to hear more about how you model/read to or with or parents in your workshop. I am saving this post for future use!