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Books might be better best friends than dogs. They don't shed or chew up your furniture and they don't need to be fed or walked. They still lift your heart, stretch your mind and entertain you on a rainy day. We are lifelong bibliophiles, and we like to share our passion.
Reading is a wonderful habit. Literacy is of ongoing national interest, and stories about falling test scores and lower graduation rates appear almost daily. As parents and educators we share the responsibility for instilling the habit of reading in our children year round. We often observe that students "lose ground" over the summer if they have not read frequently and regularly. What can parents do, during the summer as well as the school year, to strengthen a child's reading?
For younger children, parents can set aside time to share reading.
They listen to children read, read to them and discuss the reading afterward. Children love to dramatize what they read. Puppets or impromptu theater are creative avenues to demonstrate understanding and have fun. Encourage drawing, map-making, sculpting and other artistic renditions of stories. Recorded read-alongs and sing-alongs are plentiful.
Teens can be encouraged and expected to take responsibility for their own reading. Vocabularies increase by reading widely and teens begin to use reading to help answer important questions about themselves and the world.
A recent survey found that teens do understand the importance of reading and its impact on their future. According to the National Education Association, a poll conducted in 2001 by Peter D. Hart & Associates indicates that teens describe reading as "relaxing ... rewarding ... stimulating."
Make sure your home has lots of reading materials that are age appropriate, attractive and accessible. Reading materials don't have to be new or expensive. You often can find good books and magazines for your child at yard or library sales. Don't forget the Friends of the Library "Amazing Bookstore" located in the Airport Mall. Prices are cheap to free.
The blockbuster of recent years, the Harry Potter series, entices readers of many ages. Teens will need to read the Alaska Drivers' Manual.
Several lists of books are available. Librarians are always a good source for recommendations.
Battle of the Books Grades K-12: www.akla.org/akasl/bb/bbhome.html and local bookstores
Young Readers' Choice Grades 4-12: www.pnla.org/yrca/2003nominees.html
Many book lists, by topic, can be found at: www. amazon.com
American Library Association offers lists for enticing reluctant readers: www.ala.org/yalsa/booklists/quickpicks/
Read-aloud guru Jim Trelease has a great deal of information for parents on providing reading opportunities to kids: http://www.trelease-on-reading.com
Books about favorite activities or sports can be motivating. Hobbies and sports provide a reason for reading. Houston's Hoop Camp, for example, supports literacy by providing a fiction or nonfiction basketball book to participants.
Encourage your child to use the library. The Capital City Libraries catalog is online (www.ccl.lib.ak.us) and the library system has a wonderful courier method whereby books from any library can be delivered to another library for pick-up or check-in. The local library consortium shares one card and one catalog. In addition, the Juneau Public Library programs include:
Preschool story times
Elementary book groups
Summer reading program: "Laugh It Up At the Library," with games and prizes.
Check with your neighborhood library for specific days and times. The Juneau School District is sponsoring a reading program this summer, for students in grades 4-8. The High Intensity Summer Reading Program will run Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. from July 7 to Aug. 8. For more information about this program call Charla Wright, director of Instructional Services, at 463-1700 extension 312.
"What can I do?" "I'm bored!" "There's nothing to do." "Can I watch TV?" "I wanna play computer games." Now that summer break is in full swing, are you hearing this around your house? If so, don't despair - turn off the screen and read!
Sisters Linda Thibodeau (JDHS librarian) and Kathy Nielson (JSD literacy leader) team up with Helena Zimmerman (retired reading specialist and classroom teacher) to foster reading mania.