When you ask parents about the most important skills their children should have, they tend to mention strong reading skills. We all know that reading at home has many positive effects on young children. It stimulates creativity, nurtures imagination, expands vocabulary and helps children to develop grammatical understanding. Quite amazingly, it may also have an impact on children’s behavior, preventing and reducing behavior problems and boosting empathy.
When we talk to our children, our vocabulary is often limited and we stick to the same phrases. If we find time to read aloud, they are exposed to richer language about various different topics. Reading bedtime stories sometimes stops when a child learns to read independently, which is a pity because it could help the child to calm down and sleep better, not to mention the strong bond it can create between the parent and the child.
In Villa Per Se we are not in favor of assigning homework but we do want to raise strong readers and critical thinkers. My second graders read at least one book every week since we ask them to present a new book report every Monday. If a child can’t read yet, parents are encouraged to read to them and discuss the stories. It has been surprising to see how eager the students are to visit the school library and loan books. ”Can I have two books, one in English and another in Spanish?” is a frequently heard question. When one of the students finds an intriguing novel, the following week many of the classmates want to read the very same book. This happened in the case of the Incredible Book Eating Boy, and it seems that “La Peor Señora del Mundo” is also finding new young fans.
What are the book reports like? In second grade students are not asked to write essays. They may have to describe the main character, draw their favourite part, write a short plot summary, or make a puppet of the main character. After handing out the written book report, students present their work orally. That is the tricky part that reveals if the child has read the book and understood what the story is about. Quite often the classmates want to share their opinions on the same book which leads to an enchanting dialogue between different readers. We give feedback but we don’t grade the book reports, which reduces anxiety and competition between students.
One might think that students who have to read so much don’t grab a book voluntarily. On the contrary! We are lucky to have a small but vibrant classroom library, and most of our students read books whenever they have some free time after finishing their tasks. Instead of asking what to do next or starting to talk with their friends, they pick a book, sit down on the carpet and let the story carry them away into another world. Never underestimate the power of a good story.
Second Grade Homeroom Teacher