My final newsletter to families at school, telling them how important reading aloud chapter books is to their children. Hopefully this opens the door for them.
June 16, 2021
Chapter reading is one of our treasured moments of the day. We bring to life the imagination, the world, and the past. The anticipation of ‘what happens next’ stirs excitement every day. Children listen and think. They ask questions. Ask your child, “At chapter reading where do you make the pictures?” You will hear your child say, “In your head.”
When we finish a good book and then start a new one, emotions run high and low. The end of a good book is so satisfying and pleasant, yet…it is over. That is the wonderful roller coaster of reading. And, with each chapter book we read, we ride that roller coaster again and again.
We have finished Little House on the Prairie, and it was thrilling; from Jack the dog, to building a house, to Indians in the house. Pa and his neighbor Mr. Scott dug a well, and we learned about the bad gas deep inside the earth (Pa had to save Mr. Scott) that only a candle can detect. Of course, I had to bring in my grandfather’s childhood portrait wearing a miner’s hat with the same candle. Laura and her family had fever ‘n’ ague (malaria), an illness that people thought came from eating watermelons. There was also fear of Indians, which was an opportunity for Gloria to discuss diversity and prejudice.
We read a second Doctor Doolittle book, Doctor Dolittle’s Journey (ask your child about Long Arrow and Spider Monkey Island), and we have just started reading On the Banks of Plum Creek which picks up when Laura and her family leave the prairie in Kansas. We recommend that you finish reading the book to your child over the summer. We have read as far as page 132. The next chapter is The Fish-Trap.
We voted on our favorite chapter books this year. Charlotte’s Web was the clear winner!
These are the chapter books we have read this year. Good books are meant to be read over and over again. We encourage you to revisit these wonderful books with your child:
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles
The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Florence and Richard Atwater
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Doctor Dolittle’s Journey, adapted by N.H. Kleinbaum
On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The fundamental constant that gives children the tools to succeed in school is language. The more words that children hear, the better they will do in school. Reading aloud to children is far more than an enjoyable experience. It increases their language development! In kindergarten through grade four, the primary source of instruction is oral. The more words that a child has heard, the better s/he will understand the instruction, and the better s/he will perform in school, in all subjects. Therefore, we will always campaign to read aloud.
A wonderful guide to book recommendations and to understanding the importance of reading aloud is the million-copy bestseller book, The Read-Aloud Handbook. I have used the book since my children were little. The author, Jim Trelease, visited the Aqua Room and GCS. We are featured in the seventh edition of the book.
Such excellent communication and feedback to the parents, Jennie. All we even got here were annual ‘performance’ reports, a few scibbled lines. And they didn’t happen until I was over 7 years old. Mind you, my mum still kept most of them. 🙂
Best wishes, Pete.
Public school over here is pretty much the same as what your Mum got. How wonderful that she kept your reposts! Parent communication is far better in private schools. Of course reading to children is my passion, so this newsletter was a labor of love. Thank you, Pete.
Reblogged this on Die Erste Eslarner Zeitung – Aus und über Eslarn, sowie die bayerisch-tschechische Region!.
Thank you, Michael!
I fully agree to Pete’s comment. You are very communicative with the parents too. Thats in my meaning another topic for best teaching their children. I had asked my parents. They themselves cant remember any writing from teachers, for their children. Thank you, Jennie! You are definitely a role model. Enjoy a wonderful rest of the week! Michael xx
Many, many thank-yous, Michael. 😊
I am honored by your great professionality, Jennie! I even miss not having become a teacher. But this time i had not known you. 😉 Best wishes, Michael
That is very kind to say, and I am deeply appreciative. Thank you, Michael.
My parents started reading to us when we were in the womb. They never stopped as we grew up. I can remember being excited when I first recognized the words and was able to read them back to my parents. We all became voracious reader’s. That excitement that they instilled has never left me.
That’s just wonderful, Pam! You are an excellent writer, and more importantly, an excellent thinker. I doubt you would be that way had your parents not read to you from the very beginning. My baby shower gift is always the same; a copy of Goodnight Moon and a copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook (the latest edition is not by the original author, Jim Trelease, so I rely on the seventh edition.). Thank you, Pam.
I wish there were more people like you, not only inspiring the children but their parents as well. It is a package deal.
What a great letter- you are a master at this
Thank you so much, Beth! You can tell this is my passion. 😊
Will you be encouraging the children to pester–I mean remind–their parents that you left off on page 132 of The Fish-Trap? 🙂 Reading your letter just made me realize that I learned much of my vocabulary from my parents’ reading to me; I would stop them to define every word I didn’t know. What a long-buried memory that was!
Oh, yes! Pester is my middle name when it comes to reading aloud to children. It’s all about vocabulary when it comes to doing well in school. That was one of the reasons I started reading chapter books. If children have no picture, they must rely on the words they hear. Vocabulary. You would love reading The Read-Aloud Handbook, Liz. The combination of facts and stories is riveting, and eye opening. See, because your parents gave you the words, you had the tools to become an excellent writer. Thank you, Liz.
I just put The Read-Aloud Handbook on my reading list. Thank you for the recommendation. Now that you mention the tools to become a writer, in addition to vocabularly, reading chapter books aloud gives children the cadence of language.
Make sure you read the seventh edition, not the new eighth edition. After two decades and seven editions, Jim Trelease turned over the reins at Penguin books to a new author. She didn’t include his great stories, and I must say that her stories aren’t as captivating as his were. Yes, the cadence of language comes from hearing the words in chapter books. Thank you, Liz.
You’re welcome, Jennie. Thank you for the tip about the 7th edition.
I must say one thing; any edition is excellent. While I am in the seventh, that has no bearing on the quality of the book. His stories are in earlier editions. The later books have current information on the impact of technology and more.
Thank you for the additional information, Jennie.
You’re welcome, Liz.
Wonderful way to reach out to the parents and include them in their children’s continued learning Jennie!
Thank you, Kim!
A perfect letter to the parents of your students. Hopefully, they will continue what you started. I’m sure many will. You have given these children such a good start to life in school.
Thanks so much, Darlene! 😊
The number one complaint I heard from parents over the years is that the school failed to keep them informed. I never wanted my parents to feel in the dark, so if anything, I probably gave them more information than some of them wanted. There’s nothing worse than having to guess what your children are learning in school. As Beth said, you do a marvelous job of communicating with parents and with us, your fellow bloggers.
I always knew in my heart that you had great communication with parents, Pete. Passionate teachers want to share and ‘tell the world’, especially to parents. Even if it’s too much, that’s far better than not enough. Did you send home typed letters to parents?
I remember being the parent, and one particular event where I really needed to talk with the teacher. This was long before emailing and texting. The school informed me that teachers could not call parents or speak with them. That was a horrible day. I vowed to never be that teacher with my families. So, I gave my home number to parents at the beginning of every year (with guidelines). Parents were SO appreciative and no one abused it. Sometimes just knowing there’s a lifeline is all a parent needs.
Thank you so much, Pete. I really wish we could have taught together. 🙂
We really are two peas in a pod when it comes to teaching philosophies, Jennie. Typed letters—weekly! Many of my coworkers thought I was nuts giving out my home number to parents, but I simply asked them to never call later than 9:00 p.m., and it was never a problem. The teachers couldn’t call the parents? That makes no sense. Communication is the key to any successful relationship, be it business or personal.
Yes we are! My coworkers thought I was crazy, too. It’s far easier to communicate nowadays with technology. The only good thing about that teacher not being able to call me, is that it spurred me on to communicate with my families. Best to you, Pete.
An excellent overview with a gentle nudge for parents to continue what you have started with their children. In the 1998 book “How Reading Changed My Life” Anna Quindlen wrote : “Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” I agree. Thank-you!
What a terrific quotation! Thank you for your kind words, Ellen. I do hope this gentle nudge will hit home for families. We both know it’s the best thing parents can do for their children.
I love all the books you listed, Jennie. And I love your descriptions about what happens when we read chapter books. I still think about Dr. Doolittle and how sometimes he would WALK for days on end (sleeping in piles of hay if I am remembering correctly) to get from one place to another if needed…
I’m so glad you remember and like the books, Will. Now, picture yourself as a four-year-old, hearing these books read aloud to you. It’s pretty powerful. I do remember Dr. Dolittle walking for days and sleeping in piles of hay. That book is far above my preschoolers, even though I read aloud above their level. Oral comprehension comes first, meaning children can understand what they hear long before they understand what they see. That’s why chapter reading works. That’s also why music has a huge impact on young children. Of course you already know that. 🙂. BTW, I play music that isn’t children’s music, and they love it!
That’s a great letter, Jennie. I hope all the parents continue to read to their children this summer.
That’s a great list of books you read this past school year.
Thank you, Deborah. These are the ‘tried and true’, and children just soak up chapter reading. I do hope parents pick up on this and continue to read aloud. Telling them where we left off in the book should be inspiring.
I used to love the chapter readings my teachers did, even in the early grades after Kindergarten.
It’s the best! I’m glad you remember how it feels. Thanks, Anneli.
If I were a parent with a kid in your class, I would be thrilled to receive this newsletter. Well done, Jennie.
Thank you, John. That is so nice of you to say. I wish I had received newsletters like this when my children were little, too.
An excellent letter to your families! Reading inspires deeper thought, great conversations, the art of creating “movies” in your head (I use this a lot as we work on problem solving in math – finding the mathematical action), language acquisition, and is simply fun.
I write weekly newsletters to my families with a blurb on what standards we are covering (using family friendly language, of course) so they know what our focus is in various areas. I have always read chapter books to my class but have never thought to add this to our newsletters. I think I will start doing that to continue the conversation at home.
Thank you, Shoes. Yes, reading is inspiring, and the movies/pictures in their heads is pretty powerful. I love how you use this with math! I definitely think that adding chapter reading to your weekly newsletters will be a huge plus.
Here’s a story I want to share with you: Early on in my teaching we were all writing our weekly newsletters to families. Our director back then told teachers to include a small paragraph about why we do this, basically to help teach parents. Well, most every teacher hated doing this. I was the lone soul who thought this was a brilliant idea, and really important for parents.
My newsletters changed. They included a way to help parents. And after a while, my newsletters changed again. I could take one moment, one thing that happened in the classroom, and use that as a parent teaching platform. It made my newsletters real, like telling a story. It was an evolution to get there, but a great parent newsletter journey.
I love including little snippets of our classroom life in my newsletter. Quite often I will say something like – Ask your child about how we used ordinary metal spoons and some string to learn about sound – or I will ask them to talk about fractions at the dinner table (3/4 of us have green beans on our plates!). It is a powerful way to communicate our learning and how they can take those concepts and integrate them into their daily lives. You are so right in that it is a way to help parents teach, discuss, and rethink the continuation of learning in regular moments of life.
Thank you for sharing!
Well said, Shoes. Hear, hear! Like you, I love adding those snippets. They’re really the big things when it comes to learning. It’s the stuff families need to hear. Hats off to you!
A wonderful and inspiring letter Jennie. I don’t remember being read to at school, but then I don’t remember much about being 4 or 5! My Mum would tell me stories at bedtime, but she made them up, they were wonderful.
Ah, storytelling. Cheers to your Mum! Hearing her words of storytelling fueled your brain, and your heart. I doubt you would be the writer and photographer you are today had it not been for your foundation of storytelling. Bless your Mum!
This is a very nice report back, Jennie. I read your comment to Pete and I must say that my boys get reports like telephone directories (they are in a private school). Each teacher writes a few paragraphs about the child and his performance and they even have a sports report.
Thank you, Robbie. There is quite a difference between public and private schools. Reports and parent communication are a good example.
I hope the parents keep up the good work you have accomplished this year, Jennie. These children have gained significantly during this difficult year.
I hope so, too. Thank you, Dan. They really have gained quite a lot. Children are resilient, and they have bounced back from a hard year.
The children are so fortunate to have a teacher like you, Jennie. I was lucky to be read to when I was little, but my parents never got that level of feedback. And, to my shame and regret, I missed much of what was going on when my children were small.
Thank you, Mike. My parents were voracious readers, but they never read to their children. It wasn’t until I became a teacher that I became a reader aloud to my own children.
Your children are so very lucky we never had anything like this at all ..A newsletter like this gives parents a chance to participate in their children’s education I think Its brilliant , Jennie 🙂 x
Thank you, Carol. Educating the child includes the family, and newsletters are a great way to make that happen.
Of course it does and the results show that.. Lily is doing so much better since we have taken over her reading at home..x
Great news, Carol! 😀
When my granddaughter first told me she was ready for “chapter books,” I had no idea what she was talking about. I think in my mind there were picture books and books. I missed the obvious clue that “books” have “chapters.” LOL
That’s so funny!
Jennie, this is a wonderful letter!
Thank you, Charles!
Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
Please read this wonderful post from the excellent teacher, Jennie!
Thank you so much, Charles!
I love this. Doing a lot of training for Lil kids programs at the library and that’s the number one thing, demonstrating language and familiarising them with text, even if they aren’t reading yet. A great idea to pass on the books to parents so they can revisit at home!
Thank you! Yes, even when a child cannot read, hearing the words is powerful. I do hope parents follow through and read aloud the books at home. Good for you doing library programs. I do two programs at our library. Children love it, and so do I.
And as I recall, the best phrase to hear as you close the book and the kiddoes look up at you in quiet wonderment…is “Read it again!”
The highest compliment for weary-voiced readers! 🙂
You are so right, KC. That’s music to the ears of a reader aloud.