If you have a school-aged child, they have probably been assigned 20 minutes of reading for homework. Your child has probably also been assigned summer reading. If you have a kid who loves to read, great! This is a piece of cake for you. But for MANY, this is a huge challenge, and you feel like it’s like pulling teeth to get them to just sit down and open the damn book.
If this resonates with you - stop forcing it! Let your child listen to an audiobook or a podcast instead. Does this “count” as reading? YES! It does!
Let me tell you why.
You’ve probably heard that reading comprehension is the ultimate goal of learning to read. When faced with written text, we need to be able to read the words, understand what they mean, make sense of them, and be able to think about the text in meaningful ways.
There’s a little something called the “Simple View of Reading” that uses a multiplication equation to show us the 2 big factors we need in order to become skilled readers with strong reading comprehension. It shows us why listening to spoken language is not only ok, but is exactly what the doctor ordered for many.
The Simple View of Reading uses this formula:
D x LC = RC
Decoding (word recognition) x Language Comprehension = Reading Comprehension
Reading comprehension is the PRODUCT of decoding skills and language comprehension. If just one factor is zero, the product is also zero. Most people are somewhere in between.
Take these 2 examples:
How can Max and Bella benefit from listening to audiobooks or podcasts?
The books Max is able to read on his own are most likely less engaging than what he is really interested in. He probably chooses books that seem exciting and age-appropriate but quickly becomes frustrated that he can’t get through them. He may even “fake read” during independent reading time to appease his teachers and classmates. (He probably needs to be receiving a reading intervention that includes direct instruction in phonics, by the way). Having Max sit down and forcing him to muddle through a book he can’t read accurately is not going to help him. Allowing him to listen is going to give him access to the content that interests him and allows him to build his vocabulary and knowledge that he is not able to access through reading print.
While Max listens to audiobooks to cater to his strength, Bella listens because this is her weakness. Bella might not be thrilled to listen because she has trouble staying engaged, but listening to a high-interest topic might help her build her listening stamina, leading to strengthened language comprehension.
I was more on the "Bella" end of the spectrum when I was kid. I love to read, but I don’t consider myself a great listener, and even now, I sometimes have to read the same page 3 times because even though the voice in my head was “reading” the words, I was actually thinking about something else. For me it's more of a weakness with attention than language itself. I avoided podcasts for several years because I considered myself a bad listener, but now I listen to them all the time and am surprised at how much I enjoy them.
So next time you’re faced with the task of getting your “reluctant reader” to open a book, think about why they might be frustrated with reading, and offer them a high-interest audiobook or podcast instead!
Am I saying to give up on opening books all together? Of course not!. . . But allow room for both and don’t brush listening aside just because it seems like the easy way out.
In fact, this week is the perfect time to try it out. This week’s assignment for the Winding Way Literacy and Plymouth Macaroni Kid Summer Reading Challenge is to listen to an audiobook. Check out this post to see how your child can be entered into a drawing to win $100 cash just for listening to an audiobook this week!
Do you have a Max, a Bella, or somewhere in between? What about you as a reader? Did any of this resonate with you? If you have a “Max” or “Bella”, message me for tips!
Want to get your little one started off with strong decoding skills? Check out my Reading in Action Video Lessons - combining reading instruction and physical movement, appropriate for pre-k through grade 1.
You may know me as a Reading Specialist, Tutor, Teacher, etc. . . . But I am a Mom too, on my own journey with raising my own little readers. As Eddie is entering Kindergarten this fall and Patrick is becoming more interested in books every day, (and poor Connor is getting the short end of the reading stick), I thought now would be the perfect time to start sharing my experience with raising readers in my own family. I have 10+ years of experience helping other people's kids become readers, but when it comes to my own kids, this is all new!
Let me introduce my little guys and tell you about where they are in their reading journeys:
Eddie - age 5 and a half (not just 5)
Eddie has been read aloud to since he was in my belly. He was born when I was in the middle of my Reading Specialist licensure program, and as I learned how important it was to develop oral language from a very early age, I was determined to get this little peanut started on the right track. When I was on maternity leave with him, I was a third grade teacher and always reading middle grade fiction, so I decided to read aloud some of the Newbery award winners to him. I read to him while I nursed him and while he slept curled up in a ball on my chest. Then I read him more age-appropriate books during play time and bed time. I proudly circled the "7" on the pediatrician form when it asked how many days he was read to each week. I took him to infant story-time starting at 3 months. I was not messing around with this one.
I will say all of this first-time mom/future reading specialist craziness seemed to have a positive effect as he has an incredible vocabulary and loves our reading time before bed.
Where does he stand in regards to being able to read on his own now?
He's great at rhyming and loves playing with sounds in words (playing with sounds of language is important to be able to read!) He knows all uppercase and lowercase letter names and sounds, and can decode (read) and encode (spell) most CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant like, sad, ten, mud, etc.) He learned most of the letters and sounds in preschool but the actual reading and spelling part he learned from me. He took my Reading in Action class, and he plays around with my letter magnets and Fundations cards at home. I think this is AWESOME. . .
But do you know what he thought? Once he figured out he could read CVC words he was super proud of himself for a minute, but then remembered, "but I can't really read because I don't know the sight words at school."
I have A LOT to say about this in a future post, but memorizing a list of "sight words" is not "reading", and the fact that I know so many kids think it is is killing me slowly. More on that at a later date. . .
Anywho, I don't anticipate any major challenges for him learning to read. Although his fine motor skills make drawing/writing difficult, so we may have to put a little extra into strengthening his hand muscles and working on handwriting.
When it comes to going to kindergarten, I don't expect academics to be an issue. For him, I am more focused on listening skills, managing his self and materials, attention, behavior, developing extracurricular interests, etc. A friend recommended we practice doing kindergarten lunch time this summer - opening his lunch box, setting a 15 minute timer, cleaning/packing it up. I thought that was a great idea!
Patrick - age 2 (will be 3 in September)
Patrick joined in our bedtime book routine from the day he came home from the hospital. Here is his first time reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar at 4 days old with his big brother.
Even though Patrick was talked to and read to from the day he was born, I noticed that he was not babbling by the time he was 8 months. I knew that babies should be making sounds beginning with consonants at this point, like "ma", "ba", or "ga", but all Patrick was saying was "ah". The pediatrician wasn't overly concerned, but by 11 months, still no consonants so I requested an evaluation from Early Intervention. We began speech services through EI for several months, but when COVID hit that came to halt, and when they began offering virtual services I declined. . . I was burnt out from being online all day with a 4 year old and 18 month old running around, while also in the first trimester with Connor.
As Patrick's vocabulary continued to develop after he turned 2, he would speak in sentences but still with almost no consonant sounds. Dada was "ah-ah", Baby Connor was "ay-ee -aw-er". I connected with a local speech and language pathologist to have him evaluated again and they began weekly sessions which we are still doing now. She works with him in her office, which I like much better than having EI come to my house. It just works better for us. He has made a lot of progress with her, and everyone is always commenting on how much easier he is to understand now. She also recommended we have his tongue, lip, and cheek ties looked at, as these seem to be impacting the sounds he is able to produce - so that is next on our list with Patrick.
Why am I talking about his speech difficulty when this blog is supposed to be about reading?
Because difficulty with speech and language very often points to later difficulties with reading. His language skills seem strong, but I will be keeping a very close eye on Patrick's reading development and will be working on building his speech and language skills throughout his years of preschool. His due date was 8/22 but he wasn't born until 9/6, and while it was a long 2 weeks waiting for him in 90+ degrees, I am happy now that he will miss the kindergarten cut-off and get an extra year of preschool!
In regards to books, he has just recently started sitting down to listen to me read more, instead of being up and playing. (He is my wild child). He has developed great book handling skills and knows how to turn the pages appropriately. He enjoys pointing to words while reciting books he has memorized, like Pete the Cat.
Connor - age 8 months
Remember that "7" I so confidently circled at the pediatrician with Eddie? I still circle it with Connor, but it's a lie! I TRY to read to Connor, but he is definitely not read to every day. . . or even close to it. When he was a newborn, he joined in our story time, but now that he goes to bed before Eddie and Patrick, he definitely goes to bed without a book several times a week. I need to get my act together with this guy!
Language-wise, he DOES babble with consonants, the kind that Patrick did not do, so at least we don't have that same concern.
Anyone have advice for fitting in reading/one-to-one time with a third or more baby???
So there you have it, those are my guys.
I hope I can share some helpful advice along the way, some struggles, and maybe I can learn from some of you more seasoned moms as well. I anticipate walking the line between momming and teachering my kids when they start school is going to be a little tricky at times, but we'll find out soon!
Leave a comment if you've made it all the way here! Are you raising your own readers? Where are you on that journey? I'd love to hear from you!
Erin Sharon. Mom & Reading Specialist.