It would not be an understatement to say that we are a family who loves books. For many generations it has been that way. My great-grandfather boasted of reading the complete Encyclopedia Britannica, 4 different editions throughout his life. My mother used the grocery money she saved by using coupons to buy leather bound editions of her favorite books. All 4 of my grandparents gave only books for gifts and do I need to mention our constant use of the public library?
When I had my own children, I just loved the daily connection we shared through our books. Stacked on shelves, and piled high on end tables, we were and are an active reading family. At around the age of 5 or 6, both our girls just took to letters, reading, and writing. We couldn’t keep them in enough books and writing paper. I noticed that though our son loved books, he wasn’t curious about them. He wasn’t intrigued by how momma and his family knew how to read those letters on the page. He wasn’t asking questions about letter sounds or asking what do these letters spell?
Slowly, at about 6 ½ years old , with our prompting, he started to read three letter words but when asked to read them in a sentence or in his early reader, he would say, ”No thanks, that’s ok, it’s your turn to read”.
To say I wasn’t worried would be an understatement. I had everything tested and the conclusion was that he could see, hear, and think perfectly well. “He would evolve in his own time.” The tester said. “Not to worry”.
I took these words to heart but I couldn’t help feeling as though I had failed my sweet boy somehow. Later that day I called my dad. If there was ever someone who could solve a problem creatively, it would be my father.
“Well” he said, “This isn’t an unusual problem. We’ve seen it quite a few times in our own family. Is what you need is a reading place.”
“A reading place?” I said.
“Yeah, there’s always one in every generation in our family who has a hard time reading. The only solution I can see is to build a reading place. A reading place calls the story forward and places it into the hands of the story reader. Afterwards you place it in the Book of Books as a testament to the time shared with a story. It works every time.”
“Ok dad, first I want to know who was the one in your generation who couldn’t read?
“Me” he said.
“And who is the one in my generation?”
“That would be the one I’m speaking with”. He said with much sarcasm.
In utter disbelief I said, “Me? As in me who has 4 books going at the same time?”
“Yes, that you! All of us are the youngest in our families. Why read, when one is completely surrounded by character and voice evoked storytellers? It’s time our little guy called up his own stories.”
Thinking back I remembered the barrel tunnel where I would sit and read out loud for hours. Next was the shelf my father put at the back of my closet. I always thought it was for my shoes. I read all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books on that shelf with my flashlight in hand. Another favorite place was to make a huge fabric nest made out of fabric scraps in my mother’s studio.
So I had to ask, “Dad, where was your reading place?”
“There was an old fishing boat pulled up in the yard and laid on its side. There, I would sit and read. If the weather turned bad I had a canvas flap that I would pull down so I wouldn’t have to leave. In the winter I sat under the stairs.”
So with that we were off to build a few reading places of our very own.
How to build a reading place:
To call a story forward is a special thing indeed. In your story place you will want a sense of coziness and a place to curl up with a book or two.
A standing foundation such as a table, end table, chairs, bunk beds, closet spaces, unused boats or bathtubs, a tree house or other pre-built fort.
Blankets and/or sheets
Pillows big and small
Cardboard boxes if building a box structure. Home Depot has big refrigerator boxes for free.
Long sticks if you are building a stick fort.
Connecting materials such as: duct tape, clamps, clips, and string.
There aren’t any rules on how to build your reading place. It can be permanent or moveable or a little of both. The important thing is that the readers of the family feel it is their place to go and delve into the pages of a book.
Once the reading place is built it is now time for the Reading Place Ceremony. For earlier or new readers, it’s always best to have at least one reader with them. As they become better readers, more and more time will be spent on their own.
The Reading Place Ceremony:
A reading place ceremony happens in three stages.
1. Calling the Story Forward
It’s time to call the story forward. Make sure that you’ve placed a stack of books in your reading place. If not, grab them now and bring them with you. Take your shortest book and read it aloud. If you are a new reader, read what you can even if it’s only small words or even identifying letters. After you’ve finished, your reading place is now open.
2. Read to a Partner, Read Aloud Family Style, or D.E.A.R. Time
For our second stage there are a few possibilities.
~ Read to a partner: Now that your reading place is officially open, it’s time to read with your trusted partner. First the young reader starts by reading a line and then the partner reads the next line. Continue like this until the book is finished. If there are a few people and you can share different copies, read the book chorally, like a choir.
~ Read A-loud Family Style: Read the book you’ve chosen aloud in paragraphs. Each family member is going to get a turn as you pass the book around the circle.
~ D.E.A.R. Time: Which stands for Drop Everything and Read. As your young reader becomes more confident with reading, it’s good to let them read to themselves silently or out loud. Once I saw that my son was gaining confidence, I would give him 15 minutes of alone time after our read a-loud session.
3. The Book of Books
~ The third and final stage is celebrate the progress you’ve made and the time you’ve spent together. The Book of Books is a journal where you list the titles and authors of the books you have just read. Each person in the family is represented by a stamp. Those who took part in that reading session will put their stamp under the book title. It’s a great way to remember the books you’ve read and shared. There are more ideas about the Book of Books over at Jump Into A Book.
There are unlimited possibilities of creating reading places and how they function in your family. For us this is just what we needed to get our young reader reading. Almost weekly there is a new reading place going up somewhere in my house or yard. I hope wherever or however you choose to create your reading place that you will have many happy moments ahead. Happy Reading.
Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book, derives the greatest pleasure from taking the books she reads and helping them come alive with her family, book club, friends, and workshops. An advocate for literacy, Valarie spends many quality hours helping at risk readers. She spends her days with her husband, three creative children, and one adored cat. Together they live in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. To reach Valarie please visit www.jumpintoabook.com