Today I decided to gather the family together for a "Family Reading Time" to introduce my Cinderella Unit to my kids. I learned ALOT! For example - Yeh-Shen is a great story for third graders - DD totally paid attention. Yeh-Shen was NOT a great story for my five year old son, and two year old daughter!!! It reminded me of one of the great lessons I learned last year - Make sure your story is age appropriate. If not your kids will be playing with trains on the floor at your feet or running around the living room. My two youngest only responded positively to my "hook"!
Did you know that on each page of Yeh-Shen A Cinderella Story from China illustrator Ed Young incorporates a fish. I gathered the kids around me and told them, "We are going to have a picture walk. What is a picture walk?" I look directly at DD. He smiles and says, "It is when you go through the pictures and summarize and predict what you think the story is going to be about." Can you just say my jaw wanted to drop! I was so proud of him! I then told the kids that there was something hidden on each page of the book, the same object. It took DD three pages to notice that there was a fish on each page. Even the cover has a carp like fish hidden among Yeh-Shen dressed in her Spring Festival finery. Can you see it???? As I went through each page of the book the kids sat spellbound, until they jumped up with, "I found it!" Even Chase found at least one fish. I also asked DD to predict what was happening on each page. He always guessed wrong (except for the page where Yeh-Shen was dancing.) Together we learned that although a book has beautiful illustrations, there are times when they don't really tell the story.
Reading The Story
As I read to the boys I focused on asking Donovan questions to build up his comprehension. DD reads at about a fifth grade reading level, however he comprehends at about a first or second grade level. It is imperative that this increase for him to really be a proficient reader. I would ask several different types of questions throughout the story.
1. I asked literal questions about the story line and Chinese history that could be found in the reading. These questions had him answering questions about information that was just on the surface of the text. As I model this strategy for DD he will eventually begin to look for the factual information in his own reading experiences. For example I asked him "Why did the stepmother put Yeh-Shen's coat on before going to the pond." It took re-reading that particular paragraph before hewas able to answer - but he got it!
2. I posed inferential questions to see if heunderstood portions of the text. For example; I asked, "Why did the bones no longer talk to Yeh-Shen?" He replied simply at first saying "She lost one of the shoes." I asked him "Why do you think losing the shoe made the fish stop talking?" He thought for a minute and then brightened up. He said, "Because the old guy told her not to waste her gift." Scott and I were proud parents in that moment.
3. Some of his favorite questions were those that had him making personal connections. He loved answering the question "What would you wish for if you had magic fish bones?" "Did you think it was fair for the stepmother and stepsister to not live at the palace?"
As he answers question that are teacher/parent generated he will soon begin to ask questions on his own. As he begins to ask his own his comprehension skills will improve (Duke & Pearson, 2002).
Matching Books to The Child
It is important to choose books that match your children's reading level. It is important to figure out you child's frustration, independent, and instructional reading and comprehension levels. There are many times that as I read to Chase longer prose he will sit through the story and answer questions. Not this time. This book was a bit above his head. He attempted to pay attention for the first page, but after that he was all over the place. Emma, on the other hand, I knew she wouldn't attend! It did not surprise me that she played with Lego's as I read to the boys. What is frustration, independent, and instructional reading levels?
1. Independent Reading Level = a child can read a book comfortably. They don't trip over the words, and they understand the text.
2. Instructional Reading Level = A child needs help as they are reading this literature. The vocabulary is more advanced, and their understanding is limited.
3. Frustration Read Level = I think this is a bit self explanatory. Children forced to read at their frustration level begin to HATE to read. They don't recognize the words, are unable to pronounce much of what they read, and can't remember what they have read after ward. It is important to avoid books at this level.
Duke, N.K. & Pearson, P.D. (2002) Effective practices for developing reading comprehension.Fastrup, A.E., & Samuels, S.J. (Ed.). (2002). What Research Has to Say About Reading Instruction. Newark, DE:International Reading Association