Two weeks from Tuesday, millions of Canadian kids will head off to school. Are your kids ready for reading? Many children start the year at a deficit, battling to regain what some educators call the "summer reading loss."
"We know that students do better in school when keep up their practice with certain skills -- and reading is one of those skills," says Toronto primary school teacher April Stevens.
It's true for children of all ages. Little kids' minds are working to assemble the building blocks of reading, like phrases and sentences and paragraphs. Older children are packing in the knowledge they glean from the reading material. Without practice over the summer, children of all ages can fall behind.
If reading has lapsed in your household, you're definitely not alone. And take heart: August is a great time to get kids reading again. The growing boredom of unstructured time can actually work in your favour. And young minds are well-rested by this stage, offering a fresh capacity to think outside of themselves.
As you look to stimulate and expand, why not consider stories of kids around the world? Here are six suggestions:
- It's Back to School We Go: First Day Stories From Around the World (Millbrook Press)
No matter how your child is feeling about September, it can be inspiring to feel part of something global. In this book, they meet kids from 11 countries, including Kenya, Kazakhstan, China, and even Canada. Children describe what their classroom is like and how it feels to be there, explaining what happens on that first school day.
With a couple of weeks' holiday to fill here at home, this book is a great jumping off point for end-of-summer activities with your kids - including writing to e-pals from around the world! Best suited for kids in Grades 1 to 4.
This graphic novel sparked my adolescent son's interest in how war can affect children, something that he raised in his classroom many times last year. Michel Chikwanine was five years old when he was abducted from his school-yard soccer game in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and forced to fight for a brutal rebel militia. He eventually managed to escape, and after immigrating to Canada, was encouraged by a teacher to share his story. Best suited for children in Grades 5 to 9.
This book of statistics and stories is the perfect approach for kids like my younger son, whose scientific brain latches on to facts and numbers. Every second of every day, four more children are added to the world's population of over 2.2 billion children. Some will be cared for and have enough to eat and a place to call home. Many others won't. It's a great conversation starter. Best suited for children in Grades 3 to 7.
The quieter weeks at summer's end can be a time for reflection on your travels - even those to the countryside. My children have always been struck by the migrant workers they see working in the fields under the hot sun here in southern Ontario. They always ask about their children. In this book, we meet Anna, who leaves her home in Mexico each spring, to travel north with her family to work on farms. She wonders what it would be like to stay in one place. It's a great book to prompt kids to consider who grows our food, and what happens to their families. Best suited for children Kindergarten to Grade Two.
Razia is excited when her grandfather tells her there's a school for girls being built in their Afghan village. At last, girls will have the same opportunity to be educated as boys. "Every night I fell asleep dreaming about going to school like my brothers," she says. Grandfather recalls a time when Afghanistan encouraged women to seek an education. Many became doctors, government workers and journalists. But Razia knows that she will need permission from her father and her oldest brother, Aziz, to go to the local school. What will happen? This is a particularly useful antidote to the choruses of: "Why do I have to go to school?" Extra resources include an overview of children worldwide who don't get the chance to attend. Best suited for children in Grades 3 to 7.
All of these books are short enough for even the busiest parent to work into their schedules (even if you've already headed back-to-work)! There's plenty of fodder for dinner-table chatter. And don't be surprised if the ideas resurface unexpectedly downstream during the school year.
If you have other books in this vein that your family loves, please add them to the Comments section, or e-mail me about them.
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