Love of Reading is Contagious

(Third in a series on tutoring.)

Some people are especially fond of books. I’m told that as a little kid I used to fall asleep with a Little Golden Book on my face many nights. But even people who are not naturally crazy about reading can be taught the value and joy of it through example.

Maker:L,Date:2017-9-19,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-ve

The trick with tutoring is to be strict enough to get to work, but to make it fun enough that students associate reading with a good time.

Ideas for Teaching the Value of Reading:

  • Tell kids how important reading is, how every part of school will be easier once they know a lot of words and can read smoothly. Tell them you want them to become great readers, and learn as many words as possible.
  • Challenge them to make reading progress a goal. We use fluency tests in our lessons, and have kids plot on a graph how many correct words they read in one minute. It can be very encouraging for them to see their graphs go up as they improve in reading that passage from week to week. Progress should never be compared to other kids though – they just compete against their earlier scores. Kids who cannot read much yet can be timed for how many Dolch sight words they can remember – start with a pre-primer list: https://www.grps.org/images/departments/academics/pdfs/ela/dolch_alphabetized_by_grade.pdf
  • Tell kids stories of how much of a difference reading has made for you or someone you know. Tell them all the things you like to read. I like to tell a story of Ben Carson’s, from his book, “Gifted Hands” . The famous neurosurgeon grew up in poverty with a single mom who did not have much education, but she knew the value of reading. She made her boys read two library books a week, and he believes that had a great deal to do with his success in school.

Ideas for Making it Fun:

  • I know this is unenlightened, but we’re shameless about giving out candy rewards. I bring a big bowl of mixed varieties, and tell tutors to use it as incentive in any way they want. We give kids candy for memorizing verses, for hitting fluency goals, for finishing assignments – whatever it takes.
  • We let kids who finish their reading tasks for the session do something fun that is word-related, such as reading a picture book to them that they’re interested in, or doing a crossword puzzle or word search.
  • We give students lots of affirmation for any progress they make. This is really important. Find something to affirm, even if it’s only that the kid listened for a whole page without interrupting, or stayed in his seat for ten minutes. Look for positives and look for improvement and call it out every time. Many kids who struggle in school get more negative feedback than positive, and they need their hope and confidence rebuilt.
  • We invite families to three sessions a year, where we serve dinner, play some fun games, and tell parents and grandparents how well the students are doing. It means a great deal to a child that their tutor cares about and has talked with people in their family.

There is nothing better to see than a kid’s face light up when they have successfully read a book. It makes it all worthwhile!

Tutoring Kids from the Bible

(An introduction to a free series of studies in the Gospel of Mark for kids aged 9-12)Maker:L,Date:2017-9-19,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-ve

Twenty five volunteers from our church tutored at-risk kids from our neighborhood school this year. We are one of many sites, working in partnership with City Gospel Mission to reduce poverty and bring God’s truth and love to people in Cincinnati.

One of the most successful things we’ve done is make the Bible the reading text for our older students during the tutoring hour. Since the program is after-school, there’s no conflict of church and state. We have parents sign their approval to have their child in a faith-based program, we use a simply-worded translation of the Bible, and we train our tutors to  invite but never push their students into a closer relationship with God.

Click here to link to a PDF of all the lessons we used this year. Feel free to use them, but you will have to edit them; they contain site-specific activities and references, especially in the introductory paragraphs and in the box at the bottom of the page which suggests other activities. But I refer you to them as an example of how the Bible can be used to teach fluency and comprehension, as well as introduce children to the life and work of Jesus.

About halfway through this year, I asked a group of sixth grade boys how they were enjoying the program. They said they really liked coming. I assumed the main reason would be the snacks we serve, but the all the answers stated that they enjoyed learning and talking about God. That was confirmation that we were on the right track!