Sunday, October 24, 2010

First of a Series of Musings on Exciting Ways to Motivate Your Young Child to Read

If I was asked to write a list of fun and inspiring ways to motivate your young child to read, at the top of the list would be a way for the written word to have intense meaning to your child.

When I taught First Grade many years ago, I came across Sylvia Ashton-Warner's book, Teacher .  In this book, she describes her technique for teaching reading to young Maori children.  I decided to adapt her program to my classroom and found it to be a great way to launch children into the world of reading!  As the author points out, children's first words and first books should come from their life.  So, I started each morning with "Key Vocabulary"(Miss Ashton-Warner's name for it), a "one-look" sight vocabulary originating from the child himself.

 Each day each child would think of a word he wanted to know.  I wrote it on an index card.  These self-chosen words accumulated and were kept in  his specially decorated shoebox.  The next day, before giving him a new word, I would ask for the "old" words .  If a word was not remembered I would put it aside and eventually toss it in the trash because it had failed as a "one-look" word, and could not have been of much importance to the child.  While I was giving words to each child, the others were sharing their words with partners, or printing their words on the chalkboard.  Still others were putting their words on a  magnetic board or on a felt board with felt letters.  All of the children were busy sharing and learning each others words!

 When it got to the point of having 20 words in the box the child would make a "word book" in which he drew pictures for his words to share with the class, or a parent, etc.  Then, we would begin again with some different words to put in his box!  The children were never at a loss for words!

This time of "Organic Reading" was the noisiest and the most productive time of the day.  I believe its success stemmed from the concept of using words important to the child, the language of his world to the written language of reading.  What joy!  After having the security of his world in the written word, the child can then reach out in love and joy to other books, other readers.

Sylvia-Ashton's Warner's book Teacher  (reprinted version) can still be purchased for you to read from Barnes and Noble. 

NB  I first bought this book in 1973 , my first year of teaching, when First Grade was the grade to initiate reading.  Everything is done so much earlier these days.


  1. Those are some good looking little ones!

  2. John,

    I agree wholeheartedly! They are CUTE!


  3. What a lovely blog over here Laurie! Had so much fun reading your interesting posts.