Penny Books

{Casey's penny book selections}

I wanted to take time here in my cyberspace spot to field some questions regarding how our homeschooling works.  Specifically, I wanted to focus on one segment of our reading program. Teaching a child to read and read well at that is one of the most profound gifts you can ever give.  It takes a whole lotta patience as well as a whole lotta practice.  To be effective in this endeavor, I feel like children need 7 key elements for success.

These elements have derived from my teaching experience both in the classroom {7 years} and now at home {in my 3rd year}.

They are:

1.  To be read to
2.  To be read with
3.  To have reading modeled for them
4.  To have autonomy in their reading selections
5.  To have allotted time for reading alone
6.  To be held accountable
7.  To celebrate their success

I have friends quiz me about how homeschooling works exactly for us.  I also have friends who are unsure of just how to help their little ones learn to become good or better readers.  I am in no way an expert, but I do feel strongly in the success of the above key components.  For the sake of those out there anxious or unsettled with just what to do or perhaps considering the purchase of a reading program the equivalent to a monthly car payment, I thought I would take the time to share how we operate using elements #4- #7 at home in greater detail.

So as not to ignore #1 - #3, allow me to give an overview of those steps:

1. To be read to-- Read to your kiddos.  Anything and everything age appropriate.  Spend time looking at books and magazines or newspapers.  One of my boys' favorite things is to pick up the free "car trader" magazines outside the grocery store and circle cars or trucks they "want" in addition to spouting off their mileage, make and model.  I have a chapter book usually about one to two grades above their reading level, that I read daily to them.  They LOVE this time of our day.

2.  To be read with-- This reading should be done on their grade level.  It is you sitting down with them individually and listening to them read.  You are engaging them with questions about the book and encouraging them with sounding out words and understanding the story.  This takes time and PATIENCE especially with the emergent reader.  This component is, by far, the most crucial.

3.  To have reading modeled for them-- Set aside time in your day to read silently together.  That means all of you reading with no talking.  Children need to see that reading is important to adults.  I love reading, but I rarely have time to get lost in a book due to my busy work schedule with k.Mac in addition to homeschooling.  I actually really love this time of our day.  I use the timer and we read for 15 minutes.  Slowly, I am plugging away at a juicy novel that otherwise, I would not make time for.

4.  To have autonomy in their reading selections-- Children choosing what they read is so very important.  It encourages decision making, it further defines their interests and boosts confidence additionally.  This is where we begin our PENNY BOOK program in our home.  We use the local libraries.  Every other week we make the trip for them to select what new books will fill their "penny book" basket.  I use this time to pull books for their content learning in their core subjects.  We do not have a specific curriculum that we use for homeschooling other than grade level state standards and the wonderment of creativity and work ethic.
{shown here:  Casey's penny book baskets for the week.}
{The left basket is what is yet to be read.  The right basket is what has been read.}

With Casey, my K/1st grader, I am reading with him for his "penny books".  I use this time to fulfill component #2 as well.  The time spent with him inside these books of his choice is so critical.  My tone and my expectations are everything when it comes to him learning to read well.  Time is everything.  I make it a point that he sees me encouraging and engaged in what he chooses to read.  Oftentimes, he reads the same book to Kenny when he comes home from work that evening to reinforce fluency and share a great book with dad.  This re-read along with my place reading with him during the day is the first stab at taking care of component #6.

For Casey's books to count as complete, he has to read them fluently with no help.  Thus, his done basket may not have as many in it at the end of the week when compared to Eli's "done basket".

The amount in the "done basket" is where #6 component rallies out.  A penny is earned for each book read for the week.  The boys keep these pennies in a mason jar in their rooms.  These pennies can be turned in for larger coins when applicable.  This is one of the ways I foster teaching money to the kids.  This money is used for things they want when enough is saved.  Mostly, packs of gum or Dollar Tree toys.  The kids also use this money for their tithing at church.

{Casey's penny jar}

And, lastly, component #7.  CELEBRATE!  The boys choose their favorite read of the week.  This year I am going to do my best to document with a photo and them sharing a video of what they loved best about this book.  It is my hope to blog weekly about our favorite reads.  Alas, should life get in the way, these videos and photos will make great clips to send out to grandparents, aunts and uncles.  Plus, the boys LOVE watching themselves on video!

{Casey's favorite read:  week 8/6-8/11}
"All Together Now"
by Anita Jeram

Casey's favorite book interview:

And, I can't leave out our big 2nd grader Eli...
{Eli's penny book selections compared to his "done basket"}

Eli's "done basket":
I will often ask him to bring me 2-3 books from his "done basket" throughout the week.  I read them and make written quizzes out for him to answer.  If he answers all 8-12 questions correctly, he gets to roll the dice to see how many additional pennies he receives for reading these books.  This helps to follow through with component #6 as well as encourage Casey to become a stronger reader for a chance at this next phase in our penny book program.

Eli's penny books left still to read:

{Eli's penny jar}

{Eli's favorite read:  8/6-8/11}
"The Red Racer"
by Audrey Wood

Eli's favorite book interview:

Eli's finish up interview {Oops! Small recording hiccup}:

Finally, the boys read their favorites one to the other.  This time for Casey is priceless.  His big brother is so fun to listen to.  In time, Casey's fluency and intonation will increase and Eli will think the same about his little brother.

Time, patience and practice.  It's what we use to hopefully give these guys one of the greatest gifts of all.

.mac :)