Growing Organic Readers

Do you have an emerging reader in your house? The research and findings of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development show reading is the single most important skill necessary for a happy, productive and successful life. A child that is an excellent reader is a confident child, has a high level of self esteem and is able to easily make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. {Source: Homework Help Secrets} Check out this fun approach to growing organic readers!

Would you pay your child to learn to read?  Many people joined the conversation and discussed this question leaving comments on the original blog post, expressing their opinions on Pinterest, and chatting on Facebook.  Take a moment to check out some of their thought provoking responses.

Using a reading tree and books as an incentive, Shad and I decided to move forward with an organic approach to growing readers.  Would you like to joins us?  Simply follow the directions below.

Reading Tree Supplies:

  • Roll of brown packaging paper
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Washable markers
  • Books, books and more books

Step 1:  Decide where you want to grow your reading tree.  We have ours posted on the front window, but they also thrive on bedroom doors, hallway walls, and classroom bulletin boards.

Step 2: Throw out your “I cannot draw” inhibitions and roll out the paper to the approximate size needed.  Grab your PENCIL and sketch a tree trunk.  If you can draw three straight lines with your pencil you can draw a beautiful tree.  Check out this How to Draw Branches Tutorial.  What I liked best about the tree trunk featured here is the rounded edges on the branches.  It made it very easy to cut with the girls.

Let’s Lasso the Moon Tip:  Let your child see you make mistakes.  So many people say, “but I can’t draw.”  Use this as an opportunity for your child to see you do something challenging.  Use phrases like, “I’m nervous, but I am still going to give this a try.” or “I am going to start with a pencil so I can correct my mistakes.” or “Boy is this frustrating, but I’m not going to give up.”

Step 3:  Plant your tree in a prominent place in the house where the kids can show off their progression.

Step 4:  Cut out simple leaf shapes.  With each book read the child gets to add a leaf to their reading tree.  We did this project in the fall so we used red, orange, and yellow leaves.  However, you could easily substituent green leaves in for the summer.  A pine tree with pine cones (or even ornaments around the holidays) would be another fun alternative.

Let’s Lasso the Moon Tip:  We started out doing fancy oak shaped leaves, but it got very frustrating very quickly.  Never hesitate to improvise when something goes sour.  We decided to do just a classic shaped leaf instead.

Step 5:  Decide whether or not you want to offer an incentive to your child for reading.  In general I believe giving incentives often steals the joy of learning away from the child and puts their focus on a prize instead.  Jim Trelease of The Read Aloud Handbook suggests the joy of reading is so strong that it inherently overcomes this argument.  In a past post I asked, “What is a book-lovin’, anti-incentive, Montessori Kool-Aid drinking mom supposed to do?” Shad came up with a brilliant suggestion.  The best “incentive” to give a child learning to read is BOOKS.

Pick a reading incentive rule and stick to it.  After reading a book our girls write the title on a leaf and post it to the tree.  Currently when our girls collectively read twenty-five books they get to chose a gift together.    I like the idea of having a goal they reach as a team.

Let’s Lasso the Moon Tip:     Post leaves when YOU read too.  One of the best ways to get your kids to enjoy reading is to be a role model.  Of course, when Shad and I post leaves up they don’t count towards the the girls’ goal.

Step 6:  Score yourself a unique selection of books.  I picked up items at Goodwill, rummages, and the library sale. Here is a photo of all our incentive loot.  A while back I read Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider, otherwise know as Simple Mom.  I highly recommend the book, especially to anyone who participated in the 100 Things Challenge with us last month.  One of the tasks in the book is to create a family mission statement.  Our weekly family-game-night tradition came out of this interesting activity.  You will see below we also decided to offer some used games as part of our incentive plan.

Step 7:  Wrap the books to add a little bit of mystery.  I wrapped the girls “gifts” in some old green paper we had laying around the house and threw on a few stickers for good measure.  I admit I threw a few sticks of gum onto a couple book packages to ensure the girls would not be overly enticed by the size of the game packages.

Step 8:  Start reading!  The girls were thrilled to open their first gift.  They immediately wanted to read the books they had earned in an attempt to get more.  Hooray!

If you start a reading tree at your house be sure to drop us a line on Twitter or Facebook.  As always, if you have any question about the project let us know.

May you grow yourself an organic book lover with this approach!

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1 Comment

  1. Sue Williams
    March 6, 2012

    Great idea. Would love to go a feeling tree with emotive words or a word tree with one new word discovered each day to chat about.


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