Many teachers use “book bags” as a way to make sure their students and parents have access to appropriate reading material. Studies have shown that students who enjoy reading with their parents are more apt to become good readers and to have a positive attitude about learning to read.
I begin the year by sending home books that the parents read to their child. I try to make sure the child is participating by requiring them to “write” a book report. I have a form that instructs them to “draw your favorite part of the story” in a box. Then, with Mom or Dad’s help, they write the name of the book and the author. This progresses over the next few weeks to a form that asks where the story took place, who the characters were, and three or four questions to be answered about the story. The book, instructions, and forms go home in a gallon zippered plastic bag on Monday and are returned on Friday.
This week we took home our first spring book bag. The spring bags are very different. They contain little readers that the students should be able to read with very little help from a parent. I have six different sets of reading books that are leveled from 1-20 and each child gets a book that I think they can read, based on their reading time with me during small groups. I try not to send home a book that the child has already read to me, but if they are struggling, I may even do that. I want each child to begin at a level of confidence. For those who need it, I also send home a “sound” book. These are based on one or two letters of the alphabet and contain vocabulary words to help the student with sounds. Each page has one photo and the corresponding first letter sound below it. For the gifted readers in my class I also have a complete set of first grade readers.
There is no paperwork with the spring book bags. Here are the instructions:
Monday- Read the book, discuss the pictures, talk about the story, and go over any difficult words. (If your child has two books in his/her book bag it is because one of them is for vocabulary and letter sound practice. You will notice the difference in the text. Just make sure your child knows each word and can tell you the beginning letter sound.)
Tuesday- Let your child read the book. Have your child write down words that are difficult, sound them out if possible, and then write them down again.
Thursday- Have your child read the book and tell you what it is about. Ask your child any questions that are at the back of the book.
Friday- Return the book bag to school. You do not have to turn in any paperwork or word lists. I trust you to read with your child because it is important, but I know that sometimes you will have to skip a night because of family obligations. If you get behind and want to keep a book for another week, just write a note in your child’s folder.
This program has worked well for me in the past. It gives my students extra reading practice with an adult, and gives parents a way to be involved in their child’s progress.