Reading Programs and Disabilities

Reason for absence:
“Since your reading program penalizes students with learning disabilities, we will be having our own ‘RC party’.”

I wrote this today when I sent in an absence slip for my 5th grader.

Accelerated Reader, Reading Counts, there are several programs meant to encourage reading in elementary school. These programs aren’t inherently bad, but how they are implemented can have unintended negative consequences.

At my kids’ school, goals are set for each grade. If a child meets both their points goal (you get points for reading books and taking tests) and their percentage goal (each test gives you a percentage correct that is supposed to tell you your comprehension level) you get to attend a quarterly party where they have jumping castles, movies, games and popcorn. Pretty fun, right?

I used to think so. Then my third child entered school, and was diagnosed with a language learning disability. He is what a teacher might call a ‘reluctant reader’, and reading for him is painful. In addition, his comprehension is very low, due to his disability.

You can see how this program becomes problematic for my son, and other reluctant readers.

For my son, finding time to take the tests is impossible. He gets pulled out of his classroom each day for resource support. That means the time he has in the classroom is spent playing catch-up. Add to that the extra time he has to spend just to get his work done, and you can see how frustrating the school experience is for him.

When we implement programs and systems into our classrooms, it is essential we consider the purpose of the program and who it is for. If it is not aimed at the most vulnerable students, then a game plan should be created for those students BEFORE the program is implemented.

In my opinion, a reading program should be geared toward encouraging reluctant and below-average readers to improve and learn to love reading, not to reward students who already excel at reading and make those who struggle to feel punished or validate self-identity as a poor reader. Unfortunately, many test-based reward programs do just that.

 

If your school utilizes one of these reading programs, here are some ideas to help:

IDEAS FOR PARENTS:
If you have a reluctant reader or a child with a disability or difference that affects their reading or comprehension, find out what reading programs are used 1. in your child’s classroom and 2. in your child’s school.

Get ALL of the details. How are goals set? How are points awarded? When are tests taken? What is the reward system? Are there different plans in place for kids with 504s and IEPs?

If your child is taken from the classroom for resource instruction, find out how that affects their participation in the program.

Once you’ve gathered all the info, decide how this program will best help YOUR child, and how it might impede them.

Meet with (or email if you have supportive, responsive teachers) your child’s teacher(s), include any support staff or teachers who help implement their IEP, as close to the beginning of the year as possible, and discuss our concerns, your support of the program and how you envision this will help your child. Keep it positive. If necessary, come up with a specific plan.

For instance, help set the goal, set up a special time for your child to take tests if needed, makes sure someone on that team is encouraging and supporting your child to make their goal. Ultimately, make sure the goal will actually benefit your child. In the case of my son, painfuly reading books for very low points, and then never getting credit because he can’t pass the comprehension percentage does nothing but discourage him and make him hate reading more. Instead, see if he can do something else to earn points and still access the same rewards as other students in the school.

IDEAS FOR TEACHERS:

First, read the tips for parents. ūüôā This will help you come up with some ideas for your students.

At the beginning of the year, or when implementing a new program, consider who in your class might need extra encouragement or some personalized changes to the program. Do your best to have all your students participate and succeed, regardless of their challenges.

After the 1st reward cycle, take note of the kids in your class. You will likely see them fall into one of three groups:
Acheivers: self-motivated, achieve the awards easily
Nudgers: need some motivation, but with some work and some reminders, awards are within their grasp.
Strugglers: have some obstacles in their way that stop them from getting the awards.

To focus on the Strugglers, identify the obstacle. The big three obstacles will be: time, disability, motivation. There are others, but you will find most kids fall into these three obstacle groups.

Time: figure out a plan or schedule to get them reading and taking the tests. Discus it with their parents, if possible.
Disability: work with their sped teacher or any other resource you have to come up with a personalized plan to help them achieve appropriate goals. Remember, the overreaching goal is to learn to love reading!

Motivation: this is the tough group. Some of these kiddos may have undiagnosed learning disorders or disabilities. These kids will need some extra support, love and motivation. If they don’t want to do the program, you can’t make them. But, you can still help them feel like a part of the group, and help them love learning.

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Posted by edorathy

Questival!!!

Have you heard of Questival? It’s an amazing 24 hour scavenger hunt of fun and doing good! Hosted by Cotopaxi, I strongly encourage everyone to try it!

Here is me and the hubs, at the start of our adventure. (We are team LlaMafia, hence the costumes)

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Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays, everyone. I hope you have plenty of time this weekend to relax with loved ones, eat great food, lighten someone’s load and maybe even read a good book.

I can’t wait to fill up this present with some hot cocoa and curl up with a book from my to-read stack. <3

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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Books for a Great Cause

My son is working on a Eagle Scout project. Because books are important to him, he decided to do something to help others develop a love of reading.

He decided to help make books accessible to a group of kids that don’t have a lot of access to current, good condition books.

He is creating a library space for the Reunion House. The Reunion House is “a temporary crisis shelter offering safety and stability to homeless and runaway youth, including young people in the care of Department of Child Safety. Most children come to Reunion House with little but the clothes they are wearing. We give them necessities and home-cooked meals, enroll them in school, and reunify them with their families whenever possible. We provide a safe, welcoming home until a permanent placement is arranged, with stays averaging five weeks. Last year, Reunion House was a safe refuge for 242 children” (from their website).

You can learn more about his project here.

He would love to get signed copies of books from authors, to make the library extra special. If you are an author with a middle-grade or young-adult book you would like to donate, please contact me to make arrangements.

Spread the word! Feel free to share!

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8 Ways to Participate in National Book Lovers Day

Book-lovers-Day

Tuesday, August 9th 2016 is National Book Lovers Day in the United States. This unofficial holiday celebrates Books! Books! Books! and the bibliophiles who can’t get enough.

Here are some great ways to show off your book love this year on National Book Lovers Day:

  1. Bring treats to your local librarians. If any day is a good day to show your appreciation to a librarian, National Book Lovers Day is the day! At the very least, visit a library. Take your kids, grandkids or nieces and nephews to the library. Invite their friends to come along. Bring a plate of cookies or a bowl of popcorn to the librarians. It will make their day! If the kids you know are already back in school, have your kids make thank you cards for their school librarians. It is an underappreciated profession, and tends to fly under the radar during teacher appreciation days.
  2. Post the titles of the books that have changed your life and be sure you own a copy of each. Several years ago I purchased a copy of Tell Me Some More, a book that forever changed my childhood and how I viewed libraries. Every trip to the library was my own imaginary page I added to this book in my mind. Take this day to think about the books that made an impression on you. Write the stories of them and share them with your audiences on social media. It will give a spark to others who may not read much anymore to revisit that magic. Don’t forget to tag #nationalbookloversday
  3. Share the Love. Give someone a book. Whether you are re-gifting one from your shelf, or buying one for someone special, think about those in your circle of influence and give someone a book they will enjoy. Especially notice children who may not have many books of their own, or who may not yet have caught the love of reading. A special book received from a grown-up friend can have an  incredible influence on them.
  4. Fill a need. Is there a school nearby with limited resources? Is there an organization that serves the homeless or foster families? Donate resources, books, or time. Book drives are very easy to organize. Most schools and libraries have a need for volunteers to come read to kids. Let your soul guide you to where you can help foster literacy and a love for reading, and do it!
  5. Support local bookstores.¬†How long has it been since you’ve actually entered a bookstore? Find a locally-owned one in your city and plan some time to visit it. Chat with the owner, and BUY SOMETHING, even if you know it may be cheaper on amazon.
  6. Have a party! If you’re an extrovert, National Book Lovers Day is a great excuse to have a party. (I give you permission to push it off to the weekend). Have people dress up as their favorite characters. Invite them to bring their favorite books. Have a book reading, or slam poetry reading. Provide awesome literary-themed treats.
  7. Organize your bookshelf.¬†Does the thought of throwing a party make your stomach churn? You don’t have to share your love of books with others. Turn that love to your space and give your books the attention they deserve.
  8. Send a love note. Who in your life encouraged your love of books? A parent? A teacher? An author? Let them know. Send them a letter, an email or a tweet to tell them how much they influenced your life and thank them.

dont-bug-me

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Posted by edorathy in Books and Reading, Personal, 0 comments

Pokemon Go! Parent’s Guide

PG parents

Parent’s Guide to Pokemon Go!

Have your kids been begging you to play a new game called Pokemon Go!? No doubt you have seen the memes, the mentions, and heard about this craze on social media. Or maybe you’re not on social media and your kids won’t stop talking about it.

Either way, you’ve come here to find out, just what the deal is and if there are any risks to your kids or grandkids playing this game.

You’ve come to the right place!

WHAT IS POKEMON GO!?

September 2015, Nintendo and Niantic Labs announced a collaboration for a new game called Pokemon Go! The game uses concepts from a popular Niantic game called Ingress which involves capturing real-life locations and claiming land for your team.

Since it’s official release July 2016 in the United States, Pokemon Go! has exploded in popularity. Just a week after it’s release, at a park near our home, over 200 people were out at the same time, capturing digital pokemon!

Tsunekazu Ishihara, President and CEO of the Pokemon Company and¬†John Hanke, Founder of Niantic have expressed the purpose of the game to be¬†to promote socialization and¬†encourage people to “come together to explore the outside world in a fun, social way and maybe learn something about their community in the process”. You can read the press release here.

Pokemon Go! is an app game you can download to most devices. To play, you interact with the real world, seeking out locations called “pokestops” to gain points and items to help in game play. Along the way you “catch” pokemon that appear around you. You can evolve and power up those pokemon to battle in gyms, which also are locations in the real world. The game is meant to be played while walking around, exploring your community, and can be highly social. You can team up with other players to battle, and eventually will be able to trade pokemon with each other (but you can also play it alone).

WHAT ARE THE RISKS TO YOUNG USERS?

The first risk is digital. Pokemon go requires you sign up with either a Google account or a Pokemon Trainer Club. If you choose to sign up a child as under 13 years old, you automatically have to create an account through the Pokemon Trainer Club.

Anytime you create any sort of account and attach it to an app, you release some of your information. This may be worrisome to you, and rightly so.

The safest ways to sign your kids up for Pokemon Go! are

1.Create a unique, new Google account to be used only for Pokemon Go! in your name (you will have to sign them up as over 13 years old to do this).

Or

2. Create a Pokemon Trainer Club account.

The negative with using a Pokemon Trainer Club account is that you now have to police that account for safety, and it gives another site access to your child’s information. It is also reportedly very laggy and glitchy compared to Google.

The negative with using a Google account is that your child’s account with not be tagged as a “under 13” account. In the future, as chat is enabled, an under 13 account protects your child from the chat feature. Because the chat feature has not yet released, it’s unknown how that could affect your child. Based on Ingress, there will probably¬†be a way to disable chat.

We chose to create unique Google accounts for each of our children to use to sign up for Pokemon Go!. If you use Google you DEFINITELY should use a newly created Google account that is used only for Pokemon Go! This is to protect your information (you may have read the articles about Pokemon Go! having access to all of your Google Drive info) and it is also to protect your child in the future as new features are rolled out that may allow you to look up other players.

When I first started playing Ingress, I used my main Google account. I was distressed when complete strangers were able to look up my G+ account and add me to their circles (I am not a fan of G+ for that reason). I created a new Google account to play Ingress with, and when looked up, there was no info to be found. Although Pokemon Go! may not use the same features as Ingress, it is still a good practice. You want to detach information used in Pokemon Go! from real information as much as possible.This is essential to do for your kids and teens playing Pokemon Go!, as trading, chat and other features are rolled out, as a preemptive strike to protect your kiddos’ identities.

Another important thing to consider is the handle or user name your kids create. This should absolutely NOT use any identifiable information, including their name, age, birth year, school name or mascot, where they live, and even their favorite interests. A name like Lucy2003 would be a huge no-no. A stranger could now guess that your daughter’s name is Lucy and she was born in 2003. It seems obvious to us,but kids don’t think of these things. Likewise ZeldaFan14 would give a predator a topic of interest to talk to your child about, which lowers your child’s defenses when talking to strangers (predators use this kind of info online for the same purpose, to create a trusting relationship). Don’t use a handle that gives your last name either, like SmithFam.

The second risk is physical.

The purpose of this game is to GET OUT in the real world. If you are not comfortable with your child walking the neighborhood, go with them. Have family activities at the park, go to community sites you’ve never been to. Pokestops and Gyms are typically at civic buildings, public art sites, parks, churches, and other points of interest.

Make sure your child knows how to be aware of their surroundings, what to do when approached by a stranger, and proper social boundaries. Also, unless you live where houses are on large acre plots, any pokemon they see that appear to be inside a house or yard should easily be able to be captured when in the vicinity. They do not need to be right on top of the pokemon to catch it.

One of the great benefits of this game is that it gets your kids OUTSIDE and ACTIVE! Win-win. But, be smart about it and review safety with your kiddos.

The best way to play this game with little ones is together. Who knows, you may enjoy it as much as they do!

Happy Pokemon-ing!

As the game changes and updates, this post will be updated. Feel free to ask questions and I will do my best to find the answers.

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Run To The Roar

It’s time to start/finish that project you’ve been to scared to start/finish.¬†

Run to the roar!

run-to-the-roar

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