Having supported emerging readers for well over a decade, I can say that one of the very best ways to help young people read is to read to and with them.
At Progress School, we do not force students to read or pressure them to attain specific levels of fluency at set points. Instead we focus on fostering a love of reading, supported by fun activities designed to develop all the skills people need to be able to read independently.
Most schools have a story time or some sort of reading time on most days. At Progress School we read books throughout the day, every day. Occasionally we develop something of an obsession with a particular book. For a couple of weeks it was The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, written by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith.
Scieszka’s witty humor entertains children and adults alike. His collection of revised fairy tales include wacky versions of Chicken Little, The Gingerbread Man and Little Red Riding Hood. The students LOVED them, the sillier the better. They asked the teachers to read and reread the stories. They read parts of the stories to each other. Then they took turns checking out the book so that they could read the stories to their families and friends outside of school.
We compared Scieszka’s versions with the traditional stories. Then we explored other traditional fairy tales and discussed how we could make our own versions. This tied in wonderfully to the students’ interest in writing and performing plays. Using familiar fairy tales as starting points, we worked in our own twists to create new pieces. Through the process of writing and rehearsing, the students are presented with a fun opportunity to practice reading and develop fluency.