Reading Secrets Revealed!
(Or, How to Help Your Child Succeed)
Part IV

This week’s edition of "Reading Secrets Revealed" focuses on other areas of a child’s learning which can be positively affected by additional reading aloud and independent reading.

Comprehension and Attention span:
Harvard psychologist, Jerome Kagan found that reading aloud to children separately (one-to-one) and listening to their talk about what is read improved their attention span. While challenging for most families, reading separately to each sibling was reportedly a most effective way to cement first the concepts of plot and cause-and-effect in literature and second, the ability of a child to attend to the story.
(Trelease, J. (2006).The Read Aloud Handbook, page 34)

In addition to a greater vocabulary, most people, when trying to recall the correct spelling of a word, write the word in a several ways and determine which looks correct. Jim Trelease (2007, p. 43) reminds us in The Read Aloud Handbook that “the more a child looks at words in sentences and paragraphs, the greater the chances he [or she] will recognize when the word is spelled correctly or incorrectly...” (p. 43)

”Students who write the most are not [necessarily] the best writers...[G]ood writers write, but they read even more...The more you read, the better you write...The highest-scoring [NAEP - National Assessment of Educational Progress] student writers were not those who wrote the most each day, but rather the students who read the most recreationally, had the most printed materials in their homes, and did regular essay writing in class.” (p. 43, Jim Trelease,The Read Aloud Handbook(2006)

Reading Secrets Revealed!!
(Or, How to Help Your Child Succeed)
Part III


First, some background:

“The eventual strength of our vocabulary [and thus our reading skills] is determined not by the ten thousand common words [in our common lexicon], but by how many ‘rare words’ we understand. ...Regular family conversations will take care of the basic vocabulary, but when [we] read to [a] child, [we] leap into the rare words that help most when it’s time for school and formal learning.” p. 16, The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (2006)
(Research: Hayes, D.P. and Ahrens, M.G. Vocabularly simplification for children: A Special Case for ‘Motherese.” Journal of Child Language, vol. 25, 1988, pp. 395-410.)

Jim Trelease jokes that “inside the ear, these [read-aloud] words collect in a reservoir called the listening vocabulary. Eventually, if you pour enough words into it, the reservoir starts to overflow - pouring words into the speaking vocabulary, reading vocabulary, and writing vocabulary. All have their origin in the listening vocabulary.” (p. 33, The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (2006))

So, what does this mean for my child?
you are probably wondering...

Trelease says that students whose parents both talk with them and read to them gain the MOST vocabulary, since written language contains a richer vocabulary than spoken language. In addition, students who read and listen to others read aloud have strong models for correct grammar, and therefore are more likely to use proper grammar themselves. (Trelease, 2006, p. 41)

It’s particularly critical that students of English learn and acquire vocabulary. The story of English states that “of all the world’s languages (which now number some 2,700), [English] is arguably the richest in vocabulary. The compendious Oxford English Dictionary lists some 500,000 words; and a further half-million technical and scientific terms remain uncatalogued. According to traditional estimates, neighboring German has a vocabulary of about 185,000 words and French fewer than 100,000...” (McCrum, R., Cran, W., and MacNeil, R. (1986) The Story of English. New York: Viking, pp. 19, 20, 32.

Reading Secrets Revealed!!
(Or, How to Help Your Child Succeed)

Reading Secrets Revealed!! (Part 1)
(Or, How to Help Your Child Succeed)

Over the course of my years of teaching, many parents have asked how best to help their children become better readers, writers, spellers, and thinkers. I will take the next several weeks to write a short article about the sum of some important research which is detailed in maybe my favorite book on reading ever: Jim Trelease’s 2006 edition of The Read Aloud Handbook. This is a treasure-trove of information, great for parents of both able and reluctant readers. I highly recommend borrowing it from any library.

Here are two quick and easy ways to have an immediate, positive effect on your child’s reading skills (and the research behind the ideas):

1) In 1983, a group of acclaimed educational professionals began a two-year survey of all the research literature on reading and children which had been published in the previous twenty-five years, in order to recommend best practices for American parents and teachers. Two tenets of the report state:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge
required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to
children.” (p. 23) AND “It is a practice that should
continue throughout the grades (at home and in the

(A Nation at Risk, (p. 51) Anderson, R.C., Hiebert, E.H., Scott, J.A., Wilkenson, I.A.G..(1985). Becoming a nation of readers: The report of the commission on reading, U.S. Department of Education. (Champaign-Urbana, IL: Center for the Study of Reading.)

Here is Jim Trelease’s added recommendation:
“Even when children reach primary grades, research has shown that repeated picture book readings - at least three times -
increases vocabulary acquisition by 15-20 percent, and the learning is relatively permanent.” (Trelease, p. 9)

Research: Warwick B. Elley. “Vocabulary Acquisition from Listening to Stories,” Reading Research Quarterly, vol. 24, Spring, 1989, pp. 174-187

2) A study “conducted in Modesto, California...showed that 1) boys who were read to by their fathers (or a male relative or other male role model) scored significantly higher in reading achievement, and 2) when fathers read recreationally (in front of their children), their sons read more and scored higher than did boys whose fathers did little or no recreational reading. (Trelease, p. xxiv)

Read aloud with your child to increase his/her ability!
Read and reread your favorite books and passages from books!
Be seen reading in your child's presence!

Thanks for your enduring partnership!
Kristin Murphy

Reading Secrets Revealed!!
(Or, How to Help Your Child Succeed)

Part II
What is needed to help your child read even better?
Besides a library card...
Here are Jim Trelease’s “3-Bs” for Better Reading:

1) Books.
There is a strong correlation between owning and borrowing books and reading success. The more books owned and borrowed, the better the reader.

2) Book baskets.
Placed in your child’s bedroom, the bathroom, the
kitchen, the living room... At least one study found that children who were the most engaged readers lived in houses with reading material in several places in the home, not just in a few rooms. A saturated environment provides the most chances for children and adults to pick up a book and amuse themselves.

3) Bed lamp, next to your child’s bed.
Jim Trelease advises explaining to your child, “We think you’re old enough now to stay up later at night and read in bed like Mom and Dad. So we bought this little lamp and we’re going to leave it on an extra fifteen minutes (or longer), if you want to read in bed. On the other hand, if you don’t want to read, that’s okay, too. We’ll just turn off the light at the same old time**.” (Trelease, The Read Aloud Handbook, p. 36.)