WIN!!!! Scholastic is giving away four of their most popular Branches books to one lucky reader–see how to enter below.
When my kiddos were little(r) I was dreaming of the day when I could tell them, “Go in your room and read for a bit.” Reading is wonderful in so many ways, but as a working mom who’s trying to get a gazillion things done, it’s also fantastic for using it to give kids some downtime without having the TV on. As I’ve said before, my 10 year old son is hooked on reading, but my 6 year old daughter is still an emerging reader, so we’ve been working hard on finding that certain book that “hooks” her. The Magic Treehouse series was great for my son, but my daughter has heard them already, and to be totally honest, I was bored with them. So when Scholastic books asked if we were interested in learning about the Branches series, I was all over it.
Branches books are created for the newly independent reader. They’re meant to be that “hook” that your child needs to get them interested. Filled with pictures, exciting plots, and characters they can relate to, your child will reach for them time after time. Even better, the Branches line is made up of series–so once your kiddo finds the character for them, they’ll be able to turn back to that character again and again, which builds their reading stamina and confidence.
My daughter was drawn to Branches’ Notebook of Doom right away (must be Halloween!) and has been going to read ON HER OWN so she can see what’s going to happen next. She’s already asking if we can order the Chomp of the Meat-Eating Vegetables, another title in the series. So the Branches books are already doing their trick!
But how else can we get our kids reading? Breezy Mama turned to the Editor of the Branches line, Katie Carella, for some advice:
First, let’s start with Lexile numbers–what do they mean? How do we know what Lexile number is right for our child?
Your child’s teacher does reading assessments to assign a reading level. Depending on the school, the teacher may assign a Lexile level and/or a Guided Reading level. Books are also given these levels, so the idea is that you can then match your child with a book of the same or similar level. Often, you and your child are told the level so that you can make more informed reading selections outside of school, too.
Lexile is a quantitative measure of a text. It examines elements such as vocabulary, sentence length, and sentence structure to determine a level.
Guided Reading is both a quantitative and a qualitative measure. It takes the text elements referenced above into account, while also accounting for qualitative elements such as background knowledge and specialized vocabulary.
Key take-away: Children are a range of levels in most cases. It can be helpful to think of reading levels as clothing sizes: a “small” may fit you perfectly, but a “4” may be way too large, especially depending on the type of clothing (i.e. athletic, casual, formal). In other words, no reading levels are exact, just like clothing sizes are rarely exact. Reading levels should be used as a guideline only.
Books these days seem to have so many pictures throughout the words–is this to keep the child’s attention?
Children (and adults, too!) “read” pictures for the same reason as they read text – to gain information. Children’s first reading experiences often consist of reading pictures in order to tell a story. And for children transitioning out of leveled readers and picture books, which have artwork throughout, books without pictures can seem too intimidating. Branches books meet kids where they are! They feature artwork on every page on purpose – we want our books to appear inviting so children are willing to try out the longer, more text-heavy format. The decision to include pictures is not so much about holding a child’s attention as it is about getting a child to open and begin reading a book. Branches’ illustrations match up with the accompanying story text because children rely on the artwork to help them decode unfamiliar text and to aid in reading comprehension. This is a reading skill that children should be encouraged to use. In a way, the pictures in a story also teach your child how to imagine what’s happening in a story – just as the illustrator had to imagine the scene in order to draw it. When your child is ready for longer, more text-heavy books, he or she will then have the tools necessary to imagine story events on his or her own.
If we have a child who is a reluctant reader, what tips do you have to get them to read?
Here is the MOST important tip I can give: Let your child choose what he or she wants to read. Choice is key to growing engaged, confident readers. And all book choices are good choices because when your child chooses a book, he or she wants to read it. If the book is too easy, your child will gain reading fluency and stamina as they read. If the book is too hard, your child may struggle, but he or she will also learn decoding skills to pull meaning from what he or she can read. Both of these experiences ultimately grow your child’s vocabulary and reading skill set. So, please, never underestimate the power of choice.
When a child finds a character or series that they relate to, it’s reading magic. But it can be hard to find a book that interests them–do you have any tips for finding books?
If your child is a newly-independent reader, I encourage you to pull multiple Branches series off the shelf (Branches’ spines are easy to spot!) to see if one of our series grabs your child’s attention. Again, letting your child choose the book is the key. And I recommend Branches specifically in this example because I know that our books provide newly-independent readers with the building blocks necessary to make the transition to becoming independent readers. I’ve seen firsthand — through the oodles of fan mail we receive from children, parents, and teachers — that Branches books = reading magic!
What can we, as parents, besides read with our children, do to help our child’s reading?
One of the most important things you can do is model good reading behavior. Turn off the TV, put away your phone, and spend time with a book. Your child will see that books offer their own enjoyment. You could even read your separate books side by side… Just add a cup of hot chocolate, and doesn’t that sound like a perfect evening?
Take trips to your local bookstore or library on a regular basis so that your child can frequently choose new books. Once the trip becomes routine, your child will know and hopefully come to look forward to discovering new books.
You should ask your child to talk about what he or she is reading. This can be a great way to assess and reinforce reading comprehension. The key is to discuss the book in such a way that it feels natural and conversational—not at all like a quiz. In the back of every Branches book, we provide a Questions & Activities page. You should try to go through this page with your child after he or she finishes a Branches book. I promise that our questions and activities are fun!
Anything else you’d like to add?
When I was a teacher, there were two things parents often said that made me cringe:
1.“My child is not a reader.” In reality, your child just may not have found the right book yet. But when your child hears this phrase over and over, he or she may internalize that you believe he or she will never be a reader. This can turn a child off to reading before ever getting started.
2. “That book is too easy for you.” Please remember that not everything you read is challenging (i.e. your beach read). Children need fun reads, too. Easier books that your children want to read are always a good choice. The more your child reads, the more reading fluency and stamina he or she gains—all helping to prepare your child for more challenging texts in the future.
Remember, children look to the grown-ups in their lives for support and approval, so anything we can do to encourage a love of books early on helps grow lifelong readers!
About Katie Carella:
Katie Carella, a Senior Editor, oversees Scholastic’s early chapter book line, Branches. She earned her master’s degree in education at the University of Pennsylvania and taught 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades–all before entering children’s editorial. She edits many early chapter book series, including The Notebook of Doom and Kung Pow Chicken. She also edits leveled readers such as The Long Dog. Katie is focused on creating great books for newly-independent readers! You can follow her on Twitter @KatieCarella
WIN!!!! Scholastic is giving away four of their most popular Branches books to one lucky reader–to enter, tell us in the comments section below what your child’s favorite chapter book is. One comment will be chosen at random. Giveaway open to US addresses only. Prizing and samples provided by Scholastic.
*Branches samples and prizing are provided by Scholastic. All opinions are my own.