Eric Litwin and Dr. Gina Pepin are co-authors of The Power of Joyful Reading: Help Your Young Readers Soar to Success! Below, they share how their Joyful Reading Approach can provide children with a strong reading foundation and help them learn to love reading, especially in this new time of social distance learning.
“Now more than ever, we must fill our virtual and in-person classrooms with joyful reading experiences!” – Eric Litwin and Dr. Gina Pepin
The joyful reading approach begins with the simple premise that all children need and deserve a strong reading foundation. This is essential because everything else in school will be built upon this foundation. Because of the profound challenges of the pandemic and social distance learning, we need this now more than ever.
Research shows that the roots of learning to read begin with shared and engaging oral language experiences that are connected to print. This is where children first hear the sounds in words and connect them to letters. This is how they learn and experience new words as they extend and refine their vocabulary. This is where they happily practice and strengthen expressive speech which conveys meaning. The benefits are so extraordinary that the American Academy of Pediatrics has come out with a policy statement, based on extensive research reviews, saying shared reading is necessary for full language, cognitive, and social-emotional development.
We can put these joyful reading experiences to work in our pre-K, kindergarten, and early elementary classrooms and help all our students develop their reading foundation. This includes developing the basic reading skills and knowledge they need for successful reading instruction. As well as guiding them to love books, enjoy reading, and see themselves as readers. There is nothing standing in our way. It does not cost any extra money. It supports all curriculum and all reading instruction. It can be done by all teachers in all learning environments. It will also make the school day more joyful for students and teachers.
This is the Joyful Reading Approach. Here is how it works.
We help students build their reading foundation by interweaving joyful and engaging shared reading experiences into our daily routines, activities, and lessons in our early childhood classrooms, throughout the day, day after day, all year long.
It is simple to do. We create joyful and engaging shared reading experiences any time we happily connect oral language to print and read together. And this leads to so many additional opportunities. For example, throughout the day, teachers often remind children of their classroom expectations. Why not put this in a catchy song or fun poem and share the words on a white board or poster? Now you have a delightful recurring shared reading experience. Here is an example:
Sit in your chair
Hands in your lap
Then clap, clap, clap.
Will students receive and learn the classroom expectations better when presented in an interactive song? Of course they will. And they are learning words, sounds, expressive fluency, and so much more. Daily routines just go better when they include a joyful shared reading experience. Instructional activities and lessons also benefit when they include shared reading experiences. For example, when engaging students in a math lesson on subtraction, the chorus of Eric’s subtraction book, Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, can easily be adapted to support the primary math objective. This provides context and multisensory engagement, and makes the entire math lesson more effective.
Immersing early childhood students in these powerful reading experiences throughout the day, day after day, all year long helps them develop the key reading skills and knowledge they need for successful reading instruction. And it leads them to love books, enjoy reading, and see themselves as readers.
The Joyful Reading Approach has other important benefits. It infuses intentional and focused joy into our school day, something all our students and teachers truly need in these challenging times. It also helps bring our schools together, even when we have to keep physically apart. What unites a school more than working together around an essential joyful goal? Together, you become a big, school-wide, loving reading family.
In The Power of Joyful Reading, we discuss how to turn classrooms into reading playgrounds and teach like reading superheroes. And we truly need reading superheroes now more than ever.
Now more than ever, it is essential to help all students build a joyful foundation in reading.
Now more than ever, we must facilitate and optimize the development of basic reading skills and knowledge that prepare students for reading instruction
Now more than ever, we must guide all students to love books, enjoy reading, and see themselves as readers.
Now more than ever, we must fill our in-person and virtual classrooms with joyful reading experiences.
We hope you will put the power of joyful reading to work in your school and classrooms.
Sincerely, Eric Litwin and Dr. Gina Pepin