Challenge Log: 21 Days Of Raising Readers

Thursday 24 June 2021

I’ve taken a couple months break from 21 day challenges… I needed it to consolidate what I’ve learned and experienced.

So far the 21 day challenges I’ve done are:

  1. 21 Days without Social Media
  2. 21 Days of Digital Decluttering
  3. 21 Days of Meditating (I also paired it with 21 Days of Blogging at the same time).

Honestly, these challenges have been LIFE CHANGING. They allow me to test out new habits without having to actually COMMIT TO THEM FOR A LIFETIME which terrifies the fuck out of me.

Plus I’m someone who does SO much better at a sprint than a marathon. Give me a big project to pull off with a stupidly small deadline and I’m like WOO I AM PUMPED I WILL BE #1 AT THIS. But give me something to do everyday for the foreseeable future and beyond? KILL ME NOW I AM WEAK.

Anyways, I’ve been hankering to get back into the 21 day challenge saddle.

This one will be a different kind of focus. It’s less about my own personal discipline, and more about setting and maintaining a parenting habit & culture.

Specifically, about helping my kids bloom into happy, enthusiastic, confident readers. They both love books, this is just the next step to consolidating it. It’s like a 21 day reading intensive… but (hopefully) without pressure, just good habits! It’s a Reading Month! A Festival of Books! A LiteraryPalooza!

Also: one of my favourite moments in parenting have been when I’m wedged between my two kids, sniffing their heads & reading books with them. I want to cultivate even more of those moments.

Here’s the two parts I’m thinking this challenge will consist of:

1. Daily Habits

  • 20 mins+ of Reading Time – listening to my youngest read while my eldest reads by herself
  • 20 mins+ of Me Reading To Them
  • Optional: A lesson from Reading Eggs/Reading Eggspress. (This last one is dependent on whether it is school holidays or weekend. I don’t want them to burn out on too much stuff during the school week. They currently have two more weeks of school holidays, so plenty of free time.)

Here’s the thing: I’ve done a lot of reading to and with them over the years. When we were homeschooling, i was reading hundreds of books a year to them. Reading Time isn’t foreign to them at allll… I’m just aiming for daily, repetitive consistency. 

Daily, repetitive consistency is my fucking worst enemy thanks to having ASD & ADHD. I can be many things… an enthusiastic parent! An excitable parent! A creative parent! An encouraging parent! But someone who is hyper organised & repetitive? Very difficult to institute. Thus why I’m working on it.

Also, I’d like to say right here that I feel a bit worried about being judged online for being a shit parent because daily repetitive tasks aren’t my greatest strength in the world.

May I take the opportunity to pre-emptively say to any errant Judgey McJudgefaces:

Stop being ableist and sexist. Ableist because: ADHD & ASD makes this shit a thousand times harder than for neurotypicals. We are awesome parents in lots of other ways. Sexist because: if a Dad said the same thing, he’d be held up as God Among Men For Even Thinking About Trying. Mums are doing their ding-dang-darnlydest best. Support, don’t shame.

2. Reading Research Project

As I’ve discovered with these 21 day challenges… they become like mini research projects. Which, to me, is the most exciting thing of all. I fucking LOVE diving into a new topic. I get obsessed with shit, and love diving deeeeeep in.

So I’ll likely do some research (and share what I find along the way) about cultivating readers.

Or even… some READING… about READING. CAN IT GET MORE META.

Possible research ideas:

  • I’d like to spend a couple of hours at the library to do a deep read/note taking of “how to teach your kid to read books”. Remember how I celebrated my birthday by going to the library, power reading through a pile of books & making illustrated notes about them? Like that, but you know, not on fucking social media. I’m so pissed that some of my work is only on social media. I need to remedy that.
  • Interview people about how they encouraged their kids to read
  • Read books book books books because lolz of course.
  • I might even (GASP!) set up a new Notebook inside GoodNotes to document my research.
  • Plus, of course I’ll share it here.

Setting myself up for success

I’m an Obliger tendency and do so much better when someone else knows what my goal is. Here’s how I’m using accountability to help consolidate those habits:

  • My best mate is going to check in with me regularly, and also help me problem solve any issues I come up against. Get yourself a mum friend who has older kids, peeps. They know more stuff than you.
  • I’m creating weekly reading logs every Sunday that will be viewed by someone else (SOMEONE ELSE’S EYES = INSTANT PRODUCTIVITY! WEEE!)
  • I’m talking about this publicly, and making a whole fucking research log about it.

When do I start?

Fuck waiting for a new month to start! I’m hooking in now!

Two things I’d love to ask!

  1. If you have tips or experience in helping your kids become insatiable readers please do email in! And please let me know if you’re comfortable with me sharing your answers publicly in my research log! I’m also happy for it to just be a private email between the two of us (well… three of us… because my assistant will read it too. But she’s tops!)
  2. If you’ve got any recommendations for books or other resources about helping kids to become great readers, please let me know! I would love to hear them.

Also, if you’d like to get every post I make about this research project, make sure you sign up for my Daily-ish newsletter!

Hooray!

Hi ho, hi ho! It’s off to another 21 day challenge we go!

I’m so excited!

Tues 29 June: Day 5

I’ve been putting off writing this log – I started thinking it needed to be super detailed and brilliant, for some reason.

Perfectionism. Gross. No thanks!

So don’t mind me while I just write my shitty first draft.

Daily Habits:

  • 20 mins+ of Reading Time – listening to my youngest read while my eldest reads by herself
  • 20 mins+ of Me Reading To Them
  • A lesson from Reading Eggs/Reading Eggspress.

These have been working well. I’ve been making a non-negotiable. If I don’t, they’ll never get done.

I’ve noticed that by putting more of a focus on reading time, it ends up having a cascade effect. They start reading, get obsessed and keep reading. My eldest kid ended up finishing 8 chapter books this week (!!!!)

Other thoughts:

  • I read “Raising Readers” by Megan Daley – a teacher librarian here in Australia. She also has an excellent blog here. I have a bunch of notes from this. It helped build a useful framework in my head of how to approach reading.
  • In “Raising Readers”, Megan talks about her shared readaloud books she reads to her daughters, and how they each got to take it in turns to choose the next read, including her. I thought this was a great idea… I can’t wait to get to choose a read as well!
  • I have already ordered the Famous Five series by Enid Blyton for my next shared readaloud choice… it was one of my favourites when I was a kid.
  • Me & my kids absolutely LOVED Lauren Child’s illustrated version of Pippi Longstocking. So we were thrilled when we chanced upon the Lauren Child illustrated version of Mary Poppins this morning. That’s totally going in our book basket for what we are reading next as well!
  • I also uncovered 101 Kids’ Books To Read Before You Grow Up. We were going through it quite fastidiously when we were homeschooling and quite loved the recommendations. Now the girls are a bit older we’ll be able to read some of the older books too!
  • A wee while ago I went on a stalk through AbeBooks.com to find out of print Jennie Maizels pop up books. She does these amazingly illustrated & handwritten pop up books on non fiction topics like grammar, punctuation, science and music. They are fawned over more than any other books in this house.
  • We’ve just been popped back into a 3 day lockdown to contain a Covid outbreak. Or as I like to reframe it: a 3 day reading staycation!

Wednesday 30 June, Day 6

After sharing about my new kids reading intensive, one lovely reader wrote in to recommend Megan Daley’s website Children’s Book Daily and her book Raising Readers.

I thoroughly binged on her website, these resources were especially helpful:

So I then binge-read her book Raising Readers over the weekend.

Here are my notes:

  • “Flashcards or early online reading programs won’t instil this joy in your little one, but gorgeous books will.”
  • “Cuddle up with your child. Reading is the perfect time for physical bonding.”
  • “Reading books is still the single most important activity you can do with your child in developing their literacy.”
  • “Follow the text with your finger so your child can see the way words flow from left to right. Be prepared to re-read favourite books over and over again.”
  • “A child’s love of books begins with loved adults taking the time out from a busy schedule to read with them. It’s a wonderful bonding exercise. Cuddling up and reading with a child allows them to form powerful associations between books and moments of happiness, love and closeness.”
  • “But life can be stressful and it can be difficult to keep reading at the top of the priority list when there are work crises to deal with, children to wrangle, bills to pay, and so on. Every family has their own set of challenging circumstances. Making reading part of the daily routine helps to ensure that it happens because it becomes automatic, like brushing your teeth or turning on the dishwasher. But it also means that you’re consistently carving out moments for yourself to relax and relish dedicated time with your child.”
  • “Sometimes, when I am exhausted by solo parenting or when the end of school term is nigh and I’m surrounded by small cranky people, it is so tempting to skip the bedtime books. But when I reflect on the benefits of a bedtime reading routine in my own life, it’s clear to me why I make the effort nearly every night to do it.”
  • “We take it in turns, myself included, and we switch it up. Some weeks we will read picture books. Then we might spend a week on puzzle books and then we might have two weeks of reading a longer chapter book.”
  • “Incidental reading is all about snatching pockets of time in a busy day to quickly escape into a book with your child. It could be while you’re waiting for the bath to fill or while you’re killing time before a doctor’s appointment. The key to incidental reading is to surround yourself with books so that they can be easily and regularly dipped into.”
  • “Place collections of books in baskets or boxes throughout your home, chuck a few board books in the nappy bag, and stash a few in the car.”
  • “Keep the structures in place, the modelled reading at a high level and the books strewn on every available surface, ready and waiting.”
  • “Learning to read and becoming an independent reader is a process of incremental skill building.”
  • “The first few years of primary school can seem to be a never-ending slog through sight words and frantic morning searches for those flimsy little school readers that teachers hand out daily with the reverence of a first edition Harry Potter.”
  • “Books that your child has chosen from the library are for sharing with a loved adult and are usually a read-aloud experience until your child is reading independently. Even then, reading aloud is something which I encourage well into the upper primary years and beyond.”
  • “I believe that every child should always have picture books on the go.”
  • “Do the hard yards as soon as possible. Your child will reap the rewards later on.”
  • “I personally have learnt more about Australian history through reading Jackie French’s novels, than I did in all my years of history lessons at school.”

It was definitely a useful read!

In some ways it helped build a framework in my head of how people learn to read, and the culture and conditions I need to create to help it get there.

It’s late, and my eldest has just fallen asleep after reading a book for hours on end.

Whatever I’m doing, it seems to be working.

Dearests,

This just filled my heart with joy today.

Just the image of those two tweens out there in the paddock reading a book together.

Excuse me while my heart squeeeeees.

Also, for those playing along at home…

The tweens bought matching copies of:


My 7 year old bought:


Honestly, I’m freaking THRILLED with how this challenge is going. It’s creating some great habits & inspiration for all of us!

July 16, 2021

We’ve managed to uphold some good new reading habits with the kids.

They’ve continued with a daily Reading Eggs lesson, 20 minutes of reading to me and 20+ minutes of me reading to them.

I finished up reading Famous Five’s Five On A Treasure Island book to them. Both of my kids loved it and were begging for “just one more chapter!” each night. My big kid thought the ending was slightly unsatisfying. Still, I’m so glad I got to fulfil that childhood wish of mine to one day share it with my kids! We still have four more in the set to read. In the meantime however, it’s my big kid’s turn to choose our next read. She went with the new Lauren Child illustrated version of Mary Poppins, and decided spontaneously that it will be a shared read – she’ll read one page aloud, then I’ll read the next. It’s so exciting to see!

My little kid has been reading to me with a bunch of different readers including Meet Ella, School of Monsters, the ubiquitous Bob Books, the Reading Eggs series and Reading Eggs Storylands series (I used to buy these from Blake Education, but I haven’t been able to find now – perhaps discontinued?). I’ve had the Reading Eggs collections since we homeschooled a few years ago. They do come in handy, and can be used separately, but are awesome when used with the Reading Eggs software too.

My big kid has continued her informal book group with her friend, and she’s just reading all over the place now. Five minutes before she has to go to school? She’ll read a couple of pages. For hours after going to bed? She reads a book. It’s been amazing what a difference there’s been just from having this daily applied focus.

One of my kid’s reading age has increased by 6 months in the space of 3 weeks. Her teacher has noticed a huge improvement. We’re all thrilled! Again: what a difference!

July 20, 2021

Dearests,

Mate, I feel like I am nailing this reading intensive challenge with my kids.

There’s so few parts of parenting where you can get that “I AM DOING THIS RIGHT!” sense of achievement, so it’s been bloody lovely to feel it from this challenge.

Here’s where we’re at:

  • I read Raising Readers – my notes from it are here
  • We’ve been doing 3 daily activities – a Reading Eggs lesson, I read to them for 20+ minutes, they read to me for 20+ minutes (well, the littlest does, and the eldest does her own reading)
  • They’ve started doing Writer’s Club at school
  • My eldest started an informal book club with one of her friends
  • One of my kids has had a leap of 6 months in reading age in the last 4 weeks
  • I hired a literacy tutor who comes to our house once a week for 2 hours – one hour for each.

Next up: adding incidental reading into the mix!

I got this idea from Raising Readers:

“Incidental reading is all about snatching pockets of time in a busy day to quickly escape into a book with your child. It could be while you’re waiting for the bath to fill or while you’re killing time before a doctor’s appointment. The key to incidental reading is to surround yourself with books so that they can be easily and regularly dipped into. Place collections of books in baskets or boxes throughout your home, chuck a few board books in the nappy bag, and stash a few in the car.”

First up, I downloaded the Kindle app on my phone, and bought Enid Blyton’s Cherry Tree Farm story collection. That way when we are out and about, waiting in the car or for appointments, I can just read to them from there.

It reminds me of when I had to head to emergency unexpectedly with my biggest kid last month, which turned into an overnight stay. I fossicked through the car before we walked in, and found a stray copy of Roald Dahl’s BFG. We had some absolutely delightful time waiting in emergency reading that book together. Incidental reading at its finest!

Project: Create A Book Bag!

To add even more incidental reading into our lives, I decided to make a book bag to add to our car.

I grabbed an old calico bag that was in our bag drawer.

I used some kid’s gouache paints that we had sitting around… acrylic would have worked fine as well, I just wanted to use up these babies before they shrivel up and die early deaths.

Then I handpainted “B O O K” onto it. And yes, that IS our dining room table that never gets eaten at because it’s a 24/7 ART STUDIO in our house. Mostly my kids projects, but mine too. And yep, it’s totally smeared with paint all over it, and I’m never getting rid of it or painting over it. It’s the only piece of furniture I’m sentimental about. We bought it when Starry was a baby, and it has the marks of every single craft project since then on it.

Here’s what it looked like when it was finished.

Then I piled it up with a bunch of picture books, novels and non-fiction, and slung it over the extra headrest in the car between the kids. Thus far, they are in love!

Books 4 Cats

My kids’ school doesn’t currently do Scholastic Book Clubs, so I reactivated our old home school account, and have been ordering through them again. They sent out this classroom poster in their last catalogue where you get kids to read daily for 10 weeks, colouring in each book as you go.

We decided to use it at home. We talked about what we could do as a reward when we finish it, and the kids requested a visit to the CAT CAFE. Oh my WORD, we are SO EXCITED.

Books 4 cats. This is the best idea we’ve EVER had.

Merrily, onwards.

With arms loaded with books & joy in our hearts!

In Reader Love,

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