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Education in action

Okay, you're working on reading with your kid(s). You're patient with the phonics, tenacious with the syllabification, rolling with their word recognition. And their reading is coming along!

Or maybe it's not, yet, and you're flat out of patience.

Either way, call in some reinforcements: your sister, your mom, a friend, whomever's game. Let them know what techniques your reader has and turn them loose for a read-aloud. If you know the listener tolerates ambiguity, questioning, risk taking, and blunders well, you might ask them to support a skill (one at a time, please!) your reader is working on. That's not as necessary as a new audience, though.

Learning is social. When C is reading a story out loud to my mom or sister, she's not only interacting with the author's point of view, but also with two radically different people and radically different readers: my sister never enjoyed reading, and my mother does. Each tolerates uncertainty, curiosity, daring, and failure differently, supporting C's thinking and problem-solving in diverse ways. Each offers feedback and assistance with her discrete skills. C hears other people who matter to her rewarding and emphasizing skills she's practicing.

Listening in from another room is amazing. Even if we only tune in for five minutes of a 30-minute read-aloud, we hear what's automatic, and what's not. We hear her response to different ways of teaching the same skill.

Reading techniques are direct instruction: we lay out specific pieces of information that with time and experience, turn into skills. And kids can only spin skills into knowledge with practice, through their own social participation.

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