Reading under the Trees

by guest blogger Karen Nemeth EdM

 When I was a young girl I told everyone that one day I would have a house with a weeping willow tree in the yard because I loved to hide in the shelter of the cascading leaves and read books.  That is what I loved so much about reading – that I could do it anywhere, anytime.  I also loved to read at night in a tent with a flashlight or early in the morning when the birds were just beginning to chirp.  I think reading outside is something every child should be able to enjoy.   I was reading all the time as I was growing up, even though I sometimes resisted the restrictive reading assignments at school.  Let’s bring back the freedom and joy of reading just for the fun of it!

 I think we can change the way schools, families, camps and librarians approach early literacy in any language with this idea!  I don’t know how we developed the rule that children should go outside for big, physical play, but come inside to read.  A change of venue is a perfect way to get children more interested in reading for pleasure and for interest.  Fresh air, freedom and books go perfectly together.  Here are some ideas you could try:

 * In addition to your stationary bookshelves, how about creating a book basket that can go outside with you? You might add some drawing supplies or dress-up items so the children can draw or act out the stories they are reading.

* Keep a stash of books in the car or school bus or camp van  – a great way to fill the time when you’re riding or waiting.  What if children were greeted every day with “Good morning – what have you been reading about today?”

* Create a collection of books related to your outside environment whether it is your backyard, the neighborhood park, the playground or a balcony.  Look for books about what the child sees in his outside world.  Then – if you provide them in different languages, the children have lots of cues to understand the new words.

*  Join in the reading fun!  Whenever we want children to do something new, the best thing is to do it too!  I would love to see more teachers, librarians, camp counselors, and parents laying on the grass with the kids, enjoying a book of their own.

For more ideas about early learning and language, visit my website at www.languagecastle.com .  And, if you can find a nice, welcoming, shady tree, that would be a perfect place to start reading outside!

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3 thoughts on “Reading under the Trees”

  1. Your reading love has a beautiful ‘close to nature’ thought and it is lovely 🙂
    I reminds me of my childhood when me and my sister use to cherish deep pleasure in reading outside. I guess, we are people from same generation. Else just compare our childhood and pleasure activities with today’s kids; seems like a story of different planets.

  2. I have always had a love of reading. I read a book by Stephen King on writing. In it he said to always have a book with you because you never know when you will have to wait, etc. So I have taken his suggestion.
    I love the idea of reading outside as well.
    When I was writing my Dissertation on reading, I was struck by the concept of voluntary reading. Adults read only what they are interested in and I believe one way to encourage reading is allow students to choose books they want to read. I tried that out in my classroom and it was so successful. I had tons of books on every subject. The students chose what they wanted to read. These were first grade ESOL students. Some chose books that they were not able to read yet. Dinosaur books were a big hit. While the children read I went to each student and had a short conference on why he/she chose that book. If it was something they could read, I asked them to read to me. That is how I got a lot of my mini lesson plans. For example, if a child read a word like “walked” and pronounced it “walkeded” including the “ed” sound in a very pronounced way, then I would give a mini lesson the next day on how to pronounce words that ended with “ed”. As for my students fascinated with dinosaur books they couldn’t read, I would ask them what they learned from the pictures and did they know any of the words. My thought was that picking a book that they could not read yet, was great because it stirred an interest in them to learn how to read about dinosaurs because of their interest in the subject.

  3. I love the idea of creating a collection of books about the family’s outside environment. I teach English for Speakers of Other Languages at an elementary school in suburban Maryland, and I’m going to share that strategy at our family reading night in November. Picture books, magazines, and other nonfiction sources of information about nature are always enticing to students.

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