In the breakdown I did of my family’s current minority language exposure (see How Many Hours Per Week Is Your Child Exposed to the Minority Language?), I mentioned that I’ve given my children a daily dose of homework, since around the age of 3, to steadily nurture their reading and writing ability.
If our circumstances were different, I would have preferred to wait until they were a bit older, which seems more in line with the natural timing of a child’s development. But the hard reality is, I felt I had to give literacy in English a good head start before they entered our local elementary school and their Japanese quickly took off. Otherwise, I’m afraid reading and writing in their minority language would have been a much tougher task.
I realize this conjures images of a tyrannical father pushing his bewildered, sobbing tots to scribble long passages from Shakespeare with a crayon, but that really hasn’t been the case. (I used Dickens. )
In fact, it’s been a gentle and gradual process all along, with reading aloud at its core, and a progression of workbooks that began with simple dot-to-dot books of numbers and the alphabet.
When I described our minority language exposure, I alluded to a “reading workbook.” Actually, these workbooks are part of a series for grades 1 to 8 called Daily Reading Comprehension. If English is your minority language, and you’re looking for suitable materials to encourage daily reading practice at home, I highly recommend this series.
150 passages in each book
Published in the United States by Evan-Moor, each level of Daily Reading Comprehension consists of 150 reading passages (both fiction and nonfiction) and comprehension questions. The books are actually designed for classroom use and feature notes on reading strategies for the teacher, but they’re just as effective in the home for parent and child.
At the moment, I’m using the grade 3 book for Lulu and the grade 2 book for Roy. (I also use the series with the bilingual children I tutor.)
For supplementing our diet of chapter books, I’ve found the Daily Reading Comprehension series ideal.
- Completing one page (one passage) each day is short and sweet—it takes just 5 or 10 minutes. (I generally have them read the text aloud to me, though I’ll sometimes ask Lulu to do it on her own when I can’t sit with her.)
- The daily work is modest—it’s a manageable task for both parent and child—but over time, this small, persistent practice adds up and has a sizable impact. (When it comes to language development, I’m a firm believer in the power of small, persistent steps.)
- The comprehension questions that follow each passage encourage careful reading and thinking. (When we read chapter books together, I don’t typically stop to check their understanding of everything—only when we come across terms and concepts that I know are unfamiliar to them.)
The publisher’s website
Further details on the Daily Reading Comprehension series can be found at the Evan-Moor website. You can peek inside the books, too, to see if one is a good fit for your child.
The site is a bit tricky to navigate, but this link to the grade 1 level of the series will put you on a page where there are buttons to the books for grades 2 to 6. (I don’t know why, but buttons for the grade 7 and 8 books don’t appear here. The quickest way to find those books is via the search box.)
Because these are “teacher’s editions,” designed for photocopying in classrooms, they’re more pricey than typical workbooks. Each book currently lists for $29.99 at the publisher’s site, but they’re full of good material and will last for about six months if working at a daily pace.
I’ve been able to find them (for about $10 less) at amazon.com, but they can apparently be downloaded as e-books, directly from the publisher’s site. I have no experience with this, though, so I can’t offer advice when it comes to the e-book option. (If you purchase an e-book, feel free to share your experience in a comment below.)
One last thing worth noting is that the books are written in American English, and the passages occasionally focus on U.S.-related topics.
Daily Reading Comprehension is an excellent series of supplemental reading books for daily practice (other educational materials produced by Evan-Moor are worth looking at, too) and I plan to continue using it to promote the language development of both my children and my students.