I’m excited to welcome Samantha Cleaver to kick off my new twice-weekly blogposts devoted to writing for and reading with children. Samantha and I taught together in Chicago about ten years ago. Since that time, she moved to North Carolina, began raising her own little readers and earned her PhD. She is the author of two books about Active Reading, Read with Me and Raising an Active Reader. READ WITH ME explains how to do Active Reading with children age 2-5.
RAISING AN ACTIVE READER explores how to continue (or start) Active Reading with children in grades K-3.
Samantha has generously agreed to send RAISING AN ACTIVE READER to one lucky winner! (US only)
To enter: comment on this blogpost, share this post by reblogging, sharing on Twitter, and Facebook and be sure to let me know where you’ve shared it for more chances to win.
What is Active Reading?
Active Reading is a way to read with, rather than to children. The goal of Active Reading is to create a conversation about books, and it supports kids’ reading development by supporting language, vocabulary, and background knowledge. The ABCs of Active Reading are: Ask questions, Build vocabulary, and Connect to the child’s world. More information: www.samanthacleaver.com/active-reading-blog.
How did your books come to be?
While I was studying to earn my PhD in special education with a focus on reading, I worked with a local nonprofit, Read Charlotte (www.readcharlotte.org). Part of our work was figuring out what were the most impactful strategies that parents could use with kids to prepare kids to be strong readers by 3rd grade. We (my co-author Munro Richardson, and I) discovered dialogic reading and the decades of research that supports it and were excited! Then, we recast dialogic reading into the ABCs of Active Reading (Ask questions, Build vocabulary, and Connect to the child’s world), and combined the ABCs with some additional strategies that are also good to do while reading aloud to encourage parents to read with instead of to their kids. During this time, I was also raising my own family, so my older children (now ages 6 and 5) were my own guinea pigs for all the Active Reading strategies that I was learning about. I can say, as a parent, that Active Reading has helped my kids learn to read, and love books, and I’m so excited that these books share this way of reading aloud with kids with more families.
As I wrote these books, I thought back to my own experience growing up in a house where books were a daily part of our life. There are many stories of me sitting with my mom, reading through stacks of picture books as a toddler and preschooler. I distinctly remember listening to my mom reading novels to me as an elementary schooler. When she read The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkein to me and my sister, the voice she used for Gollum was so scary I still can’t watch the movies without covering my eyes when he’s on the screen.
Now, my children are the age that I discuss in the books (ages 6, 5, 2 and 2 months) and Active Reading is one of the favorite parts of our day. My kids share the love of reading that I had when I was their ages, though in different ways. My oldest will read anything that she can get her hands on. My 5-year-old loves to read stories and then immediately act them out. And, my 2-year-old will only sit for books about his favorite thing—vehicles. We’ll see what my youngest likes best about books.
What inspires you?
This year I’ve been inspired to learn more about my multicultural family’s traditions and experiences. My kids are Ghanaian-American, so I’ve learned more about the Ghanaian and west African traditions, including foods (yum!) that we are passing down to them.
What’s the one thing you hope your readers take away from your books?
I hope that readers feel more confident in their read aloud sessions with their children after reading my books. And, I hope that readers gain an understanding of the importance of books and reading aloud in children’s lives, and that that inspires them to make it a priority for their communities.
What’s next for you?
In 2021, I’m focusing on writing for children and hopefully you’ll be able to use the ABCs of Active Reading with my picture book soon!
You can find Samantha on Twitter: @Cleaver5S and her website www.samanthacleaver.com