First Things aka "Big Rocks"
One of my favorite quotes is from C. S. Lewis.
"When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased."
To me, this speaks to all areas of life. It's like the illustration where the speaker tries to fit a bunch of big rocks, sand, and pebbles into a glass jar. Have you seen this?
When he places the sand in first, followed by the pebbles and last the rocks, the big rocks do not fit. Try as he might, the rocks stick out or cannot all be placed into the jar. But, when he puts the big rocks in first, he can then pour the pebbles in, followed by the sand, and the pebbles and sand fall in and around the big rocks filling all the space in the jar. He can even add water to the jar because he's adding things in the correct order.
This illustration shows us that it's important to first identify our "big rocks" in different areas of our lives.
When it comes to teaching reading, a big rock should always be read-aloud time.
When read-aloud time is not negotiable and becomes a daily habit, there will always be time for other activities. The read-aloud is the cornerstone of literacy instruction and should always maintain its big rock placement.
The "second things" like flashcard practice, letter and sound activities, and handwriting development, will all fit better when the big rocks are in place.
What are some other big rocks when it comes to literacy instruction and foundation in the home?
- Time alone with books that are easy for them to read. We need to provide children the free time to get lost in a good book. This is unstructured time when children can pick books they enjoy that are easy-reads for them. They can choose favorites they read over and over or new books. This time allows them to develop as independent readers, gives them ownership and choice over what they read, and sets the foundation for becoming a lifelong reader for pleasure.
- Time for writing – even if it is the very early foundations of writing for a preschooler – is also a big rock. Writing should be seen as the glove to the hand of reading and when young children are exposed to free writing time they will not develop the fear of writing we see in many school-age children and even in adults. Allow children to draw pictures about what you’ve read together, create their own stories either independently or with your help, and encourage them to read these stories to others, thereby creating an awareness of themselves as storytellers and writers.
- Another big rock you will want to embed for literacy instruction is the daily guided reading time with your child. Guided reading time is when you model a new book or the next level of reading for your child and then read the selection together. You will want to check out chapter 10 in Teach a Child to Read with Children’s Books where we model for you what a typical guided reading lesson would look like.
One thing I am confident about is when you read-aloud to your children daily, help them to gain confidence as writers, support them as independent readers, and give them supportive guided reading instruction, you are laying a strong foundation for capable, lifelong readers – using all the right rocks, of course!