Dribble, Shoot, Score!

Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.

Michael Jordan


When our mom was in college, she was asked to play in a game of basketball. A friend had come to her dorm room desperately looking for one more player to field a full team. Our mom quickly let her know she has never played and really doesn’t know how to play, but the friend didn’t seem to care and quickly said “Let’s go!”

Once the game began, our mom was passed the ball and she ran with it….no, really, she just ran with the ball. Not once did she dribble the ball. As she was running, the crowd was cheering and she thought to herself, “I must be great at basketball! I’m a natural!”

Her friend, who recruited her earlier, met her down court and snatched the ball from my mom’s arms saying,” You were right! You really don’t know how to play basketball! Go Home!”

Basketball has never really been a strong sport for any of us in our family. Funny how the gene pool works.

So, what does no dribbling have anything to do with literacy? Hopefully this will make sense…hang tight with me…

My kindergartner has been bringing books home from his reading groups, plus he’s grabbing any book around the house wanting to read anything he can! I have a yellow basket in our living room full of books that are on his level so I try to get him to pull from that most of the time. I love listening to him read to his sister (if she’ll listen) or his “class”. Isn’t it exciting to watch a budding reader grow and grow?

However, when he gets stuck on a part, I don’t want my only helpful prompt to be, “Just sound it out.” Over and over and over…it quickly becomes not helpful anymore.

Why? Because there is more to reading than just the letters and sounds…wait, what? Yes, there is more to reading than the letters and the sounds on the page.

Think about it. When we read, we not only look at the words on the page, but we consider the title – knowing it gives us a little hint about the book’s meaning. We draw from our prior knowledge about the subject of the book. If there are pictures, we look at those to gain more meaning. We also understand how books “talk” – book language – how it should sound.

Good readers not only pay attention to the letters and sounds on a page, but he also thinks about what sounds right and what makes sense.

Good readers are a package deal…they can pass, run, shoot, AND don’t forget to dribble.

As a parent, I want my child to understand reading is not solely sounding out the letters…it is gaining meaning and I want him to have many strategies in his hip pocket when he comes to a part he doesn’t know.

So, what else can we say when our child comes to a tricky part? Here are a few other prompts we like to say:

“Go back and start that sentence over, but this time get the first sound out of that tricky word and think about what would make sense…I think the word will pop right out of your mouth.”

“Do you know a word that looks like that?” For example if the tricky word is “fill” and you know your child knows “will” show her how to get to new words using words she already knows. We can borrow parts to get to new words.

If your child is not listening to himself read and it does not sound right at all ask him, “Does that sound right?”  “Is that how we talk?”

Sometimes readers will pronounce words wrong such as Tim for the word time. My child just did this last night. I asked him “Does that sound right? Can you try that word another way?”

Try these when you’re reading with your child tonight and see how they work. These prompts nudge your child to try different strategies.  Eventually, we want him to be able to self- monitor while thinking about the meaning, the language, and the visual aspects of the story all at once.

Yet, for now,  you can be the sweet voice that reminds him of the different strategies while he works toward becoming an independent reader…you know, someone who can pass, run, dribble, shoot and SCORE!




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