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Before They Read, Anytime Reading Readiness, and Everyday Content-Area Writing Review by Courtney Larson

Before They Read
Anytime Reading Readiness
By Cathy Puett Miller
Everyday Content-Area Writing
By Kathleen Kopp
Maupin House
2416 NW 71st Place
Gainsville, FL 32653

Maupin House is a publisher of teaching resources for all ages and grades. I received three books to review: Before They Read, Anytime Reading Readiness, and Everyday Content-Area Writing. All three books are good quality, with nice color covers and easy-to-read print on bright white pages.

Before They Read and Anytime Reading Readiness are books written for those who teach preschool or kindergarten age children. The content of both books is very similar, with the main difference being the target audience. Before They Read is written to the classroom teacher, while Anytime Reading Readiness is written for parents. Both books contain activities that will help prepare young children to learn to read. Creating a literature-rich home (or classroom), having great conversations with your child (or class), and playing listening games are the three main ideas covered. Asking open-ended questions, reading aloud, clapping and tapping patterns, and a game called "Rhymin' Simon" are some of the suggested activities.

Everyday Content-Area Writing
is for teachers of grades 3-5. This book is written for a classroom teacher, but it can easily be adapted for a homeschool setting. This book teaches how to incorporate writing across all subjects. When I think of writing, I tend to think of writing paragraphs or pages on a topic. However, this book challenges that way of thinking and explains how to have your student interact with what they are learning by taking effective notes, wrestling with big ideas, and really learning to own those ideas by thinking through what they are learning and writing about it. This writing might only be a sentence on a Post-it note or in a journal, but it requires more thought and interaction with the material than just filling in the blank on a test or picking the correct multiple-choice answer.

One of the important skills taught to the teacher is coming up with an "essential question" for whatever subject is being taught. For example, if I wanted to teach my sons about friction, I might ask them to think about "What makes friction?" or "Which materials are best for reducing/increasing friction?" These questions are asked at the beginning of whatever unit is being taught, with the idea that by the end of the unit the student has had opportunity to talk about, write about, and wrestle with the information in order to come up with an answer to the question. The book gives ideas and suggestions for writing as a form of review, writing to understand vocabulary, and writing as a way to assess what the child has learned. There are sample templates, assessments, and projects. There is even a chapter devoted to grading and evaluating a student's work.

I thought Before They Read and Anytime Reading Readiness were filled with basic ideas that most homeschooling parents already do with their children, and I wouldn't recommend them for purchase. However, Everyday Content-Area Writing is filled with great ideas and inspiration to get my boys writing more without making it into a big production. Writing has been a weaker area in our homeschool, and I look forward to implementing some of the ideas from this book. If you're looking for fresh ideas on how to increase writing in your homeschool, take a look at Everyday Content-Area Writing. It might be just what you're looking for.

Product review by Courtney Larson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2010