Tuesday, June 22, 2010

DEAR time (Drop Eveything and Read) at Home

Assalamu alaikum,

You've probably heard of D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read). Perhaps your school uses another name such as SSR (Silent Sustained Reading) or SQUIRT (Sustained Quiet Uninterrupted Reading time). Whatever you'd like to call it, this is an important activity that can easily be implemented every day in your home insha'Allah.

D.E.A.R. time is not meant to replace quality literacy instruction; rather it acts as a partner to literacy instruction. This is also not a time where children get 10 - 30 minutes to "pretend" they are reading a book but are really off somewhere in their imagination and the words on the page have long sense failed to be recognized by their eyes.

D.E.A.R, SSR, SQUIRT and the other programs like them provide children with the relative freedom to choose books that interest them and really get lost between the pages of the book. As Muslim parents and teachers, our job is to carefully screen the books that our children can select from insha'Allah. This cannot be done by reading the little blurb on the back of the book or on the inside of the jacket cover. If I could only tell you how many books I've picked up, taken home to screen, gotten almost to the last chapter and aaggh! There is something completely inappropriate for our children to be exposed to. We have to read every chapter, every page, and every word because our children are worth it.  

Once that is done, the question(s) may arise, "How do I implement this program at home successfully" and/or "How old does my child have to be before I can begin giving him/her D.E.A.R. time?" The answer to the last question is simple: D.E.A.R. time can be done from the day your child is born. All you have to do is: five minutes a day, drop everything (not literally of course) and read to your baby. It's that simple. Five minutes. Now, if you're like any normal new mother, sleep deprivation may dictate that five minutes a day is really some insane idea that you don't have any intention of trying, especially when that can very well mean five more minutes on the pillow. Fair enough. Enlist father, grandmother, grandfather, nieces and nephews to read to baby as he/she lies in his/her crib. Pick a time when your baby is alert and make that your D.E.A.R time insha'Allah.

As your child gets older, you'll probably notice that his/her attention span is considerably strong for such a small person and this is a good thing. When children are read to from a young age, they learn to sit, focus and enjoy a story being read aloud. So you may start out reading for five minutes a day and increase to ten minutes by the time your child is two years old.

So, what do you have to do to start D.E.A.R time in your home? Read on because it's surprisingly simple alhamdulillah.

  1. Start building a home library for your child. If you don't have the means to buy books, your local library is a free resource. If you live in a country where public libraries don't exist (subhana'Allah, can that really be true?!) and shipping from the internet is prohibitively expensive, write stories for your child and read them together insha'Allah. 
  2. Create a reading space in your home that is inviting and child size. Bean bags work great for this and I've even seen small foam and fabric sofas and chairs for children.  Decorate the space and make it inviting. Place an area rug on the floor, a nice bookshelf - preferably where the book covers face out instead of the spine, an attractive reading lamp, even a CD player with headphones where your child can listen to books being read aloud by you or other family members insha'Allah. Place a beautiful thriving plant in the area and do whatever you can to ensure that this space is not located in a high traffic area of the house that is polluted with noise and distractions.
  3. Try to make your D.E.A.R. time occur at or around the same time each day insha'Allah. Whatever time you decide, make sure D.E.A.R. time starts that same time each and every day insha'Allah. This consistency is important.
  4. Provide your child with books from a variety of genres to select from. Have fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.
  5. Make sure the books that are available for your child to choose from are those that he/she can read 90% of the text independently and can comprehend about 70% of the text without help insha'Allah.
  6. Invite (but don't force) your child to keep a journal to write about the books they've read. Encourage your child to share with you and other family members the books they've read by re-telling the story.
  7. You can also put up a bulletin board where you child can display his/her drawings or book reports to tell about the books he/she has read and enjoyed insha'Allah.
  8. Be a role model: read in front of, with and to your child each day insha'Allah.
Happy reading!

Photo Credit: Bean bag creative commons CraZeeCrafteeZ

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