Personal Readers - A Review September 16 2009

I spent some of my professional development time over the last couple of years studying how best to reach our ELL students. In our area, we have Hispanic and Russian/Ukranian populations. I don’t speak Spanish or Russian – I took German in high school against everyone’s recommendation, but I haven’t run into any students who speak it. So when I think of teaching ELL kids, I feel anxious. Insecure. Stressed.

I’ll never forget how our trainer opened the session on the first day.

“When you think about it,” she said, “we’re all English Language Learners.”

I felt my shoulders relax. Of course!

Personal Readers for Emergent and Beginning Readers , authored by Donald Bear, Carol Caserta-Henry, and Darl Venner, takes a similar stance. Personal Readers are for all readers in our classrooms, and can be incorporated into whatever reading and spelling curriculum you currently use. Students reread collections of familiar materials in their Personal Readers until they feel comfortable reading them independently. Other expected outcomes from using Personal Readers include:

  • Build Vocabulary and Word Study
  • Improve Fluency and Expression
  • Increase Comprehension Skills

The first twenty pages of Personal Readers for Emergent and Beginning Readers lays out the fundamentals of using these techniques in your classroom, including a brief overview of how and why to use this book. Then there is a section detailing what the authors refer to as, “Key Practices” for using Personal Readers; these include Group Experience Charts, Language Experiences, Rhymes and Readers Theatre.

There are nine units in Personal Readers for Emergent and Beginning Readers, each unit taking from 3 to 7 days depending upon the extension activities you choose to do with your students. There are comprehensive suggestions, including a possible schedule, word study and collection, and word activities. Organization of Personal Readers is also discussed, including a breakdown of what needs to be photocopied and put into students’ folders.

Directions for each activity are divided according to development – the Emergent reader, the Beginning reader and the Late Beginning reader – and are easy to distinguish and follow. The elements of Personal Readers for Emergent and Beginning Readers fit easily into a standard sized folder. Much of the preparation could be done by a parent volunteer or an assistant.

Most important, however, the activities look fun! Some of the Personal Readers units include exploring bubbles, magnets and worms, giving your students exciting ways to learn together!