I've told you that this book will help you help your child be a better reader. After our discussion of the power and glory of words, you're probably expecting me to gun the accelerator across the vast reading roadways beckoning your son or daughter. But no, not yet. We're still not ready to talk about reading as you probably think of it, the moment that your youngster opens a science or social studies or "reading" book and starts her journey through the pages. Why the delay? We have some troubleshooting to do. You have to be able to prepare for those times at home when your guidance can improve comprehension dramatically. You have to stimulate your child to read with the highest possible degree of attention and to get the most from his or her print experience with minimal frustration. To reach those goals, before we do anything else we need to talk about warm-up activities, essential but often neglected areas of reading's domain. Warm-up is a familiar phrase: When you warm up, you prepare to achieve something you want to do well. Runners push against a fence or wall to stretch their muscles before an early morning jog. Pitchers toss a few practice shots before flinging the first ball to the opposing batter. On land swimmers shake their arms and wriggle their legs before taking the big plunge. Mentally, competitive athletes warm up by "imaging," a technique in which they picture all the details of the upcoming meet, project themselves into it, and try to feel all the attendant sensory responses. Warming up is as important and as useful an activity for readers as it is for exercisers and athletes. The warmup session is one that teachers pay little attention to at school; although they may show the whole class some of the strategies I'm about to recommend, they don't often help children apply some of these warm-up techniques on their own.
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