A Book a Day

Monday, April 23, 2012

            Many of my posts center around the classroom, but I don’t think learning is limited to what goes on in the schoolhouse.  The impact on life outside the classroom should not be overlooked.   And so occasionally Mary, the parent “educator,” will pop in here to say her piece…
I love to read.  I’ve always loved to read.  I have a degree in children’s literature for landsakes.  So I’m sure you can imagine that it is very important to me that my children love to read.  My two-year-old will “read” just about anything.   One of her favorites is Machievelli’s The Prince (don’t ask).   My four-year-old son is much more difficult to please.  He’d rather have my husband or me make up a story, any day.  The budding writer in me would like to think that that’s because our stories are amazing, but the truth is that I’m not all that good at thinking on my creative feet.
            Over the years, I’ve worked to instill a love of books in him.  We have bookcases full of them, we go to story times at the library, we read at bedtime, my husband and I model a love for reading, but my son hasn’t really embraced these efforts.  He hasn’t rejected them, but I wouldn’t say books are something he’s passionate about.  For many parents this might be okay, but I’ve got hang-ups and reading is one of them. 
            For one, I love the armchair escapism that reading allows. What better way to relieve stress than by seeping myself in someone else’s reality?  Also, I believe that to some degree books kept me out of trouble as a teenager by allowing me to experiment vicariously.  Reading fiction teaches empathy and opens minds to multiple perspectives and differing worldviews.  Reading non-fiction exposes people to complex thoughts, ideas, and information.  The very act of reading forces the brain to work, to think, and to strengthen. As an educator, I’ve seen firsthand that strong reading skills are essential to success in every core subject area.  And the only way I know to get strong reading skills is to read. If reading is joyful, then we’ve already won 2/3 of the battle.
            A few months ago, a major opening presented itself as I was leaving for my monthly book club meeting when my son asked, “Why don’t I get to go to book club with my friends?”  
Picture the smile that erupted across my face.  “You want to have a book club?  You got it.”  And so it was born.  And he loves it.   And I love it.  If you want an example, check out this former blog post.
            More recently, I discovered another idea that’s spurred reading in our home from this classroom blog.  Basically, everyone in my family earns a colored paper clip for each book they read.  Both of my children are excited about the crazy decoration they are creating and feel pride in picking out their paper clips.
            The essential key, though, has been finding books my son likes.  When I try books that are beautifully written and stunningly illustrated, he is indifferent.   When I search Best Books for Kids lists created by experts (librarians and teachers), they fall under a similar category (except you can add didactic to the description).  My son does not measure a book by the same standards that adults do.  Instead our treasure trove for suggestions is on-line forums with parents of reluctant boy readers recommending books to one another.  Often these books are, well, crap, but he loves them and so I love them (sort of).  They are stories of adventure, dragons, knights, pirates, superheroes…
            If you have any suggestions either of books you think he’d like or ideas to encourage reading, I’m always grateful to hear from you.
           

6 comments:

khaulamazhar said...

Great blog, I am a big reader and believe in getting kids hooked early, when my kids were little I also did 'fact cards' with them and it turned out really great. You should let your children pick their own books, as long as they get hooked on reading any book( age/subject appropriate)is good. Adventure books are great for boys, lots of girls love them too. I loved "Wrinkle in Time" when I was a kid, you could try that for your son ( you could read it to your kids too)

jenwrad said...

These days my kids are into all books by Bill Peet. In fact we've read every one. A favorite = Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent. Now we're reading Peter Brown and a favorite there is "Children Make Terrible Pets." Keep it up!

Mary Sheriff said...

Hi Khaulmazhar, Thanks for stopping by my blog and sharing your thoughts. I loved A Wrinkle in Time too. Could you tell me a bit more about the fact cards you did?

Mary Sheriff said...

Hi Jen,

I'm unfamiliar with both authors and can't wait to check them out. Thanks for the suggestion.

kelliefish13 said...

When I was young and really struggling with reading (love it now) by Grandmother used to find song books and books of songs with pictures so we would sing, not read (at the time the difference was important). I loved it and would start reading the words on the page to make sure I knew the next bit. To this day I love books with good rhythm and rhyme and get a little grumpy when song lyrics don't make sense, but I also love reading in all shapes and forms.

Mary Sheriff said...

Thanks, Kellie. What a terrific idea. When he was younger we read song books a lot, but I sort of forgot about it as he's gotten older. Thanks for the suggestion and the hope that he too will learn to love reading as you have.

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