I stare out my window at my pool shimmering in the late afternoon sunlight smug with the knowledge that G’s school ends soon and rather than dream of lazy playdates, swimming in our new pool, making trips to our beach, my head is full of books! I have two dilemmas to work through in regards to reading.
First I have L, an avid reader. She is reading at a fourth grade level but she is only seven. When we began homeschooling she struggled to tell me about her reading. Now that we practice narrations (she tells me what she has read) orally and in writing, her ability to retell is dramatically improving. She narrates every book she is reading, whether it is part of our curriculum or her pleasure reading. I am constantly checking in on her comprehension and ability to decode the words. When she was in school she was given easy books that did not challenge her ability to read or her imagination. My theory for this was so the teacher could focus her energy on the children struggling to read at grade level. The books she would bring home had no real plot, no character development, and they were hard to discuss.
I began a literature study. We started with Beverly Cleary since Beezus and Ramona is being made into a movie starring her favorite Disney Channel star Selena Gomez. We talked about the roles of characters. We labeled one the protagonist and another the antagonist based on their character traits. It was meaningful. Now she is reading a Dick King Smith book Sophie’s Tom to discuss why the author wrote the book. I am borrowing much of my teaching from Deconstructing Penguins because I feel that until you are able to break a book apart you cannot find the true meaning. Each book we read will focus on one aspect of “book dissection” setting, protagonist, antagonist, climax, and what message the author wanted to convey. Because she is young these concepts will take time. We have time.
In order to keep up with her I have become an avid reader of children’s books. Children’s Literature is my favorite genre. When I was teaching, I would spend hours reading what my students were reading. That was ten years ago so I have a great deal of catching up to do! Today I read Gail Carson Levine’s The Fairy’s Mistake and enjoyed it. I need to preread many books to make sure they are appropriate for L’s age.
G on the other hand, is another story. She too is a strong reader. However, the big difference is that reading is not something she truly enjoys. This year I was upset to find that her class does not have any S.S.R time (silent sustained reading). They only get to read for enjoyment when they are finished with their work. I was told by G that her block of time for language arts does have reading groups but it is very directed. She has a very short stamina for reading and this has not been developed at all in school. Our first thing I will do when she comes home is to help her find the joy in reading again. It breaks my heart to know that somewhere along the way she lost it. Once upon a time she had it, now it is gone.
I picked up the new Rick Riordan book, The Red Pyramid today. It will be our summer read aloud. I am so excited by this book (I have not read it yet) since L has become an avid learner of Egyptian lore. I can picture us hanging out on the patio furniture dripping wet from a swim, taking a break by reading a chapter in the shade. Ohh....so excited. Anyway...back on topic, G’s literature study will consist of Newbury Award or Newbury Honor books. To my knowledge she has not read one. I have many lining our bookshelves and will pick up the new ones and read them over the summer. Today I started Surviving the Applewhites but it is too soon to offer an opinion. I just finished The Princess Academy which I think G will like because the female character is so strong and courageous, like G. But first, before I can contemplate giving her one of these books, I have to build her stamina in reading, her confidence as a reader and her desire to read.
It is a challenge I am up for!