Last year I bought Drawn into the Heart of Reading. I loved the way it so closely resembled how I “taught” reading when I was teaching third grade. Do you know where the book is now? On my bookshelf collecting dust, in the very same place it was this time last year! I could not use this book for one very important reason....my Grace hated reading.
It broke my heart that something happened along the way that took the joy out of the act of reading. It was no longer pleasurable for her. It was a chore, a task, an assignment. This was the child that I rocked to sleep every night reading our favorite picture books of all time. This was the child that I took to the library for story time and to Barnes & Nobel just to play. This was the child that read every single Junie B. Jones to me. This was the child who I started a book club full of 6 year olds for. How could this have happened?
I don’t have a definitive answer how it happened, but I knew that by pushing worksheets, Venn Diagrams, and reading comprehension quizzes at her, I would only drive that repressed love further and further into the deepest parts of her soul.
I took a very deep breath, and then another and said read when you want to read. Read what you want to read. For a long time nothing happened. But then the interest returned. She wanted to read but she had no desire to read for more than 5 or 10 minutes. She joined another book club, this one run by her friend. Together they strolled through the stacks at the library pulling out books by the dozen that they would like to read. This was the turning point.
Suddenly there were more books that Grace wanted to read, than she had time to read them! She read The Homework Machine and we listened to Loser. She read The Magic Half and we listened to The Graveyard Book. And so it went. Little by little tv time was replaced by reading time. Little by little, her passion returned.. for it was never really lost, just misplaced.
And so our adventure towards unschooling really began with reading. I let Lilah and Grace choose their reading material. But....I am careful to place good books in a variety of genres in their path. Right now Lilah is reading a Liz Kessler book: Philippa Fisher’s Fairy Godsister (fantasy) but she is also reading her animal encyclopedia, her children’s Bible, she read a pamphlet on world religions and a choose your own adventure book. I would say that covers numerous genres!
Grace is reading Seekers Book 1, Carl Haissen’s Scat and The Name of This Book is Secret. She also independently studying weather, with a focus on extreme or severe weather, and reads every non-fiction book on this topic. She is also working on a fabulous book we picked up at the Girl Scout Bookstore about social advocacy and the power of a young girl to change the world around her.
In addition to their independent reading, both girls are working on Story of the World on their own this year. I will pre-read the book so I am aware of the content. I also ask them to stay together so that I can manage the process easier. Each week they read a chapter, give me a summary, do the mapwork, and by choice, they take the online quiz. To supplement the book, we will pick up many of the additional reading selections during our library trips.
And of course, we have our beloved audiobooks. We just finished up Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher, one of our favorites of the Magic Shop Series by Bruce Coville. These books are fantastic audiobooks. They are not too long, they have wonderful narration, they use multiple character voices, and the stories each have a character that has a love of learning that extends past the classroom. My all time favorite was Juliet Dove, Queen of Love. My girls’ favorite was The Monster’s Ring. Ironically, our next audiobook which we will begin next is titled Quake. Sadly, we did not feel the earthquake that happened on the East Coast last week but Greg did in Manhattan!
And that is our unplan for reading. Lots of books, lots of time, lots of audiobooks, lots of trips to the library, lots of trips to the bookstore, lots of nights snuggled in my bed reading, lots of movies comparing the book to the movie, lots of conversation, lots of trust, patience and understanding.