Reading Aloud and Abandoning Books

My 10 year old and I have been flying through read-alouds together since April or May.  From about September-March, we struggled through a few books together.

He is always a willing and eager listener, even to the slowest stories, which amazes impatient me. This is one reason why I don’t want to give up this reading-together thing we have going. There’s not an abundance of things for he and I to bond over nowadays, seeing as how I’m not into video games, BUT we both still enjoy reading and responding to books together.

Another reason we keep reading with him (my husband too) is that there are books we want him to experience. Left up to him, they may not get read–and yet, he is happy to sit and listen to any we suggest. How can we not take advantage of that? That’s how he now knows Harriet the Spy, The Westing Game, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, Matilda–all classics that might not look quite as sparkly and appealing as contemporary books, but are on my mental “can’t be missed” list.

It’s been so refreshing these past few months to get back into reading together. And it leaves me reflecting on why that long lull happened. I’ve concluded it was a combination of: tiredness (mine), choices (his–choosing to finish a TV show with Dad rather than come read), but mostly, and this is important–we were reading books that made slow read-alouds. In retrospect, I wonder why I let all that time get eaten up by slow books.

This leads me to something I think is especially important for our kids in their summer reading. Abandoning books is OKAY. It’s a choice we make as adults when we’re reading for pleasure–if we start a book and find it’s not grabbing our attention, we give ourselves the privilege of moving on. Let’s extend this privilege to our children. They deserve to find books they truly love, and they can’t do that if they’re stuck in a book they don’t like for weeks, either because they’re not allowed to abandon or because they don’t realize they have the power to choose.

Yes, there are those who are “chronic abandoners”–maybe they’re choosing books that are too hard or too easy, maybe they just can’t find one that holds their attention. In school, teachers often encourage kids to read the first 10-30 pages of a book before deciding to abandon. If you’re dealing with a chronic book-abandoner, investigate why it’s happening; then, explore different genres with him/her–go check out the nonfiction section of the library, the graphic novels, the poetry, etc. Exploring genres is important to do with all kids, actually, so everybody go to your library and do it!

If your child is reluctant to abandon, but you can see him/her struggling with the book, you could:

  1. Suggest reading it together–either you read it aloud, or you can take turns reading. If it’s too challenging for the child, just read it to him/her.
  2. Similarly, you could find an audiobook version for the child to listen to and follow along in the hard copy. This is good for developing fluency too.
  3. Suggest that he/she move on “for now.” Suggest that this book might be perfect in a few months (next year, whatever), after the child has grown more as a reader. Help him/her make a plan to get the book out again at that time and see if it’s the right time for it.

Abandoning a book is not failure in any way, shape or form. Think of it instead as saving your (child’s) time for the best, and not wasting it on what doesn’t appeal to him/her.

Just a final note of the books we have lately read:

Read-alouds to Seth (10); there have been others but these are some of my favorites that he has also loved (all mysteries):

Madeline (6) still loves picture books, but here are the only chapter books she truly loves, The Princess in Black series by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham.

princess

Joseph loves any book about TRUCKS (Cars and Trucks and Things that Go, by Richard Scarry, is a classic favorite), but in the past few days he has gone nuts over Monkey with a Tool Belt, by Chris Monroe.

cars and trucks

 

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For Chronic Book Abandoners & Reluctant Readers

Do you have a reluctant reader in the house or classroom? Or maybe you have a “chronic book abandoner”–one who just can’t stick with a single book to completion. It’s a common problem, but I have a suggestion: Mysteries.

Why mysteries? Mysteries generate questions, and when we have questions, we naturally want answers. Sometimes I will keep reading a book I’m not even that “into” just to get my questions answered. Questions compel us to keep reading. This may be what your reluctant reader or chronic abandoner needs to finish a book! Continue reading

Summertime, and the Reading Is Easy

Last week, I recommended audiobooks and reading to and with your kids, as ways to engage them with reading. You can catch up here: Two Tips to Get Kids Reading This Summer.

I often have friends ask me for specific book recommendations for their children. The lists I give vary according to what I know and what they tell me about their kids’ interests, ages, and books they like already. Because I’m putting these recommendations out to everyone, I’m making them more general.

The bottom line: Find them books they CAN and WANT to read (or listen to). 

Here are some high-interest suggestions to get kids reading independently and willingly: Continue reading

The Good Old Books

I’ve read some really good new books lately, but I’ve also revisited some old books with my son. Classics are classics for a reason! So here are a few we’ve read lately. Age levels are approximate; you know best for your own child.

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Favorite Baby & Toddler Books

There was an article about reading to babies in the local newspaper this morning, and of course it got me thinking. After all, I have a baby (1-year old *sob*), and we do that reading thing.

j-reads
He doesn’t normally read chapter books. 😉

He lights up when I show him one of his favorite books and is willing to listen to a page or two before he takes the book away from me. The taking of the book is most likely part of the “do-it-myself” syndrome that starts to happen with babies as they grow, although he can’t articulate it yet. That’s okay; don’t sweat it if your baby or toddler doesn’t let you finish the book with him in one setting.

My cousin has a little boy whose first sentence was, “Book, Dada, go!” Which of course meant something to the effect of, “Here’s a book, Dad. Now read it to me!” Isn’t that just the best? I may start whispering this to Joseph when he’s asleep.

There are so many great books for babies and toddlers. Here are some that have been favorites of mine at this age, and continue to be Joseph’s favorites. (Book photos from Amazon.) Continue reading

Response Is Joyous!

With Halloween here, my mind is on kids’ natural response to stories. We’ve (unfortunately) gotten good at forcing our kids to “respond” to books in certain ways:

  • Having them take a test/quiz over a book, or otherwise answer questions
  • Making them write a book report
  • Making them do a particular kind of project over a book

Natural response is different. Here are a couple examples of a child’s natural response to a book:

laura-ingalls
Madeline in Merida costume

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Challenge 1: Hero Tales

For our first challenge, let’s hone in on hero stories. We could go a lot of different ways with the idea of heroes, mostly because every story has a hero (whether the hero is likeable or not, or desirable as a role model for our children or not). So let’s narrow our focus to hero stories in two genres: Bible stories and folklore.

What is the importance of hero stories? My husband, a sixth grade teacher, said recently that he can tell who in his classroom has been exposed to hero stories and who hasn’t. Those who have can talk at length about these heroes and others like them—Superman, Robin Hood, historical figures, etc. Those who haven’t have created their own heroes, usually drawing from pop culture icons. They are searching for something to fill the void. (more…)

A Reading Challenge for You and Your Children

When my son Seth was about three years old, we went to the library together at least once a week. We would see friends there with their kids, checking out two or three books—so reasonable and moderate. I told myself, I’m not going to break my library bag this week; we’re only going to get a few books. And yet every time, we left with the bag full to the top, mostly of storybooks and occasionally some nonfiction books. Seth loved whatever we got, as long as someone was willing to read it to him, and I loved picking the books out for him.

Around the same time, I began teaching a children’s literature class at a local university. Every week before class, I made a big trip to the library to collect books that I wanted to share with the students, based on the genres (types of books) we were studying that week. I knew a lot of titles and authors from my years as a middle school reading teacher and from my own childhood. But some genres were not my “go-to” areas in the children’s library: folklore, science fiction, memoir, historical fiction, graphic novels.

The class made me dive into these genres and others. I scoured the shelves looking for authors I recognized, attractive illustrations, cultural variations. I loved it, Seth loved it. It spiced up our reading and exposed him to books he might not otherwise have known, some that have become favorites, like Steven Kellogg’s folklore books The Three Sillies and Pecos Bill, and the Let’s Read and Find Out nonfiction series by different authors. Continue reading