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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.