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

Two Tips to Get Kids Reading This Summer

I recently had two encounters at the local library that stuck with me.

The first: Seth and I were looking through the audiobooks and playaways for him, and a mom approached me and asked for audiobook recommendations for her son, age 7. This is my dream encounter. Usually I overhear people debating what books to get their kids and am dying to put my two cents in; this lady flatout asked for my input! If you have ever asked me for suggestions, you know that you might get more than you bargained for. I gave her several suggestions, based on her son’s age and interests.

This leads me to my first summer reading tip: Let the kids listen to audiobooks. Continue reading

Apples and Oranges

Hello everyone! Holiday time, and our children’s thoughts turn to giving and being together, right? Ha! If yours are like mine, it’s a fight against bigger is better, and the more presents, the merrier. I had the opportunity to blog over at NWAMotherlode.com today about using special holiday books to plant seeds of contentment in our young ones. Hope you’ll join me here: Christmas books to read with the kids

year-of-the-xmas-tree

Connecting with Our Kids through Literature

My 8-year old son loves Minecraft and other video/computer games. He also enjoys science and math. I like science, not really math, and my idea of a fun computer game is the old Carmen Sandiego game series from the ’90s (and seriously, why has no one made an awesome Carmen app?) or the Nancy Drew computer games that I have absolutely no time to play. I’m not counting on us growing more alike over time–probably the opposite.

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Here is how that thought makes me feel–the face in the middle

And that’s why I find our shared time over texts* to be so special and important. No matter what widely different interests we have, we like curling up in a chair and sharing a good book. I love that and will hold onto it as long as possible.

Connecting over a text can happen in many different ways. Here are some examples from our house. Continue reading

Books We Enjoyed This Summer

I have read quite a bit this summer and will share my favorites in a couple posts, along with age groups they are intended for. Picture books and easier chapter books in this first post.

cinders

So, I am a little behind on this one, but maybe others are too. I like Jan Brett a lot–Gingerbread Baby, The Mitten, The Three Snow Bears, Annie and the Wild Animals, many others–all cute. But when I met Cinders, I was completely and totally charmed. If I was crazy and kept chickens in my backyard like some of my friends, I would be even more crazy over this one than I am. Seriously, y’all. Cinderella with chicken characters. Enough said. My new favorite Jan Brett book. Continue reading

Let Them Listen

When was the last time you chose to do something you’re not good at and that makes you feel dumb? (If you can’t think of anything that makes you feel dumb and crummy when you try it, maybe you haven’t tried anything new in awhile.)

It’s humbling to remember what that feels like, and then to connect that to how our children may feel in certain situations, whether it’s trying a new sport, starting a new school year with harder classes, or picking up a book to read.

I’ve talked with a lot of parents lately who are concerned about their children’s reading habits. The problem I hear most often is the child is struggling, maybe behind, and therefore doesn’t enjoy reading. It makes perfect sense when you think about that feeling. Do you ever choose to do something you stink at? Maybe grudgingly, maybe only when forced. Continue reading

Being a Miss Agnes: Writing for Our Kids

There’s a sweet little book called The Year of Miss Agnes, by Kirkpatrick Hill, about a teacher who moves to a remote part of Alaska to teach in a one-room schoolhouse (back in the late 1940’s). The families in the area rely on the fishing industry, and previous teachers were annoyed by the constant smell of fish on the children and their inability to relate to simple American reading primers like Dick and Jane. The children are far behind in their academic skills and have little hope that a new teacher will be different.

miss agnes

But Miss Agnes is different. She embraces the culture and the children from the get-go, hanging their artwork on the walls, reading them stories they’ve never heard before like Robin Hood, and best of all, she writes them stories they can relate to–stories about the children themselves and their families! Continue reading

Halloween Poems (and How They Can Inspire Your Child’s Creativity)

Certain Halloween poetry takes me right back to childhood.

 Three little ghostesses,                                                                                                              

Sitting on postesses,                                                                                                                

Eating buttered toastesses.                                                                                                  

Greasing their fistesses,                                                                                                                  

Up to their wristesses,                                                                                                                        

Oh! What beastesses,                                                                                                                      

To make such feastesses! 

I always preferred fun rhythmic, rhyming poetry, and throwing in a little nonsense made it even better. I still prefer this style of poetry above all others, as do most of our children.

If children read poetry they truly enjoy, it will inspire many of them to create their own poetry.

Continue reading