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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Have a Mini Book Club with Your Child

If your child brings home a reading group book or class novel that he is currently reading, why not pick it up when he is doing other homework or having screen time? Or pick it up after your child has gone to bed. Read what he’s reading. Then you’ll be able to talk about it with him. You can ask what he thinks about this character, or that situation in the book. It will show your child that:

A. You are a reader.

B. You know what he’s reading and care about it. You’re interested and want to hear his thoughts about the book. Continue reading

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

Best New(ish) Books I’ve Read

Here are some newer chapter books I’ve read lately. Hope you find something to read with your child or recommend to him/her!

Just Like Me, by Nancy J. Cavanaugh: My number 1 favorite of late!

Julia is a Chinese-American girl who was adopted by American parents when she was a baby. She and her family have stayed in touch with her “Chinese sisters,” Avery and Becca, who aren’t her biological sisters but were adopted from the same orphanage at the same time. Avery and Becca revel in their Chinese heritage and expect Julia to as well, but Julia has begun to feel awkward and somewhat resentful about this part of her life. The book follows the girls at summer camp together, and is a light, sweet story, while also managing to deal with real feelings about being adopted. I love how it shows that all families have troubles, no matter how well put-together they appear, and the universal theme of wanting to belong is something everyone can relate to. 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.

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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

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

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

Continue reading

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