Said the schooled kid to the homeschooled kid with thick-laden haughty sarcasm,
“Of course you have time to read more. You’re homeschooled.”
–Not my vignette, but it has stuck in my mind from something I read a few years ago.
Read and Be Read To
Jim Trelease’s The Read Aloud Handboook, which I received 7 years ago from a wise, well-seasoned pediatrician colleague of mine in Kentucky after the birth of my second daughter, breaks reading success down to a simple formula:
- Be read to.
Read and be read to. It’s that simple, and it summarizes our reading curriculum for third grade and all grades up to this point. Our reading curriculum consists of silent reading by the children and read aloud by mom to the kids.
Although my copy of Trelease’s book is now worn, marked up, and dog-eared, as a still-working physician mother of a newborn and 20 month old married to an orthopedic fellow, I kindly thanked my colleague and thought, “I’ll never find time to read this!” Plus, I was already an advocate of reading aloud. Why would I need to read it?
But one early, early morning as I nursed the baby over my morning cup of coffee there it was still lying on the kitchen table, never stashed away somewhere yet. So I started reading it. And read it each morning over my early coffee-nursing session and carried it around the house to finish it at opportune times. And read-aloud became much more to me than just a simple bedtime story!
The Read-Aloud Handbook
The Read-Aloud Handbook, in addition to its great anecdotes and personal opinions from the author, actually helps to quantify and provide convincing statistics to support read aloud as an invaluable tool to develop reading skills. It pulls together and cites research studies and reports supporting reading to improve measurable knowledge. At the end, Trelease provides a “Treasury of Read-Alouds”, lists of recommended books (picture books, short books, novels, and poetry) with a synopsis, related literature, and recommended listening ages for each book. After finishing The Read-Aloud Handbook, I felt thoroughly comfortable with a “read and be read to” based-curriculum, and my choice of read-alouds most often come from the lists so helpfully provided in the book. Of all the books he recommends for reading-aloud, we’ve only not finished one. His selections seem to be right-on. His age recommendations mostly correct. When we pick out our own read-alouds, we’re only about fifty-fifty on its success. So his lists of recommended books are very helpful.
“An essential element in reading aloud is what you choose to read aloud. Not all books are worth reading aloud…The style of writing–if it’s convoluted or the sentence structure too complex for the tongue or ear–can make your read-aloud choice unsuccessful…the aim of the Treasury is to list books whose subject matter, style, and structure make successful read-alouds.” Jim Trelease from The Read-Aloud Handbook, 4th ed.
In addition to reading aloud, the book covers silent reading. Again, the statistics are astounding and speak for themselves. But what I really appreciated was his helpful advice on stepping back, and letting the child choose the silent reading selections ON THEIR OWN. I need to hear this. I want to hand them books and say, “Read this. It’s important. It’s a good one.” Or, “Read this chapter book. Get out of those baby books. You can read better than that.” What I do instead is pick out a few books on our library trip and put them in the library bag with their own selections. If they choose to read them, fine. If not, I silently return them. I love to ask them about what they read. If I have time, I love to read what they’re reading. We don’t do book reports much yet. Maybe one or two a year. But I hear an awful lot verbally about what’s happening in these books.
He Who Pees First Does Not Pee Best
My oldest daughter has always loved stories, but she never took an early interest in reading. Not a bit. It required all of my self-discipline to not scream and yell because I knew she was capable, and I was afraid the kid would never learn to read! She would listen attentively and answer my questions about whatever I read to her (usually from the Read-Aloud Handbook selections) and often ask me to read to her whatever I might be reading myself at the time. But read something herself! Uh-uh. No way. Not having it. Wouldn’t alternate every other line with me. Wouldn’t read Learn to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with me. Pre-school passed. Kindergarten passed. First grade passed. My wonderful mother-in-law reassured me, “M1 will love to read. She loves stories.” And she was right.
I think 1) some children’s brains developmentally take longer to decode words and develop reading strength and speed and 2) kids can understand so much more than they’re capable of reading–and that may bother some of them a lot.
“Finland has higher reading scores than the U.S., despite that its laws forbid the formal teaching of reading until the child is seven years of age.” The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, 4th edition, quoting from Gerald W. Bracey, “American Students Near the Top in Reading” Phi Delta Kappan
“According to experts who have studied children’s listening skills, it is a reasonable assertion that reading and listening skills begin to converge at about eighth grade. Until then, they usually listen on a higher level than they read on. Therefore, children can hear and understand stories that are more complicated and more interesting than anything they could read on their own–which has to be one of God’s greatest blessings for first-graders. The last thing you want first-graders thinking is what they’re reading in first grade is as good as books are going to get!” The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, 4th editon
As long as I am making a point to read aloud to them nearly daily, I feel comfortable and confident with our reading program. When I stop doing that, which happens occasionally as certain interferences arise, I feel unsettled inside. I know I’m dropping the ball. We high-tail it back to my comfort zone ASAP–right there on the comfy, cozy couch.
And lately, I’ve been trying to make it a point to read written material in a book to myself for them to see. As I’ve taken to researching nutritional issues on the computer, they’ve started to want to be on the computer, the phone, and the Kindle more and more–like me. So back to basics, model the behavior which I want to see. And that means I’ve also taken to handwriting my blog posts in a spiral bound notebook. Ouch!
Reading aloud often fell by the way-side for us last year, and the enjoyment factor was very much affected in our homeschooling! So this year I’ve decided to be much more intentional about this, and if we have to put the workbooks down for the day in exchange for reading aloud, I have no problem with doing that. 🙂