To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Reading Aloud To My Elementary School Child

The munchkin's school offers an optional independent reading program called The 100 Book Club. In the elementary years, students work toward a goal of a specified number of pages, not 100 actual books. It's a great program, and we support it, but this year, we've opted out. Here are my reasons for doing so, and a description of what we're doing instead.

The 100 Book Club program allowed students to read anything they chose, as long as it was at an appropriate level. My daughter's books of choice are The Cupcake Diaries and graphical novels like Diary of A Wimpy Kid. Nothing wrong with those books as entertainment, but they don't stand up to classics that I might choose for her. I wanted more balance between my daughter's choices and the classics.

Another issue for us was that it created a sense of pressure. The homework load is heavier this year. We are involved in a program of daily Bible reading for Sunday School. The munchkin has piano practice obligations and tennis lessons and practice. We ask her to do a daily chore. There are days when we barely get everything done by bedtime, and then I was saying, "You've got to hurry up and get in bed and start reading or we'll never get in all of the pages for 100 Book Club." This seemed to thwart the whole idea of reading for pleasure.

Finally, we were both missing our summer tradition of my reading aloud to her. We both treasure those quiet, cuddly moments when the world can fall away while we get lost in a story together. I read books to her that are harder than what she'd choose, and she is learning to love great literature this way. So far, I've read most of the Little House on the Prairie series, The Secret Garden, and Black Beauty. There are real benefits to reading aloud - besides stirring a love for literature, it allows the reader to model good prosody which improves comprehension and fluency. (The importance of prosody) Reading aloud can nurture a wider vocabulary, especially if you read books that are beyond the child's current reading level.

I love reading with my munchkin. I have a degree in English and secondary education, and while we chose not to homeschool, I still want to employ more of my teaching skills with my own child. Since reading is NOT the munchkin's first love, then there is no better thing I can do for her, educationally, than to use my own expertise and love for books to nurture her literary growth.

So, that's the why of it all. Here's the how. We've set a few goals. The munchkin will read 7 books of her own choosing this school year, apart from the reading she does for school assignments. She's already read 3. She will read two books of my choosing. I have chosen Pippi Longstocking and a non-fiction book, Case Closed?: Nine Mysteries Unlocked by Modern Science. I am reading to her the following books this year:  Julie of the Wolves, Peter Pan, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Tom is a book she is unlikely to encounter in school these days, and one I'd prefer to explain myself, anyway. At the end of the school year, when 100 Book Club participants are rewarded with an ice cream party, if we've met our own goal, I'll pick her up from school and we'll have our own ice cream party. We are already deep into Julie, and loving every minute. The munchkin gets into bed on time so that there will be time for reading and begs me not to quit at lights-out. I don't like to interrupt our reading with a bunch of comprehension questions or vocabulary explanations, but I will be following up each major section of the book with a few of those. We'll also map out Julie's path through the Arctic tundra and learn about Inuit traditions and tundra wolves.

If you'd like to read or teach Julie of the Wolves, here are several resources you might find helpful!

Listen to Jean Craighead George tell about herself and read an excerpt of Julie:

JCG's web page includes a biography, videos, and lots more

Find links here to help plot Julie's path through the Artic tundra

Facts about wolves

More facts about tundra wolves

About the Inuit

Lesson plans for teaching Julie of the Wolves

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