Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On a trip to Barnes and Noble, I was thinking...

Ben has a new project on frogs due next week, and thanks to baseball being cancelled on Monday night, we decided it would be a great opportunity to get some books for his research. Don't get me wrong, I love libraries, and I think it would have been great to have him check out some books and then return them, but being a teacher, I will jump at any chance to grow my own library. I always justify it by saying I can keep it in my classroom (which I hope to have another here in Austin next year) or, Nick is still growing and can use it too.

But I stray from my point. I was thinking about how I, as an educator, have a "job" to know books. To know what content, level, and authors are appropriate for different kids. Heck, I get to even be emailed when the latest books are coming out!

As your kids get older, however, books can be somewhat intimidating. You ask your kids what other kids are reading, ask other parents, and resource with teachers. That's great -- but sometimes we are lured into books either because they are trendy or advertised wonderfully, yet we never read them, and therefore do not know what our kids are reading.

Matthew is a Dan Gutzman addict right now. He reads ALL his books. I have yet to read my first one.

He's a fourth grader. He likes to do his reading alone. He doesn't "struggle." He's at that age where even though I walk to pick everyone up, he wants to walk home with his friends, not me. (But I have to put a quick plug in for him: Monday night I got the stomach flu and was up until 4am...he got everyone up for school at 7, dressed and diapered the baby, got breakfast ready, and even started a load of dirty clothes to the washer -- without Tide -- but I was floored at his sweet spirit and ability to rise to the occasion!) But normally, he's wanting me to be around less to show his independence.

BUT...I am convicted. I am sure the books are perfectly fine -- could he benefit from me reading it too? You bet. As kids mature, their book content does too. There are subtle themes and inferencial thinking that needs to be brought out and talked about.

I am not suggesting he and I have to read side by side. At his age, I would suggest we do more of a "book partnership" where we decide how much we should read and a date we would sit down and talk about it. That set up gives him freedom. It's more like what we do as adults...we discuss what we have read. If someone sees something differently than we did, we learn from them.

There are great benefits from doing this:
  • You will have time to get the reading done when YOU have time -- I read while Nick is napping
  • Your child will feel the trust you have in letting them read on their own
  • Discussions can hinge around topics you have noticed while reading
  • You can model the thinking and strategies -- for example, I put sticky notes with little phrases where I notice things or have questions. They can too, and they can even respond on your sticky to your thinking.
  • You will know the content of what your child is reading
  • you can deepen their understanding through discussion
  • You will bond deeper with your child
  • Themes and issues that are tricky (i.e. Mick Harte was Here by Barbara Park involves a death of the main characters' brother from a bike accident not wearing a helmet -- HUGE learning opportunity) can be brought out and discussed as a parent/child

I know it seems like our kids need less from us as they mature, but I argue against that thought. I think we need to spend time differently...our approach needs to change. They still want us there.

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