Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Really, What is it that I do that changes struggling readers' minds?

After yesterday's post, I had a mom ask me, "Seriously, how do you do it? I don't get it? Kids just love to read once they have had contact with you!"

Yes, I have found that to be true, but in all humility, I just do what I love to do. There's no magic -- I have just been blessed to find a career that I enjoy and fits me perfectly. Sometimes I wish that career had six figures tied to it, but alas, you can't have it all! Ha!

Now back to the topic.

I think it is a couple of things: Attitude, time, relationship, and knowing material.

I want to talk about knowing material -- let's walk through a specific book in the next few days and how I selected it. I think that is a big part of it - as Amy commented yesterday, all readers can be discerning and picky - they all deserve the best.

I have a Mr. Putter and Tabby book in front of me. The series is written by Cynthia Rylant, who has a plethora of great kids' books out there. That's step one for me -- get to know authors -- authors YOU like and that have GOOD writing. I have known Cynthia's books for years, and know she puts out good material to work with.

There's a difference between published material that has been designed and patterned towards kids and material that was written with quality storylines with each word and sentence done ON PURPOSE.

Don't get me wrong -- there is a time and place for those Scholastic type pattern readers, but let me tell you now...that's not how kids fall in love with reading.

Mr. Putter and Tabby is a series involving a senior, Mr. Putter, who lives alone and longs for company. In the first book, he gets a cat (not a kitten -- it's been a long time since he was "peppy") and their lives together are what produce the wonderful books that follow.

The underlying theme of an aging gentleman and his rememberances, as well as new "adventures" will touch your heart. That is one way I pick books. If they touch me - they have substance. Those are books you can work on many levels with.

So I picked it up because I knew those things...but let's look at the book.

Mr. Putter and Tabby -- Run the Race - First off, I read the back of the book -- which I always tell kids to do. It gives me the information I need to get my mind ready.

Now, my mind works a million miles an hour. As I am standing in Barnes and Noble reading this, I am reading it as a reader myself, but also as a kid -- I am thinking...what will they know? what will they question? what do they need me to explain? THAT'S WHAT I WOULD TEACH.

It's that easy. No lesson plans required. In fact, I have a hard time following prescripted lessons for things -- don't tell anyone.

Ok, the back tells me he hates running but is going to do a senior marathon -
number one, I am wondering how he agrees to do that if he hates running -- point that out to kids as something we need to find out. Lots of times kids will try and answer you right there - agree that they might be right, but we need to read to really find out. I would also ask/explain what "senior" means and how that may affect the length, etc. of a marathon. Be aware of where your child will have experience or not. You may have just run the Boston Marathon (YEAH Sarah Campbell, my son's teacher!) and your kids may well know what it takes to train and how long that is, but they may not. Knowing what you need to tell them by way of support is important.

It says there is a second place prize that he really wants -- a train set (we found out in an earlier book he LOVES trains from his childhood) - So I am thinking to ask kids "Hey, I wonder what first prize is? Will he try NOT to get first so he can get second? Or will he get first and be bummed because he wants the train?

Lastly, it leaves us hanging - Will he make it to the finish line? So I would talk about that. "Hey - he might not make it!"

Then I would tell them that I was ready and wanted to read...and as a recap I would re-read the blurb on the back one more time.

What does that do? It builds up excitement. It supports them. Their minds already have a good idea of what is going to happen, who the characters are.

So that's just the blurb...more tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. I've thought for a while that Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book should be adapted for kids/teachers/parents. I know they say that book publishing is a dying industry (a statement that probably brings a lump to your throat, as it does mine), but I think reworking Adler's book, with an eye toward children's literature, is a worthwhile endeavor that someone with your expertise could do well.