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These Things Take Time

November 7, 2007

Remember, it’s Book Fair season in my world.  Outside of work, it’s hard to think of anything outside of books, books and books.  You could easily make the argument that my thought process outside of work isn’t much different than it is on the inside, and in some ways, you would be right.  However, there is one crucial difference.  At work, I am a “producer” and at home I am a “consumer”.  In both locations, I’m concerned about the right book going into the hands of the right customer.  At home, the stakes just happen to be higher.

Little IT has always been a book fiend.  She once went trick or treating at a co-workers house two towns away because she heard she gave out books to kids instead of candy.  She’s like I was a kid, just a voracious reader.  That’s slowing, and I am not sure what’s to blame. 

When she began coming home with homework this school year, the “reading” portion was mostly comprehension exercises in the form of the state mandated test she will be taking later in the school year.  Because the school board policy is 45 minutes of homework a night for 3rd graders, they can’t really require the 20 minutes of free choice reading that she got in 2nd grade.  As a result, she wasn’t doing it.  While she has plenty of other activities in the evening (violin and piano practice, the rest of her homework, getting her lunch ready for the next day) I still missed the 20 minutes of quiet time that she would take to read a new book.

Not liking this, I decided to kill 2 birds with 1 stone and started involving her with reading to IT Boy.  We’d pick out books, sometimes 1-2, sometimes more, depending on his ever-mercuirial toddler temperment, and alternate reading them to him.  Lately, we’ve gotten up to 5-6 books, more if he can slug down his nightly bottle of milk while we read.  I’ve even snuck in harder books, so she’s getting in more reading.

With Book Fair looming, she had a plethora of books she wanted to take home.  I decided to enter into a contract with her to insure that she put that 20 minutes, excluding the bonding time with IT Boy, into her nightly routine.  She readily agreed, and I am hoping she sticks to it. 

I’ve talked to other parents of kids in her grade, and they’ve reported similar conflicts over the reading.  I certainly understand why the teachers can’t require it, but we did suggest that their recommendation about reading come through with a bit more force.  I don’t want her to ever give up her reading.  In fact, over time I’m hoping to bring back her writing book.  I know she writes in class, but last year we had a composition book that she had to write a page in every night.  Sometimes it was nonsense (“Cassie is my best friend.  Who is my best friend?  Cassie is..”), sometimes it was a bit more deep (“Chicken nuget day at schol is most populer”*), but it was something.  She was in the habit of writing every day, and it was helping her so much in other areas of her schoolwork. 

*sic

It will be interesting talking to parents tonight at the book fair about how they are helping to keep their kids interested in reading.  What strategies do you think work for this, and what’s worked for you?

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