Reading

Published by Lori Pickert on November 12, 2007 at 03:19 PM

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I just read another homeschooling blog post that declared how great it is that homeschoolers read more than non-homeschoolers. They're better readers, they like to read more, they read more often, etc.

My first reaction is, well heck yeah, they have time to read!

When I was running a (tiny, private) school, we made time each day for the children to read to themselves. This was in addition to the time that they were read aloud to by their teacher (Kindergarten through fourth grade). Visiting educators' reaction? We don't have time to do that. There is too much to teach. We already don't have enough time to cover the material.

This is the sort of thing that made me grind the heels of my hands into my eye sockets. Which way to attack this? You could go straight for what really matters in education today and point out that the kids will learn more, and be more receptive to learning, if they are calm and relaxed and rested. (Our kids read after lunch. It made a lovely quiet transition to the afternoon.) Or, you could go the other direction and point out that test scores don't really matter if we raise generations of kids who can't or won't or don't read.

I remember talking to the 8- and 12-year-old sons of a friend several years ago (back when kids that age seemed enormous). I asked what their favorite books were. Both of them moaned and groaned and said they hated to read.

... Hated to read? Hated to read?! Well, I ... I don't know what to say. That's like saying you hate to eat. You hate to watch TV. How can anyone hate to read?

But they went on to explain why they hated to read --- it was because they hated the books they were forced to read at school. They were so boring. Etc. So I said, well, huh, I could choose a book for each of you that you would love. You would love to read. They rolled their eyes and said no way. I couldn't pay them to waste time reading anything.

And there's the rub, because when would they read these great books I had for them? Their days were very full, and the little bit of free time they had they really preferred to do something else. Like, there would be a long list of things they would prefer to do, and reading would not even make it to the bottom of that list.

Sob!

They also told me that boys don't like to read, boys like sports, but that's a whole other ulcer-aggravating conversation.

This is a deep-and-wide topic, and I can’t plumb its depths in this one post, but I will reiterate this: When I read (or hear) homeschooling parents say sanguinely that homeschooled kids love to read or are great readers or etc., I think, the greatest thing about homeschooling is time. All that lovely, blessed time. No worries about having to choose how to spend your one free hour a day, whether you should crash on the couch and watch “Scooby Doo”, play with your dog, work a little on your airplane model, help your mom make a pie, play a little Age of Empires or maybe a game of chess with your dad. There’s time for all of those things — and still time to read Treasure Island, Rascal, Kon-Tiki, A Wrinkle in Time, Harry Potter, or The Dark is Rising.

That's a great thing about homeschooling, but schooling can easily (easily!) make room in the day for kids to read books of their own choosing, silently, to themselves. And (rolling my eyes now) the kids' attention and attitudes will improve and they will actually learn better anyway, so you haven't actually cost yourself anything just for the mere benefit of raising generations of readers.

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More:

Jim Trelease: Sustained Silent Reading — Reading Aloud’s Natural Partner

If the majority learn to read but don't read, we must ask: Why are they not reading? The only logical answers are either because they don't like it or because they don't have the time. There are no other major reasons. Eliminate those two factors and you've solved the American literacy dilemma. Reading aloud goes to work on the first factor and SSR attacks the second. — Jim Trelease

Washington Post: The No-Book Report: Skim It and Weep

We pride ourselves on being a largely literate First World country while at the same time we rush to build a visually powerful environment in which reading is not required.

"Sustained Silent Reading" Helps Develop Independent Readers

Teachers should be right there on the floor (or in another comfortable spot) -- modeling a lifelong love of reading.

Note: Upon rereading, my mom and dad activities are so gender traditional. For the record, I play chess (although I prefer Scrabble), and my husband, while no pie maker, makes a mean pot of soup.

 

I am not bashing homeschooling families for basking in the contented glow of their great readers; it just drives me crazy that kids in school don't have the same luxury of time to become great readers.

How can a generation of non-readers raise a generation of readers? If kids never discover a love of reading, how can they introduce it to their own children?

In all my years of running my small private school, I never saw a child who didn't love to be read to, regardless of age. I still read to my nearly 11-year-old every night. Right now we are reading Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything.

See also: Teaching Kids to Hate Reading and In Defense of Reading .. Which Should Need No Defense

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18 comments

Comment by Molly on November 12, 2007 at 07:40 PM

Oh ... Lori, Lori... you have got my attention now.

I am always concerned about how to fit in homework -- which often presses forward on topics that my daughter is not quite ready for -- rather than help continue to focus on some of the basics that we enjoy doing together. If she had those basics nailed, she wouldn't feel like "math is hard." Makes me crazy. Math isn't hard I tell her, you just need a stronger foundation and then this other stuff makes sense.

As far as reading ... you are soooooo right. After all this struggle over the math, then dinner then bedtime, where is the time for reading? I'm so happy to see my daughter pick up a book and spend 45 minutes on her own initiative - as she did all summer long. We just don't have the time now, we can barely make it to bedtime. A sad reality.

Thankfully, her teacher offers DEER (drop everything and read) time, when the kids can choose anything they like from selections offered. They continue with the one chapter book until they have finished. However, I think we just lucked out and won the teacher lottery this year. Year to year we have to re-access our kids best learning methods and advocate for them.

This matter of limited time has been very much on my mind lately and currently doing planned assignments seems only a challenge to her natural, curiousity-based learning. We have conferences scheduled for this week and this issue is among my topics of concern.

- Molly

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 12, 2007 at 08:36 PM

thank you so much for sharing your own experience, molly. don't even get me started on homework; i'm as anti-homework as they come. we didn't have homework, because we felt a seven-hour day was plenty long enough to get the work done at school, so kids could have their evenings free for playing and being with their family.

it's a bit arbitrary to focus on reading, because kids also don't have time for other worthwhile pursuits, either -- because there's just so little time!

Comment by Steph D on November 12, 2007 at 08:45 PM

I really loved reading this is is really echoing what I'm feeling these days..anxiousness about Gabe going to public school..the more I think about it the more I start to freak.I am trying to research alternatives such as Montessori or Waldorf. I'm nervous about home schooling because I'm not sure if I could do it...that's a WHOLE other story =)
ANYWAY...Our son(almost 2) has finally reached a milestone I have been dying to get to...he is now interested in books...he will bring them over and cuddle up close as we read and point to the pictures. BLISS! My grandmother and parents always encouraged my brother and I to read everything and challenge ourselves. When we would go to the library I would devour stacks at a time. I look forward to bringing the excitement I have always felt for books to Gabe and are future children.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 12, 2007 at 09:37 PM

there are many choices in schooling, depending on where you live -- not just montessori and waldorf, but a whole plethora of private-school choices, magnet schools, charters, etc. the philosophy isn't as important as the fit with your child's personality and needs. i would suggest visiting schools -- even if your child is only two! -- because it may make you feel better. and if you can't find what you want, you'll have more time to figure it out! ;^)

i remember bringing home my giant stack from the library, too. :^) such a good memory! and the boys are thrilled to visit the library and choose new books, every time. such a great thing to share. :^)

here's something really annoying, though -- my local library won't let kids have their own library cards. that is, you are only allowed one card per family, so if you already have one, your kids can't get one! isn't that terrible?! and they complain about fewer people visiting the library!

Comment by Molly on November 12, 2007 at 11:15 PM

Lori:
Even more annoying at my local library: They will let my children have their own cards, however, if a book is late or past due, the parents are not allowed to be informed as to the title. The reason: to protect the child's privacy! Same is true with the public school library. Can you believe this? So we only use the one card - mine.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 13, 2007 at 12:26 AM

omg! that is unbelievable! how can you find "green eggs and ham" under the bed if you don't know what you're looking for?!

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 13, 2007 at 01:09 AM

i just spent an embarrassingly long amount of time looking for the old "bloom county" where binkley loses a library book...

Comment by estea on November 13, 2007 at 03:17 AM

hey you. AMEN SISTER. no thoughts to add. you said things well.

and dude, i am totally basking in my self-satisfied glow, thank you very much ;)

need to write a post about how my mom let me read everything from the time i could...and she has 3 rooms entirely made of books...she also had this thing she called *suggestive decorating* and would leave volumes lying around that she wanted me to read but knew i would reject if she offered them outright. wise old scamp. of course, this meant i read the Thorn Birds when i was 11. and had blown through and was desperately bored with my 3 sisters' Harlequin Romance novels by 15. they were tamer then, but i remember thinking...this is called literature? it's the same damn story every time! feh.

okay, i'll shut up and go exercise now.

Bloom County!

g'night my far away friend!

Comment by estea on November 13, 2007 at 03:20 AM

like i ever shut up.

anyway, not letting kids have their own library cards is just

crap i don't even have the vocabulary.

well, i do, but it's not camp creek blog friendly.

that was pretty much the highlight of my son's 7th year.

feh x 2

Comment by MamaOutThere on November 13, 2007 at 11:15 AM

Hmmm. My daughter is in the equivalent of 2nd/3rd grade in a public French school. I was wary of the French edu system at the primary level (I had wanted to unschool), but I am more than pleased. She gets plenty of time to read. Plus they memorize a poem every week.
She is an advanced reader, though she didn't learn to read until kindergarten. But, she hasn't liked to be read to since she learned to read herself. I tried to read Riki-Tiki-Tavi to her the other night, but she says she gets lost if she doesn't read herself. Sigh.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 13, 2007 at 02:37 PM

oh, e, yes, my son was SO disappointed -- they had told him he couldn't have a card of his own when he was four because he couldn't sign his name *in cursive* .. then when he came back, so proud, to get his card, they shot him down again!!

i remember the library as my happy place when i was a child, and the librarian as the angel who ran the happy place. unfortunately, our local library is not the same.

i think i can blame the thorn birds for why i married a catholic...

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 13, 2007 at 02:40 PM

mamaoutthere, what is the french public system like? do they have homework? very curious... and do they allow homeschooling in france? i believe it's against the law in germany.

did you see the movie a few years back about the one-room schoolhouse in france .. i managed to get a copy of it to watch with my teachers at school. we loved it. i remember the school was closing, but i am blanking on the name...

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 13, 2007 at 02:49 PM

"etre et avoir"! ("to be and to have")

what a wonderful movie -- so reminiscent of the work we did at white oak

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Be_and_to_Have

Comment by Steph D on November 13, 2007 at 06:08 PM

Lori- Thank you for opening up my options a bit more. The public school systems here in RI are for crap but we are lucky to have many different private/alternative schools here in the city(providence, RI). When the times comes and we decide what is good for Gabe I'll be satisfied knowing I looked at them all! =)

Comment by molly on November 13, 2007 at 09:17 PM

I love this post and all the comments that follow, though I have'nt read the word crap so many times since I picked up a Simpson's comic book. I HATE homework and I believe it is one of many things tearing families apart. Time after school should be filled with reading, playing, catching up with family and friends, staring off in to space to process the day.

There are few things as beautiful to me as a child and a book. And I firmly believe in reading out loud, no matter what age. My children can't fall asleep if they haven't heard me droning on for an hour each evening, and I hope this tradition continues for years to come.

And the library card thing - what a crying shame! My children were overjoyed the day they got their own cards (though it does create a nightmare when books are lost or overdue because we have four accounts to keep track of). As soon as my son could write his name on his own he made his own library card with markers and a scrap of paper, which he "traded" in for a real card (I still have his homemade card and it makes me proud).

Lori, as always you have brightened my day with your insight on children and education. And I loved the movie To Be and To Have.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 13, 2007 at 11:28 PM

*i* only said heck. lol.

i agree with you one hundred percent on homework, and i could go on and on and on ...

molly, thank you for your kind words, you have brightened *my* day! and wasn't that movie wonderful .. so much like our school. we also had mixed-age classes, 3 to 5 in one class and 6-9 in the other. i loved mixed-age.

Comment by Laura Swanson on November 27, 2007 at 01:46 PM

Hi

I guess I am really lucky. My children go to public school but it is also the magnet school (fine arts & accelerated program.) They have 15 minutes of independent reading each morning and another 15 - 30 each afternoon. The make weekly school library trips and visit the Public Library Bookmobile every two-weeks. They are required to read each night & keep a reading log of what they are doing. Our Public Library gives them their own card I do believe at 2! At least that is when my daughter got hers, she was old enough to choose her own books & therefore checked them out herself.

I guess we are really lucky to live where we live.

Laura

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 27, 2007 at 03:54 PM

you are lucky, laura!

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