|“When the student is ready, the master appears.”|
|– Buddhist Proverb|
We have been reading to Bounce since birth. He has chewed on books for breakfast, he has written on books at naptime, we have read countless stories at bedtime and finally, in Kindergarten he began to read them himself. The process from beginning reader to, “I love this book and I can’t put it down until I have read every last word,” can take years. During this time, like a sapling, the young reader must be constantly nourished and encouraged.
This school year, 3rd grade, I decided that my first priority for Bounce was learning to love reading. If your student is a reader, with easy fluency, expansive vocabulary, and is endlessly enticed by the written word then, and only then, they can learn ANY subject. Without the ability to read fluently, every subject is a struggle.
Bounce began the year as an adequate, steady but uninspired reader. We took a multiple step approach. My favorite way to develop early reading skills is through reading aloud. When your child reads aloud you can really hear the words he/she knows and those they stumble over. The child must also anticipate the story as they read so the inflection is correct. Clear diction becomes necessary if others are to enjoy the story.
So how do we accomplish this in our busy household? With the Greatest of Ease.
Bounce is assigned to read all of Scooter’s bedtime stories, aloud, to Scooter. Scooter and Bounce both love this system. Scooter loves to pick out his favorite books and will happily choose 10 to 15 books for bedtime. No self-possessed parent would be able to read 15 bedtime stories every night. However, Bounce is happy to do all this reading. The longer he reads, the longer they can both stay up. The more books they read, the more time I have to get the rest of the family organized. Everyone wins, Scooter learns to love stories and Bounce, well, he is just getting better and better at reading each night.
Don’t have a younger sibling handy? How about a neighbor or cousin? Elementary school children can also read aloud at library programs designed for toddlers. Ask your local librarian for suggestions.
Bounce and I also read You Read to Me, I Read to You books by, Mary Ann Hoberman. These are perfect for developing readers as the words are slightly more complex but the rhyming couplets can help the reader “guess” difficult words. These books are alternating read-alouds. Parent and child can share the reading and enjoy the story together.
Meanwhile, I choose a more difficult book and read this aloud each night to Bounce. The purpose of this book is to create interest in complex plot lines and encourage understanding of more sophisticated grammar and vocabulary.
This year we read Pinocchio:
We have also read A Christmas Carol, unabridged, by Charles Dickens and Wind in the Willows, unabridged, by Kenneth Grahame. I am NOT a fan of abridged books for children. Abridged books discourage the later reading of the original book.
My suggestion: If a child is not ready to read the original do NOT read a picture book version, do NOT read an abridged version and most definitely do NOT see the movie.
The child should have the joy of reading the real story when they are intellectually ready. If they already know the plot of every story what will motivate them to struggle through a difficult text when they are older?
Treasure Island is an excellent example. The original version of this book, by Robert Louis Stevenson, uses challenging vocabulary and the story is presented in an unusual manner.. The story, however, about pirates and adventures at sea, is very exciting. This is a book that is definitely worth the struggle. The student who reads this book will be much better prepared to read other challenging material.
Surprisingly, another book that fits perfectly into this category is Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne. Many children have grown up watching the TV version of this book. Few children have had the opportunity to enjoy the original. This book, and the others written as sequels, utilize difficult vocabulary and is an excellent read-aloud book to encourage children to pay close attention to the story and to understand the meaning of words.
Another excellent series for developing word appreciation is Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter. Children are captivated by the darling illustrations, but even more important is the fact that these little tales are literary gems. Each story has a defined plot, clear moral and an unapologetic use of formal English.
So where are we now? Bounce has irrevocable fallen in love…with reading. He reads day and night and has progressed from the Magic Tree House series, by Mary Pope Osborne, a great first “chapter book” series to Flat Stanley, by Jeff Brown, to Raold Dahl, the mainstay of the elementary school reading experience. He has read Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Twits, James and the Giant Peach and George’s Marvelous Medicine. Currently he is reading an all-time favorite, Matilda.
Bounce says, “My favorite books to read are books about reading (Matilda)”
What better statement could I hope for? I am thinking that soon he may be ready for Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke. This book is the ultimate children’s book about books.
For more on Learning to Love Literature by Happymess:
Let Me Count the Days: Homeschool is teaching a love of books by reading books that are worth loving.