Wednesday, May 20

Not hereditary

Reading is something I always hoped would be important to all four of my children. My thought was that any gaps they might one day have in their education could be bridged through their own exploration and love of reading and learning. It was the key, the foundation. Once achieved, I could sigh a deep sigh of relief.

To develop this love, I began reading to each of them very early. I read to them as part of our naptime ritual when they reached the age of about 6 months old. With each of them, I found that they were much more likely to settle in and enjoy listening if it was a book they knew well. They each responded best to repetition, though I disturbed my husband with my quickly-learned ability to repeat odd children's rhymes at the drop of a hat. 11 years later, I can recall Ethan's favorite without effort...."Noah was God's faithful friend, his children loved God, too..."

In no time at all, those board books developed into beautiful picture books. We made frequent trips to the library and at first, I was dismayed to see them picking out mediocre books about their favorite television characters. Rather than constantly telling them "no", I limited them to two books apiece and then hunted for the "good books" that I knew they would love if they'd only give them a chance. I followed the amazing lists found in the book The Well Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Bauer to help me find some of the best books available. It wasn't long before they were walking past the cartoon books to find quality children's literature.

In addition to naptime routines, we began piling together on the couch each evening to devour new library treasures. Eventually these turned into chapter books. Every evening, we still take the time to cuddle on the couch and delve into a story.

As much as I love this tradition, there came a time when I really wanted to see them get equally excited about reading independently. From watching me read to myself and hearing me read aloud, they knew what an absorbing adventure a book could be. How could I convince them that they could love their own reading adventures? I tried the trick of reading a cliff-hanger and then stopping when they were begging for more. I said I was tired, but offered to let them finish it on their own. They shrugged and walked away. Not interested. I tried several intriguing stories that left them wringing their hands with suspense. Nothing. Eventually, I had to finish the book to satisfy my own curiosity!

They were content to read to themselves, but only easier picture books, not the chapter books that I knew were well within their abilities. So I got sneaky. I announced new bedtime rules. I cut their bedtime back half an hour, to which they moaned and groaned until I explained that they only had to be in their beds at bedtime. Lights didn't have to go out until an hour later. I bought them clip-on lamps to go on their headboards and hooked baskets to their beds to hold books, journals, and pens. They were thrilled.

But they were still intimidated by anything longer than 35 pages.

One day, my oldest came across an old Family Circus book. It was just a compilation of Sunday Comics, but it was around 150 pages long. That night, I noticed a light on in his bedroom long after lights out had come and gone. He was enjoying the book so much he just couldn't stop. He finished the book that night. The next morning had me hunting on ebay for classics like Family Circle, Garfield, and Dennis the Menace. Caldecott Honor Awards, they weren't. But they were a bridge. They took my son from 33 page picture books to riveting chapter books. He started with The Littles and worked his way up. Soon he was purposefully choosing chapter books on his own. Namely?

Chapter books about his favorite movie characters.

I was so happy to see him love reading that I didn't balk at his selections of Spider Man, Star Wars, or Iron Man. However, it quickly became evident that I would have to intervene if I wanted him to expand his repertoire beyond super heroes. I opted to put my foot down and required him to read a book of my choosing for 20 minutes each day. I continued with my list from The Well Trained Mind and assigned daily reading assignments. Very quickly, he became engrossed in the stories and didn't stop reading when the timer went off. His tastes were developing!

My oldest is 11 now. While it is not a surprise to see him reading a Star Wars novel, you are far more likely to find him reading The Thief Lord, Mysterious Benedict Society, or Diary of an American Boy. His younger brother inherited the comics and the books that followed. He is two years younger, but never more than a book or two behind.

We still enjoy our family read-alouds, tackling meatier books now. We love adventure stories written during the 1800's and have enjoyed many reprints from Salem Ridge Press. But we still enjoy pulling out picture books with intricate illustrations, too. I enjoy it as much as they do.

And I still get a thrill when I see their lamps glowing down the hallway long past bedtime.


© 2009 whitetrashmama

5 comments:

Jennie C. said...

We do that, too! 8:00 bedtime, but you can stay up till 9 as long as you've got a book in your hands. :-)

Jessica said...

my mom has always been an avid reader herself and read to us at bedtime. she passed this love of books on to me and i hope to show my kids how great reading is someday too! luke already loves to "read" books and i'm loving every minute of it.

Nezzy said...

This bedtime ritual is what worked best with their daddy. There is just something about getting to break the rules and stay up just a little later....reading of course. You are such a good MaMa!!

Ginger@chirgies said...

A job well done! Good Job you sneaky Momma you. I heard a speaker once say, without a love or reading or books, our sons and daughters have far less chance of loving to read God's word.

ps - Those comic book Bibles are great too! (at least they're reading!)

Lawanda said...

That's awesome. My kids adore my Baby Blues books :) I love how his favorites helped your boy to read more! :)

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