The Well Read Child - Advice from a Homeschool Parent


When I was a child Summer was the magic of endless days filled with possibility and reading. Reading for as long as I wanted and whatever I could get my hands on. One particular Summer is something of legend to my own children and they have me tell the story again and again.
In a simple version it goes like this.
One Summer when I was about 10 I and the kids of my street decided that we would live in the trees (why I don't know.. guess is sounded fun). We were blessed with properties that all touched and were filled with large Black Jack oaks that were in their prime. These trees had the added bonus of being gnarled together with some sort of thick woody vine that went from tree to tree crisscrossing and meshing many of the trees together under their leafy canopy.

Each morning we would rise, eat hasty breakfasts, pack lunches and books and meet together  to head into the trees. One by one we would climb into the branches passing up sacks and pillows and red plaid thermoses until each of us had settled into a comfortable tree nook supported by those thick woody vines. Out would then come the books and as the sun rose and streamed in through the dappled canopy we would read.
We each had our own book all on different topics, but talking and sharing what we were reading in a relaxed way of children who were more like siblings than neighbors. As the Summer wore on each time we were able you would find us in those trees but more than that you would find us lost in books. 

 To this day I remember that Summer with a fondness that is hard to describe but brought to mind each time I hand my child a new book and watch as they fall in love with words all over again each time.

Summer is here and with it the opportunity to share with your child some of the best reading out there. The dog days of Summer are a low pressure reading time that helps kids come to love the world of literature not dread it and think of a million things they would rather be doing. The key is creating a reading friendly environment - more on that later!

Sadly school reading lists are not what they once were. If not dumbed down and stripped for political correctness or the errant chance at a juicy curse word ( Hello, Catcher in the Rye!) they are limited by time and resources given to even well funded programs.  Gone are the days of mind expanding reads, only to be replaced with  a reading list selection that includes "The Babysitter's Club and the Capt'n Underpants series. I will not even dip my toe in the water of the idea that three books is considered a full season of reading... ~shaking head in disappointment~

My number one plan was to raise readers and in that I have succeeded to the extent that you rarely see my brood without a book or Nook tucked under their arm, I could not be more proud.  Reading widely as well and deeply  is always my goal so exposing them to books on all topics and levels is a given but does take a bit of research. ( More on that tomorrow)

I am often asked how I cultivated my mighty readers ...  My views on this  are sometime unpopular/controversial  to say the least so.. take and use any ideas that speak to you and feel free to ignore the rest.

Maddie's slightly unpopular guide to the well read child-

Turn off (get rid of, remove,  don't buy)  TV and the video games or limit them in a serious way before the age of 10. As a rule, the more often the TV and video games are on in a house the less often books are picked up. That means as a parent you are the one responsible for creating a reader. In our house we have never allowed handheld video games, while not a popular thought I suspect that  Games Boys are a significant  reason why today's literary rates are dropping. The proof will be in the pudding but  I think that time will show that  parents who have slapped these little games into the hands of children as opposed to handing them a book will have raised children with significantly lower reading skills and verbal scores than those who avoided such things in the early years.
Create nooks of reading bliss. Piles of pillows in a corner, a special reading swing, or a hammock in a tree with a soft pad and pillows.  Fun reading places make for fun reading. At the very least make sure your child has good light and a good place to keep books.
Currently shopping for one of these!

Make sure your kids see you read!  If your kids know more about how you feel about who got booted off Dancing with the Stars than what book you are currently reading  you are doing something wrong -nuff'said.

Let them have lots of good quality books- Shower your children in books, not video games, not toys, not clothes, make a trip to Barnes and Nobel the thing they want more than a trip to Toys R Us.  And reemmber,without even a penny to your name you can walk into any library and give you child more than most will ever have. No money is no excuse.

Tomorrow  I till tackle  reading lists for the well read child.

So what do you think?.. have you raised a reader? If you have made a misstep in your family road to reading what are you doing to get back on track?


Diane said...

You are absolutely right (again, as usual). Reading is not nearly as much "fun" as screen time (be it TV, Xbox, Ipad, etc.), so most kids, given a choice, will choose the screen. That is, until they pick up a good book. Then you have to remind them to put the book down and come to supper. Your tree top memories sound lovely. While I didn't have trees, I do have wonderful memories of packing up a picnic lunch, beach towels, and a cooler and loading up my two kids to go to the library. There we would spend hours picking out books to read. The only rule was everyone had to carry their own books, so each of us carried a bookbag. The hardest part was deciding which 10 or 12 books to get. After we checked out we headed for the park. We would park near the playground and set up "camp". We would read and eat and read and read and occasionally go swing, only to come back and read some more. Go home at the end of the day having spend ZERO money and everyone want to do it again the next day. Dinner conversations often were about what we each had read during the day. Madame Curie, Scarlet O'Hara, Anne Frank, Clifford, every single one of the characters in the Babysitters Club, the March girls, the Bearstein Bears...the list of "people" we talked about during dinner went on and on. This helped my kids to be good students, but more importantly, it helped them become good people. Next to loving them, raising my kids to be readers was the best thing I ever did as a parent.

Nadine said...

New comment to an old post..... I was being 'naughty' and found you whilst Google-ing images. :) I have definitely made mistakes with my girls because I am not a patient listener. That said; I do read to my girls and I read myself. I also encourage my eldest (7 yesterday) to read everything.... cereal boxes, street signs, menus... I think that reading is so important because it makes learning other things just that much easier. I also have wonderful memories from books that I've read as a child and I want the same for my girls. I encourage them to do things that my husband and I enjoyed and it's not just reading that has become 'unfashionable'. Just going outside and playing with nature, even running (just because) seems to be a weekend rarity for a lot of children now. I wanted to lend my year 7 nephew my Chronicles of Narnia book because I loved it so much (recently re-read it). He took one look at it and said, 'I won't be able to read that!.' It was a mid primary school book series so I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't a little astounded. Meanwhile, it's also important to keep them up to date with modern technology. I was against ALL games but gave in to Wii which I don't regret. It's fun and we play it together.......I hate hand-held which is a little hypocritical as I had Donkey Kong. :) I am not 'anti' TV or computers but it's like most things..... moderation is key! :)