Friday, March 07, 2008

goings on

Sometimes I pull together my unorganized thoughts into some sort of coherency by writing. This is one of those posts.

I had a conference with Marcus's teacher yesterday. There wasn't much to discuss. I told her that Marcus frequently complains that he never learns any new math at school. Every "new" unit is review for him. I also told her that I'm having a hard time getting Marcus to enjoy reading. He used to and now he doesn't. At the end of our conference she pulled out his recent standardized test scores almost as an afterthought. I was not surprise to see that he was very high in math. However, I was shocked to see his reading score. It was low compared to our other children's former scores. It was low compared to the 2nd grade score of our other former reluctant reader who has since become a voracious reader.

Look, it's not the low score on this one particular test that bothers me. It's a change in Marcus that I have noticed this past year and have discussed several times with J.

Marcus taught himself to read right after he turned four. He didn't even know the alphabet before that. He refused to learn it because he was not interested. He started preschool at a Montessori and suddenly he felt the desire to read. By Christmas of his preschool year he could read independently. He loved to read, loved to be read to. In kindergarten and first grade he could often be found on the internet doing research on reptiles and amphibians, weather, nutrition, geography, or whatever else took his fancy. He would spend large amounts of time with his Smart Globe learning facts about countries. However, for the past six months or so he has stopped being interested in learning. He does participate in our family history study, but doesn't get very jazzed about it like he used to.

I asked his teacher if she's seen this change in him at school. She said that she hadn't really. He's still the one in class who is always thinking ahead, who always has a question that leads to deeper study. He spends most of his free time writing stories. Ok, so that made me feel better. He does a lot of that at home, too. He draws a lot, mostly to illustrate a story he's thinking about. But I have to tell you, these are very silly stories.

I asked Marcus about the nwea test and he said he enjoyed it. He was referring to the math section. I asked him about the reading section and he replied, "The reading was very easy. I could read it all, no problem. But then I had to remember what I'd read and that was hard." I think Marcus probably only remembered what was interesting to him, and what wasn't went completely out of his head. And considering how narrow his interests are right now... well, how many reading selections could have been wii-related?

Marcus's wii time is severely limited. He plays about 40 minutes on Friday after school and then 40 minutes on Saturday, and that's it for the week. J suggests that he be able to earn wii time by reading.

I don't care so much, at this point, that Marcus improve his reading comprehension as measured by standardized tests. What I want is for him to take interest again in gaining knowledge! I want him to get excited about about discovering new things about the world. I plan on reading more with him, both fiction and non-fiction. We are going to take weekly library trips together. (That's something we normally only do in the summer. I make weekly trips to the library during the school year but usually when Marcus is at school.) This is what I've resolved to do so far.

I did reform my other former reluctant reader, but I think this is going to be a taller order. Lidia did not like to read on her own, but she loved to be read to and enjoyed audio books. Marcus does not especially like being read to (which is one reason I haven't done it so much lately) and doesn't like audio books.


christina said...

You mentioned that Marcus likes to draw the things he is thinking about...maybe that would be the way to get him sparked again.

Karen ~ said...

Oh, I hear you! One thing that we noticed in our house ... when reading became required for school (they had to read a certain number ofm inutes per day and there was a special form I had to sign every morning) suddenly the loved activity had become dreaded homework. I finally went in and told the teacher we were not going to do this particular assignment any more and I explained why ... I didn't even discuss it with her, I simply stated it as fact. Thankfully she didn't challenge me on it! Both my boys do have lulls in their reading interest, though, so I try to keep watch and constantly have new books around which I think might be of interest ...

If anyone can bring Marcus around to reading again, though, I know it's YOU!

Auntie Lee said...

I'm not sure you can 'make' your kids like to read. I did the same kind of things with both my kids and it didn't work. Of course P is dyslexic but he likes books only of someone else reads them. M is not. She does well in school and excels in math but does not like to read. The problem I have now is that she is 14 and will get all teenage-r on me if I mention a book. But it does not bother me. I was 17 before I read a book I liked and I don't think likening or disliking reading is the same as likening or disliking learning. I really don't think you have a problem. You set a good example, do all the right things and if reading is not his thing then he will find something that is his thing. He seems curious about the world around him, likes to learn and has the means around him to do that.

He is also a boy. Boys are different and you can't really compare him with your girls. I find with boys, if you want to have a 'deep' conversation with them they have to be doing something at the same time, like drawing or fishing or (with P) it was cycling. We had many serious conversations while sitting on a bicycle. Also, boys seem to like to learn things if they are on the computer or in a game. For P we bought lots of educational computer games and he loved them. Not all of them are good, you have to look around and get Marcus interested in taking part with your search. It also sounds like he's a Beta or a Gamma learner. You are very much an Alpha learner (many women are). The way you learn may be different from him. Girls use words more than boys. Just look at who leaves the most comments on blogs...hee hee
Paris: *fart* Hahaha

Ok, see what I mean? P left that last small comment. 'gueez'

max said...


I grew up as a reluctant reader. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for boys 8 and up, that kids hate to put down. My web site is at and my Books for Boys blog is at
Ranked by Accelerated Reader

Thank you,

Max Elliot Anderson

Anonymous said...

Wow, Max has left that same comment before on your blog. What a memory he must have.

Anonymous said...

The trips to the library sound like a great idea. If nothing else it will be quality time that you two spend together. I bet he will turn to reading again, he seems to be the type of boy who likes to concentrate on one thing at a time, and he has already conquered reading. Maybe in his mind reading is so yesterday.
Another point, Marcus may be simply displaying where his apptitudes will be. Not all of us can be as well rounded in everything as some of us.

Mama Ava said...

Calandria--welcome to the world of boys! They approach reading and I think learning very differently than girls. I think you have a great attitude about not wanting a score, but wanting the love of learning and you were very smart to look at whether the conditions in class may be affecting him.

After Cameron, for whom "voracious" doesn't begin to apply when it comes to reading, I have Noah. Loves learning, absorbs information, very creative...just don't ask him to read. Or write. He tells wonderful stories and even illustrates them. But won't write the story. Likes Mark reading to him. Won't pick up a book. Wants to participate in conversations about Harry Potter. Doesn't want to read the book or have it read to him.

I'm not surprised that audio books aren't holding him. Research shows that boys are attracted to non-fiction and novels that are more action-oriented...stories that have a clearly defined plot and move. Girls are more likely to appreciate and be patient with books that spend more time developing characters and setting. So something like the Little House books bore my boys to tears. There simply isn't enough happening.

I can't imagine a child in your home not being a serious learner...but your boy may look very different in his approach!

Auntie Lee is absolutely on the money with how you approach boys, too. Trying to talk to my boys--I might as well talk to my dogs. They'd pay more attention. Ask them a direct question, they just walk away. Get them to help fix the car or work on the fence or build a model and they open up. They don't seem to want to talk about or process things the way I want to so often I'm the one that notices that there's something going on, but Mark's the one that can find out what it is.

Calandria said...

Thanks for your comments. I guess I just need to find what works for him. Yes, he loves non-fiction. He has loads of non-fiction books that he does enjoy perusing. But these books are mostly photos and captions. Or if not, they are large paragraphs of very small print that I'm sure he doesn't read when he's looking through them. Yesterday afternoon I read Book 1 of The Invention of Hugo Cabret with Marcus and Bernie and they loved it. It is captivating. Now I just need to find lots of other books like this one. :-)

athena said...

when christian was four or five i gave him notebooks to keep him busy and out of my hair while i schooled the girls. from time to time i would ask him what he was doing and he would say that he was making stories. his first attempts at writing was in fact pages and pages of drawings. he knew exactly what he his stories were about. when he learned to write letters he would use them too and then words and then sentences. we still have all his notebooks and from time to time he'll go through and read them. i think that as long as marcus is curious and has a passion for something (even the wii) i wouldn't worry about his reading not being up there with his math. he's still young

when we returned from france and had him in school here, the teacher commented to me about his reading level. in class they have a reading system in place where the children choose books from the library to read. they take a quick quiz afterwards to test what they learned. anyway the teacher told me that she would like to see his reading level go up (apparently he was reading books a couple grades below). at first i was worried too, but when i saw that he was enjoying the books he was reading i thought it was better than reading something and not enjoying it. after i had to remind her that he hadn't read in english for two years. i had faith in him that he would pick up but in his time (and he has).

Calandria said...

That is interesting about Christian--and it makes perfect sense that he would need to adjust to reading English again. That's one thing I asked the teacher--if Marcus's Spanish immersion school had done as well on the tests as the rest of the district, and she said yes. What I wonder about now is if they did as well as their peers in the other schools. Those who have chosen to send their children to the Spanish immersion school are a different demographic than the average of the rest of the district. I do not have statistics to back this, but from my own observations, I would guess that this group is skewed toward a higher education and socio-economic level. Which means that they would be expected to have higher-than avg scores. That's what happened in the other Spanish immersion school the girls went to. That school had the highest test scores in the district and boasted of it. But to some extent, it's what you would have expected of children in that demographic.

Sorry--a little tangent there.

Mama Ava said...

Good of you to consider the language issue! Is he reading lower in English or Spanish? I never thought about that until my friend whose children are in French immersion told me that there are a few years or so when the kids would lag behind their peers in English reading because they were learing to read in French first. My friend here whose kids were in Chinese immersion in Minneapolis said that they don't catch up in English reading until 5th grade or so because of the time spent on learning to read and write in Chinese. So if someone looked at a child in an immersion program it could be easy to misinterpret things.

I think you have such an amazing learning and language rich homelife that Marcus will be more than fine in the long run! (not that stops any mom from worrying a bit on the way

Auntie Lee said...

Some boys books that P liked when he was young was the Skinny Bones books and the Sock eating plant books. Their really 'boy' orientated.

Dezze Em said...

I wouldn't worry at all about the test score. And I agree with Karen that kids (both boys & girls) go through lulls in interest. I think it is important not to push the issue, or it could become a hassle for both of you. It sounds like you are doing all the right things. I would definitely encourage writing--even if it's just silly stories. In a classroom the writers are ALWAYS good readers (it's not the same the other way around.) To write well you have analyzed & internalized literature on a totally different level. If Marcus is playing around with writing now I would not worry about his reading. And using art is good--it's an extension of communication, going back and forth between language & visual imagery.