Thursday, November 06, 2008

a series of fortunate events

Tomorrow the kids have school off. I mentioned a possible trip to The Wild Rumpus book store, and Marcus yelled, "Yes!" I expected him to then talk about the chickens, ferrets, rats, and other animals at this book store, but he didn't. Instead he said, a bit shyly, "Yeah, because, you know, I'm pretty into reading now."
He has always been interested in a certain kind of reading. He taught himself to read when he'd just turned four, mostly, I suspect, so he could read signs and nutritional labels. He has always spent a good part of each evening before bed "reading." For about four years this has meant selecting a book from his extensive science library and paging through it while occasionally reading a caption. Marcus has been exclusively interested in science book. True, he has been open to any possible science subject, from the digestive system to the atmosphere of Venus. However, other non-fiction books have not particularly interested him, unless they contain a bit of science. In a book about Greek civilization, he goes straight to Archimedes. He has only read fiction books, even those with extensive scientific references, under parental command. I even heard him once utter the words, "I hate fiction." The memory makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
Marcus has been a smart, happy kid who does very well in school, and I could have left him alone. But yes, it bothered me that he didn't like fiction. I couldn't let it be. I decided to take action.
I looked high and low for books that I thought may appeal to him. A to Z Mystery? He didn't like it. Time Warp Trio? Nope. Star Wars novels based on the movies? Meh. And then a friend at Irish dance (thank you, Andrea!) told me about Hank the Cowdog. Marcus was going through a phase where he constantly made up stories or jokes about barnyard animals. He loved Hank the Cowdog. We set aside 30 minutes per day for fiction reading. He never complained about reading Hank. He sometimes had to set the book down because it made him laugh so hard. Marcus's sense of humor always reminds me of Link and Dtv.
I was very happy to have found these books. However, though Marcus obviously enjoyed the series, he still needed to be reminded to read. He didn't usually pick the books up on his own. I remembered something that had done wonders for Lidia: audio books. Hank the Cowdog wasn't available on online audio download from our library, but there were pages and pages of other titles. I decided to try the first book from Lemony Snicket's The Series of Unfortunate Events. Since Lidia had read it and liked it, I figured that what worked for one of my warped children might work for another. I downloaded the audio book and got a paper copy from the library. I told Marcus to read along as he listened. Well, that was about a month ago, and he hasn't stopped since! He's on book seven, The Vile Village. Once he sat and listened/read for two hours. When school started this year it was like pulling teeth to get him to read fiction!
I timed Marcus reading one page of Hank the Cowdog about six weeks ago, and it took him nearly four minutes. I read somewhere that if a book is the correct reading level for the child, they should be able to read one page in less than two minutes (and have good comprehension, of course). The other night something went wrong with The Ersatz Elevator audio book and Marcus was very put out. He decided to read the rest on his own. He read the last fourth of the book in about half an hour. Tonight I'll time him reading one page and see how he does.


Anonymous said...

Link really enjoyed the "Hank the Cowdog" series. He, too, would laugh out loud while he was reading them. ...mum

Anonymous said...

I don't think I've ever even seen a Hank the Cowdog book - I've heard of them though. I was a slow reader. I'm still kind of a slow reader. I don't know how long it takes me to finish a page, but I'm always afraid of missing something, so I go back and read, and re-read just to make sure I didn't. The only time I read fast is if I have a ton of books I have to finish for a class or something so I "speed read" - which is really comprehensive skimming. I do great in group discussions!

Ave said...

I remember Link getting his first Hank the Cowdog book at the museum gift shop in T or C. He loved those. I just had a somewhat irritating parent teacher conference for Lmx. The teacher thinks that Lmx's vision impairment is holding him back. He has a hard time focusing on small print, and his eyes tire easily. I wanted to scream "He's only in Freakin' Kindergarden! Back off..." However, I found myself nodding politely and thinking since when do kids have to read in kindergarden, what the heck happend to playing and the letter people? If I had to do that crap at 5, I'd hate school too.

Mama Ava said...

Our school uses a more in-depth reading assessment. In addition to fluency and comprehension, kids are interviewed about how many different genres they read from, asked to interact with the text in terms of using the cover, table of contents, pics, etc. to make predictions, think about author themes, intent, and message, and connections to their own personal life. It's all adjusted to each grade level developmentally, but it tries to get at the the child's interaction with the book in a way that I think really looks at why we as adult readers love to read. The activities at all grade levels reinforce and teach those skills.

I didn't realize until I worked in an elementary school how many kids go through the motions of reading but don't interact with the book on an emotional or cognitive level. I've learned that without those connections, kids read less for enjoyment and apparently research says it affects their academic reading as well.

But I'm with you Ave. I spent 3 and 4 y.o. preschool fighting with teachers trying to get my kids ready for kingergarden. So they could get ready for first grade. Rush. Rush. Rush. Then I got here. Ava is 6 and probably reads about a grade level above her age back in the States. Here, every single child in her class can read that way. We're 2 months into first grade. So many kids here are tutored early early in everything, including reading. They are very very proficient. And not very happy.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear that I am not alone. I think that it is really important to give children reading material that they are interested in, even if it seems like garbage. Lmx loves those easy reading Star Wars books, and those horrible Spiderwick Chronicle books. I have to edit some of the language in the Spiderwick Chronicles. In one book there was bullying and a child was sworn at, and there are religious exclamations. I think that is so distasteful in a young childs book, but Lmx really likes the story. One thing that is helpful to me is talking with parents of children who have poor vision. I know three of these moms and we all have similar experiences with our sons reading progression.

Andrea said...

Great! I'm so glad he likes HTCD! If any of you adults need a pick-me-up, they are very funny. I've never read anything else like this series.

ProMom said...

Thanks for the tip about Hank. I'm always looking for books to interest my 9 year old. Anything to get him away from cartoons and Captain Underpants.