Reading is Everything

You’ve probably noticed that I talk about reading and/or literature in all of my posts. I probably always will. I’m one of those crazy librarians who can’t think of a better way to learn about the world than to read a good story.

The Littles and I started back to school last week and after five days we’ve started hitting our groove. A flexible schedule that we stick to as much as we can helps. Usually the first few days take a couple hours longer than the rest of the year. It takes a while to figure out how the new schedule each year is going to work. This year we switched things up quite a bit. Instead of doing every subject every day, we do grammar, math, and guided reading five days a week. On Mondays and Wednesdays we do U.S. geography. Tuesdays are for reading comp units and chemistry. Thursdays are art history. Fridays we do Spanish, music reading, and nature study. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we throw in creative writing to cement our grammar and vocabulary. This gives us a chance to really get into the larger subjects. We took two hours to do chemistry and art history last week. It was fabulous.

Now let me explain our favorite class. When I say guided reading, I mean reading aloud together, going over vocabulary from the book, answering questions out of study guides I create for each book, and doing some sort of hands-on activity that helps us keep that day’s chapter in our minds. For me, it’s the most important class we do. For one thing, look at the English language practice we get. Vocabulary, reading comprehension, and a full understanding of what we’ve read. The boys take turns reading every other page, and we usually do a chapter a day. If they have questions, we can all stop for the answers before moving on. There’s no confusion or passing over a chance for knowledge because their psyches can’t assimilate the lesson. This helps tremendously when we read books from other centuries like Robinson Crusoe or Oliver Twist. Then when we’re done we answer both ‘what happened’ questions and critical thinking questions, because there’s no point in reading a book about the plight of the poor if they don’t know what a plight is or don’t understand just how devastating poverty was in Dickens’ time. Sometimes these books give us the opportunity to explore current events. For instance, has the poverty problem been solved in our world?

Beyond the English language practice, the activities we do might be an art project or a science experiment or anything in between. It’s an opportunity to learn more than just English, history, and language. We can incorporate any subject into these activities, even geography and math. And it’s fun! Guided reading is our very favorite time of the school day.

We’re reading A.A. Milne’s books about Winnie-the-Pooh first this year. When I tell friends and colleagues they usually chuckle. The Littles are in the 4th and 6th grade; aren’t they a little old for Pooh?   Well, no. Even I am reminded of some very nice things while we read. Friendship, loyalty, tolerance, kindness, bravely facing one’s fears… these are invaluable lessons. Perhaps we should all read these books every few years to remember how we should treat others. Also, the Littles are old enough now to understand some of Milne’s tongue-in-cheek humor. They’re enjoying Pooh even more than when I read him aloud to them as pre-schoolers.   Plus, it’s a nice, easy read before we dive into Oliver Twist in November. And I love Pooh. I love his simple kindheartedness. I hope my boys pick up a thing or two from him before we’re done. With daily guided reading, I think they will.

Love wins,

KT

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