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Friday, October 22, 2010

Teaching Reading {part two}: Our Story... Struggle no more

In the last post I admitted that I did not fully trust Charlotte Mason's reading-lesson recommendations. I didn't know then what I know now. But I did know that my kids hated reading, and were beginning to turn sour in other areas as well. I had to do something.  Now, I'm not pro-reward systems, in fact, I remember at times feeling rather volatile toward sticker charts! So, I am not necessarily advocating the following unless you are desperate. I was.

In came a tailor-fit reading incentive program for our family. I worked out a points system based on words per book. With accumulated points they could buy stuff from the bin in the closet. Cool stuff. Big boy stuff.


They left the library with a haul of books each week from then on out. Granted, a good number of those were board books for reading to their younger siblings, not worth a whole lot of points.* But, if you read enough of them, the points do have a way of accumulating. AND they were reading. AND they were motivated. Finally.

Quickly, they realized that more words = more points. More points = better prizes.
{Insert image of dreamy Dollar Store do-dads and giddy Goodwill gadgets}

As they moseyed on over to the easy reader section of the library, I simultaneously became acquainted with the fact that there are VERY few non-twaddle easy reader books. But there are some. They brought these home. We scoured the entire section for suitable books. And they read them, every single one. Three times.

This incentive program was HUGE in getting them over the hump. But it was not yet the clincher.

The point of no return came when they were introduced to Redwall. Brian Jacques IS my hero. Their first exposure was an audio book borrowed from the library. And let me just say that these books are not easy reading (certainly with the British accent they are NOT easy listening). Being a little skeptical of the series, and knowing they were not really ready for a nearly 200-page-pictureless-reading-experience quite yet, I told them they'd have to read the series in order. The library only had the print version of the next book. ;) Wasn't I clever? I dreamed of being able to dangle the Redwall carrot out to keep them motivated over the next month as they continued their slow but sure paced journey through the juvenile section of the library shelves.

This minor setback did NOT discourage them in the least, they were MORE determined than ever. They would have Redwall. They checked that next book out and suddenly they turned into little recluses and became furiously infatuated with the world of Redwall. To this day, I have no idea how much they understood of that first book. But they made it ALL the way through, tag-team style. One would read and narrate to the other. Then the other would read and then he'd narrate it back - all on their own time - over about a month. Hmmmm. Interesting, no? They were about relatively 7.5 and 8.5 at that time.

Well, from that point, it really only got better. We kept on reading aloud a little each day, they read more Redwall, but in addition they were also introduced to Roald Dahl. I wasn't sure if I should be happy or sad about this. I've never read even one of his books, and we own at least 7... all of which the boys read with gusto... in less than a month. Some of the things they've narrated, I've thought... uh, yikes? (So, though I think I feel comfortable with them, please do not interpret this paragraph as a full-blown endorsement of the Roald Dahl books.) We had finally arrived at the point that I could confidently say that these boys were on their way to discovering new worlds by way of books! And, thanks to Redwall and Roald Dahl they had begun to LOVE reading!

So while they were finally reading...
I had NO idea what I'd do with my next up and coming reader who would turn 5 within a couple of months!
In the next post, I'll tell you what we didn't do!  ;)

Posts to keep a look out for:

Our Story... I'm a failure. {part one}
Our Story... Struggle no more. {part two} << -- You are here. :)
Our Story... Just relax! {part three} Learning to Read - The Scary Myth {part four}
Playing a Foundation to Build on.
First Reading Lessons in Earnest.

*(please note, I do always screen the books that make their way to my house, and I have a very strong aversion to twaddle; but desperate times call for desperate measures... so don't blame me if they read a few borderline books there in the beginning. -- I'm just covering my bases here in case there are any CM police in the area... ;)


Phyllis said...

{LOL...CM police. Sometimes it feels that way, doesn't it. Everyone the expert on what is Twaddle and what is not. :)}
Another fab. post. Yes, desperate times do take desperate measures. Now, to FIND a book that would so intrance my non-reading almost ten year old! Sigh.

Sam said...

I've not heard of either of those authors. I am off to search. :)

Richele said...

Thanks for taking us along on your very interesting journey.

You know, Amy, every year when I meet with the dept. superintendent for the boys' review I'm asked where they are in reading before I even get sat down. Puhlease.

Luca just became interested in being read to last year. When he expresses an interest in learning to read we do a CM-style lesson but if I see his eyes begin to glaze over we stop.

I don't know about the CM-police but I would love a point-system to motivate me in the housework arena. Big-girl prizes, please.

Brian Jacques has had enough thumbs-up from families I trust. Max & I are definitely Roald Dahl fans.

Jennifer in MamaLand said...

Enjoying reading about this journey. There sure is a lot of twaddle out there. I have a 5-yo daughter learning to read, and all the Barbie and Disney Princess easy readers make me shudder in horror when I see them lined up at the library.
Like you're supposed to say, "let's leave our family's values behind for a few years so our kid can learn to read!" And then hope they will turn to quality reading material on their own later.
Roald Dahl does indeed have some horrifying portions in his writing. Certainly, some of his books are clearly marked as adult books and shouldn't be given to young kids. The section of Boy where he has his tonsils yanked out has never left my mind since I first read it 25 years ago.
Still - it's almost all worth reading.
If you look at how Disney's "twaddle factory" takes brilliant, nuanced, sometimes-scary fairy tales and turns them into lessons in how a princess should dress, it makes you grateful that there is still SOME vivid kids' literature out there.
Keep on reading!

Marvan said...

Wonderfull posts. I'm looking forward to the others.
I have two struggling readers too. My youngest is 9.5 years old and still isn't reading anything near Roald Dahl. I'm happy he started showing interest in reading comics.....
My oldest is now an avid reader and I'm very happy about it. By the way he is just going to start reading two of the Roald Dahl books: Boy and Solo, because he is very interested now in second world war.

Congratulations for these posts.

Laura Lee said...

<----HUGE Roald Dahl fans here!! My kids always walk away with some fav icky quote, like from The Twits: "I've got my EYE on you!" <3

My older kids, 10 and 12, are reading the Inkheart series, while my 8yo just finished Because of Winn-Dixie. We'll check out the Redwall series next!

Erin said...

I can so relate, my last son didn't read until 10, I was desperate.
Like yourself once upon a time I didn't believe in rewards, but I was desperate.
Here is one idea we tried, worked for a while

Phyllis, check out Charlie Carter's books.

Unknown said...

I, too, am enjoying this series of posts, Amy! My DD struggled with reading herself and to this day, always picks out books that are really too difficult for her. She is desperate to read the Warriors series but can't get through a single page comprehending what has taken place.


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