Readers are Created not Born

There’s a wonderful public school initiative that asks children to read for 30 minutes a day. I think it’s a good start but the “art” of reading is not in the “time spent” but about comprehension.

I say this with some hands-on experience in my day care situation. One of my charges is a fourth grader who asks me to keep track of his after school reading period. The sad part is his reading is done with one eye on the clock. I ask him about what he’s read. Occasionally, he has an answer but most often, he doesn’t have a clue.

A few days ago, I asked him to read his book out loud to me. He’d chosen a book about the American Revolution which, by the sparkle in his eyes, was a topic of interest. As he read, there was stumbling on unknown words. Many of these words were critical to his understanding. I pronounced the words and gave him the definitions. Light bulbs of understanding and interest were coming to light like I had not ever seen with him before.

In addition to listening, I was reacting with excitement to the content. “Wow! The colonists were really out numbered!” …” Of course the king would be angry. He wanted their money and obedience to continue, don’t you think?”

Well, the 30 minutes turned into almost an hour without one glance at the clock. He clutched the book like a newly discovered treasure when he packed to go home too. My friend went from reading to reader without even realizing it. I told him to look for a book about Valley Forge if he wanted to know more about the trials of war. (I cannot wait to see if he does.)

So, there is a difference between minutes spent reading and the sharing that makes a kid into a reader.

Curious fun fact~ The very first entire book that I read, in one sitting, was in sixth grade and was Washington at Valley Forge.

Washington at Valley Forge
Washington at Valley Forge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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Revisting My Expectations

It’s very hard to recommend books since I find our enjoyment of them is such a personal thing. They touch us somewhere in our brains where dreams, hopes and disappointments reside.

This morning I took a good look at my bookshelf. It is small. I keep it that size because I know my inner hoarder would overwhelm my living room otherwise. The small size (about 30 books) makes me re-evaluate their value to me on a frequent basis.

One thing I’ve rarely done is to reread a book. If I’ve enjoyed them and kept them, they hold a mystique not unlike our memories of high school. We filter those memories, keeping the best parts, and often sugar coating them.

I’ve wondered before whether our timing and attitude make a good book a great book in our minds. Seems we take what we need and overlook the rest. What we need evolves with time. I’m going to reread a few books that have stuck with me and have spent a silent, dusty vigil on my shelf of honor. I am afraid that they’ll let me down in the same way a high school reunion does. Those valued and happy memories are open to a new awakened place. Their charm and value are put up to scrutiny that I’m not sure I want to give them. (BTW- I don’t do high school reunions.I love my memories to stay just as I have protected and perfected them.)

The books that I will revisit are: Cry of the Panther by James P. McMullen and The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland. Both have to do with experiencing Nature on an intimate level. That subject runs deeply through my bookshelf starting with my first love The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling.

Each of my rereading choices have some raw elements. Nature does too. I guess that’s why they felt genuine. They also have characters who have a focused and obsessive search that is very personal. Based upon true stories and actual events, they both offer real-life heroic adventure.

I will definitely write a follow-up post about how they weathered the storm of reappraisal.

A funny thing happened…I was engaged.

Are you one of those people who “engages” others? You know, eyes forward and making contact with those folks who have their eyes up.

That’s a marvelous way to have fun and ,of course, learn.

After my early morning blogging fun, I went to the grocery store. Living in a small city, I recognize many people and come to feel that I know them. My first sight was a young man soliciting credit card applications for his bank. He was standing at the entrance. I shouted out to him,”Selling cookies?” When I reached him. We shared a laugh and he followed me into the store. As we walked in, I offered him an “opening line” that might be useful in engaging the next person.

“Did you know that it is International Women’s Day? That is a tidbit that you could use when opening a conversation with customers.”

He said,” Wow, I didn’t know that. Thanks.”

The lady walking in behind us joined in. “I just found out about the event from an email this morning. My friend in Europe told me. It’s a BIG deal over there.”

Then the lady and I shared our dismay that the interest seemed low in the US and went about our shopping.

This happens often with me. Rarely, is “running to the store” uneventful or boring. I cannot seem to walk around without engaging people. There is a line between engaging and stalking though. A brief exchange is all anyone wants or has time for. I’ve had just a few instances where an especially lonely soul wanted to come to dinner! Thankfully, those are rare and an engaging person gets a sense about who to talk to after a while.

My point is all about taking an active interest in people and your day. It’s fun and makes for a fellowship in your community. I like friendly people.