Thursday, January 10, 2013

Josie Reads

Josie learned to read in kindergarten.... maybe I need to back up a little further.  Josie came home from kindergarten one day - perhaps it was the first week of school, but it could have also been the second - and announced that everyone (that's EVERYONE) in her class knew how to read.

Except her.

That's right.  In a class full of over-achieving geniuses, apparently my little non-reading Josie stood out like a sore thumb.  

It took a while to calm Josie down, but once I did, I went to my computer and typed a quick email to her teacher.  Could she possibly be the only 5 year old in our school district not yet reading?


In fact, according to Josie's teacher, out of 22 students only about 2 of them knew how to read.  Whether or not Josie sat directly in between these two students, the teacher didn't say.  

In any case, Josie was bothered, so using the same strength and determination that led her to toilet train herself at age 2, ride a two-wheeler without training wheels at age 4 and pass her pool swim test at age 7, Josie got to work on learning to read.

The first thing she did was ask to hire a tutor.  Now I know this sounds crazy, because how does a 5 year old know about tutors, but there is an explanation.  At this point, Henry was going to a tutor once a week to work on homework and both he and Georgia had gone to the same woman for summer review the month before.

And Josie saw both children come out of the tutor's home with candy in their hands and prizes in their pockets.

(oh my goodness.  Maybe I was dooped about the whole Learning To Read thing!  Maybe it was just the candy Josie wanted!  Her own trip inside the Land of Sweets)

In any case, Josie visit the tutor once a week for the entire year, and by the end of kindergarten, Josie knew how to read.

That was two years ago, and although Josie reads really well, she almost never reads for pleasure.  She has to read for 20 minutes every night and she does (for the most part) but after reading a page or two, Josie seems completely exhausted and she almost never wants to go any further. 

I saw the same thing happen with Henry (who could not be described as an enthusiastic reader) and I'm determined that Josie will break the pattern and learn to love reading.  Perhaps she won't become a total bookworm like Georgia, but I sure would love to - just once - come upon Josie, curled up in a chair, reading without being told to.

Just once.

It's all I ask.

I'm happy her teacher insists on those 20 minutes of reading a day but what I don't like is the other side of Josie's reading homework.

In addition to reading an actual book, Josie has to go on-line to a website called Razzkids and read 6-8 "books" each week and answer multiple choice questions after each book is finished.

Don't get me started on how annoying I find this assignment.

(whoops - too late!)

First of all, why on earth are we forcing more screen time on these children?
Why can't they just read actual books?
Why not pick one book that everyone has to read, by themselves, at home and then discuss what happened in class the next day?
Surely there's another way to test reading comprehension skills?
What do children who don't have computers at home, do?

I was speaking with a friend and she pointed out that we had to do similar reading comprehension assignments back in the 1970s and 1980s.  They were called SRAs and they were in color-coded plastic lunch boxes in the back of every classroom in the Northeast.

I remember those SRAs but only because I remember taking pleasure in opening and closing the plastic hinge on those SRA lunch boxes and because I have always been a sucker for a color-coded system.

I don't remember if I enjoyed the assignments.  Or if they taught me to love reading....

But who is to say that they didn't?

Maybe I've been fighting a ridiculous battle.  Maybe I should be embracing Razz Kids and trumpeting the wisdom of getting Josie to read regardless of how the material is presented?  

I joined Josie yesterday, in front of the computer, and read over her shoulder.  The "book" was about a girl whose father gets called up for active duty in the military, where he's going to "help other people" for a year.  

It was a simplistic view on so many levels, but probably age-appropriate.

After she finished reading all 20 pages, Josie took the quiz:

I was pleased to see that she didn't hesitate when choosing the correct answer.  Her reading comprehension seems to be improving.  The story wasn't mind-numbing, the questions asked were pertinent and thoughtful.  There was no color-coded plastic mailbox, but there were some cool graphics and large print.  Perhaps this will help Josie learn to love reading. 

Who knows.


Lisa @ The Golden Spoons said...

Sounds a lot like my Megan. She really does not like to read and getting her to do it is a struggle. She, too, has the 20 minutes a night homework and it is like I am torturing her. In the beginning of the school year, she actually cried about having to do it. an I completely feel your frustration with all the online homework.

One idea I saw (but haven't tried yet) is to initiate a little book club for them. Have Josie and a group of her friends read the same book. Then have all of them over to talk about it. You could have activities that correspond with the book, too. (Like a tea party if there's a tea party in the book) Like I said, I haven't tried it, but it sounded like fun.

Anonymous said...

SRAs - I LOVED those! I can still see the whole color coded box at the back of my very small classroom.
I even remember who was in my color group!
Maybe Josie and D could do a book swap or something? D is a reader but would love to chat with her friend about them!

Martha said...

Lisa - thanks for the advice. Making a party out of reading might help!

Martha said...

Trish - I'm always so impressed with what D is reading when we meet in the library! She seems more like a Georgia reader, which is lucky.

Last night, Josie finished her Razzkids for the week by reading the most inane story about hot air balloons. Sigh. Is Ambrose doing Razzkids, too?

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