We recently seem to have turned a corner so I have asked my wife to write a 'guest post' on what she thinks has caused the turn around.
An expert, I am not. A homeschooling mother, desperate for her kids to find a love of reading, I most certainly am.
Until recently I was getting ready to pay my boys for finishing a book. They started so many and finished none of them. I was tearing my hair out and going crazy! I had books recommended by friends as sure winners for their age groups, I had bought many of these books only to see them sit unread or unfinished (this is where the library is your friend… unless you forget to return them, then lose them and end up paying 3 times the retail price to replace them).
I don’t know exactly what it was that turned the boys around, where they will now willingly pick up a book that isn’t about minecraft, where they can read for periods of time and actually lose track of time because they are enjoying reading, but I can tell you which books they were in at the time which I am pretty sure had something to do with it.
Okay, so it’s below their reading level… or where their reading level should have been, but I’ll get to that later. It’s hilarious, apparently. I don’ t see it, but I’m a 30+ year old mum who has a limit on how many poo jokes she can handle in one sitting. The best thing is, it’s short chapters so they get their confidence built up as they finish each chapter and with many pictures through the book they have finished what seems to be a reasonably thick book in no time at all… and they now have a dozen or more poo jokes added to their repertoire.
The story is written by Andy Griffiths and illustrated by Terry Denton, and it is about their (highly exaggerated) process of writing this actual story. As a bonus… there’s plenty more of these books with at least one in the works to be released later this year.
He’s a boy spy. There’s mystery, intrigue, villains, good guys, cool gadgets, space ships and again… nice short chapters to build their confidence! There are a few different Zac Power series, they are written by a team of writers under the pseudonym H I Larry.
Start off with the Test Drive or Spy Camp series made for younger/beginner readers, they are the ones that got my wannabe spy sucked in and waiting for me to buy him the next books.
Now I’m not so up to speed on these ones, I just know that I forked out for the next 11 books in the series that he’s reading because Scholastic had a half price sale and that’s not to be sneezed at! I’m not sure that each series is named in any particular way. The books follow Kai Masters, Border Captain, as he battles beasts (bet you didn’t guess that one) to keep earth safe.
The series is the brainchild of two women, Louise Park and Susannah McFarlane, writing under the pseudonym Mac Park. Interestingly, Susannah is the concept creator of the Zac Power books… she obviously knows what kids want to read!
These are the books that my reluctant readers have so far decided they can’t put down. All of them are aimed at readers between 6 & 8 years old, but don’t let that stop you if you have a struggling 10 year old like I do. There’s no point in presenting a struggling reader with books aimed at his age level when he will feel like he is constantly failing because it’s too hard. The other undesirable outcome is that he reads because you are telling him to and he reads the words but gets no enjoyment from the story because concentrating on the words he’s reading is more than enough work for him! Honestly, once they are reading, let them read at the level they feel comfortable. For sure, give them stuff that challenges them too, but don’t let them get lost in the “shoulds” of reading levels and grade averages. If they can’t read it then dial it back to something they can read and get them enjoying the reading. Once they are enjoying it they will naturally push themselves further.
All of these are by Australian authors, which is wonderful to see, but also means that there aren’t many references that the kids wont understand. I remember reading books growing up and there were so many American cultural references that I had no idea what was going on in some sections.
Other books that we have enjoyed…
The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
Written by Brian Selznick and now turned into a movie as well (Hugo, released in 2011). I love this book, it’s daunting to pick it up, it’s one hefty book, but as you look through you see that there, interspersed through the story, are pages and pages of the most beautiful drawings. Sometimes you have to pour over half a dozen pages of drawings before you get to the next page of writing. I think it’s a beautiful way for kids who are now reading chapter books to get to remember some of that wonder of reading a picture book.
The Faraway Tree Series.
Didn’t we all read Enid Blyton books as a kid? The language is fast becoming out-dated but we have read them as read-alouds together and when my voice fades we also have the audio CD. This means that I can explain some of the more unusual phrases. These are also great for developing listening skills. There are so many detailed descriptions throughout the stories and it’s fun to get the kids to draw what they think the tree looks like, or one of the characters or to explain who lives above and below certain other people in the tree.
Morris Gleitzman is a funny man. This is another one we have just started reading aloud. I asked my facebook friends for suggestions for read-aloud books and Gleitzman was recommended by a few of them so… we started. Now, a word of warning… do not start doing voices for all of the characters if you aren’t in it for the long haul. I can carry that on for a chapter at a time but they love it and the story is so engaging and funny that they aren’t happy with just one chapter at a time!
About our guest blogger:
Mummy McTavish is the Primary Blogger over on samster-dot-com. I and my oldest son are the optimists of the family. I'm a stay at home mum, who also recently commenced homeschooling our small clan. My primary fuel is coffee and favourite food is chocolate. I have a university degree in Photography which I now use to take cute photos of my kids, primarily on my iPhone.