an evening of reading and talking about books

My sons and I had last Friday evening to ourselves, so after an early dinner we settled down on the couch together with a stack of new books from the library. Earlier in the day I’d been able to collect six of the Star of the North Picture Book Award nominees and so I thought we’d read, discuss and rate them. What a fine stack of books it turned out to be.

First we read Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz because my boys thought they would like it best. This book introduced some martial arts terms that they were interested in learning more about. They thought the book was okay, but neither ended up choosing it as their top pick.

Penny and her Marble by Kevin Henkes was okay and it got us talking about paying attention to our conscience, but it wasn’t as good as some of the other books we’ve read by Henkes. None of us gave it the highest ranking.

My older son and I liked Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. We found it to be a compelling true story and declared it to be the best of the three we’d read so far. As it turned out, it stayed right up there at the top after we’d worked our way through all six books. It’s a bit long to hold the attention of a five-year-old, but was fine for an eight-year-old.

Next we read Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel. My boys found some of the injustices mentioned in this book unbelievable, and were appalled to hear about Clara’s broken ribs. It’s kind of a heavy topic for kids this age, but the book ends on a positive note. We thought it was almost as good as the Growing Table book we’d read just before it.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt is a light-hearted story that appeals to a kid’s sense of humor. This is the story out of this bunch that my five-year-old liked best. We read it twice, the second time paying attention to how the boy in the story addressed each crayon’s concerns in his final picture. We read it the following day as well.

The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert is autobiographical in nature. I think it’s probably most interesting if you’ve already read several of her other books because she discusses her writing process with examples from previous books. It was fun to learn about how her parents helped cultivate her interest in art and books. I thought it was probably the second best book of the six we read that evening. One of the librarians said it seems to be more for adults than kids, but I’d say there’s plenty there to inspire a child in his or her creative pursuits.

This reading and discussion took a good hour and a half, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend an evening as a family. We’re looking forward to reading the other four books on the list soon so we can finalize our vote.

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world read aloud day 2014

Wednesday March 5th is Word Read Aloud Day.

In an effort to raise awareness about “the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories,” LitWorld has designated the first Wednesday in March as World Read Aloud Day.

At this stage in my life, with one pre-reader and one very beginning reader in our home, nearly every day is read aloud day. Still, it’s interesting when we mix it up a little, and LitWorld has some suggestions for doing just that

But even if your kids can read for themselves, this is a great excuse to read aloud to them. Older readers benefit from frequent read alouds. They may also benefit from learning how blessed they are to have access to education and books. 

To whom will you read aloud on Wednesday?

teaching my son to read – week 1

“Of all the wondrous delights you may confer upon your child, few will match the enduring pleasure that literacy provides,” Sidney Ledson wrote in Teach Your Child to Read in Just Ten Minutes a Day. I recently picked up this book because my son has been asking me to teach him to read. He first asked me last September, but I was dragging my feet because it seems like a lot of effort. I’ve taught preliterate adults before and I know it isn’t exactly easy.

In the past, I’ve been swayed by both the whole language and the phonics perspectives, but Ledson makes a fairly compelling argument for phonics and provides an easy 32-step program based on sound-symbol correspondence. (We’re focusing on sounds and ignoring the names of the letters for now.)

Our five-year-old seems to be in need of a new challenge – something to distract him from superheroes – so the timing is right. Once he found out why I was reading Ledson’s book, there was no rest until I started teaching him. So we started on Sunday. Today I dug out our wooden blocks and reviewed yesterday’s lesson, the sounds for U and P. He can now read “up.” At least he could this morning. Ledson advises not teaching any more sounds until a child has mastered the ones that have already been introduced.  We’ll review those before bed time, and tomorrow I’ll check to see if he still remembers them before moving on to the next letter in the sequence, C.

Perhaps by the end of April we’ll have mastered the first 100 words. Stay tuned.