Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Salon: School reading

About the only thing better than fresh, new notebooks this time of year are the reading lists that my children bring home. They are not, to my sorrow, the readers that I am. And so instead of doing leaps and spins over the reading list, they drag in disconsolately, moaning about the reading they'll have to do for the year. And I humor them because when all is said and done, they are not only quite good readers, but they enjoy it far more than they realize when they are in the midst of it. And really, who cares about them when I so thoroughly love scanning through their lists, collecting up the books, and reading them too! (Yes, I do actually care about them but sometimes I have to just wallow in pleasure and ignore their ridiculous, off-base whining.) Sometimes it makes them fuss about how quickly I read compared to them but in general I think they are pleased I care enough about them to see what they are reading (plus if they have questions on assignments, it comes in handy if I've read the book too). A few gentle leading questions never hurt anyone, right?

So this year I will be diving into Code Talkers by Joseph Bruchac (7th grade) and The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood (6th grade) very shortly in order to be able to look over their summer reading assignments. Once I've made my way through those, I will be re-reading The Call of the Wild, reading Crispin, Freak the Mighty, Holes, and the second in the Lightning Thief series (I read the first one last year with the boy and instead of re-reading with the girl, I thought I'd head to book two instead. Such are the pleasures of sixth grade reading. Seventh grade will have me reading The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, The Jungle Book, and Tangerine, and re-reading The Pearl. I don't have an eighth grader but their list is less interesting to me as I've read almost all of them already. Wonder if I can put in my requests with the eighth grade Language Arts teachers now so they choose more appealing things for next year?

I even remember some of the things I read at their ages. I still have my copy of Lord of the Flies from eighth grade on my shelves. Not that I have ever been able to re-read it, having the horror of Piggy's glasses in the surf assault me every time I've opened it again to try and re-read it. I also still have my ancient copy of Great Expectations from seventh grade. I fell in love with Pip that year (probably helped by the fact that the class ahead of us read it and turned the scene with Pip first meeting Magwich it into a short play--the boy playing Pip was really cute). But cute thespian or not, I have loved all the Dickens I've read since then. Speaking of plays, seventh grade was my first experience of Shakespeare too. As You Like It is still the comedy for which I have the softest spot, even if I didn't get to play Rosalind (which part I did play is long lost in the mists of memory). I have an unabridged Scholastic books copy, from sixth grade, of Jane Eyre sitting on my shelf too. I read that one on my own but since I got it through that wonderful school handout, I'm counting it! I know there were others too during my late elementary, early junior high school years that played an important part not only in my education but in turning me into the person I am today. What more can you ask for from school reading? So my reading is about to take a wild turn back in time with my kids. And I hope that we all run into books that change us, enchant us, teach us, and just generally find enjoyable enough that thirty years from now, my kids will be remembering them as fondly as I remember my old school reading.


  1. Oh! New notebooks and reading lists! I love new notebooks. My idea of Heaven would have to include a stationery store. But as for reading lists.... The one for my Masters Programme finally turned up on Wednesday. All five pages of it with just five weeks to go before the course starts. A little more time would have been nice. Eight Shakespeare plays and all the associated reading in five weeks is definitely going to take some of the shine off things.

  2. Back to school time was always my favorite time of the year (hey I loved learning and reading!) On the other hand while I often enjoyed reading the required books I didn't much enjoy the analyzing and discussion of them. Often it felt like the teachers were trying to pound into our heads THEIR interpretation of the book - and any deviation from that interpretation was frowned upon.

    I've got an old post on the subject as well.

  3. In elementary school, my kids were encouraged to read all twenty of the Bluebonnet books, a state program of good recent books chosen by librarians. I always felt compelled to read all those along with my kids. Some winners, some losers.

    And when they hit junior high, some teacher came up with the idea for students to compete with their parents...who could obtain the most AR points? I'd never taken an AR test up until that point....Hey, AR tests are HARD. I only scored an 80 on Wrinkle in Time and I know I've read that book fifteen times.

    High school marked the end of reading along with my kids. I just wasn't up for Willa Cather again. I did find that the hs selections were way too girly for my sons. My older son always says that high school killed his love of reading. (It hurts me just to type that sentence.)

  4. Table Talk: Five weeks is a bit short notice given what you'll be reading. But five pages of reading, ah. Makes me feel happy. :-)

    JenR: I understand and appreciate the arguments about teachers with a correct/incorrect answer in mind. When I taught (and I was complete balls at teaching incidentally) college freshmen, I tried to get them to understand that there was no correct answer in interpreting a book as long as they could back their view up with textual evidence. They *hated* this, wanting instead to know exactly what I wanted to hear from them!

    Deb: Interesting that the high school choices were girlier. I've found so far that the school choices seem geared toward ensuring that boys will be at least marginally interested without any worry about the girls, perhaps on the assumption that they generally like reading better than the boys anyway so their tastes can be discounted. I guess it really depends on the teachers who are choosing.

  5. Well to make Gen feel better about what she saw as a ridiculously long mandatory book (The Phantom Tollbooth) -- I swear she must have been switched at birth, how can MY child not adore reading??? -- I bought the biggest book I could find, A Suitable Boy. Ack on both that horrible run-on sentence and the book itself... A wee bit slow going.

    Off to houseclean rather than read it (and if that's what I find preferable, you know it's a slow one!) Please tell me it gets better :)

  6. I went to school in the same district that my kids are going to school in now, and I think there is less assigned reading than when I was their age. The elementary school and middle school is all about Accelerated Reader, but kids are only assigned one or two specific books during the year. I don't get a list of them in advance; I usually find out about them when I see that the kids were tested on them. My high school age daughter doesn't even have English during the full school year like I did so she doesn't have much of a reading list, either. She is assigned one or two books to read during the summer, and the teacher may or may not cover them when school starts.

  7. Birgit: A Suitable Boy does really improve. I ended up loving it. Hope you do too.

    Dani: Don't even get me started on the AR books thing. That makes me completely crazy. I hate, hate, hate the AR program. But I won't go there. My kids aren't in high school yet but the high school here just went to semester long classes for the core subjects and that has me really terribly concerned too. The last thing I want is to be forced to homeschool my kids because the public school is boneheaded (homeschooling is a fine option for others but would drive me out of my gourd).


I have had to disable the anonymous comment option to cut down on the spam and I apologize to those of you for whom this makes commenting a chore. I hope you'll still opt to leave me your thoughts. I love to hear what you think, especially so I know I'm not just whistling into the wind here at my computer.

Popular Posts