Monthly Archives: November 2012

My Kid Just Said (Part 3)

“You had friends when you were eighteen?” BB#1, 8 years old.

After I had related this story to my husband, and explained to the boys songs like that one remind me of being eighteen, meeting their dad, hanging out with our friends.

Clearly, I don’t get out enough these days. Or something.

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My Kid Just Said (Part 2)

[In stern voice]: “Mommy. It could be he OR she.” BB#2, 5 years old.

He or she being the idiot driver weaving in and out of traffic at high speed without signalling. I had referred to this idiot as a “he”. Good to know that teaching them to be critical of gender stereotyping is sinking in!

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My Kid Just Said (Part 1)

“This guy sounds like a goat.” BB#2, 5 years old.

“This guy” being Eddie Vedder, singing Black, one of mommy’s favourite Pearl Jam songs.

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Reading: It’s Kind of a Big Deal

Reading is a big deal in our house.

Before returning to school for a Bachelor of Education, I worked in-house as a web editor in the publishing industry. I currently edit books and write back cover copy on a freelance basis. Since I graduated, I’ve taken additional qualifications in teaching Intermediate English and Reading. My undergrad is in English and Mass Communication (as is my husband’s), and I also have a diploma in Print Journalism. We have a LOT of books in the house (here’s to boxes of hand-me-downs from big sisters with older children!) My husband and I both love to read. So creating and nurturing a love of books in our boys was a no-brainer.

We’ve read to the boys since they were infants. At eight, BB#1 is an avid reader who reads everything from chess instructions to the Wimpy Kid series, kids’ magazines to novels like The Hobbit. Thanks to French Immersion, he can and does read in two languages. We have a deal when the Scholastic flyers come home: I will buy him French books, and he can choose to purchase English books with his own money.

Just turned five, BB#2 is not quite reading independently yet (at least, he’s pretending he isn’t), but loves being read to. He is excited when his Chirp magazine arrives in the mail, has his own library card, and will bring us book after book to read to him.

So, filling out the reading logs their teachers send home should be no problem, right?

Wrong. Something strange happens when my boys are asked to log their reading or read for homework. They are no longer interested. I have to nag them, either to read, or to write the titles down in the log. I’ve struggled to articulate exactly why that is, but this tweet from a teacher I came across a few weeks back puts it pretty plainly:

“Reading logs make liars of bad readers, annoy good readers, & tells us nothing about their literacy.” @jenmarten

You are probably saying, not all kids are like mine. Not all kids actually want to read or be read to, or have the culture of reading that we have at home. I know this. So how do we encourage those kids to read if we don’t offer rewards, and how do we know they are doing it if we don’t ask them to log their books or minutes? I don’t have the answers, but I do know this: if we offer stickers or pizza or a points system for reading, we’re telling kids that it’s something unpleasant with no value of it’s own. If we tell them they must quantify their reading by logging pages or minutes, we’re saying we don’t trust them, and that we know they wouldn’t actually choose to read if they didn’t have to.

These programs may get kids to pick up books, write them in a log (and maybe even read them), but they are not creating readers. And as @jenmarten suggests, what does a list of book titles a student may or may not have read even tell the teacher about that student’s ability to read, and understand what she’s read, anyway? Likely nothing the teacher doesn’t already know.

Since the boys are already reading on a regular basis, I suppose I could just fill in their logs without telling them. But that feels wrong—like pretending something is working when it’s really not. And in BB#1’s case, though he reads in English every day, he’s more likely to spend an hour reading in French by choice one day, and then not the next, rather than the prescribed twenty minutes a day. While this to me is more authentic and therefore more valuable, it doesn’t look as impressive on a daily log.

BB#2’s log can be of books he’s read, or that are read to him—and there is a small prize for every twenty-five books read. But at the rate we read, we’d be getting a prize every couple of days. And since we clearly don’t need that motivation to read together, well, it just feels silly.

I’m not alone in this thinking. I’ve read a number of articles and blog posts by educators outlining the downside to reading logs. But here’s my question: if we know that reading logs and programs can cause more harm than good, then why are so many teachers still using them? And even more confusing: if what I’m most concerned with is nurturing my children’s passion for reading and interest in learning—if I know that they ARE reading, and that whether or not they fill out their reading logs in senior kindergarten and third grade is going to be meaningless in the grand scheme of their educational lives—why am I so conflicted about this? Why can’t I bring myself to write a polite note saying, in this house we don’t log reading, we just read.

I think I know why. It’s two-fold. And sort of embarrassing. As a teacher, one without a classroom at that, I’m worried about appearing judgmental of other, experienced teachers’ practices. As a parent, I’m concerned those blank log pages will reflect on me—that their teachers will view me as one of “those” parents: uninvolved, unsupportive, ignorant of the value of regular reading.

Which couldn’t be further from the truth.

For further reading. You know, if you like that sort of thing:

You Don’t Have to Read Every Day

My Son is Afraid to Read

Daddy I Want a Book Buck

This post by an administrator suggests how we can get all kids reading, without rewards:

Creating the Conditions: A Love of Reading

I also recently led a discussion on the following article as part of an assignment in my Reading course:

How to Create Nonreaders

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Can You Hear Me Now?

Today when I said good morning to the staff at the boys’ before-school program, I realized I had momentarily lost my voice. As I cleared my throat and tried to speak normally, BB#2 assured me that he could still hear me just fine. Jokingly, I said something along the lines of, “I’m glad you can hear me, now I just need you to listen!” This was his response:

“I listen, but sometimes I just want to keep doing what I’m doing. Sometimes I don’t want to do what you asked me to do.”

Well. At least we understand one another.

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That’s My Boy

This weekend, while my husband took BB#2 to a classmate’s birthday party, BB#1 and I decided to take advantage of this mild-for-November weather and head to the park. Many other families had the same idea, so it wasn’t long before BB#1 had found some of his friends to play with. Now that he’s eight, I can give him space at the park—he doesn’t need me to help him climb or moderate taking turns on the equipment, and I can trust him not to run off into traffic. It’s a different world from taking a toddler or preschooler to the park, and I admit I am enjoying it!

So while he played “grounders” with his buddies, I took the opportunity to get a bit of exercise walking laps around the park. As I made one lap, I noticed he was speaking with a boy from his brother’s class, and as I passed by, I overheard him saying “I’ll introduce you to my friends”, which he proceeded to do. Then as I watched from afar, he explained the game to the boy. His friends didn’t actually look too thrilled to have a four-year-old playing with them, but this didn’t deter BB#1. As I continued to circle, I could see he was making an effort to ensure the boy was included and got to take his turn in the game.

I admit, I got teary-eyed. It’s not that I’m surprised by this—I know he’s a sweet, thoughtful kid. And he’s certainly had a lot of practice being an amazing big brother. But not all sweet, thoughtful kids would invite one of their younger brother’s friends to join them in a game in progress, completely unprompted by a grown-up.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from my oldest, it’s that children are born with personality. So I don’t believe my husband and I can take complete credit for how wonderful he is. But, just maybe, we’re doing something right.

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Twenty Questions

About a month ago, I got a great idea from my friend Tracy’s blog: start a new tradition with your children by asking them the same twenty questions each year and recording their answers. Fun! Since the BBs (beautiful boys) recently turned eight and five, I decided to give it a go. Some of their answers were quite unexpected! Hopefully I will remember to do this again next year…

1.What is your favourite colour?

BB#1: Purple

BB#2: Turquoise

2. What is your favourite toy?

BB#1: Lego

BB#2:  Lego

3. What is your favourite fruit?

BB#1: Peach

BB#2:  Mango

4. What is your favourite TV show?

BB#1: Men in Black The Series

BB#2:  Power Rangers

5. What is your favourite thing to eat for lunch?

BB#1: French toast

BB#2:  Cinnamon toast

6. What is your favourite outfit?

BB#1: Purple hoodie with jeans

BB#2:  My Ninjago shirt

7. What is your favourite game?

BB#1: Mario Cart

BB#2:  Batman Lego Wii

8. What is your favourite snack?

BB#1: Cookies

BB#2:  Salt and vinegar fish crackers

9. What is your favourite animal?

BB#1: Crested gecko [he has a pet crested gecko]

BB#2:  Fox [o-kay…]

10. What is your favourite song?

BB#1: “Revenge” [Minecraft parody song on YouTube]

BB#2:  [Note: I seem to have neglected to record this one, oops! But since he asks me to play “Brass Monkey” by the Beastie Boys every.time.we.get.in.the.car, I’d say we have a winner]

11. What is your favourite book?

BB#1: The Hobbit (“next year it’s probably going to be Lord of the Rings”)

BB#2:  Ninjago book at the bookstore [writes this down on Christmas list…]

12. Who is your best friend?

BB#1: All of my friends

BB#2:  Jack [this was a bit of a surprise; he has another friend he plays with more and who he regularly refers to as his “favourite friend”…]

13. What is your favourite sport?

BB#1: Skiing

BB#2:  Running

14. What is your favourite thing to do outside?

BB#1: Play “manhunt” [some kind of tag-type game he plays with his friends at recess]

BB#2:  Playing Ninjago

15. What is your favourite drink?

BB#1: Coke [which he is not allowed to drink…]

BB#2:  Hot choco [I think it’s sweet he still calls hot chocolate “hot choco”; that’s what our nanny used to call it, and she hasn’t worked for us in almost two years.]

16. What is your favourite holiday?

BB#1: Christmas

BB#2:  St. Patrick’s Day (“for the Shamrock Shake”) [huh?!]

17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night?

BB#1: The Hobbit and How To Train Your Dragon

BB#2:  My cheetah and Biscuit [stuffed dog he’s named after the dog in the Biscuit books]

18. What is your favourite thing to eat for breakfast?

BB#1: Breakfast sandwich [egg and cheese on a bagel]

BB#2:  Cinnamon toast

19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday?

BB#1: Sashimi and gyoza and calamari

BB#2:  Pizza [I’m glad he didn’t say cinnamon toast…]

20. What do you want to be when you grow up?

BB#1: An inventor

BB#2:  If I grow up, I’ll be an engineer [Note: he said a number of times before his 5th birthday that he wanted all four of us to throw coins in a fountain and wish to never get any older and never to die. I know, right?!]

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