Friday, April 20, 2012

What to do when your kids aren't reading anything decent at school

Sam and I went to Calvin's parent teacher conferences yesterday. There were a bunch of different test scores to look at and decipher. I didn't/don't understand most of them, and I honestly don't think they're  important, but one score stood out to me. 

He took a reading test—some mysterious reading test—at the beginning of the year and the test decided he was on a fifth grade reading level. This is great, don't get me wrong. Calvin's in second grade, and I think it's great that he's on a fifth grade reading level, but he took the same test a few weeks ago, seven months later, and he's still on a fifth grade reading level. There had been no change.

I don't expect my kids to be spectacular geniuses ready for college at age twelve, but I would like them to grow. I did a sweeping scan of his classroom, and it didn't surprise me that his reading level has not gone up. 

There weren't a lot of books in his classroom, but there were a few sets of some popular series: Ready Freddy, Geronimo Stilton, My Weird School, Nate the Great—every one of them way below a fifth grade level. Calvin's teacher, as nice as she is, has not handed a single book to him all year on any level. 

So starting today, I am sending Calvin to school with decent books to read. And this is what I mean by decent: great books, great stories, novels that are completely engaging and will challenge him without making him aware he's being challenged. Books that make him (and me) forget about reading levels. Am I telling Calvin, "This is a book on a fifth-grade level, read it?" 

No. I have no idea what level the books are that I am giving him. I know they're harder than the books he's getting in class, and they're books I'm fairly confident he will love. What I am saying is, "Here, Calvin, I want you to read this book during your free reading time. If you don't, you'll have to read it at home. I know you'll love it. It's about killer rabbits taking over the planet Mars." 

He took two books to school today, seemingly excited to be done with Ready Freddy and give my suggestions a shot. Then he never had any reading time in class. 

Oh well. But I thought I'd share what I sent in.

The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford. An intense classic for any kid who has any interest in animals. 
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And Perloo the Bold by Avi, about rabbit warriors defending other, um, rabbits. 
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When Calvin got home from school, he read this:
Sir Balin the Ill-fated by Gerald Morris.
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A very silly part of a very silly series about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Probably not on a fifth-grade level. But hey, it's about history, so something in his brain is growing, right?

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