Thursday, June 6, 2013

Great Book Series for Summer

I get the real sense that most parents are concerned about their kids losing academic ground over the summer. I hear parents describing plans to get their kids reading and writing and doing math wherever I go. This is wonderful! We should be doing this, we should be concerned. I've done these plans before, every year. My Battle of the Books plan is a piece of this.

But I've had a deepening recently. A deepening? you say. What in the heck is that? I don't know, I'm making it up, but I've had several experiences recently that have deepened my belief that the best thing you can do for your kids is to immerse them in whatever you want them to excel at.

If you want your kids to play music, you've got to expose them to music often, regularly, in many different venues. This includes listening at home, concerts, practicing, etc...

If you want your kids to be great at math, you've got to expose them to math. Singapore, a tiny country that can't compete with the US in most areas, kills us every year in math. This is such an amazing phenomenon, entire curriculums have been drawn up to model what Singapore does with math in their schools. But these curriculums haven't helped kids in the US much, because the real truth is, math is part of the culture in Singapore. The children there are such a part of the family economy, they are buying and selling from the time they are preschoolers. How many children in this country reach the age of twelve without really having to deal with money or numbers at all outside of school? Plenty.

If you want your kids to be great at literacy—reading, writing, interpreting data, analyzing, reasoning—you have to immerse them in language.

They have to read, and they have to be engaged in their reading. It has to be a part of your family's fabric. That fabric can look very different from mine—it should—but it needs to be important to everyone.

If you want your kids to be good writers, they have to write, and they HAVE TO READ! (This is a link to an article about Malcom Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule and how it applies to writing)

Lucy has her EOGs next week, and her teacher (who we love) has been sending home practice sheets for the language arts portion of the test. I cannot tell you how ridiculous these questions are. On one of them, she had to read a small passage from The Secret Garden and answer questions pertaining to the passage. The first question was supposed to relate only to the passage, but you couldn't possibly get the answer right unless you knew the entire story. Someone made a mistake somewhere. (This is a link to a question on the NY State tests for 8th graders. It is such a ridiculous question, so impossible to answer, the head of NY State's School board apologized publicly and promised the question would be removed from all future tests. It's about a talking pineapple. Please read it, if only for a laugh.)

All this confuses kids. It frustrates them. My Lucy, who is an excellent reader and writer, is in all the gifted language arts classes, got into a gifted and talented school, was in tears yesterday because some of these questions and passages were so ridiculous. School's today are often ridiculous.

But we have summer to make up for that. We have summer to just read. Read for enjoyment. Read for pleasure. Read to learn. Read to know. Kids still get that. Kids still want that. And it isn't about a test that means nothing and tests nothing.

Reading makes you a better reader. A better scholar. A better thinker. A better interpreter.

So consider this summer, as you are making your plans for your children, simplifying those plans. Consider making this summer a summer about books. Consider turning off the TV! Consider buying a set of books your kids might love. A series.

That's what I've posted down here. Really quite affordable sets of books your kids might love. Bring them in the car on the family trip (and turn off the TV!). Have them spread across the kitchen table throughout the day.

Our children have such a better chance to succeed in this life if they are readers.

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Horrible Histories! You can't buy them new on Amazon, but you can get awesome deals on this series on ebay. Same on the series below, Horrible Science. We have both sets and my kids LOVE them. They also make Horrible Maths (the British way of saying Math), and Horrible Geography. I want to get my hands on those...
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Do you remember Mother Westwind by Thornton Burgess. I loved these books as a kid, and my kids love them too. They are as plain and simple as anything. No fancy publishing here. They are stories of talking animals living in the forest. Boring sounding, I know, but they are HYSTERICAL! And so well-written. Great language. Short. Easy to digest in one sitting. We bought the whole set from Dover. Twenty-six books for less than fifty dollars.

Candlewick Press publishes my favorite series of nonfiction for younger children. It's called, Read and Wonder, and you can now buy a six book set that includes Audio CDs:
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This is such a great series. I love them 100%.

Rainbow Resource is one of my favorite places to buy curriculum and books. It's a homeschool curriculum clearing house, and they have a section on their website called, Library Builders (that's where the above link takes you). You can get great discounts on all kinds of books and series like Mr. Putter and Tabby and The Little House on the Prairie. 

Summer is a great time for series reading! Any other series suggestions???

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