This is a bit of a strange post. It's a lot about schooling and it's also about a book I haven't read. It's also about my quest to help my kids figure out the things that they love.
Calvin loves facts. He loves facts about everything. If there was a job where you could memorize facts and quiz people about them, Calvin would love that job.
It's not hard to find him a book he will like, but to find him a book he will love... that's a trickier thing.
All of my kids have to read some non-fiction and take notes/write about it every day. What they read is up to them as long as I approve it (mostly to check the complexity).
I have a lot of visions for my kids, and one vision I've occasionally had for Calvin is that he might be a falconer one day.
I know. That's weird. A falconer. Aren't there, like, three falconer jobs in the entire world? Why would I encourage this as an interest?
The answer is this: I don't know.
But in my desire to encourage falconry (???), I bought Calvin this:
Falcon Fever by Tim Gallagher.
This is not juvenile nonfiction, and as much as I wish I could say differently, I've never had success getting my kids to read most adult nonfiction. This book doesn't have pictures. Any. Zero. It's 336 pages long.
But this is one of the reviews of the book:
*Starred Review* Falconry, a sport most of us equate with medieval kings and Arabian potentates, is alive and well in the twenty-first century. Gallagher, author (The Grail Bird, 2005) and editor in chief of Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s journal Living Bird, brings this arcane sport to life in his memoir-cum-travelogue-cum-falconry-history. Although he was born in England, Gallagher’s family moved to Canada and finally California in his childhood. An abusive father drove the young boy to nature, and when he discovered the thirteenth-century book on falconry by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, he was hooked. In part 1 of the book, Gallagher recounts his boyhood, obsessed with hawks and falcons, running with a less-than-perfect crowd, getting arrested for selling marijuana, and spending time in jail. This formative period segues into part 2, when the author decided to spend a year following in Frederick II’s footsteps, both figuratively and literally. This engaging book draws readers in from page 1, and we want to learn more about Gallagher’s life, his quest for understanding the souls of falconers from Frederick II to himself, and the majesty of the hunting falcons. A gem.
The reviewer says: "This engaging book draws readers in from page 1."
It drew Calvin in, but I doubt it would draw many other kids in, because how many kids are going to love a book about falconry (actually maybe a lot would...). The point is, I had a hunch about a book Calvin would like despite its lack of flash and lack of pictures. He likes this book FOR THE TOPIC. He is interested in this subject, and he will, therefore, read difficult books about it. He's not finished with this beast, but he's already asking for more books on falconry.
I believe the same thing can happen for ALL CHILDREN on a lot of different subjects. If we as parents, teachers, the community as a whole, would recognize that we should help children find their particular interests, nurture them, help them grow, the children of this country would grow exponentially in their reading and writing abilities and other basic skills.
And they wouldn't even know it was happening because they'd be too focused on falconry to wonder if they're going to make benchmark this year.