Joint Venture: Summer Reading Tips from Raymond Bean, Award-winning Author

Summer Reading Tips

I read the jotter’s joint post on summer reading from May 10, 2012, and it resonated with me.  Gail recommended one of my books, which won me over immediately, but it was the message in the post that I connected with as a father, teacher, and writer.  She expressed many of the complexities parents encounter when attempting to spark the love of reading in their children.  Summer reading can be especially daunting.

If you’re like many proactive and dedicated parents you’re stressing out a bit about summer reading.  Creating a summer reading routine that works for you and your child is multifaceted.  You want your young reader to WANT to read, initiate trips to the library, and seek out new books for that new digital reader you bought him.  You envision him snuggled up on a rainy, July day with a classic, perhaps a favorite book from your childhood (insert title of your choice here).  He wants to play XBOX 360.

I’ve taught elementary school for fourteen years and every year around this time parents begin to ask about summer reading.  I’ve put together a list of a few strategies that I’ve found helpful over the years.  Full disclosure, last summer I struggled with my then nine-year-old son over his reading, but that’s another story entirely.  Like Gail, I was attempting to help him learn to appreciate and read chapter length books independently.  I had a long list of books I was sure he’d love because I love them.  It turned out that I had just that, a list of books that I love.  Without meaning to, my son taught me that my job wasn’t to help him love my favorites, but to help him find favorites of his own.

We all know that there’s no perfect strategy or plan to help your kids with summer reading, but you’d better have one or it will be the last week of August before you can say, “Where’d you put your summer reading log?”

  1. Be Flexible:  Don’t push a book on your child.  The more you push it, the more he’ll find reasons to dislike it.  You may not love the book he’s reading, but it’s not about you.  I bet he doesn’t want to read the book you’re reading.
  2. Search Smart:  Try searching for new titles on sites like Amazon.  Start by having him type the title of a book he already read and liked.  For example, type in Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Then scroll down to the “frequently bought together” category.  Books will naturally “pair” with similar titles.  If he likes book x there’s a good chance he’ll like book y.  Most books have a “Look Inside” feature.  Use this to your advantage to weed out clunkers and minimize the chances of him selecting a book he doesn’t like.  Read a few pages before making a decision.
  3. Set Goals:  I’m not a fan of time based reading goals.  Many kids simply wait out the clock and ask, “Am I done yet?”  Instead experiment with page based goals.  Consider the number of total pages in the book.  Work with your child to decide on a manageable number of pages to be read per day.  Don’t go nuts!  Help your child set reasonable and achievable daily goals.  Once daily goals are set, determine a completion date for the book.  This strategy will help your child read more, and also provide experience planning, setting, and meeting goals.
  4. Read:  Practice what you preach!  Don’t tell your child it’s time to read and park yourself in front of the computer or text your friends.  Reading with your child when he’s making the transition to chapter length books is extremely valuable.  Join in on the fun, and share the book.  If he’d rather read alone, read near him.  Snuggle up on the couch or at least in the same room, and read something you like.  Have a reading goal of your own, and share it with your child.

Last summer was the summer my son transitioned to chapter books.  Thankfully he’s found many favorites of his own and read extensively this year.  Lately he’s after me to read titles that he loves, and I haven’t had a chance to read yet.  What a difference a year makes!  Thanks to Jotter’s Joint for inviting me to stop by.  Please post strategies that have worked for you in the comments section.  Happy summer reading.

Read, Write, Laugh,

Raymond Bean

www.raymondbean.com

raymondbeanbooks@gmail.com

From the Jotter’s Joint, I extend a special thank you to Ray for sharing his insights on reaching reluctant readers.

I also want to say a personal thank you to Ray for his Sweet Farts Series which has made chapter book lovers out of my boys.

Please take the time to check out Ray’s website and blog.If you’re looking for summer books for your kids, Sweet Farts may be the right fit. My boys vocabulary for describing bodily functions has grown but at least I know they’re paying attention.

Happy Summer Reading,

Gail

Graduation: An Earned Right of Passage and Change Catalyst

Graduation or Commencement Season is here. We know it by the rocking romantic notes of “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing fame. Or by the coming of age movie marathons that include:  Grease and Say Anything.

No matter what music or movie marks the occasion for us it means the same thing. Graduation represents the end of one stage of our life and the beginning of another.

We say goodbye to something familiar whether it represents good things or not so good things. We say hello to new opportunities and the possibility of something completely different or exactly the same. Which ever we choose.

We face this transition with an odd mix of remorse and anticipation.

I remember the graduations of my siblings and me. Graduation is a memorable event.

When my older sister graduated I was really scared of being left behind. I begged her to stay. To put her plans on hold. To wait for me. At that point in my life all I wanted was out but she made it all bearable for me. I couldn’t imagine life at home without her.

Surprisingly, she did what I asked. She gave up her opportunity to move on in order to assuage the fears of her younger sister who “needed her”.

How did I repay that act of love and selflessness? Two years later when I graduated, I packed up and headed off to the college of my choice. Leaving her behind even if only for a little while.

Within six months I convinced her to move to where I relocated. She lived in the dorm with me that semester because my roommate moved out (having joined a sorority). Then she got a place of her own, a job, and started living life the way she wanted.

I had convinced myself that she had stayed for other reasons. I wanted to believe that it wasn’t about me so that I could move on with my life. I wish that I’d been mature enough, respectful enough, and wise enough to encourage her to go when she first had the chance. I wish I’d come into my own sooner so that I could be an independent woman (like her) and not need her the way that I did. She was always my hero. She still is.

Again, it’s that odd mixture of emotions. With my sister’s graduation it represented loss. Mine represented renewal. I hope one day she can forgive me for being so selfish that I asked her to put her dreams and goals on hold. My sister has taught me a great deal about putting others first. About sacrificing. And for that I will be forever grateful.

Now we are on the eve of her watching her oldest son graduate high school. He is preparing to leave behind his brothers.

I know that she will be the great equalizer for the tension and emotions. I know that she’ll usher her oldest out of the nest while keeping them all connected. She will help her younger sons cope with missing their hero. She will do all these things because we’ve both learned that you have to take care of yourself before you can be any good to anyone else.

Graduation means that things will change. But it doesn’t have to mean that they change for the worst like I initially thought. Everyone has his or her time. For my sister and her family the time has come to embrace the next leg of the life journey.

Congratulations to my nephew for his accomplishment. I am so proud of him. Best wishes to my nephew as he heads down the road. Savor the moment of mixed up emotions.

Much love, much respect and much thanks to my sister for how she has always cared for me. Sister – I love you ALL ways and Always.

Show some love to those who have helped us transition from remorse to excitement!

Congratulations and best wishes 2012 graduates!

 

Kindergarten Lessons: Hooked on Ebonics?

The book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum is celebrating its 15th anniversary. I have yet to read the book but often hear it quoted in motivational speeches or leadership training. The quotes are always good and so the book is on my “to read” list.

For me though, one of the best lessons I learned was not in kindergarten but rather in the sixth grade. However, the lesson was taught to me by a friend I met in kindergarten. Our academic careers took us K through 12 together and I am fortunate enough to still be in touch with her.

The lesson is invaluable.

B:  Do you want to come to my sleepover?
Me:  Sure but I have to ask my mom. [Note:  ask = ax]
B:  You what?
Me:  I have to ask my mom. [Note:  still ask = ax]
B:  Why is she going to chop down a tree?
Me:  What?
B:  There’s an “s” in it. It’s not ax, it’s ask. Axes are for chopping down trees.

Sadly, I hadn’t noticed all those long years that I was saying it wrong. I was mortified. I remember going home and practicing in front of the mirror; watching the shape of my mouth and the movement of my tongue so I could see the difference and break the cycle.

It wasn’t just about making it sound right but it was about breaking a habit of saying it wrong every time I used it. Practicing in the mirror helped create a trigger even for the times when I wasn’t staring at myself and feeling small because I had been clueless for so long.

That’s not the only word I found myself standing in front of the mirror over. That’s the year I learned to read out loud so I could learn how to correctly pronounce words. Sounding out the unfamiliar. That’s the year I learned to use the dictionary to see the syllables for the purpose of phonics. I never wanted to be in the situation again where someone needed to correct me. But, sad to say it wasn’t the last time (my tenth grade English teacher introduced me to the term ebonics but that’s another story for another time).

If it helps put things in perspective … when it came time for reading in school, I started out in the lowest level for my grade. I had to work my way up. I was an avid reader by the time I reached the sixth grade. I was reading and comprehending at the ninth and tenth grade level. But apparently that didn’t translate to my verbal communication skills.

So today … I am hypersensitive to certain words, I’ll just name a few:

  • Incorrect use of the verb “to be”
  • Ask = Ax
  • Mine = Mines [showing ownership]
  • Folks = Fokes

My youngest says “mines” and I am working on him. But you can understand the challenge coming from a 5 year old.

There are adults who didn’t have a kindergarten friend who loved them enough or cared enough about them to give them the same feedback. Surprisingly, I interact with professionals who haven’t mastered the lesson I learned in sixth grade.

  • Professionals who give presentations to large audiences.
  • Professionals whose jobs fall in a communication or training discipline yet they misspell, mispronounce or misuse forms of words.
  • Professionals who are educated i.e. undergrad, post graduate and doctorates.

I haven’t quite figured out how to tell some of these adults in my life of their errors. Are they too set in their ways to change now? At 12, I was still impressionable; willing and able to change. Would it work out in adult learning? I don’t know. I’m open to suggestions for ways to share the same feedback in a loving way. If you have any ideas, pass them along.

If it hadn’t been for this friend, I’d be among their ranks:  “I be axing away in the mines with these fokes”. Unaware of my faux pa … Tragic.

Call my sixth grade friend’s feedback a form of care for me or call it the carefree nature of youth (that she would say whatever was on her mind). Whatever you call it, what a great service she provided me that day by telling me the truth.

So, from the kindergarten class favorite with pierced ears to the kindergarten class favorite without pierced ears – you know who you are – Thank you for not letting me become a statistic of poor language skills.