Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Let the Reading Begin! And an Apology

In usual LaJoy Oddball Fashion, we are doing something a bit unusual for our summer reading program. Yes, we are going to go ahead and enter the program at our local library, but through the years I have found that my kids are just not motivated by stickers, free books or swim passes. They are nice, but it doesn't get my kids charged up.

The truth is, other than our "newbies" there is very little I have to do to motivate the kids to read, as they LOVE the library and it has always been something I could use as a reward with the boys. I had already discovered one key to getting Olesya to read more, and that was to find books about dogs or other animals. But Angela is another story. I have seen her read in Russian, but the truth is most books are far too babyish for her while Olesya is still on the edge of enjoying them (other than Curious George...but then, hey, who could ever resist George???). We have read just about every George book there is, and Angela would stand in the library trying hard to be patient while the rest of us are wallowing in Book Heaven. Stickers and books won't work for her....what would?

Ahhh...I suddenly had an idea pop in my head! A contest? Good old fashioned competition against no one but themselves! A goal!

So I issued a challenge with no reward at all other than bragging rights. And guess what worked? Hahaha!

For every book the kids read this summer, they get a link on a paper chain. Each kid has their own color so we can look at the chain and see visually who is reading a lot. The kicker? They have to read enough books to take our chain from our front door all the way to our mailbox, which is about a quarter mile away. We made one exception, for Matthew and chapter books we will give him a link for every 25 pages read, since it is hardly fair to have him read 200 pages or so and have the other kids slam out many picture books in an afternoon. We all felt that was fair.

Olesya came home and started 12 books the first 2 days and is carrying around her little post it note to record them on! Kenny and Josh also blew out a ton of books! Olesya's reading has already vastly improved just in this short 1 week, and I am thrilled. Angela didn't quite get caught up in the reading fever...until we put together the first part of the chain and she saw very little on there for her. That didn't sit well, and suddenly my non-reader decided it was time to go all Emeril on us and "Bam!" she started reading books too! We discovered the Junie B. Jones series which had her cracking up, and is a harder 2nd gradish chapter book and today she grabbed 4 off the library shelf today. She'll work hard at a page, then I'll read a couple, then she will read an entire page, then it is my turn. That way we keep the story moving along, and she still gets in some strong reading practice. She also wants higher numbers of books read so she is now going back to the easier readers (which I want her to read for increased fluency) and racking them up right and left.

Got ya! Hahaha! You can NEVER outsmart good ol' Mom!!

We had Kenny take some online tests with his new school and discovered much to our delight (and yet it is what I suspected) that his comprehension is at 4th grade level, but his reading speed is between 30 and 60 words per minute, depending upon the testing source. So...he may read slower than molasses but he gets what he reads. We need to double or triple that speed. We were working on reinforcing 1st grade sight words yesterday and he misspelled works like "let", "where" and "after"...sometimes so way off base I couldn't figure out where he was coming from. I discovered when I narrowed his input by making him close his eyes and focus solely on the sounds I was making, he did much better. So, we are going to work on having him shut out other input and try and train his brain to isolate sounds and words more easily. I also am beginning to train MYSELF in learning how best to work with him, and recognizing his need for more visual, hands on learning and issued with understanding too much verbal input, I tried something new yesterday as well.

He came to a math problem where there were 13 cookies and you had to divide them in half equally. Instead of beating my head against a wall as we have in the past by offering verbal explanations, I had him go get a piece of paper and cut it into 13 parts. He laid it out before him, sorted 6 and 6, and within half a second easily got it that he needed to have 6 1/2 for each side so it would be equal. Prior I would have spent 10 minutes trying to lead him to "see" the answer with verbal instruction, and I saved myself and he a whole lot of instruction. This will NOT be easy for me to teach this way naturally, as I am NOT a visual learner most of the time and prefer written or verbal instructions. I guess we all will have a lot of learning to do this summer.

Here we are making the paper chain after a couple of days of reading. We are allowed to check out 40 books on each library card, and each of us maxed out our cards. I need to bring our little red wagon next time!!

See that large tree WAYYYYYYYY off in the distance on the right side of the photo? The kids have to go down our driveway and down the cutting across yards! Think they can make it??? Once Angela "got into it", she said "More Mama...More!"...I would be stunned with just this far :-)

Eyeballing it before giving it a test run outside...even this was a lot of books read for just 2 days!

Oh man...they have a VERY long way to go! But you know Team LaJoy, I would never, ever lay bets against them. If they manage to do this, it will be an extraordinary accomplishment and something they can be very proud of. If they make it I have promised we can take the chain into the library to show our librarians what they did.

The biggest problem? Where do I store the darned thing all summer long as it grows and grows!

Tomorrow we are off on our big adventure, the kids still don't know about the surprise trip to the fossil beds. We will tell them tonight after Angela's first softball game. They will be SO excited!!

Kenny is doing great after having his teeth pulled, healing well and not bothered at all by it. I too am doing better after my nasty encounter with the dentist. I admit to being devoid of all grace lately, not something I necessarily want to admit but very, very truthful. After rereading my post about the homeschooling comment I realize I could have handled that one better, and I openly apologize for going on the defensive about it.

I am cooked, fried, over-done, just plain old sick of defending our every parenting decision, but that is not an excuse to be less than gracious. In "real life" those who think we are nuts far outnumber those in Blogland, and virtually every single day I am out in public or around others I find myself pasting a smile on as I defend everything from our family size, to our decision to adopt internationally versus from foster care, to "ruining" our children by adopting out of birth order, to of course reaching beyond my own abilities by trying to homeschool. However, I realized I needed to issue an apology when it niggled at me for the past few days. I recognize things can come out differently in comments or email than they might in person. While I was not the only one who took what was said the wrong way (which of course helped me feel a teensy bit better as at least I wasn't totally alone in reading into it incorrectly...oh how we justify our own wrong actions!), I still am ashamed of the vehemence of my response and can only chalk it up to being the straw that broke the camel's back (or mom's back, as the case may be).

I am so appreciative of the support we receive here, and the understanding that often is missing in "real life". But wrong is wrong, and I was wrong to be so "snarky" about it. Those of you who know me in Real Life know it is out of character for me, and I will try much harder to be a better person when it comes to such things. I'm trying hard to work out a LOT of things right now. Sadly, my head and heart are not always where they should be.

Please forgive me.

Now...I am off to watch our girl play her first real softball game! For a kid who never held a glove in her hand before 3 weeks ago, man, she rocks! Now if we could only get her to stop throwing the ball over the backstop in an attempt to throw it hard :-) Hahaha!


Anonymous said...

Fantastic reading challenge, Cindy! I've helped plan our summer reading program for many years (small town library), so I know the challenges of trying to make the program motivating, fair, encouraging, etc. You found the right solution for your kids by issuing that challenge.

I also know the challenges of trying to find books for ELL students that are at their level, but not too "babyish". I vacillated early on between thinking they needed to catch up on the basics and thinking they needed to try to gain some of the vocab their peers were reading. Not sure what the right answer is, some of both. Our girls had some English in Guatemala, so they both could read fairly well in English when they came. However, I don't believe there was much comprehension at all. It was interesting, they knew the phonics to some extent.

I also think reading to each other as you're doing is a great idea. Another thing our daughter with her new degree in special education suggested, is to read a page (or paragraph) to them first, so they can hear inflection, pronunciation, pace, etc. Then have the child read the same passage back to you. Reading the same passage multiple times helps their fluency and confidence, if they are willing. I wouldn't have thought of either of those things. I guess that's why we send 'em to help us out with these last four kids. We also have a guidance counselor daughter. She's come in handy, too!

I'm betting on Team LaJoy and their reading challenge! I'm sure you always have library books in the car, as I'm sure you find yourselves waiting for various kiddos at various venues in various activities, like we do.

I think God is in your details. I know He is!

Nancy in the Midwest

TheHappyNeills said...

awesome idea!!!

Karen said...

Uh, I think it's only obvious: you're CREATIVE! I love the paper chain and the huge challenge. Your kids will reach the mailbox sooner than any of us can imagine.


Anonymous said...

I'll not only bet they make it to the mail box. I'll bet they do it before summer is over, and if you let me know a few hours in advance, there will be a full plate of brownies for the kids and a 12-pack of Diet Coke for their creative, inventive Mom.


Anonymous said...

About being snarky with the obnoxious dentist, you might want to read this news article:

Maureen said...

What a great way to get your kids (especially Angela) reading! You know Angela is competitive, so this is a great way to get her into reading. You saw that Kenny needs a more visual way of learning, so you are trying to do that. It won't always be easy, but I think you're doing a great job! Keep it up Cindy!