August 20, 2015

Summer Reading

J, my rising eighth grader, has a summer reading assignment, as most kids do. I have a few stories to share about our summer reading experience. There's a tmwyk story* at the end, don't miss it just because you're not excited to read about reading!

At the beginning of the summer J had no interest in reading, it's hard for her and she just wanted to be on summer break. I offered her some choices for our daily reading time including: finding fun articles/blog posts, What If (from the creator of xkcd) and Charlotte's Web. She chose me reading her Charlotte's Web (yay! She wants to spend time with me!). I made the novice mistake of introducing it as a kids book which then made her question if she could use it for summer reading. Hey Tina, you know better than to tell your ninth graders that the worksheet is from a third grade math site, what matters is that it's interesting and appropriate. This applies to all things, even at home. Anyway, we recovered from that. As we read I was thrilled to find Charlotte using great vocabulary and Wilbur modeling excellent questioning techniques to understand. It had me wondering if there's a mathematical equivalent to a story with one character advanced and another character trying to learn. The EDC does great model conversations in their books, but what if we showed students an example of a new math technique and had them ask questions. Is this just another way to use notice and wonder?

We eventually finished Charlotte's Web and J picked out a graphic novel to read next (from the Lunch Ladies series). The summer assignment, by the way, was to read two books and submit reviews online. Any type of book they want! The reading specialist even said that research shows independent reading books should be a bit below the child's current reading level - the goal is to practice with something that is comfortable. J picked a book that was definitely easy for her, but I learned! I didn't say anything about it being a kids book, instead I was thrilled she'd picked out a book herself. She read it independently and was even willing to read before our usual scheduled reading time. While she read her book, I read my own. I was confused about what was happening in my book and J scolded me for interrupting her. She finished the whole book and was so proud of herself!

*TMWYK paragraph here
J wondered aloud how many pages the book she had just finished (in such a short time!) was. But the book didn't have any page numbers. I asked her to take a guess and she didn't have any idea. There was a 100 page book on the table so I told her, "This book is 100 pages, how long do you think yours is?" She decided to use the book as a ruler! She held them up next to each other, then matched them up spine to spine and determined that her book was over 100 pages. I asked, "A lot longer? A little? One and a half times as long?" She decided on one and a quarter. So I asked what a quarter of 100 was. "Hey! No, you always trick me into talking about math." I laugh silently and think: we've been talking about math kiddo, and I'm not trying to trick you, but, yes, we are talking about math. I smile broadly and say, "You can do that... What a quarter?" She says twenty-five cents. "So what's a quarter of a hundred?" Twenty-five. Great. I was done with the conversation and was going to continue reading my book when I saw her pick up her hundred page 'ruler' again. I watched her line up the books, mark the spot with her finger, open the book to her measured out 100 pages, and start counting aloud. She wanted to know if she was right! I watched, impressed that she counted pages (I was thinking about how many sheets of paper, but that's not how you number the pages of a book) and when she got 22 as her result I was seriously impressed! 

Since then she read the other book (in that series) we'd gotten from the library without prompting. And then she asked to go to the library (wonderful surprise! Of course we'll go!). When we got there she grabbed all the other books in the series without hesitation. As we headed out of the library with our piles of books she was able to verbalize that she likes these books because she likes reading short stories. I think I have a Shel Silverstein book from my childhood, that might be my next suggestion...


  1. Try The Warm Place by Nancy Farmer. Try Little Women. If my suggestions are any good at all, please ask me for more. I love trying to figure out which books kids will like. I got my son (same age) to read Wonder this summer.

    1. Thanks! She read Wonder in school and enjoyed it. I haven't heard of The Warm Place, we'll check it out!