Small Victories

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Sometimes, when we have our eyes on the goals we have set out on the macro level: this academic year, this semester, this month, this grade level, etc. we lose sight of the smaller victories. We (and I mean me) can lose a grasp on how to overcome the obstacles that we face on a somewhat regular basis to get our kids fired up about learning.

Here’s what I mean:

A strategy that has proved effective in our family for teaching reading is requiring daily practice on school days. My oldest kid taught herself to read. I claim no credit beyond satisfying her requests to accumulate massive quantities of library books. (So many that we broke the book cart we had purchased for the chore, but that’s a tale for another day.)

With my 2 oldest middle kids, I notice substantial gains when they started following the daily schedule as set forth in the Bookshark Level 2 readers (I linked them in this post.) The schedule generally assigns one chapter in these short readers a day. My true middle kid started to gain such facility with reading, and interest in the subject matter (I told you their content is actually interesting), that he would read several chapters at a time, moving through the books at a faster pace than specified.

My older middle, the one who I discussed at length here, was different. She went from not reading, like at all, to blasting past the level of the readers. She read no more than a third of the books, I want to say, before she was ready for something more challenging. So I looked around for other books, and we settled on some of the selections from Bookshark’s level 3 (now D), which were the perfect transition, and actually covered topics that she was interested in (win-win).

So anyway, my 6 year old started reading a few months ago, like it just clicked for him. However, unlike my other children, he has absolutely sprinted in terms of gaining fluency. I realized last week that he was probably ready for the Level 2 (C) books, and he started on them this week.

SOOOOOOOOO, yesterday he read the first chapter in Frog & Toad Together, nearly flawlessly. I had asked him to go get “the Frog & Toad” book from his shelf, and there were 3. As it turns out, this is the third one that gets read, if you follow the program to a T– it happens to be the 10th book on the list! (I didn’t know this until I looked it up later.)

Today, we had kind of a hectic day of errands, so some of his work got pushed to the evening. Which, ironically, is the time of day where he focuses the best and actually likes to work. I asked him to please get the book so that he could read me a chapter. He wailed. He flailed. He protested. I somehow got him to bring the book, but he still insisted he did NOT want to read it.

Then, I remembered something.

Earlier today, I wrote about implementing one of Julie Bogart’s principles: the “how many do you think you can do?” principle. I have no idea if it has a name or not, but this is 100000% Julie’s idea that I have read about before, many times, yet never thought to use it.

Honestly, I was worried. What if he said none? Or 1? But, I figured as he was flat out refusing, any reading practice was better than none.

So I tried it!

He flipped through the pages. He counted 12 pages in the chapter that I had asked him to read. (Remember though, Frog & Toad have pages that are like 1/3- 3/4 illustration.)

He said he could read 4 pages. OK! I thought. Let’s do it. So he settled into my lap, and he started reading. Then, something happened!

He got into the story, he thought it was SO funny!

In it Frog (I think), gives some seeds to Toad to grow a garden. Toad ends up on the floor yelling at the seeds to GROW NOW! Several times he yells at his seeds. My boy laughs, he thinks it’s hilarious.

He ends up reading 6 pages before he notices he’s passed his own benchmark, AND most importantly, he enjoyed every page of it!

I didn’t resort to a battle of wills & I didn’t just let the expectation go. I partnered with my kid to reach a reasonable compromise, and we met in the literal middle: 6 pages, half of 12.

Thanks for the win Julie 😉

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