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Reading about Reading

2010 December 13
by prgiff

     I can feel the word savor on my tongue. It makes me think of all things warm and happy. That word keeps coming to my mind as I read A FAMILY OF READERS, THE BOOK LOVER’S GUIDE TO CHILDREN’S AND YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE by Roger Sutton and Martha Parravano.

     I was reminded of reading to my first grandson, Jimmy, when he was less than a year old. I read some of the books so many times that I still remember bits and pieces. Ah: Jesse Bear, What will you wear, what will you wear in the morning? My coat of red pulled over my head, my coat of red in the morning. (Nancy White Carlstrom) I may have a few of the words wrong, but the rhythm is still there, the lovely sound of the words, the joy of watching Jimmy’s face.

     I felt the same joy reading A FAMILY OF READERS, the essays are wonderful, the book selections lovely. But there’s one sentence that stands out. I’d like to see it in red, no, maybe in neon lights. The authors write: “The acquisition of reading skill and fluency is not, and should not, be ever-forward: not every book should be more difficult than the one that’s read before?”

     What it makes me think of is this. There is such satisfaction, such a savoring that comes with reading a book which will be comfortable, a book in which we know almost every word. Even more satisfying is rereading a story. How superior we feel. We know what’s going to happen next!

     But in preparing for the reading tests, is there time to savor the words, the rhythm, the joy that children begin to feel as we prepare them to be life-long readers? Is there time to read to them, to read with them? I do believe that the emphasis on passing standardized tests will eventually take its place in the curriculum, that someday we’ll be emphasizing the leisurely moving ahead so that kids don’t feel rushed, that they enjoy the process (and teachers, too.)

     In the meantime, do read A FAMILY OF READERS. You will chuckle over the piece by John Scieszka,   you’ll so enjoy “Waking Dreams” by Jane Langton. Actually I think you’ll love it all. Let me know what you think!

4 Responses leave one →
  1. December 13, 2010

    Hi Patricia. I’ve been following your blog (and your books!) for a while now and love both.

    This was a wonderful insight. My son’s second-grade teacher recently told me that he needs to be reading books at a higher level. She was surprised when I told her he read all the Harry Potter books and most of the Hardy Boys, because in class he goes for the easy readers. But mostly I thought of myself in second grade, how my favorite books were also those easy readers. I read them all in one sitting, stacks and stacks, and loved them. I was a huge rereader. I read and reread all the Little House books. When I read them to my boys today I remember the details of every page.

    I’m afraid in our zeal for literacy testing we sometimes suck the joy out of what it means to be a reader.

  2. prgiff permalink*
    December 14, 2010

    I loved hearing from you and so glad you’re reading my blog. I know what you mean about the Little House books. I read the Sue Barton books over and over…then the Elswyth Thane books. Sometimes I still read Thane’s wonderful love stories!

    You might want to think about giving the Sutton book as a Christmas present to your son’s teacher! As a reading teacher I would have loved it!

  3. Nina S permalink
    December 30, 2010

    Dear Ms. Reilly Giff – Thank you for your recommendation. As a 4th grade reading teacher, I love to read about teaching reading so I can make my students reading experience more rewarding.

    I had to smile when you wrote about rereading books. Over the holiday I wanted to sit down and enjoy some young adult novels. I read Water Street so then I had to go back and reread Nory Ryan’s Song, which was even better than I remembered. I finished up with Maggie’s Door. Oh my, I love that trilogy! I wish you would write more about Nory, Sean Red, Bird and Thomas!! Thank you for such a lovely story. Guess what I will be recommending to my 4th graders when we return to school next week?!

    Happy New Year! P.S. One of my all time favorite books is Pictures of Hollis Woods!

  4. prgiff permalink*
    January 6, 2011

    Hi Nina:
    I loved your comment! I also loved writing the Nory Ryan trilogy. I keep thinking of another…first, because I’d rather write historical
    fiction than almost anything! But then, there’s a tiny story about my great-great grandfather who was invoved in the Irish Land War
    that tugs at me. (It also tugs at my husband, Jim…in the opposite direction. It means we’d have to go back to Ireland again. We’ve
    been there many times, and Jim always says, “Think someplace warm…think someplace sunny.)

    Again, thank you for reading my books…and thank you for sharing them with the children. I taught fourth grade…a lovely age.

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