Tuesday, April 26, 2016

thoughts on writing and reading

When I was in my early teens my parents set up an extra little activity for us kids.

It was a poetry class.  

It wasn't only for us in our own family, but it included a couple other neighbor families as well.

Each week we would go to a neighbor's house and we would learn about poetry.  

And then we would write our own.  We had a little "reading" at the end of our session (kind of like a recital) and made our own poetry books.  

The details are super foggy.  I don't remember a lot.  I have no idea if these classes went on for a long time or if it was just kind of a month-long deal.  I don't even know if my parents remember.  But I remember it was kind of serious business.  

I know, yawn, right?  Poetry?  That's what my teenage mind told me in the beginning.  Although the details are super foggy I still remember that.  But I also remember, despite my initial "how boring!" reaction, that a seed of love for writing started to grow inside me.  

I look back with so much fondness for that little class.  That my parents put us through that "awful boringness."  I'm so grateful for teachers that inspired me to read.  For my mother for reading to us in the car, around the camp fire, at bedtime.  I'm thankful for my AP English composition teacher who inspired me to write, write, write.  I'm so grateful for anything like that that teaches kids a love of writing.  

I loved this story Claire brought home beaming with pride about the other day:

YES!  You go Claire!  Learn to write with your heart!  Learn that it can be an amazing outlet!  Learn that the more reading you do, the more fun you'll have with writing, and the happier your brain will be!  Lucy is LOVING writing right now too.  She has been asking for a special binder to keep her "books" in that she wants to sell to people "like at a lemonade stand."  And I love it.

Great, that's awesome.  Let's raise writers!  And readers too!

The thing is, though, I worry this love of writing will be like one of those sparklers we light every summer at Bear Lake.  It sparks up and glows with vibrancy and beauty at first.  And then, all at once, it fizzles and dies.

Why do I worry?

I worry because this love affair with writing seems to be like a song on re-play.  Every one of my kids have had that "sparkler" fire jump in and light up their eyes and their minds in elementary school.  Each of my older kids came home with wonder and excitement about reading in elementary school.  Elle thought for sure she would be an author.  She and her friend had novels they were writing in secret.  They wanted them to be a surprise when they would publish them some day.  Max and Grace wrote some pretty whiz-bang stuff themselves.

But all that creativity and writing wonder came to a screeching halt when they hit junior high.  It's like suddenly that's just not important any more.  It's like the people in charge are saying, "enough with all that creative mumbo-jumbo, let's focus on real stuff like math and science," and they do.

I know I wrote about this before, but I so vividly remember being worried about very limited amount of reading required when Grace started junior high.  At "back-to-school-night" I asked Grace's upcoming honors English teacher what the required reading list would be (while she crawled under a desk in horror :).  When he handed me a list of three books and told me they would be read all together in class I was baffled.  Reading together in class??  In honors English?  That's awesome but what happened to high expectations?  He said "they have just found that kids just don't do the required reading any more so we do it together."

Wait, what? What happened to requirements?  Do we just let our kids and their actions dictate how we teach them?  Just because "they don't do it" does that mean we should quit requiring it?

Maybe this is only true here in the desert, and maybe even just at the schools my children attend...and maybe I am blowing it all out of proportion.  But I feel like writing (and reading!) in general are not stressed in school nearly as much as they used to be.

And as education shifts into other "more important" things, writing and grammar slips into "twitter slang" and "hahaha"s.  No one cares about writing a story, for crying out loud, or editing and re-editing research papers to draw the reader in.  Kids are so distracted by so many "bright and shiny" things with all the technology today that they forget the beauty of a book that can take us to another world, to see things through the eyes of others, to understand better different cultures, periods of history, dissecting the world in so many different ways.  In  five years of having high schoolers I haven't seen one essay come home from school marked up in red all over the place like mine were in high school, with an expectation they would come back perfectly...or get marked up in red all over again.

It's the writing and re-writing, and then re-writing again that will make a difference.  Not that one-sentence non-grammatically-correct punch that it takes to get enough "likes" in social media that kids care more about these days (am I sounding old fashioned or what? Ha!).  Who cares about reading the classics and using their minds to dissect the world and spilling their thoughts out on paper.

I know as a parent this is my responsibility.  I need to be pushing at home, it's not just school that directs the molding of my children's' minds (thank goodness).  And oh boy, I am trying.  Reading with our kids as much as I can, requiring them to read as part of their "jobs" each day, trying to be sure they write in their journals and searching for someone who can teach a class along the same lines of my family "poetry" class all those years ago.

But sometimes I can't help but feel like I'm in a losing battle.  Does anyone else feel like this?  Do you feel like the art of reading and writing is fading or am I way off base?  If anyone has any ideas to help combat the decline we're feeling around here, please send ideas my way!

75 comments:

  1. I totally agree! I worry so much about the writing! My oldest is in middle school and it does seem like writing is pushed aside. One thing I am going to try is registering my middle schooler for an online writing class through BYU for 7th and 8th graders. I will help him but am hoping for the red marks you are talking about to require lots of drafts before a final copy!

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  2. Even 15 years ago when I started high school, most didn't do the required reading. They could access cliff notes or skim. My honors teachers often had us re-read portions together, to dissect the language, plot, characters, etc. personally, I feel reading together in class & discussing it is more beneficial than reading at home alone. There typically is not a person there to answer questions, make them reflect on the reading. The reading is still a requirement, but it is being taught differently and in a better way than reading at home and taking a quiz or retelling what they said in class. The students and teacher can really get into what it means, what it is trying to teach us. Unless the teacher has really high expectations of the students and really digs into what they've read at home, in class, what's wrong with reading as group at school?

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    1. My AP English teacher sr. year (14 years ago) did exactly what you describe in the last sentence. I was a pretty good writer, but it took me until the end of the year, last assignment, to get his stamp of approval - "Now you're ready for college." The trek was worth it, though - and the critique prepared me for future feedback. I ended up with excellent skills that served me well in college and grad school and for sermons (I'm a pastor) and national blogs to which I contribute.
      I think it's really valuable to re-read portions in class and dissect them, but if that's the only place the reading happens, I'd be concerned about how students who haven't had to do novels' worth of reading on their own time budget for reading requirements in college - in nearly every subject the reading lists are long, and you have to do at least some of it to be able to participate in class, write a decent paper, etc. Most professors I had assumed that we came to class ready to discuss the assignment, not to read it as a group.

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    2. Great point, it's awesome that they are taking the time to discuss and dissect in class. I need to remember that. I just think, like Leah says, it cannot be underestimated how important it is to have assignments to read and to try to decipher what the author is trying to convey on your own without the crutch of a teacher or class to help you. You can learn so much when YOU are the one responsible to figure out the meaning and intention of the author.

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  3. It isn't just "your kids' schools", it's most children's school-- unfortunately public schools aren't pushing kids to read/write so much anymore. My children attended charter schools for years and luckily they were given a great foundation of grammar, writing, poetry and reading when they entered public school in the 9th grade. In fact, my oldest son's 9th grade English teacher called me the first week of school after she had read his first writing assignment. She exclaimed, "Where did your son learn to write so well?" I responded, "Not at this school." This same oldest son just finished his freshman year at BYU and his English teacher, after pushing him pretty hard to make his great writing exceptional, told him she rarely has that high of quality of writing submitted now days. We've managed to figure out the best English teachers at our local high school but it's still not up to the standards of reading/writing my kids had in their younger years. I encourage outside-of-school classical reading (with rewards) and set the example myself. I read "The Count of Monte Cristo" last year and am plowing through Anna Karenina now. I take my kids to plays from classical literature whenever I can, so that they are at least familiar with the story line (Pride & Prejudice, The Scarlett Pimpernel & Jane Eyre--next month). I think it is a sad commentary on society that reading/writing has been dumbed down in our education system. My theory has been, "children are like playground rubber balls--give them a little push and they will bounce up high. But if you drop them, they will roll off to the side." Here's hoping society can rectify their children's educational deficiencies sooner rather than later.

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    1. Anna Karenina is my favorite novel ever! I do hope you enjoy it. A point of clarification, Charter schools are public schools.

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    2. Yes, indeed! My mistake. We switched from one public school (charter) to another (local h.s.) because my kids wanted to be with their friends, as well as for athletics. We knew we were taking a step down in quality of education, but we realized that academics isn't everything. And it has played out like we thought (for good and for bad).

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    3. Excellent ideas. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. Both of my girls had at least 2 novels to read every summer from 7th-12th grade (3 for their AP English classes and they always discussed them the first week of school) plus lots of reading and writing together in class, so it's not everywhere. We live in MD. They both felt really prepared for reading and writing intensive lit classes in college-think Homer's Iliad and other difficult classics. Learning to read and write well has been a building block for studying other subjects as well.

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    1. Where in Maryland do you live? I recently moved here from the west and am interested in learning more about the area before we buy a house. (We're currently renting.) thanks!

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    2. Maryland schools are a year ahead academically over Utah (don't know about AZ schools). My sister found that out when their family moved from Bethesda out west. So, I'm sure your kids, Joylynn, are ready to succeed in college academically. I wish all schools would require that same awesome level and intensity of curriculum--like, for example, I wish it was that demanding at our high school. (Interestingly enough, our high school was listed in the top 10 in the US News and World Report for Utah high schools just last week, so it's not a bottom-tier school by any means, but only in comparison to other Utah high schools--not nationally. Yet, it's still not prepping students to be successful for all types of college.)

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    4. We live in western MD with small but very good schools. Brandi, if you are interested in being closer to the larger cities, check out Howard County.

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  5. I agree with Joylynn, it's not everywhere. I taught in DC and we read and wrote more than it sounds like your kids did. However, I did read a lot of the texts out loud to my class. I felt like this was a more effective way to teach. Still, we read six novels (I taught 8th grade) this way, so it does make me wonder why the numbers are so low for your honors HS student.

    I only had experience student teaching out West, but it was significantly less pressure than teaching back East.

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    1. What were the 8 books that you read? I am always looking for great books for my 6th grader.

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  6. I remember being a senior in high school and having a 3 page paper assigned. The kids complained so much that the teacher cut the assignment to 1 page instead. I didn't say anything, but remember thinking it was a weird that seniors couldn't handle three pages. Flash forward to my first few weeks into college and getting assigned my first writing assignment in an honors course - 12-15 pages. I made it through and survived, but I don't think my high school prepared me at all for a top tier 4 year university. Not many kids went that route so maybe they didn't really care (small town). Luckily, my parents were both successful and worked hard at preparing their children for college. While I think public schools are great and do much for our children, we (the parents) bear the ultimate responsibility on educating and preparing our children. Good luck - it's not like we have anything else going on! :)

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    1. I agree Megan. I feel like there is so much value in peer pressure from other kids in school as they are assigned things and learn together. When we moved here we chose public schools over charter schools (just fit our family better...there are pros and cons to both). The thing I loved more than anything in the charter schools was that they memorized poems each month and had to recite them to their classes. I just think that is such a great teaching tool! When we chose public schools I vowed to still have my kids memorize poems each month. I put forth a valiant effort but in the end, so far I have lost the battle.

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  7. Oh man, I'm with you on this! As you know the reading and writing I did in High School has become the staple of my life! Some kids are born with a love for reading (i.e. Hazel and McKay) and others need some extra incentive. Let's talk about it when we get together!

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  8. My wife and I have always tried to instill in our kids a love of reading and writing. My first three: reading machines.
    We shouldn't dumb it down, but it is important to appreciate kids who have different levels of ability, and take them where they are in the learning continuum.
    Number four: my dyslexic kid - it is a constant battle - his passion is in other things. They are all unique. It is great to live in a world that needs people with different skills and personalities!

    http://www.SteveWatsonforEducation.com

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  9. At least the teacher can tell what ideas and work are purely from the student and not what might have come from cliff notes, the Internet or a helpful parent when so much is done is class. Private schools require much more reading than public schools. Is there a literature text for the class? Maybe this year they spend a lot of time learning vocabulary and how to write a research paper?

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  10. Our (Boston area, public and private mix) schools required a lot more reading that you describe - 1-3 books over the summer (more in private) and a steady stream throughout the school year.

    My concern is the selection - in public, it is heavy on classics that are not really appropriate for most middle and high school kids - not too hard but requiring maturity and literary analysis skills that most kids simply don't have and there wasn't time for the teacher to walk them through. I think Bomb in a Birdcage upthread has a good point.

    My son's private school did a much better job with a heavier reading load but more appropriate books (interesting to bright teenagers) and explicit teaching of literary analysis skills. Maybe keep your fingers crossed that Grace's teacher will teach the skills and then make sure she is reading good quality fiction and literature on her own?

    About teaching writing? HA! As far as I can see, they flat out don't. No grammar, no sentence structure, no help in constructing a progression of ideas and then expressing them. A little spelling and punctuation and then years of the bloody five sentence paragraph/five paragraph essay and they called it good.

    Here is a good piece on how an under-performing school taught students to write - but there are clues about the history of how American schools teach (or don't teach) writing that are interesting (if enraging).

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/10/the-writing-revolution/309090/


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    1. Great article, thanks for sharing!

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    2. I grew up in small town Montana. I took honor English classes in public high school, and I spent a great deal of time diagramming sentences and being drilled about comma rules. I never did memorize all those comma rules! We also read stacks of novels both in and out of class, and dissected many, many poems. I always thought I didn't have much of an education but after reading this post and comments, I am thinking I did after all!

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  11. I just want to add my voice to how important it is to simply read. I homeschool my children, and I always worry I'm not doing enough. For English class, I had my oldest daughter (now 15) read novels and nonfiction, writing essays occasionally for me throughout the year. I never taught her former grammar or sentence construction. She took the ACT as a freshman and, to my relief and surprise, got a 34 on the English and a 33 on the Reading. She has been taking an AP English Language course online this year (it is so awesome — check out AP homeschoolers online), and just got her sophomore ACT score back. She didn't miss a single question on the reading section this time around. Reading teaches reading. Reading teaches writing and vice versa. Writing teaches writing! I wish schools understood that better (then I wouldn't homeschool!). People, including teachers, just don't trust kids anymore to read and to learn from it! We've made everything too complicated and missed the boat in the process. Great post, Shawni!

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    1. Hi Mary!

      I agree with all my heart. Writing and reading teach so many of the same things! I think there is a certain amount of natural tendency to read that kids are born with which helps a lot as well. And certainly example. I know you are a great reader and I think your kids soak in that example (and they're just plain smart too!)

      Miss you guys!

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  12. We homeschooled the younger five of our eight children and we had outcomes similar to Mary Eyre. I found that my scholars learned to read and write by being exposed to great writers. We read together many classics and I rewarded (bribed!) them to read good books on their own. We kept a notebook and a dictionary handy to write down words we didn't know and they took turns looking up and writing down the definitions. I never taught formal grammar and rarely required "reading assignments" and was also relieved to see my children do well on the ACT. Several of them started college early. If you read the great writers, your brain is full of great writing. One son just couldn't be cajoled or bribed into much writing but he read voraciously--mostly books on physics. A Christmas gift request was "The Universe in a Nutshell". When he started college at age 14, I decided his writing gap would be obvious and he would step up and work on it. After a few papers written for his English class, the professor wrote "I am a fan of your writing." I could give you similar examples of our other kids. I agree that reading is key to learning and anything parents can do to encourage and promote that is going to help them in the long run. Think of some of the great thinkers down through the ages and they were educated through reading the works of ...great thinkers! Our children went on to study Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering, Art History, Sociology and the youngest starts at BYU this fall undecided. I really believe that even all of the hoopla these days about STEM education is missing the boat on the importance of reading to the entire learning process!

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    1. My neighbor is a home school mom as well and her children are exceptionally talented in both reading and writing. Sometimes I think I should just pull my kids out of school and read and write with them all the time. But it takes a certain personality to be able to teach the way you have taught. Kudos to you and to Mary Eyre, I hope your kids realize how lucky they are to have you! Not only your teaching but your genes :)

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  13. I can not comment with great knowledge about the subject. However, my daughter's college prep school has gone to NO assignments during the summer. School schedules provide two - "no homework weekends " per year! Her school also has later starting times - 8:30.

    I was skeptical last summer. However about halfway through the summer, my daughter bought her own book and then went on to read several books during the summer-just like she used to when she was an avid reader in elementary school. Last summer she had time to volunteer in the community. She had time to travel to another country. Basically she enjoyed very single summer day. When school started, she chose the hardest classes. I would say that our Head of School created an environment that worked for my daughter.

    I didn't fight the school last year. I did not assign extra work over the summer because my daughter is in a college prep school. I just observed her....and I have to say, my daughter was ready to go back to school that second week of August. For more information I believe Christy Hutton, now Head of School spoke on Tedx: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Playing-to-Our-Strengths-Neurod

    FYI Many HS students are taking community college courses to lighten their load in the school year. One thing to consider is that the amount of information that an AP class must get through is about 1.6% more than it was in 2010. High schools have changed their school calendar start and end dates to accommodate for the AP exam. There is a lot of pressure on HS students to achieve and yet the teen brain is not fully developed.

    Also, on a very sad and somber thought: teen suicide is very real. :http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/12/the-silicon-valley-suicides/413140/.

    I don't know why these teens took their lives, but how sad it would be if even one died due to the inability of that teen to navigate the stress from school.

    I'm not trying to take an adversary position on this subject - I'm just trying to add an idea to the post that sometimes breaks from the normal R,W, and A are truly needed.

    Thank you,
    California Mom


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    1. I agree. I guess the biggest trouble with all of this is that every child learns differently. Some are natural readers and don't need assignments to help nurture a love of reading (and writing too). Some who turn out to be amazing readers and writers would never, ever have found that love and appreciation had they not been hounded and pushed by parents and teachers alike. It's a tricky balance because every teacher is different and every student learns differently. Teachers are trying to teach to the masses and I get it that that's hard. It's just a frustrating situation to watch as a mother who isn't necessarily a wonderful "teacher" herself.

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  14. Benjamin Franklin High School definitely focuses the most on reading and writing. They have mandatory summer reading assignments and most of the reading is done outside of class during the school year. All of the core classes offered are honors courses; AP courses are also available. Check it out, this is a good school that focuses on liberal arts.

    https://www.bfhschargers.com/
    https://www.benjaminfranklincharterschool.com/

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  15. My daughter took Latin in high school in Georgia and learned to love it. Now she teaches Latin to children in grades 4-6 in a charter school in Utah.
    Latin is not taught in many schools anymore, especially in the west, but it gives a wonderful foundation for language, reading and writing.
    BYU does have an online Latin course that my friend's daughters used while living in California.

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  16. It's absolutely tragic. And sadly, I am watching it first hand as a 9th grade teacher. I can point fingers in all sorts of directions from testing, lack of parent involvement, or legislation to increase graduation rates but there really isn't one culprit. The pressure on teachers comes from every direction and at the end of the day we can't win the fight. So we limp along hoping to inspire but without the value of reading and writing throughout our society its becoming more and more a lost cause.

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    1. Kris, bless you for trying! It is just so tough to figure out how to go about pushing this generation of kids who are pulled in so many different directions!

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  17. I'm in canada and i just went to out stake women's conference last week.. one speaker spoke on literacy. He was a grade 6 teacher. He said he does not give any homework throughout the year apart from reading. Each student is required to read 40 books.
    I loved him !!!

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  18. Thankfully, my daughter's school (at least her teacher) seems to be doing an extremely good job with this. My daughter is currently a HS senior getting ready to graduate and last summer, she had ALOT of required reading for her upcoming English class. Now, I will have to say this class was a Dual Enrollment class with a local community college, but the teacher required a lot of poetry reading and the students were required to write a synopsis of each book/selection. Her teacher is constantly requiring journaling in the class as well as reading several of "the classics." Even though my daughter has stated several times on the difficulty of many of the assignments, she has also made it clear that she has really enjoyed this class and enjoys the no-nonsense attitude of this teacher. She is tough, but one of my daughter's favorite teachers. We are located in Virginia.

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  19. My sons schooling was quite a while ago and while he read more than it sounds like your kids school require I still felt that home reading was really important. One summer a local toy store held a book club for kids - it started in May where they bought the first book and each month they showed up having read the book and did fun activities related to the book that was read. He loved it and I was so glad we found that. We tried to do something like that ourselves in subsequent summers. I have a friend who does a Grandma's summer reading club with her grandkids - she picks a book and they all read at home and Skype or something to discuss the book along the way. I think the key is the follow up of discussing or activities that support the book rather than just the reading.

    I think for schools, they focus so much on those standardized tests that other (less testable, measurable) subjects have fallen by the wayside. Schools just aren't so well rounded anymore.

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    1. I love the Grandma's Summer Reading Club idea! I want to remember to do that when I am a grandma! 😊

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    2. I love it too! Great idea. Claire and I tried to start a book club with her cousins last year and it flopped but maybe we need to give it another try. The trouble is, elementary school aged kids seem to get into the groove of reading and are ok doing it (at least in my experience). It's high school (and junior high) that are trickier. If teachers don't care to push and other students don't take time to do it, it's just not a priority any more. And that makes me sad. It's easy for me to get my elementary school aged kids excited about a book club, not so much for my older kids. My neighbor's older kids have a book club that they love though (they are home schooled), maybe I need to beg to let my kids join! :)

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  20. YES! My 10th grader has read one novel this year. ONE! And he is capable of reading so much more...and thankfully he does at home...but is missing much of what should be required. My 7th grade son in honors language arts has only read one too. More focus on short stories and snippets of books which is because that is what is on standardized tests...reading a smaller passage and evaluating it. Please remember that this is not all to blame on teachers. My husband is a 5th grade teacher and there is such a push on testing that they are no longer able to do as many creative things as he did in the past...even if they would like to. The curriculum is all set up for him by administrators and they want every class to be on the same "page"...even if a teacher might decide their class needs to work on whatever topic a bit longer! Please focus any complaints at higher levels ;)

    One tip...a long time ago when my kids were little my husband started buying books for our kids whenever they wanted one. I balked a little bit at this as we don't have much money and I feel like they can get them at the library...and I also don't want to buy things we really don't need, have too much stuff, etc. Anyways, he won that little argument and I do have to say it is THE BEST THING WE HAVE EVER DONE. All our kids are amazing readers and love to read. We just decided that reading is a priority for us and so if they want a book we will put our money behind that and encourage it. Of course they have to finish the book before they get another one but this has never been a problem. I have several teen boys books already pre-ordered for this summer as I know if I just lay it on one of my boys beds they will pick it up and read it!

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    1. Love this idea. I'm going on a book-buying spree :)

      And I agree, most of what is happening is not something to be blamed on the teachers. It's a whole societal shift (at least in our area) which makes me sad.

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  21. I have 4 daughters from 3-8 years old. We have always tried to do some writing over the summer, but they have been young. The other day I was in a cute little store and found a "story starter" kit. The first one was about a kid who always walked with his friend in the woods until they came to where their paths split and they went home, but one day, they found an old door with a big knocker next to an old tree. So the boys knoced, and then..." I thought it was so cute, but I didn't feel like spending the money to get it. But after reading this, I'm going to get it! Thanks for the inspiration. (I wish I knew what the real name of the book was. Sorry.)

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    1. Oh man, AWESOME idea! I'm going to incorporate this into our summer goals this year! I googled "story starters" and found all these awesome ideas: https://www.google.com/?ion=1&espv=2#q=story%20starters%20for%20middle%20school

      THank you Liz!

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  22. I agree. For my daughters 7th grade honors english class this year they were required to read two classics and do book reports on each. Unfortunately the reports were to consist of very little writing and instead were required to do visual things like crazy-awesome-expensive posters and other visual aids. They were awesome but used little to no writing.

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  23. Shawni, I would love a post of suggestions for great books for boys and girls at different stages. I have lots of great books in our house, and I am constantly on the lookout. But I know your blog readers will be full of fabulous suggestions that I haven't thought of...as will you! Would you consider doing a post like that at some point soon? Maybe in time for summer? And I would also like suggestions on different incentives to get kids reading over the summer. My "rewards system" is pretty old at this point. Would love some new ideas!

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    1. theliteratemother.org has good reviews on books. I've found it very helpful

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    2. I would love something like this. I have three toddlers, so I'm just getting started in the world of teaching writing and literacy. Thank you for the resource, Karen!

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    3. I did a post a while ago about this, thank you for reminding me to look for it!

      Here's the post with my suggestions, but readers left even better ones :)

      http://www.71toes.com/2012/08/friday-q-good-books-for-young-readers.html

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  24. Please ignore my spelling and writing esp when comment on literacy. I have a brain injury, my intellect is intact, just my ability to express it isn't.
    This is so interest to me as I'm in the UK. I was a teacher four a long time until I had to retire from ill health. I am a book lover and every day, in primary, so 8,9,10,11 year olds everyone was reading a book all the time, even the teacher and classroom assistant. After a few teething problems this became a great part off the day and later we wood get into groups to discuss our reading. It was just sum thing I thought might work, if the teacher wants her class to read, she needs to read too. I had an amazing English teacher at ten who introduced me to Tolkein and Shakespeare and Dickens and four me, that love off reading has remained.
    A lot off our curriculum over here is government lead, you have to teach what they tell you to teach and we have way to many tests but as soon as mine hit secondary school at eleven they always had a reading list. Drama, poetry, biography, non fiction, classics, more modern writers. Four my fourteen year old daughter, she has two books to read and notate over the summer and we only have a six week break. I have never thought that there wasn't enough reading and kids here are taught to draft and re draft there writing from a very early age. This carrys on threw secondary or high school and my kids certainly had markings and corrections on there writing. Grace is nine and they will write a draft four homework and then it will come back home four improvement. Generally good readers are good writers, I think it was Phillip Pullman who said he has stolen ideas from every book that he has red.
    One thing we have found though with are five children who range from 32 down to 8, is that sum people are just not readers. We always read to all our children and my husband and I read all the time. We have three readers and two who are not keen. And it's not a gender split either.
    Great to here other people's views and experience
    Posie

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    1. You're right. Some kids just aren't natural readers maybe never will be. But oh man I want to push my kids to be writers and readers any way I can if I have any power to do so. And I'm ever more thankful for teachers who taught me to love both.

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  25. I think the best way to nurture love for the written word in our chldren is to read, read, and read. Let you kids see you reading for pleasure. Read to you kids well after they can read to themselves. I've been reading the whole Harry Potter series to my 10 year son for a year and it's the highlight of my day many days.

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    1. I wholeheartedly agree! Lead by example, & read aloud to your children, no matter their age!!! Thanks for sharing!

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    2. Amen. I need to be better at this.

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  26. I know that most of the writing that my Sr. son does is online. Most assignments are done online & uploaded. While they do write & he has many reports that he does - it's no longer using a paper & pencil. He reads a lot but once again some are good old fashioned books, but he also reads books on his tablet & via audible.com Sometimes it's hard to keep up with all the changes in technology & that kids are expected to be technologically savvy at an early age.

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  27. I know that most of the writing that my Sr. son does is online. Most assignments are done online & uploaded. While they do write & he has many reports that he does - it's no longer using a paper & pencil. He reads a lot but once again some are good old fashioned books, but he also reads books on his tablet & via audible.com Sometimes it's hard to keep up with all the changes in technology & that kids are expected to be technologically savvy at an early age.

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  28. At the risk of sounding old-fashioned - in my opinion the easy access that most children have to their mobiles, computers and television is one big factor that prevents them from reading. I would compare it to eating sweets rather than healthy food - if children had easy access to them all the time they would rather eat unhealthily than healthily. But the results from eating unhealthily are more easily detectable and visible than the results from using digital media rather than reading a book. Therefore they are usually prevented from it.

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    1. I'm so with you on this one! It is something I think about every day. So hard to find a good balance with technology!

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  29. Perfect timing to thank you for recommending Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See. I would go to the extend to say that it was one of the best books I have ever read in my life.

    PS- Have you read A Street Cat Named Bob to/with Lucy? She would love it, and this sweet story of human grit and determination would be a good chance for you, I suppose, to stress on the importance of strong families. (This is because the author had problems with his own- it wasn't so weak, but not so strong either, and he ended up living on the streets in his 20s... till, would you believe it the love of a cat helped him out of it. True Story!)

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    1. I ordered this as soon as I saw your comment. Lucy is so excited to read it after we finish "Heidi"...which I might add is one of my favorite books ever so far.

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  30. Have you listened to any of the podcasts at the read-a-loud revival? The host is a homeschooler, but the ideas and thoughts could be used in so many different situations and are pretty inspiring! Also, there is another set of podcasts called Your Morning Basket by Pam Barnhill...and although again aimed at homeschoolers, the guests always leave me with new ideas to bring more poetry, music, reading and nature into our family life at home. The podcasts about poetry and memorization were so interesting. I also think that the resources linked to each show are a rich resource. The RAR also just published their first book list that is great.

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    1. Thanks for this suggestion, I will look into it, great idea!

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  31. I agree that reading and writing are not given enough attention today!

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  32. Whew! Lots of comments here, but I felt compelled to add my two cents- I was passionate about writing as a kid. I kept starting my own "novels" and not finishing them. I wrote lots of short stories. I even won a poetry contest. Then in junior high I lost that "spark" as you say. In high school I mostly tried to avoid reading anything assigned to me. Hardly read anything that wasn't a textbook in college.

    Then I had kids and I needed an escape from the pressures of mommyhood- so I started reading again.

    With the rebirth of my love of reading came my love of writing again, and I started writing a little here and there. Just for fun, I wrote something for a contest sponsored by a NY Times bestselling author, and while I didn't win, he sent me a personal e-mail to tell me mine was his favorite (it was by popular vote). Then I entered another contest on a writing blog and won. Then I got asked to be a contributor to the writing blog (Mormon Mommy Writers) and since then the blog has hit Writers Digest list of 101 Best Websites for Writers twice.

    Then I got asked to write for a local magazine, and I do two articles for them each month. Then I was asked to write a play/pageant for our Stake Youth Conference and then to write for LDS Public Affairs in my stake (stories about the Church in our area for local newspapers), and then I had another story published in a book...

    In short, I am now a writer! That spark stayed inside me, more of a slow-burning ember, and it just needed the right time to catch fire. I'm about halfway through my novel now, with several more book ideas in my head, and I love it more than ever. I'm also a very avid reader once again. My goal this year is to read all those classics I've missed: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Scarlet Letter, The Catcher in the Rye, and many more. I've read 15 books so far this year (and I still have 4 kids at home under 12) and I just love it.

    So my answer is this: just because the spark fades, it doesn't mean it will go out. You're giving them the foundation they need to love reading and writing, and someday, when the time is right, it will serve them very well.

    P.S. Tell Claire that her story is VERY well-written. Honestly better than a lot of writers I know! :-)

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  33. This website might interest you and your family! We have started Poetry Tea Time with our family and now they are weekly events requested by our 7 and 5 year old! Never to young or old to start!

    http://poetryteatime.com/

    http://poetryteatime.com/

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  34. This is exactly why Common Core was initially started! It was to make sure that every student in every state was getting the same level of education. It's not fair to a child whose family lives in a part of the country where they don't focus on education to have to compete in college/work/life against others who had the benefit of living in an area of the country where they had more educational opportunities and availability. Common Core might have a lot of critics due to the way it's been implemented, but the basis of it is necessary for our children's education.

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  35. I taught 5th and 6th grade in a public school for 4 years, and one thing I learned is that the administrators have a lot more say than the parents think/know of. I would have LOVED to assign my students specific reading assignments (they were required to read 30 minutes a night), or projects of sorts, but the principal made it very clear that things that took TIME were to be done IN CLASS, not at home. I didn't agree with this policy, but unfortunately "the squeaky wheel gets the oil." One parent would complain about the "extra" assignments, and then the principal would put an end to it. It's all very sad because the majority of my students LOVED the readings we did in class, and would have liked more out-of-class assignments. Having said that, I'm still an advocate for public schools, and think there are SO many things kids get at public school that they can't get being home schooled (social interaction, being at the top of my list). It just means that parents are required to teach more and more at home.

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    1. We homeschooled my son through a distance learning school with full teacher support from 6th grade through high school graduation. He is an avid reader and history buff. He is now a junior at a good University in our area and is the President of the Student Honor Society. He has a 3.80 GPA. He has a double major in business management and history. He tutors part time in the Writing Center at our local community college.

      So, he got WAY more from homeschooling than he would have ever gotten in the horrible public schools in our area. He is extremely social, always has been - so that was not a problem. The social interaction he missed out on by not attending public school was a blessing. He also missed out on shots fired at the high school he would have attended, had we not homeschooled him.

      Most teachers are of the opinion that public schools are so much better than homeschooling. They are not. As has been stated, there is so much administrative red tape, as well as dealing with unruly parents and students - public schools have become a not-so-funny joke.

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    2. This really all comes down to which school and who is homeschooling. I have friends who are amazing homeschool parents, and other's who totally failed. The same is true of different public (and private) schools. Generalizations don't help either end of the public-private-homeschool education debate.

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  36. We moved to Iowa a year ago and I have been so disappointed in the reading and writing required at school. My oldest is in 6th grade and they have done power point instead of research or opinion papers. They have read technical texts instead of literature. My children are avid readers but it breaks my heart to see that they aren't discussing ideas and themes of books and enjoying classic novels in school. There is so much to be gained from literature and I fear that this shift from fiction to technical handbooks will change our grasp on humanity and our ability to relate to one another and understand the world. I agree that writing has become almost a lost art; spelling and grammar and the ability to express thoughts and feelings and ideas...it makes me so sad.
    We do work on these things at home and talk about the books we read but there is so much value in doing so in a school setting where new ideas and perspectives can be shared and discussed.

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  37. I'm apart of a group on FB called the Potato Peel Society, in reference to the book. It is chalk full of marvelous, intelligent, beautiful bibliophiles who share their insights, recommendations and reviews of all things literary. It has inspired me so much as to the kind of reading to provide for my kids and what to pursue myself. These people care more about books then anything else-love them. It's private but I wonder if I can add you. Let me know if you're interested. v.cronin@hotmail.com.

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  39. The book A Thomas Jefferson Education is all about how to give your children a liberal arts education. It also talks about why that spark goes out and how to preserve it. I love that book.

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  40. Oh man, I wish I could answer and reply to each one of these, but I'll just say a big THANK YOU for all the ideas and wisdom shared. Gives me some great ideas for summer goals and plans. And adds some great books and podcasts to my own list.

    I guess the bottom line is that every child is so different and learns in such different ways and each needs to bloom where they're planted (whether they're in a great school system that pushes reading and writing or not). Such a big responsibility the parents (and for the teachers teaching kids on such different levels and abilities!), I'm just grateful for all the food-for-thought on this important issue.

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  41. I know I am super late to the party here, but I thoroughly enjoyed this post and the insightful comments and just want to share one of my favorite online resources for selecting quality literature for my children. The website below has a list of 1000 books, arranged according to age/reading level. We have found so many gems on these lists!

    www.classical-homeschooling.org/celoop/1000.html

    I have been quite surprised to find that very few of our favorite classics are available at our local library (in southwest Florida). So many of these great books are no longer in print, and libraries tend to toss out or sell books that are worn (and well-loved!) but can no longer be replaced. I am so grateful for eBay and Amazon, and for the ability to find these great older classics and add them to our own library at home. If we were to rely solely on the library for literature, we'd be in big trouble--especially when it comes to Young Adult fiction! YIKES.

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