You’ve probably noticed that I talk about reading and/or literature in almost all of my posts. I probably always will. I’m one of those crazy librarians who can’t think of a better way to learn about the world than to read a good story. (But if you’ve read more than one post here, you already know that.)
The Littles and I share a love of both reading and learning. We look forward to our school sessions and during breaks we genuinely miss school. Sometimes we pick a book to read together just for the sheer fun of it, even when school is not in session. Now let me explain our favorite class: Guided Reading. When I say guided reading, I mean reading aloud together, going over vocabulary from the book, answering questions out of study guides I create for each book, and doing some sort of hands-on activity that helps us keep that day’s chapter in our minds. For me, it’s the most important class we do. For one thing, look at the English language practice we get. Vocabulary, reading comprehension, the chance to discuss grammatical twists and turns, and practice understanding how the language works. The boys take turns reading every other page, and we usually do a chapter a day. If they have questions, we can all stop for the answers before moving on. There’s no confusion or passing over a chance for knowledge because their psyches can’t assimilate the lesson. This helps tremendously when we read books from other centuries like Robinson Crusoe or Oliver Twist (you knew I was going to throw Dickens in there, didn’t you?). Then when we’re done we answer both ‘what happened’ questions and critical thinking questions, because there’s no point in reading a book about the plight of the poor if they don’t know what a plight is or don’t understand just how devastating poverty was in Dickens’ time and is today. Sometimes these books give us the opportunity to explore current events. For instance, has the poverty problem been solved in our world? And what can we do to help?
Beyond the English language practice, the activities we do might be an art project or a science experiment or anything in between. It’s an opportunity to learn more than just history and language. We can incorporate any subject into these activities, even geography and math. And it’s fun! Guided reading is our very favorite time of the school day.
Right now we’re reading Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright. If you’ve never heard of this gem, let me tell you, it is quickly becoming one of my favorite chapter books for children. You know how some authors plant you in that slow, lazy childhood summer place so deeply you feel it wrap you up and spirit you away? This book has the stuff. It was first published in 1957, so it has that innocence about it that only mid-20th century children’s books have. To be honest, the reason I chose it for guided reading right now is I’ve been pushing this book at those boys for a couple of years, practically begging them to read it on their own or for book reports, and they kept passing it over for ‘more exciting’ stories. I was so afraid they were going to miss out on this beautiful, amazing story because it didn’t have zombies or Greek gods in it. Solution? Make it a class.
And you know what? They Love This Book. We’ve laughed together over how much they like it after all that stubborn refusal to read it. And hopefully I’ve convinced them to try a new genre. Hopefully, as they grow, they will be like me and want to know All The Stories in the world, regardless of genre or age level. Well, maybe not, since it’s impossible to achieve and it leaves you with this wistful longing to be reading even when you’re having the time of your life. And wondering every time you pass a house, a field, or another person, what the story is there if you can find it in a book. Hmm.
Nah, let them be wistful. So long as they are readers.
Guided reading is an amazing way to dig in deep with your littles, introduce them to books they may not otherwise read, and supplement your learning experience with a lot of fun. There are novel studies and lesson plans all over the interweb and soon I’ll be opening my own shop to offer you some affordable novel studies so you don’t have to do the work all by yourself! Pick a book, find some questions and activities to go along with it, and guide your littles through the glorious pages. And check back here in a few weeks. I should have several Lit Looking Glass Novel Studies up and ready for you.