Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Shift

There has been a slight shift in our house when it comes to our reading habits. By definition, shift means to move or transfer from one place or position to another; to exchange one thing for another. There may not have be a seismic shift, which by definition is a change of enormous proportions or having highly significant consequences but there has been a shift in my kids' reading none the less. 

I have been on a quest to get my kids to read more. In order to do this, I had to shift my own way of thinking. As a parent, it hasn't been enough for me to simply suggest books and say, "I saw this book and I thought you would like it. I think you should read it." I now have been reading what they are reading. I read the books that I think they will enjoy. Now I can say, "I read this book and I thought of you." That small shift of reading the books before suggesting them to my kids has made a difference. I also read the same books with them. Timmy and I read The Hunger Games at the same time until he got strep throat and then finished the book in a day. Ryan and I both read The Fourth Stall at the same time. After he would fall asleep, I would quietly sneak into his room and get the book from his dresser and sometimes read further than he did. It was almost a race to see who would pull ahead. 

I have asked Ryan's teacher if I could come in and read to the class. I have done this in the past with all of my kids but this time I asked her if I could bring in a chapter book at their level and instead of reading the whole book, just read a part of it. Sometimes I read just the first chapter and sometimes I'll give them a little background knowledge of the story and then read an exciting part and then, I close the book just when we get to the good part. I love to hear that collective, "Awwwww," from the class as their teacher tells them it's now time to pack up. I always leave the book behind in the class and the teacher has a sign up sheet for any of the students who want to read the book on their own. Now when I walk into the classroom I hear,

 "Mrs. Nealon, I've been on the waiting list for this book and I finally got it. I can't wait to read it." 

"Mrs. Nealon, after you read the beginning of this book last week, my mom said I could buy it at the book fair."

"Mrs. Nealon, I've already read that book and I really liked it too. I thought the same thing you did."

But what I loved hearing the most was when Ryan said to me, "Mom, I just finished The Fourth Stall Part II and I think that should be your next read aloud to my class. It was really good."

Just that one sentence tells me he is becoming an active participant in his own reading. In those first weeks of coming into his class, I know what Ryan was thinking. To him I was just "his mom who loves to read books and she is always trying to get me to read. Now she is in my classroom reading books...big sigh." But now he has opinions as to what I should read. He wants to participate. He sees some of his classmates excited to see me when I walk in the door.

I've been seeing these small shifts elsewhere. On Tuesdays, Molly has horseback riding and so Ryan and I sit in the car for about an hour and we read. This past week he was sitting next to me reading his book as I was reading mine. All of a sudden he starts laughing out loud and says, "Mom, can I read this part out loud to you? It's really a good part." My dormant reader, my reader that "hates" to read wants to share a part in a book because it is the good part! His former teacher mom was feeling the shift. 

A few weeks ago, Shannon said that she wanted to see the movie The Lucky One. I said, "You know it is a book. Maybe you should read the book before you see the movie. I happen to have it in my 'to be read' pile." I found the book, put it on her bed and never said another word. When I noticed her reading it, I did ask her if she liked it and she said yes. That was about the extend of our conversation. But this past weekend she went with a bunch of friends to see the movie. After she came home I asked her if she ever finished the book. She said, "I finished it last night and the book was better than the movie." I never thought I would hear Shannon say that. Her motto up until now has been, "Why read the book when you can watch the movie?" Another small shift.

I have also seen a shift in my "to be read" pile. My pile is now being stacked by my children. 

"Mom, I finished Catching Fire, when are you going to read it?"

"Mom, you read Timmy's book and Ryan's book, when are you going to read my book?"

"Mom, you really need to read The Fourth Stall Part II. I just finished it and I think there is going to be a Part III."

I googled "seismic shift" and came across this book.

The little changes that make a BIG difference in your life. I started to read the introduction and  the author tells a story about when he went to the drug store to pick up a prescription for his son and on the counter was a pen with a plastic spoon taped to it and a smiley face drawn on the spoon. When he asked the man behind the counter about the spoon he responded that his pens never stayed put. People would constantly walk away with them. Four months later, the author was back again and there was the same happy face spoon pen. Sometimes small shifts, small changes can have seismic results.

Last week I read Wonder by R.J. Palacio and lets just say I was glad that when I got to the end I wasn't on a soccer field or at a basketball practice because I had tears running down my face and had to get the tissues for my runny nose. It was that good. 

August is a fifth grade boy who has been home schooled up until now. But middle school is about to start and so his parents decide to enroll him in school. August is an ordinary boy, on the inside. But he inherited a gene from both his parents that caused a birth defect and August's face, well, let's just say, makes the other kids look away. The book starts in September and takes us through August's journey of his fifth grade school year. August definitely does not have an easy one. Towards the end of the book there is a chapter called  "The Shift."

"When I went back to school the next day, the first thing I noticed was that there was a big shift in the way things were. A monumental shift. A seismic shift. Maybe even a cosmic shift. Whatever you want to call it, it was a big shift. Everyone-not just in our grade but every grade-had heard about what had happened to us with the sevenths graders, so suddenly I wasn't known for what I was always known for, but for this other thing that had happened."

So sometimes a small change in how we do something, how we act toward something or someone, how we decide to tackle a task can have seismic, monumental or even cosmic results. My quest continues to have children that read. A small shift in my thinking and actions about reading has definitely made a difference in theirs. Maybe not seismic, but a difference.

What We Are Reading Now:

I just finished Breaking Stalin's Nose. I read this on Saturday afternoon during Timmy's football practice right before his game. This story takes place during Stalin's rule in the Soviet Union. Sasha is about to become a Young Soviet Pioneer but his world changes in an instant when his father is arrested. 

I just started reading Glory Be. I am only two chapters in, but it takes place during the summer of 1964 in a small town in Mississippi. It is the beginning of the summer and there is debate among the kids at the pool whether the pool will even be open next week.

These are Timmy's books that he brought home from the school library, a heavy duty book about heroin. We had some discussions about that topic and then some light-hearted books about how to be a genius and then a joke book.

Yeah for Fancy Nancy! Molly is reading Nancy Clancy. She has all of the Fancy Nancy books and it just makes perfect sense to release Fancy Nancy's first chapter book now since all these little girls that have been with Nancy from the very beginning are now ready for chapter books. If you notice in the top right-hand corner it says Book 1. Molly is excited that this will be a series.

A quick trip down memory lane...for Molly's 4th birthday we had a Fancy Nancy Party.

After reading The Fourth Stall and The Fourth Stall Part II, Ryan is now reading the two latest Stink books. They may be below his reading level at this point but he has read them all and was happy to see the newest ones. Characters in books can be like old friends and it's so nice to go back and visit with them every once in a while.

 This is the grown up book I'm reading right now, The Storytelling Animal

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