This post is about Jacob. Some folks know — some folks don’t — that Jacob has been our more reluctant reader ever since he learned to read. His little brother plows through books pretty quickly, while Jacob reads more slowly and more deliberately.
Jacob had been sticking to book series that are heavier on the illustrations: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, Origami Yoda, Adventures of Tin Tin, etc. Timmy loves those books also, but had no problem reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series while in 1st grade. Having Jacob read every day for school had been a challenge. In 3rd grade he had to set reading goals and it was pretty tough working with him to meet those goals.
This really got to me. Probably unreasonably so. I have been an avid reader, I come from a family of avid readers. I married an avid reader. My sister and I STILL have a semblance of a mini-book club if you will, having Facebook conversations about recent books we’ve read together. Dave told me — rightfully so — that I might have been pretty hard on Jacob for not wanting to read all the time. I just didn’t get it…
I never thought that Jacob was having trouble reading, nor was his reading comprehension a problem. His disdain was related to the Accelerated Reader testing program, where students take comprehension tests for grades. Students here set quarterly goals with their teachers, and their ability to meet those goals tie in to their grades. Those grades, combined with the quality/quantity of books (i.e. # of books, # of words, difficulty levels of the books) would turn into a reading grade. Jacob met the requirements and got As in reading, but not without a lot of anxiety and frustration.
But when it was time for the kids to do their reading before bed, all through Jacob’s 3rd grade year, and in the beginning of 4th grade, Jacob would heave a sigh and come up with excuses.
This year Timmy decided to delve into the Harry Potter books. The books have been sitting in my bookcase for years — I bought and read each of the books as they were published. They yield the boys a LOT of Accelerated Reader (AR) points and they’re finally old enough to follow Rowling’s storytelling without getting overwhelmed by the tangents
Timmy is now on the 3rd book (Prisoner of Azkaban), and this weekend Jacob picked up the first one. As is typical in our house, if one son is accomplishing a task, the other son isn’t far behind. This despite their 2 1/2 years age difference.
Jacob read Sorcerer’s Stone in one weekend! On Monday he took the AR test and was proud of the 11.5 points (out of 12) that he earned! And immediately started on Chamber of Secrets. He wants to finish Chamber by Friday so he can take the test before the Thanksgiving break.
I’d never seen him read a non-illustrated book so quickly. Dave and I both lauded his enthusiasm and Jacob’s response was so…logical: “The faster I can read my books, the more I’ll remember when it’s time to test.”
Funny you mention that, Jacob. Last year he had cited that argument when he didn’t want to read longer books: “I won’t remember details at the beginning of the book at test time.”
The pride Jacob has in that first Harry Potter AR test seemed to have cracked the code. This week Jacob has been reading without us asking, he’s reading before school, while waiting for the bus, and is now doing this evening reading without prompting.
The statistics of accomplishing reading the entire series was appealing to him too. Jacob had seen that the entire Harry Potter series is over 200 AR points (Jacob’s goal for all of 4th grade will probably be around 175 points), and just over 1,000,000 words.
As the kids quickly work through the series, I am concerned with the age appropriateness of the later books in the series. After all, Rowling intended for the kids to gradually grow older as the books came out, in other words, her intended audiences were the same age as Harry for each of the books: age 11 for book 1, 18 in book 7. The intensity of the dark magic and themes of death become more pronounced. I don’t want to deny them the books if they end up reading Order of the Phoenix and later books this school year, but I promise to keep an eye on them and engage them in conversations about it.
Jacob and Timmy, we’re so proud of you both, particularly Jacob’s new love of literature!