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Finishing a read-aloud...or not

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Do you always make an attempt to "finish what you start" in terms of read-alouds? I ordered a bunch of the Sonlight read alouds for my first grade son. We are totally slogging through A Year of Miss Agnes. There isn't anything awful about the book itself. I am enjoying it well enough, but my son is not clicking with the book at all. How do you guys handle read alouds that your kids just aren't getting into?

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I think engagement is needed for learning.

I would finish a short book with flagging engagement, and then try to do something afterward that is more engaging.  

I do also put books down.  

But the principle I have decided on is that my purpose is engagement and learning, it’s not getting through a book just to get through it.  

Edit:  the flip side is I think exposure is needed, kids don’t always know they will like something, something can be worthwhile even if it’s not the child’s first choice.  I don’t have a big “child-led” philosophy.  But I think engagement is really important.  Also something can be a lot better fit after a few months or after a year.  Why not focus on things that are currently a good fit.  

Edit:  also there is an opportunity cost.  What are the books that he might enjoy right now, but be a little past in a few months or a year.  It is a missed chance for those books.  But I don’t think continuing a book here and there is a problem at all.  If it was this situation with almost every book, I think it would be a problem.  

Edited by Lecka
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I think it depends how far into the book you are.  There have been a few that we've done that were total slogs at the beginning but definitely picked up his interest around the middle.  Others, we've set aside for another day.  I remember trying to interest my youngest in Pippi Longstocking.  He wasn't having it.  It's been a few years so I picked it back up off his shelf a few weeks ago to give it another go.  Turns out that sometime between when I put it down to when I picked it up again, he read the whole thing and the sequels next to it.  And......didn't love them. ?  But he was interested enough to wonder what happened next so he kept going.

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My general guideline is to read 50 pages or one quarter of a shorter novel.  If neither child is interested in the book, we move on to something else.   I do wonder, however, if this is your son's first chapter book read aloud.  If so, I would drop this title immediately and move on to something more engaging.  A Year of Miss Agnes'  intended audience is ages 8-12.  Your son's disengagement could be an indication that he isn't ready for the book.  In a year or two, he could love it.  Or he could be like my oldest son and just not like the historical fiction genre.  At that age my son much preferred non-fiction.  He loved the You Wouldn't Want to be ... series.

 

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Read alouds, especially for young kids, need to be engaging for them. Not all kids are ready for chapter book read alouds at 5 - 6 years old, but almost all will enjoy a good picture book. There are so many wonderful picture books out there with richer story lines than beginner chapter books like Mercy Watson.

We had several false starts with chapter books until we came upon a chapter book that kept my 5 year old's attention. His first read aloud chapter book ended up being "Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows". Now he will sit and listen to most chapter books and audiobooks that are at a 2 - 3 grade reading level and comprehend the story on his own. 4th grade reading level and up tend to be to complex and vocabulary dense for him right now. The Year of Miss Agnes would definitely be over his head right now and I wouldn't have any problem putting it away for later and picking something at a little lower level for him.

ETA: Even though we are beginning to read aloud chapter books, we still read tons and tons of picture books at his age and will continue to do so through out elementary school.

Edited by sweet2ndchance
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We usually finish them, but we have dropped one or two.  Time is too precious - and there are too many great books out there that we'll never have time to read together.  Maybe put it in a "save for later" pile in case it clicks in a year or two.  But some books are never going to click with every child.

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There are lots of other books. If it is teaching something that you specially like, maybe there's another one about the same topic that is more interesting.

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It depends on the book, but yes I've dropped books that nobody is enjoying. If I really think the book is worth finishing then I'll put it on audio book in the car.

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I can only remember one that we dropped—Ginger Pye.  I thought it was the worst, most boring read-aloud ever! Most other books we have generally loved. I would definitely drop a book if we hated it, but push through if I felt it had merit. FWIW, we loved The Year of Miss Agnes.

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I remember one that we dropped. We tried reading it for 2 or 3 days and I could tell he was just not understanding it or following the story at all. The Trumpeter of Krakow. He needs a few more years before we revisit that one, I think.

Sometimes he loves a book, sometimes he won't love it but he wont complain when it is time to read it. And sometimes, with the second category, he ends up enjoying it 3/4 of the way through.

If he's not complaining about it, I'd keep reading it. Especially since you are enjoying it. He might catch your enthusiasm for it and start to enjoy the book too.

 

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I'm struggling with this too.  We have been reading The Bronze Bow, and started before school.  The kids were slow to get into it, and we are about half way through.  The problem is, I just kept reading it one day after they went outside.  I don't love the ending and want to read something else.  Haven't read it for more than a week.  I've been reading aloud from another book, but they asked about The Bronze Bow a couple days ago.  I'm not sure what to tell them.  I might just ask if we can read something different and see what they do.  My daughter will certainly say no.

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We’ve been doing the wrinkle in time series this year and it’s definitely going downhill!  The first book was fairly gripping but by book four we are struggling.  We are definitely finishing this one but I’m debating whether we attempt 5 or give up.

Im inclined to power through but really there is so many good books there’s no real reason to. 

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Give yourself the freedom to ditch any read-aloud that isn't working for your family.  There are just so many wonderful books out there to chose from. The only caveat I would give would be that some books are better through audiobook because of dialect etc, but some books are just not a good fit and that is completely okay.   

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I'm always trying to drill in the idea that especially with classics, sometimes the book is rather dry early on while the characters and plot are being established. If you push through, eventually it pays off later because so often those boring beginnings set up an even more complex plot and in-depth characters than books that are exciting from the beginning. This proves true more often than not.

BUT... occasionally there is that NOT. I usually make us suffer for quite a while before giving up, though, due to my aforementioned position on sticking out books that start out slow. Books we did eventually drop are Hans Brinker, Swiss Family Robinson*, and War of the Worlds. (I would have dropped Wind in the Willows like a hot potato had my then-7yo only asked; however, he was enthralled. He denies this now). 

I pushed through Treasure Island because *I* was enjoying it, and in hindsight I wish I had dropped that one too. Not because it wasn't a good book, but because I think my ds just wasn't ready for it, and now he's soured. He'll never pick it up and read it now, even though he is now old enough to enjoy it. 

*As a side note... a friend recommended to us The Long Vacation by Jules Verne as a more enjoyable "shipwrecked" themed story, and I agree. We loved that one.

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If you are "totally slogging through" it with a first grader then my vote is to stop and try to find something that he would particularly like. I can't really think of any good reason to stick with it at his age.

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