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wendyroo

Kids doing "Independent" Literature Together?

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My oldest two boys are 7.5 and almost 10.  They are both strong, advanced decoders (easily decoding words at 8th and 10th grade levels respectively), but they are very reluctant to read longer books with fewer pictures.  They happily choose to free read for 2-3 hours each day, but they stick to graphic novels and books written well below their reading level (honestly, it is twaddle through and through).  We do listen to a lot of audiobooks as a family, so they are hearing sophisticated language and stories, but I still think it is important for them to practice actually reading some more challenging books themselves as well.

Up until now, I have filled a bin for each of the boys with books that I think would stretch them a bit - normally not at challenging reading levels, but longer books than they would choose, with fewer pictures and deeper story lines.   They choose books, read a couple of chapters each morning, and discuss them with me while I fix breakfast.  Recently, though, I have started to contemplate having them both read the same book at the same time.  I'm wondering if this would work just as well, or perhaps even better.

Logistically, it would obviously be easier for me to only have to read and discuss one book with both of them (especially now that my third son is reading chapter books that I want to find time to discuss with him as well).  I also wonder if they might both be more engaged and comfortable (and motivated) discussing the books all three of us together rather than one on one with me.  Often I'll ask something like "What is one word you would use to describe this character?" and the boys, especially my oldest who has autism, look at me like a deer in the headlights.  Sometimes it feels like the "discussions" end up being between me, myself and I.

Does anyone have any experience to share?

Thanks!

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My experience with having multiple children reading the same book is that unless I have multiple copies of the same book, I must assign reading times to each child.  Otherwise, they squabble over whose turn it is to have the book.  Since I don't want to buy multiple copies of books and our public library's collection is not dependable, I assign each child a different book from the same booklist.  When he finishes that book, it is available to be assigned to his brother.    

Our discussions are more along the lines of "tell me about this book."  My goal is to expose my children to a broader selection of reading material.  Given full control, they would be content to read and re-read books by just a handful of authors.

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Exactly what Sherry said with regards to having only one copy of a book.  I assign them one at a time so there is no fighting over the book.  

If we have the book on Kindle, then they both read it at the same time, and so do I.  I call this "book club" and we all think it's fun.  My kids sometimes put books on MY booklist to read, which is how I ended up reading Holes (now one of my aboslute faves!) and all 5 book in the Gregor the Overlander series.  When they choose the book and make ME read it, the discussion is probably even better than when it goes the other way around.  They are constantly over my shoulder, "Which part are you at?  What do you think will happen next? Which character do you think is most like so-and-so?"  LOL.  

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20 minutes ago, Sherry in OH said:

My experience with having multiple children reading the same book is that unless I have multiple copies of the same book, I must assign reading times to each child.  Otherwise, they squabble over whose turn it is to have the book.  Since I don't want to buy multiple copies of books and our public library's collection is not dependable, I assign each child a different book from the same booklist.  When he finishes that book, it is available to be assigned to his brother.    

This wouldn't really be a problem here.  Our library system is fantastic; I could easily check out 2 copies (or 10) of just about any well-known children's book I wanted.  I also don't really mind buying 2 (used) copies of good books.

Since each of the boys would have their own copy of the book, I would stick to the schedule we currently use.  They would each read two chapters as soon as they came down in the morning, and then we would immediately sit and discuss them while I made breakfast.

Wendy

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6 minutes ago, Monica_in_Switzerland said:

If we have the book on Kindle, then they both read it at the same time, and so do I.  I call this "book club" and we all think it's fun.  My kids sometimes put books on MY booklist to read, which is how I ended up reading Holes (now one of my aboslute faves!) and all 5 book in the Gregor the Overlander series.  When they choose the book and make ME read it, the discussion is probably even better than when it goes the other way around.  They are constantly over my shoulder, "Which part are you at?  What do you think will happen next? Which character do you think is most like so-and-so?"  LOL.  

That book club atmosphere is what I am aiming for.

I would love for them to choose the books for book club, but at this point they wouldn't even know where to start.  They would rather re-re-re-re-read an insipid, repetitive Lego easy reader book rather than tackle anything of literary value.

Wendy

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I think your book club idea is fantastic, but I just wanted to say not to be too worried if your kids still like twaddle. My DD was perfectly capable of reading and understanding The Hobbit out loud with me but chose those stupid *&^^*#^#&%* rainbow fairy books with pictures in them every. single. time. we went to the library for years. She still checks them out periodically, but she also reads Harry Potter and Eragon and other more age appropriate books in her free time. I wouldn't worry about it. I also choose to read twaddle a lot in my spare time, even though I'm capable of reading Dante's Inferno for my high schoolers' literature class 🙂

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16 minutes ago, Momto5inIN said:

I think your book club idea is fantastic, but I just wanted to say not to be too worried if your kids still like twaddle. My DD was perfectly capable of reading and understanding The Hobbit out loud with me but chose those stupid *&^^*#^#&%* rainbow fairy books with pictures in them every. single. time. we went to the library for years. She still checks them out periodically, but she also reads Harry Potter and Eragon and other more age appropriate books in her free time. I wouldn't worry about it. I also choose to read twaddle a lot in my spare time, even though I'm capable of reading Dante's Inferno for my high schoolers' literature class 🙂

Thank you for the reassurance.  I am trying very hard not to worry about it, and I certainly don't plan to curtail their free reading choices, but I feel a lot more comfortable when I am ensuring they spend at least a little time each day reading real literature.  I figure if they spend 15 minutes a day reading a book that stretches and challenges them, then hopefully in the future when a longer book does pique their interest, they will be able to tackle it without being immediately overwhelmed and demoralized.

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The books we read together that I discuss with my kids at the same time usually ends up with the same kid leading the discussion every time. 

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7 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

Thank you for the reassurance.  I am trying very hard not to worry about it, and I certainly don't plan to curtail their free reading choices, but I feel a lot more comfortable when I am ensuring they spend at least a little time each day reading real literature.  I figure if they spend 15 minutes a day reading a book that stretches and challenges them, then hopefully in the future when a longer book does pique their interest, they will be able to tackle it without being immediately overwhelmed and demoralized.

And don't forget ... they're young. They have immature brains, so naturally they are going to like immature stories. It doesn't mean they can't/won't appreciate better stories, but Lego stories are cool when you're 7 and 10! They just are. Since you are reading quality stuff with them every day, as their brains mature they will naturally develop more of a taste for that more sophisticated language and gravitate towards it. No worries!

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17 minutes ago, MistyMountain said:

The books we read together that I discuss with my kids at the same time usually ends up with the same kid leading the discussion every time. 

I'm actually kind of counting on this.  My 7 year old just naturally "gets" people and stories much better than my 9 year old with ASD.  When I am trying to have even rudimentary discussions about books with my 9 year old they quickly wither and die or become me just asking and answering my own questions.  I'm hoping that even if the 7 year old and I are carrying the brunt of the discussion (and really, I'm not aiming for Discussion with a capital D, but just casual sharing of ideas about our favorite parts, why we think characters acted certain ways, if we would like to live where the story took place, etc), that the 9 year old will benefit just from listening in.

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12 hours ago, wendyroo said:

That book club atmosphere is what I am aiming for.

I would love for them to choose the books for book club, but at this point they wouldn't even know where to start.  They would rather re-re-re-re-read an insipid, repetitive Lego easy reader book rather than tackle anything of literary value.

Wendy

 

7 and 9 (and boys and ASD) are still VERY young.  If you end up getting the Center for Lit materials, especially the Teaching the Classics DVDs, they will teach you how to have a fantastic book discussion even about a picture book or a Lego book... anything that has a semi-coherent storyline can be discussed.  They suggest strongly to always start with a very easy picture book, so that you are separating the challenge of reading/comprehension from the challenge of analysis.

- Who is the protagonist?

- What is the conflict?

- Where is the climax?

- How is it resolved?

 

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They would rather re-re-re-re-read an insipid, repetitive Lego easy reader book rather than tackle anything of literary value.

 

Sometimes kids get more from those mass extruded booklike products than adults suspect! Just because a child can technically, say, read at a college level in the third grade (as a random, non-specific example that has nothing to do with yours truly) it doesn't mean that they'll get much out of tackling The Prince and the Pauper, no matter how much their parents would rather they read that instead yet another rehash of the BSC 1: Kristy's Great Idea.

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19 hours ago, wendyroo said:

 They choose books, read a couple of chapters each morning, and discuss them with me while I fix breakfast.  Recently, though, I have started to contemplate having them both read the same book at the same time.  I'm wondering if this would work just as well, or perhaps even better.

 

You can still do both! 

We always have a family novel going. Two, actually, but only one during sit-down school time. When I had a 9 and a 7/8 year old together, some days it was a picture book instead of a novel. I happen to be particularly adept at driving discussions among different levels of "getting it" but sometimes we use a literature guide, too. This past Autumn we read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe together and used the MP lit guide (because I don't really like TLTLATW so I was half checked-out. They loved the book, naturally lol) aloud, doing some of the extra activities in their notebooks. It went splendidly. 

They still read on their own every day from the shelf of choices I present to them and give me a narration from that reading, which sometimes leads to conversations and sometimes doesn't. Not every book has a tonne going on in every single chapter or set of pages. 

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Asking my kids to write or draw something first - basically to reflect before the discussion - always helped immensely. I think there's this sense that orally is easier for kids, but I don't think that's always true. There can be a panic moment when kids are asked to suddenly reply to a big question. Forcing them to do some reflection beforehand can help. If writing is too much then something like drawing their favorite scene or moment from the book. And I agree that you want to start with very concrete questions. They seem boring to us, but to young kids, they're tough. Once you've established those concretes, then you can move to abstractions, but you don't always want to get too abstract - especially not with really young kids (and sometimes the same is true for kids on the Spectrum). You want to try to move to things like "what would you do/what do you think" and not "what's the grand meaning of this."

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26 minutes ago, Farrar said:

You want to try to move to things like "what would you do/what do you think" and not "what's the grand meaning of this."

If you don't mind, I have a spin-off question about this.  Do you do anything if their answers are "wrong"? 

For example, I recently read Charlotte's Web aloud again; my oldest heard it 3 years ago and now I put it back in the line up primarily for my younger two.  Afterward, we were all talking about Wilbur's feelings at the end of the story.  My oldest couldn't come up with any emotion that Wilbur might be feeling, so I asked the more concrete question, "Did he want the baby spiders to stay or go?"  Really, either answer could be supported, so I just wanted to see what he connected with.  He said Wilbur wanted them to stay, so I followed that up with, "why do you think he wanted that?"  He answered that Wilbur was hoping the baby spiders would write him more messages.  

I suppose that is a possibility, but it seemed to be missing the main idea of the story...and that main idea is not exactly oblique, it is pretty much laid right out there.  In my shoes, would you have let it go with a "that is an interesting thought!" or asked more questions trying to nudge him toward the "right" answer or modeled your thinking process or ???.

Thanks.

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40 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

If you don't mind, I have a spin-off question about this.  Do you do anything if their answers are "wrong"? 

For example, I recently read Charlotte's Web aloud again; my oldest heard it 3 years ago and now I put it back in the line up primarily for my younger two.  Afterward, we were all talking about Wilbur's feelings at the end of the story.  My oldest couldn't come up with any emotion that Wilbur might be feeling, so I asked the more concrete question, "Did he want the baby spiders to stay or go?"  Really, either answer could be supported, so I just wanted to see what he connected with.  He said Wilbur wanted them to stay, so I followed that up with, "why do you think he wanted that?"  He answered that Wilbur was hoping the baby spiders would write him more messages.  

I suppose that is a possibility, but it seemed to be missing the main idea of the story...and that main idea is not exactly oblique, it is pretty much laid right out there.  In my shoes, would you have let it go with a "that is an interesting thought!" or asked more questions trying to nudge him toward the "right" answer or modeled your thinking process or ???.

Thanks.

I would correct something that was outright wrong. That's - as you say - a bit less clear. One of my boys is a little like this - he always wanted to say the thing he liked or thought was most interesting. He had trouble distinguishing between that and the thing that was actually the main idea/character/point. I had to isolate and teach that as a specific skill. Narration was not useful for teaching it because it was too much about him constructing his own meaning from a passage/story. That he thought his own view was paramount was sort of the problem. He needed to understand that there is an objective "main idea" to a short paragraph. He would be caught in some little detail about ice in a page about penguins. The ice fact is not the main idea just because you found it to be the most interesting part. Making that distinction was really difficult for him at a young age. We used a bunch of cheap workbooks and very short passages. Once it was broken down, he got it.

I think we have to be careful not to ask too many questions with pre-ordained answered in a book discussion. "What would you do?" or "Who was your favorite?" or whatever doesn't have a pre-ordained answer. "Did the character do this or that?" does. I'm not always brilliant at that either - it's hard to avoid sometimes. I try to break the thing into two clear pieces. First, there's the check to make sure a student got all the important points. Did they understand the plot, the characters, the setting? When possible, I like to do this ahead of time with an organizer or something. But also, we can fill it out together at the start. What was the climax? Who was the protagonist? Etc. Then, the second part is truly open ended. What made the story exciting? What do you think the lesson was? There aren't wrong answers to that. And if an answer is "weird" then that's okay, you let it go. You give your answer or perspective but let it be your own, even if you think it's more informed.

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3 hours ago, wendyroo said:

If you don't mind, I have a spin-off question about this.  Do you do anything if their answers are "wrong"? 

For example, I recently read Charlotte's Web aloud again; my oldest heard it 3 years ago and now I put it back in the line up primarily for my younger two.  Afterward, we were all talking about Wilbur's feelings at the end of the story.  My oldest couldn't come up with any emotion that Wilbur might be feeling, so I asked the more concrete question, "Did he want the baby spiders to stay or go?"  Really, either answer could be supported, so I just wanted to see what he connected with.  He said Wilbur wanted them to stay, so I followed that up with, "why do you think he wanted that?"  He answered that Wilbur was hoping the baby spiders would write him more messages.  

I suppose that is a possibility, but it seemed to be missing the main idea of the story...and that main idea is not exactly oblique, it is pretty much laid right out there.  In my shoes, would you have let it go with a "that is an interesting thought!" or asked more questions trying to nudge him toward the "right" answer or modeled your thinking process or ???.

Thanks.

That is probably a function of his ASD. It may seem less explicit in the text than you think.

 

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1 hour ago, Chris in VA said:

That is probably a function of his ASD. It may seem less explicit in the text than you think.

 

Yes, I am sure it has to do with his ASD...in some ways that makes it harder for me.

If my 5 year old gives an outlandish suggestion as to a character's motivation, I can chuckle to myself and write it off as immaturity.  I can be confident that as he gains more life experience he will fine tune his analysis.

It feels very different when my oldest completely misreads a character.  While the misconceptions come up as part of a study of literature, they are also important facets of social skills.  And while I'm not overly invested in "correcting" unusual literature answers, I do think it is very important to seize on opportunities to strengthen his social thinking.  

It leaves me questioning myself a lot.  Let his "unusual" answers stand because grossly misinterpreting a character's motivation doesn't really matter in the greater scheme of things.  Or, nudge, nudge, nudge until he stumbles upon the "right" answer because a fundamental understanding of why people do what they do is way more important than any academic skills in the greater scheme of things.

Wendy

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