You know how you can read something but it doesn't really sink in until you experience it?
I have read in a number of locations about young elementary children reading more and growing in their reading skills if they simply read books about topics that interest them. Sounds good, right? Maybe that works for some families...
Back in the fall Z would pick out books about large machinery, building projects, and space at the library. These topics interested him. However, most of these books were written far above his reading level. He couldn't even attempt most of the words. So I read them to him or he simply looked at the pictures. I began to think we would be in this 'beginning reader' stage forever. Maybe I just don't know what I am doing, I thought. After all, I didn't even know what the difference was between a vowel's long and short sound two years ago.
Then our history curriculum began taking us through the period of the Revolutionary War. Z really enjoyed this study. One night he even tried to rope his sisters into role playing a battle! I was thoroughly amused when he informed them that he was the English, they were the Americans and they better run. Later I asked him why he decided to be the English and he responded, "Because the English had a bigger army."
I began to notice him wanting to read more about the Revolution. I decided to pick up some beginning chapter books and just see what happened. He attacked these books! His reading jumped by leaps and bounds. He wanted to read the words, even if they looked big. And that gave him confidence. And that seems to be more than half the battle with him.
By everything I can find it appears that he catapulted from approximately first to third grade reading level in about three months.
He is devouring books on his own. Z now knows what it is like to anticipate the end to an exciting story. He is choosing to read in his free time. It is suddenly not work for him!
It is very rewarding as his teacher and parent to see this transition.
In the last week alone he has finished The Boxcar Children, a biography on Daniel Boone, Tornado by Betsy Byers, and begun Daniel's Duck by Clyde Bulla. As my mom told me recently, I am going to need to take a wagon to the library soon! And I won't be complaining!
For beginning readers on the Revolutionary War I we enjoyed:
Six Silver Spoons
Sam, the Minuteman
George, the drummer boy
18 Penny Goose
Buttons for General Washington