The big ones needed a boost in reading, I felt, and maybe a goal towards which they could work. As long as the goals are not imposed on them arbitrarily, my kids really like working towards something. They like to "win." So when I saw a certain movie for sale on netflix, one I'd wanted for the kids for Christmas but could not find, I was tempted to buy it. Five dollars! Voluntary simplicity doesn't really allow for that kind of thing two weeks after gluttonfest, so I really couldn't. Until......those two ideas came together.
So, our January Readathon came into being. I wasn't really sure whether the kids would "get it," or even if they would care, but get it they did. I told them that if we read fifty books within a certain time frame, they would get a chocolate cake screening party of this movie as their reward. (FA homeschool homies, if you want in, I will send you my super-groovy checklist and make room on the couch!)
I Am Nerd though, and before we began our evening reading tonight, I laid out some ground rules. It doesn't matter this time who reads the book, as long as they are really reading it. It doesn't matter if all the children are present when we read the books, given our set up here, a collaborative count is just fine. Because it is collaborative, we will count chapter books and nearly-picture books the same for this go-round. There will be no midnight waking of the parents to present a freshly consumed pile of books. We have a clipboard on which we write the title and author of the books we've read, and who was present when we read it. But most important to me, before we began, I asked Girlie what she thought we would "win" if we finished 50 books in a week.
Smart girlie. She knew I wasn't asking about cake. (Although that is what the N-man bellowed happily from the side of the bed!)
"We'll know more words," she said, "and we'll get lots of practice reading!" She sounded downright excited. Then she launched into this explanation of how she's been spending her reading time. She sounds out some books, then reads them to the point of memorization. She told me that she uses those books to help her in her writing, when she doesn't know how to spell a word or in other books where she's trying to figure out a new word. (I guess I should reintroduce the dictionary to her :p .)
This sparkle, this independence! I knew she was reading on her own a lot more than I actively saw. The child wrote and illustrated a book for me for Christmas, (plot arc and all!), even made a hardcover out of cardboard. I have noticed her writing skills really shining (remember this??), but I don't press her for what / how much. I really don't quantify my children's gains as much as I check them off on my own tally sheets as I notice them. This evening I saw both of them clamoring not only for the time we spend reading together, but to actually get at the literature. My girl was a late reader, in my eyes, and this love for reading is what I have been desperately craving to see.
N-man is ahead, were I to compare the two. At his age, she was not where is with phonics. I think he'll take to reading like I did, and be truly literate before his 6th birthday. He also had a few surprises tonight. I told him during a private moment that he is ready to read, and that if he wants help sounding things out I will work with him as much as he wants. I think he thinks he'll have to wait to read when she did.
I stopped after 45 minutes, during which I had taken turns reading the stories, gotten completely booted off narration duty altogether for some of them ("I want to do this one!"). I told them we could do lots more tomorrow, and reiterated to G that anything she read on her own would count, but to WAIT until morning to show me the titles. She bolted to her room and came back with four more early readers and belted them out just to squeeze in some more. (As I wrote this, she sent two more down the hall with her Dad to report.)
I really initiated this as a means for me to give them something more, to give a little something extra to the winter homeschool thing. But it certainly turned out to be quite the opposite. I am pretty heart-happy right now, and I am not ashamed to admit it.