Friday, January 7, 2011

A Lesson from the Two Sisters

This was written by The 2 Sisters in their weekly email, which I receive, and it struck a chord with me because I have certainly done this to my students.  What a wonderful opportunity for me to reflect on my own reading program.

Are Our Tasks Related to Reading Worthy of the Treasure Tub?

All three of our girls were home for a few days during the holidays.  What a special time we had reconnecting, playing games, cooking, eating and even cleaning out their old bedroom closets.  Old clothes were tossed, traded and made fun of.   Books and music were sorted through.  Then each girl pulled out their large plastic treasure tub filled with sacred mementos from grades K-12. 

Our oldest daughter fished out a stack of worksheets that caught my eye.  When she passed them over I discovered they were supplementary ditto's to be used in conjunction with reading The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner.  It was an impressive little tome of comprehension questions, word searches, vocabulary to be defined, crossword puzzles, etc....and a note on top in her teacher's neat handwriting that said, "I hope your work on this packet will encourage you to read more Boxcar Books." 

So I had to ask, "Did you read more of that series?"  Her immediate reply was an enhanced grimace, "Never read another one!"  The worksheets were tossed in the recycle bin...and the work, which she didn't value then or now, had the exact opposite effect of the one her teacher had intended. 

My friend's children read every book in the series and had many adventures with neighbors in the backyard playing Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny.  They endeavored to solve mystery after mystery, whether in text or in play. Of course, they were never asked to do a "packet".  

My poor girl had to look up furious, handkerchief, and clothespin and use them all in a sentence. She had to unscramble words like railroad, merchant and clues.  No wonder she never read another one. 

If we want the next generation to love reading for gaining knowledge and providing entertainment, we have to be careful about the tasks we demand they do around books.  Do we have well intentioned supplementary materials that are robbing our students of the joy of books?

What will your students...and ours....find in their treasure tubs 20 years from now? 

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