04 July 2013

A Reading Brainwave (creating lil Brain Surgeons?)

Have you heard the story of Ben Carson - the first surgeon to ever successfully separate Siamese twins joined at the head?
Ben was the son of a single mother, living in a rough neighbourhood, failing at school.
His mama - who could only read to third grade level herself - was concerned that her boys were going to end up as statistics, and being a praying mama she got on her knees and the answer she got turned her boys' lives around.
Reading was the answer. She set her boys the task of reading two books each week and then writing her a book report. Never mind she could barely read the report, she knew she had to get her boys reading.
That simple plan took Ben from being the bottom of the class to being the world's top pediatric brain surgeon.

Reading this story, my husband was inspired.
He'd been worried for a while about lack of homework and a general propensity for mooching around. The gravitational pull of electronic devices needed to be offset with some good old-fashioned page turning.
"I want to try this with our kids," he said to me.

Being a book lover and knowing the value of reading for myself, of course I was right on board.
So we made a plan and announced it to the kids.

Each Friday we celebrate the end of the week with "Icecream Friday".
Hubby's cunning plan was to incorporate this beloved ritual into our new Book Plan. Now on a Friday we would go straight from school to the Library, where the kids would choose a book to read within one week.
THEN we get icecream.
The deadline for book reports is Thursday night. After a nice family dinner, the kids will take turns presenting their reports to us all.

[Scrag can now tell you ALL ABOUT SNAKES]

There was groaning and some consternation when we revealed the plan to our offspring.
It sounded like too much work.
"But you only have to read ONE book and write ONE report," Dad said. He was going far easier on them than Ben Carson's mum did - they should be glad about that, right?!
And then I reminded them that Ben and his brother did this project all.by.themselves. Their mum didn't chase them up or nag them or take them to the library - they did all that themselves.
Stunned silence as our kids imagined such paragons of obedience.

Later: The cutest thing. A tearful Scrag came up to me and said, "But mummy I am too little to get myself to the library. I am only FIVE?!"
"Don't worry," I assured him, "I'll be taking you to the library and helping you... I didn't mean you had to do it all yourself!" Awwwww.

[Off to soccer. NOTE: *book under arm*]
Friday arrived, 3pm. We piled in the car and headed to the Library, where Daddy was meeting us for our inaugural Library Club visit.
Scrag was excited to be getting his very own Library Card. He picked three books: Scary Snakes, Endangered Tigers and Chewbacca -The Clone Wars (and has now memorised dozens of previously unknown facts about snakes).

Dash had a friend over and quickly selected three random books in order to optimise playing time.

Miss Fab was being ambitious. She had spied Lauren Child's version of Pippi Longstocking, a 200+ page tome which her dad was having doubts about. Not usually much of a reader, could she actually get through this book in just one week?

[Miss Fab LOVES Lauren Child - and so do I]

Well, she has sure given it a good go.
Tonight is Book Report night and Miss Fab has read two-thirds of it (Dad made a deal for reading half of it since it was so big - she has exceeded his requirements).
Not only that, but she has enjoyed every minute of it.
She has fallen in love with the character of Pippi, entranced by Lauren Child's fabulous illustrative style.
She has engaged with a childhood classic, to the point that she was taking the book with her wherever she went.
There was my Rather Reluctant Reader walking along the street with her nose stuck in a book. Walking and reading...

It remains to be seen how the presentations will go, but with me and hubby on the same page, doing this together, I think we may actually be successful at integrating this new plan into our weekly rhythm, rather than it being just a one-off.

Friday = Library Day + Icecream
Thursday = Book Report night
Every evening the kids go off to bed to read their books.

Brilliant plan, Mr G.
They may not end up as Brain Surgeons like Ben Carson, but they are certain to benefit from the wealth of knowledge that comes from being avid readers.

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