Posts Tagged ‘Reading’

The Apprentice Becomes the Master

So for years now, I’ve used a technique I call “Audiobooks for the Captive Audience” to introduce my kids to new books while we’re in the car and they can’t escape.

Mark has turned my strategy against me.

He’s playing a book in the car that makes my ears hurt and my soul feel like it is being rubbed across a cheese grater.

I have a high tolerance for adaptations, and a reasonable tolerance for allusions to / inspiration from other books.  I have no tolerance for flat-up imitations.

The book he’s forcing into my head, much like an ice pick, is basically a retelling of The Hobbit.   He knows this.  This is WHY HE THINKS I SHOULD LIKE IT.

There are four books in this series.


My (Future?) Irish Castle

Mark:  “When I am grown-up and a millionaire, what would you like me to buy you, Mom?”

Me:  “I don’t know.  I always thought Anne McCaffrey’s author’s bio sounded pretty awesome.  “Anne McCaffery lives and works in a renovated castle in Ireland.'”

Mark:  “So you want a castle in Ireland?”

Me:  “Sounds good.  So you’ll buy me one when you’re grown up and rich?”

Mark waves a dismissive hand.  “Of course not.  I’m going to get rich from my TIME MACHINE.  I’ll just go BACK IN TIME, build you a CASTLE, and then it’ll BE HERE now.”

On a related note, his homework this week…

The book he’d chosen to read was The Magic Schoolbus in the Time of the Dinosaurs.  The question he chose to answer was “Is this realistic fiction?”

His paragraph began:  “No.  Kids can’t go back in time to visit the dinosaurs.  Until I grow up and invent a time machine…”

Low Opinion of Me

Me (looking through a giant pile of school papers):  “Oh, look, there’s a poem you wrote, Mark.  And a something about Frog and Toad.  Come tell me what they say.  I can’t read them.”

Mark (incredulous):  “You can’t READ?”

Me:  “I can read JUST FINE.  I can’t make out parts of your handwriting.”

Mark:  “Oh.”

Mark and the OED

Mark is busily teaching himself to read.  He’s had some help from preschool, especially the new M-W-F preschool at the neighborhood Catholic school, where they’re teaching the kids the alphabet with the same anthropomorphic balloon letters from when I was in kindergarten.  Each letter has an obvious feature related to its  name and sound (C wears a cap, A says ‘Achoo’, etc.)  They also each have their own little song.  Can’t wait till he gets to F–I remember that song (“I am Mister F.  And I’ve got funny feet, funny feet, funny feet.  Mister F, that is I!”)  and it will be hilarious to whip that out on him.

Anyway, with the help of preschool and his Leap Frog Fridge phonics set, Mark’s having discovery-based reading practice.  The Fridge phonics thingy holds three letters and if the word you assemble is a) real and b) not dirty, it will sound it out.  So this morning he poses this head-scratcher to me:  “I want to make a word where the first letter is G and the next letter is N.  What should the third letter be?”

Me:  “Well, gnu is a word.  That’s an animal kind of like an antelope.  Put ‘u’ as the last letter.”

He does.  “It didn’t say it,” I hear him mutter.  “That’s not a real word!” he hollers accusatively.

Me:  “Yes it is.  Come with me.”

We go to the office.  I have a compact OED.  We approach the hallowed tome, Mark on a chair to see because OF COURSE it’s kept on a high shelf.

“This, ” I say, “is a book that has ALL the words.”  We look up ‘gnu.’  “See it?”

“Oh, wow!” he says.

“Now you are smarter than the talking word box.”

“Oh, wow!”

Problem:  now he’s obsessed with learning words that the talking word box DOESN’T know.  “Can I borrow your big book?” he asks.

“No!”  I am adamant.  Luckily we have a children’s dictionary.

“Emu!”  He crows.  “It doesn’t know ’emu’!”

The Scrabble dictionary also, thank goodness, has a list of obscure three letter words.

Apparently the teaching-himself-to-read project is going well.  I was helping Kate with her homework last week.  “Here you’re supposed to list the spelling words that end in…” I pause, to let her sound it out.

Mark peeks over her shoulder.  “At.”

Kate:  “I knew that!  I just hadn’t SAID it yet.”

Mark:  “Hfpm.”

Hero Worship

Mark has discovered Beowulf and The Red Cross Knight.  Dragons, swords, arms being ripped off, deadly peril…what more could a little boy ask for?

If you dare plant your butt in a chair in our house these days, Mark will be at your elbow the next instant with the Beowulf retelling in one hand and the Faerie Queen retelling in the other.  “Weed to me,” he begs.

It’s pretty rewarding to ‘weed’ these books to him.

“Oh, wow,” he breathes at the bottom of every page.  I didn’t know eyes could get that big.

He’s shocked and thrilled by the ripping off of Grendel’s arm, the revenge of his mother, Beowulf’s trip into the deep, the Red Cross Knight’s three battles with the dragon and his various healings, and stabbing the dragon through the mouth.  “Oh, wow.”  He’s outraged at Wiglaf’s craven compatriots and the fools who wonder if the Red Cross Knight’s dragon is actually dead.

At the end:  “_I_ will kill a dragon now.”

The Red Cross Knight’s version of a dragon battle is clearly preferable:  “I fell in a healing pool!”  he calls.

In addition to not dying, the Red Cross Knight gets to marry Una, a not-irrelevant consideration.

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