Monday, February 11, 2013

Raising a Bookworm

I’m a hopeless bookworm. So it's a given that my favorite subject to teach is literature. Perfectly natural for a bookworm. The question is, however, how do I raise a bookworm when the "worm" (and a cute one worm he is) I'm raising is dyslexic?

After all, my experiences with reading literature started early and are as much a part of me as my blue eyes and slightly freckled nose. 

When I was very young thing, I had a collection of those little abridged classics. My favorites were The Count of Monte Crisco and David Copperfield. My little brain could hardly comprehend the betrayal and subsequent revenge of Edmond Dantes. It was all so horrifying and deliciously awful. 

And I still get indignant when I think of the injustices in poor David Copperfield’s life. To keep up with my inquisitive little brain, my mom provided me with a tiny notebook to write down all the words that left me flummoxed.  Later we would sit down together and go through them. I wasn’t homeschooled. That was just something we did. 

I was soon reading everything in sight. As we had an extensive library (remind me to tell you sometime about the flood of ’80 and our public library haul) there were a few restrictions put on my reading habits. I couldn’t read any romance novel that was more than .25. Also, Mom took to marking out dirty words in books as she would read them…not knowing if it would one day find its way into my hands. I think she still does the same thing. I read something from her house not too long ago that had a few words blacked out. She’s still looking out for me. 

I imagined when I had children of my own that I would simply pass down the ragged copies of my beloved books. It would just be a repeat of my own bookish childhood. The reality was much different. I decided very early on that despite the challenges of dyslexia that Josiah would know and love the literature of my childhood (and more).  It is not hard as it seems.  

I have separated reading instruction from Literature. Make sense? The mechanics of reading are developed on their own.  I read everything else out loud or I take advantage of audio books.
Let’s talk about literature itself. The definition of literature (according to Merriam Webster) is as follows:

“writings in prose or verse; especially : writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest.”

That can be a whole lot of anything. And instead of assigning reading, Josiah and I read it together. This practice (I feel) shouldn’t be limited to just younger children who can’t read quite as well or children reading difficulties. 

 If your student is struggling to read. If your student doesn’t like to read. If you wish to spend more time together as a family. Start reading aloud. Fear not the classics or some of the older books. The language is beautiful. It is poetry. Your kids will learn. 

Rather than follow a specific literature curriculum at this point I’ve chosen to piece together methods and material that really ignites Josiah’s interests and stretches his imagination. 

A big mistake (in my humble opinion) that many modern educators make in teaching literature is that it is taught in excerpts. Most literature text books will introduce us to a literature work like Tom Sawyer.  We will read a snippet about his adventure in the cave with Becky. Talk that little adventure to death, fill in some fill-in-blanks and take a multiple choice test. The student has no opportunity to become invested in the character. 

 I once sat down in our public library and poured through the Middle School Literature Textbooks for our school district. I was doing some research for designing a writing course my nephew. It is very tempting to follow that model. After all, it sounds easy. 

But is it really educating in a meaningful way? 

I think that Literature should be enjoyed. It should take us places. It should make us wonder. It should cause us to think. Adventures happen between those pages. 

I want to give you a few of my favorite resources and tips. I can tell you that despite Josiah’s reading difficulties he loves our literature studies. 

Josiah took a picture of one our more recent book discovery trips. I try and avoid double buying too many. But there were a few here I just couldn't pass up.

 1. Start  building a reading library.
I always look at the thrift store bookshelves. Just the other day I found books for .25 a book.
Kindle is the bestest (I mean the bestest) resource in the whole wide world. I have so many wonderful classics on my kindle…for free!
Try  An Old-Fashioned Education for more free stuff! I have used several of their resources (particularly poetry anthologies)

 2. Just start reading. Worry not about the elements of literature. That will come with time. Begin narration. Have your kids talk about their favorite characters. Act out a favorite scene.

3.  Build a file of resources. 

_    Jimmie’sCollage has some wonderful free resources (plus a ebook you can purchase on building your own Language Arts Curriculum…I have it and love it)

_    Lapbooks! I like using Hands of a Child, Homeschool Share, Lapbook Lessons and Currclick for my ready made lapbooks. Some are free…some are purchased. 

_    I like using Teachers Pay Teachers or Teacher's Notebook. There are lots of inexpensive book studies (or free).  This one for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was great. is also a great resource for lit. studies.

_    Graphic Organizers. Very good for visual learners. I have several I use. Either from one of the teacher’s sites I listed above or from Busy Teachers Café.

4. To teach elements of a story use fairy tales. All of the elements are easy to characterize and there are always a multitude of versions to compare.

5. Lights, Camera, Movie!  We like to wrap our book study up with the movie version (if there is one). Of course, the book is always much better. But some of the movies are made very well. Netflix has been an invaluable resource!

6. Forget Not the Poets! I have a few anthologies of poetry I have found at the thrift store or online.

7.  I make a list of books periodically that I would like for us to read. Here is my book list for this year. I include books for study as well as books for bedtime reading. I make my lists according to what I love and some other lists of recommended books.

_    I found this list on the Web from a classical education Website. I printed off a copy and stuck it in my purse. You never know.

Now on to some of our favorites. 

Roald Dahl  - The link will take you to  Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, but we love all his books. They have been some of our favorites and very easy to read aloud.
The Chronicles of Narnia – favorites from my childhood. A brand spakin’ new set were part of Josiah’s Christmas presents this year.  (A  horse and his boy is usually the least likely to be read, but Josiah loved it)
Charlotte’s Web -  I used to read this to my class. We’ve read it more times than I can count.)
Ruby Holler – A sometimes unknown little treasure. I'm in love.

Little Britches: My Father and I Were Ranchers- considered one of the best family read alouds ever. 
Understood Betsy – Oh my goodness. Just a sweet, sweet story. 
TheWizard of Oz Series – Would you believe that Dorothy’s slippers were not ruby in the book? They were silver!
Mr. Popper’s Penguins – Just delightful.
Caddie Woodlawn – Just plain fun!
The Black Buccaneer – Pirates!! Need I say more?
Ralph S. Mouse – We read these this past summer. Josiah loved them.
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Series – These are among some of my ragged books leftover from my childhood. I have read them over and over and over. And over.
The Girl of the Limberlost or Freckles – Gene Stratton Porter – Can I tell you how much I love these?

The Railway Children – Completely wonderful
The Hobbit – One of my childhood favorites.
Sarah, Plain and Tall – we just finished this one up. It has always been one of my favs.
The Adventures of Robin Hood – Josiah is reading this one himself! 
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase - This one is another one I loved as a kid. An evil governess that takes over the Manor? 2 little girls shipped off to an nasty orphanage? Wonderfully nasty!

Read what other homeschool parents like to teach most. I always enjoy hearing other's ideas. I get so much inspiration!


  1. I just have to say that I love your pic!!! You are such a beautiful person, inside and OUT!!!

  2. Love this post!! I especially like what you said about reading aloud together, and reading the whole book, not just an excerpt. So much more rewarding!

  3. Great thoughts! I aspire to raise bookworms too. Thanks for the book ideas. I'm adding those to my list!! Time for a new Amazon order :)

  4. I'm a bookworm too and love book lists! The ideas for encouraging your son to like books are useful for reluctant readers too.

  5. Great post! Great list of ideas and books to read-I have read about 1/2 of them, might have to check out the others.

    As far as excerpts go, I hate them. I much prefer to read the first book in a series and then encourage my children to read the rest of the series of they are interested. The Happy Hollisters is a great example of that!

    Stopping by from the crew!


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