Friday, March 12, 2010

Trust That Your Child Will Make it Through That Reading Phase

As a parent, you will only live through your child's fourth grade year one time. As a teacher, I've lived through fourth grade more than 20 times. Trust me when I tell you that in almost every case, your child will make it through "That Reading Phase."

Some children come into fourth grade, find the graphic novels in the classroom or school library, and proceed to exist on a reading diet comprised almost exclusively of graphic novels. You might think your child will never read a book with pages full of text, but what you're missing is that your child is reading voraciously. And in about January or February, your child will be full to the brim of graphic novels and ready to try some of the other books that the teacher or his/her friends recommend.

Other children come into fourth grade and pick right up with the series they were reading in 3rd grade: Geronimo Stilton or Magic Tree House or Rotten School. That's fine. That's why I have these comfortable, familiar friends in my classroom library. I also have a few books in lots of other series so that when they're ready, I can introduce them to new characters who will become comfortable, familiar friends. I don't have a problem with readers who love a series. Lots of adults are series readers. But it is my goal in fourth grade to teach children the strategies they will need to choose a stand-alone book and enjoy characters and stories on a one-book basis. I model this during read aloud time when as a class we enjoy a book together. Parents can help to balance a series reader's reading diet by reading aloud to their child.

Many children come into fourth grade lacking the reading stamina it takes to sit still and concentrate for 30 or more minutes of silent reading. They read picture books and browse the nonfiction books and I despair that they will ever sit still for anything longer than 32 pages of words and pictures. But then March rolls around, and I look up from my desk and there they are, thoroughly engrossed in THE YEAR OF THE DOG, and hoping that I have THE YEAR OF THE RAT for them to read next, and excited to hear about WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON.

One of the things that works in favor of prying your child out of "That Reading Phase" is that in fourth grade, the social nature of reading starts to catch up with their reading ability. They want to read the books that are being made into movies, and they want to read the books that their friends are recommending. They love to talk about books and have opinions about books. Fourth grade is a perfect time to start a parent/child reading club with some of your child's friends. If you start reading and discussing books with your child now, you will open doors for conversations you never would have been able to have without the help of the story or the characters in the books.

If your child is currently in a reading phase that you are feeling will never end, try to relax and live with it for a few more months. Keep them reading and reading and reading, even if it's not the kind of book you want them to to be reading for the rest of their lives, or even a year from now. Take them to the library and require them to bring home a variety of genres. Listen to books on tape in the car. And finally, remember that your child will never get too old for read aloud. One of the best gifts you can give to your child is to read to them from both the books they love and the ones you love.

This post is a part of Share a Story, Shape a Future, an annual blog event to promote literacy, celebrate books, and provide resources for parents, teachers, and readers everywhere. This year's theme was "It Takes a Village to Raise a Reader."

Each day a different kidlitosphere blogger served as host for the posting of several other bloggers. Visit the host blogs' sites to find a complete blog roll for each day.

March 8th: The Many Faces of Reading

Host: Terry Doherty at Scrub-A-Dub-Tub

Topics of the day encompassed the relationship aspect of helping children learn to read: parent-child and teacher-parent partnerships, literacy outreach; and libraries, to name a few.

March 9th: Literacy My Way/Literacy Your Way

Host: Susan Stephenson at The Book Chook

Creative literacy in all its forms (writing, art, computers) was the topic of the day.

March 10th: Just the Facts: The Nonfiction Book Hook

Host: Sarah Mulhern at The Reading Zone

This was the day for exploring the different genres of nonfiction (biography and memoir, science, nature, math, etc), as well as the use (or not) of historical fiction.

March 11th: Reading Through the Ages: Old Faves & New Classics

Host: Donalyn Miller at The Book Whisperer

Bloggers shared thematic book lists that include newer titles and the classics we loved as kids.

March 12th: Reading for the Next Generation

Host: Jen Robinson at Jen Robinson's Book Page

On this day, talk is about how to approach reading when your interests and your child's don't match. It may be that you don't like to read but your child does, how to raise the reader you're not, and dealing with the "pressure" of feeling forced to read.

** The Share a Story, Shape a Future logo was created by Elizabeth Dulemba, children's book author and illustrator, and SaS/SaF contributor.


  1. Such good advice! Jr. spent most of fourth grade reading the Bone series, which he loved.

  2. Thank you for this viewpoint. I never worried about my first kid, who read like crazy, but then the second came along and she's not a strong reader. Your emphasis on letting them enjoy series and graphic novels and picture books really hits home for me right about now. And it's a good reminder for me to RELAX.

  3. This is so helpful Mary Lee. My daughter (2nd grade) loves to read and we've tried the Magic Treehouse and some of the other series that her peers seem to devour, and she's just not interested. I'm hoping we DO get to share some of those books someday.

  4. Mary Lee,
    I couldn't agree more with your post! I see it every day in my classroom...series books are such an intergral part of a transitional reader's development. Thank you for spreading the message!

  5. Thanks so much for contributing to Share a Story, Mary Lee. I think that lots of parents will find your words reassuring. I especially like the way you pointed out that the social aspects of the classroom can work in favor of getting kids excited about books - if parents and teachers can trust that, and go with it.

    I've also noticed that when adults are asked to look back on the books that they loved as a child, the books that stay with them are often those series titles. The books that helped us learn to LOVE reading are the ones that stay with us. Thanks!

  6. Mary Lee, isn't this so true! I am glad you put it out there. It is so hard to convince parents they will be okay. On another note, this goes along well with another blog I read today...
    Book Nut

  7. I love, love, love this, Mary Lee. It's wonderful words of advice to parents, but also to teachers and librarians. We need to celebrate that a student is reading their 12th Warriors book, not despair that they're stuck on reading these over and over again. You are so right about the social nature of reading, and the comfort found in series.

    Another fun thing I've enjoyed is starting a "movie book club" - last year a group of 4th graders got so excited comparing Inkheart to the movie. And several got hooked on an exciting series! Thanks for a wonderful post.

  8. Thank you all for the positive feedback! Sometimes I worry about being stuck in 4th grade for so many years (ha ha), but at least I'm able to use my experience to help parents raise lifelong readers!

  9. It is nice to hear this from someone who's seen so many 4th graders go through her classroom. I especially liked your point about the social nature of reading catching up in 4th grade; I see that a lot with C these days. She wants to read what everyone else is reading. Thanks for the encouragement!

  10. I love this post, especially the idea that having your children read aloud is so important. Making sure to find time for that is tough sometimes, but so important.

  11. I remember when I was in fourth grade...I would not put a book down and I am still the same! I am a kindergarten teacher and now in the process of teaching my class to read. No more play in K! I am happy to say I have 10 out of 17 kids in my class reading. I am so happy to see the excitement in their eyes when they read a book.


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