It’s always nice to have friends, who care about your kids in a sincere way, almost as much as you do. Don’t you think? I have had a friend in particular like that, for 13 years now or so. About half-way into our friendship, I began home schooling our oldest, and at the time, only child. Eventually, we added 3 more students to our school, and are now transitioning into our 7th year of homeschooling .
My friend had 3 kids of her own, all close to my daughter’s age, adding a 4th along the way. She has also happened to be a teacher. But somehow, all along, those two facts or common interests, have never really come together between us. Until this year. Oh, I may have, at times, happened to say something to her about our schooling, as a friend would in sharing what is happening in their life in girlfriend chit-chat. She in turn, has talked about her teaching, as a friend would in catching up as well.
Mind you, we are good friends, and see each other frequently enough. Our families get together here and there. So it’s always apparent we care about each other & each other’s kids. But I was especially impressed when on one day she came over this past winter, she brought something for my kids.
A big bag full of books, for them to borrow! She knew how much they loved to read, and perhaps I had mentioned to her how difficult it always is, to keep up with keeping new material around for them to read as well. They devour them, tending to read every book 2-3 times, because they’ve read them all. And we can only hit the library so much, you know? With 4 kids who aren’t easy to remove from the library once we’re in, I think twice some days! Oh the guilt. So, I was thrilled with this surprise delivery! So were the kids, gathering around.
But wait….she had more….
She then told them that she brought each of them their own journal, and she wanted them to write book reviews in it. She kept the suggested format simple, and their excitement grew. Because she’s not only a very qualified & passionate teacher who loves kids, but a mother too, she knew just the manner in which to communicate with them. Her presentation was exciting, and so they were inspired. I was smiling inside, a great big grin!
The simple and casual format she suggested they use to write, following each book they read, was as follows:
- Book Title
- Whether they liked the book or not, and why.
- What their favorite part was, or what part they really did not like, and why.
She told them she really loved so many of these books herself, and she couldn’t wait to read all about what they thought of them.
And they were off! They couldn’t wait to get to work.
Now honestly, my kids need no encouragement to read, as you may have gathered by now. Writing, they actually don’t mind doing too much either. But I like them to write as much as possible. Not for the sake of penmanship, but for the sake of formulating thoughts, organizing them, and putting them down on paper in a meaningful way. So needless to say….but I’ll say it anyway….This ‘surprise activity’ was one I thought was fabulous!
On the other hand, their penmanship can always use more practice too! In the course of our school days, they have days where they print super-neat, and days when they don’t. That depends on one thing: effort! Sometimes, they are excited to express what they want to say, or are just in a hurry for whatever reason, so they just whip it out at lightening speed! So it comes out messy. They need to practice s l o w i n g d o w n, and being a little more mindful of each letter (or number) they are forming. Other times, they are not focused enough on the use of space between the lines: being sure capitals go to the top, and lower case are around half the size of the upper case. They need to practice adjusting their letter sizes, to the kind of paper they are writing on.
But for their book reviewing, in these journals, the qualities of their penmanship, was not a factor that mattered to me to press at all. I mostly wanted them to focus on their thoughts about the story they read, and what they had to say about it. Keeping it a fun and leisure activity, was the approach our friend gave them, and I wanted to maintain that. I had them for all of their schooling, to address the rest. And I sure do. Also, correct use of punctuation, spelling, indenting, paragraphs < I’m a freak about these things.
I was amused to find a book, that brought back some fond book- enjoyment memories for me …..
Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson.
My memories involving this book, make me smile. I started a new school, in 6th grade. I had only gone to one other school, in my whole entire life. It was scary to start at a whole new school, with all new kids. But I got a teacher that I not only loved, but my whole class loved. Mrs. Curry made everything o.k. She was petite, and pretty, with dark eyes and long black hair, and she had such a soft-spoken voice, with an accent….that was really fun(ny) to listen to.
And we got to listen to her a lot! Because every afternoon, for a little while, she took off her shoes, climbed up on an empty student desktop and sat on it, facing us, with her bare feet on the chair, and she read to us. I loved watching her read, and listening to her voice. Soon, we learned Mrs. Curry was going to have a baby. We watched her belly grow, her walk turn into a cute waddle over the weeks, and how she started sliding up on to the desk with her big belly and arched back, rather than the way she so used to so casually just hop up there before. She read many books through that year. But the only one I really remembered, was Bridge to Terabithia. I think the story line drew me in enough at one point, to make me forget about focusing so much on how nice Mrs. Curry was, that I was actually, truly listening. Studying the book cover that faces us, as we listened, was another part of story time, for me. I was an illustrator in the making, so the cover was almost everything. If the cover was lousy, I’d probably never find out if the rest was good, because I wouldn’t bother reading it. I don’t remember now, exactly what this book cover (of Bridge to Terabithia, that year in school) looked like, but I recall quite enough to know that it was different than this illustrated cover above, from the kid’s bag. The one from 6th grade had a brilliant yellow/orange/red color fade, and I believe a silhouette of kids.
Or something similar.
Turns out, my own daughter loved this book best too….
So strange to to think of it, too long. As I do.
A full circle of sorts, from my own grade school life, to my daughter’s, and this book.
Her book review reminded me of more of the story, than I originally remembered. I think it effected her in a deep and sad way, as it probably did for me. Maybe that’s why it is the book I remembered most? Possibly. Disturbing things do tend to stick with me. But tragedies are part of life, and it’s best to start grasping that reality through books first, in our young lives, before we are faced with such difficult circumstances in real life.
Come to think of it, I think that was the last book Mrs. Curry read to us. And perhaps it did prepare me for an imminent tragedy in my own life. Well…through the perspective of a 6th grader, anyway. But not enough for me.
Mrs. Curry announced she was leaving. To be at home with her baby on the way that summer.
I was devastated. Sr. Cathy was just o.k., on a really good day. She was a far cry, from Mrs. Curry.
Our oldest got her own bag of books, being of an age that was suitable for more mature content. She is a true, true book lover. A collector already, I would say. In fact, maybe I should be sure she returns these books she took on loan from our friend, come to think of it. ; )
Along with her books, came this from our friend too……
This is a scan of just the front page. In reality, it is 9 pages, stapled together, full of writing prompts.
Wow. No excuse for ‘Writer’s Block’ this time, huh?
(Gosh….maybe I should grab it, for my blogging! ; )
As I said, with schooling, all 4 kids write a lot anyway. Their reports are actually much longer than these brief book reviews they do.
But the point of these was to encourage both reading & writing, and keep it in the light of a leisure and enjoyable activity, that is always available to us throughout our lives.
To update you as to how they did with all of this : When the kids quickly made their way through the first bag of books, my friend picked it up, and brought another to replace the first. : ) As a multi-grade-level teacher over the years, she has en enormous collection of books, off the shelves of her various classrooms. The younger kids read probably 95%, if not every book, she has brought, and they have written reviews for….far fewer than that. They started off gung-ho with the writing part! But it lost some fizzle along the way, as they jumped straight from one book to the next, to the 8th, to the 14th, in a matter of a week or 2, before I thought to casually ask if they were continuing journaling for each. “No, not for all of them. But some!!” And that’s ok, because again, there is plenty of writing not only in school, but willingly on their own for other things as well, such poems, notes, copying (they do for fun? lol…), recipes, and more. They have all read 100’s of books, on the side of the bag, as well, since February.
So the book-reviewing in their journals is stop & go, giving random reviews in their journals along the way. But the book reading is non-stop, in their day-to-day life. They play hard outdoors, and everywhere we go. But they have always used reading as their way of resting. I love that!
Oh the places they have been, and the places they will go, through the pages of a book.
I’m really so happy to have such a good friend, who deeply understands the joy of teaching and encouraging children in their learning process, and watching the rewards of their development in them, along the way. It’s one more mutual appreciation, we can share now.
I’ve got a feeling I’ll be sharing more about her with you, too.
Meanwhile, consider getting your little scholars a journal for some book reviewing, suggest the simple format above, or your own ideas, and see what they do with it. You may just find you have new & entertaining reading for your own enjoyment!: their reviews!