Two years ago when Rob had just finished first grade, his teacher sent home materials stating that children lose significant educational ground over the summer. I don’t remember how much ground exactly (waves hand dismissively in “who can keep track of these little details?” manner), but it was enough to impress me. The teacher said that having children read on their own for half an hour a day would keep this loss from occurring—a sort of “sow grass to decrease erosion” for the mind.
One reason I was glad to hear this is that I’d worried “telling children to read” would make reading seem like a chore to them. I’d worked up a nice full-figured fret about it, to the point that I didn’t even want to suggest they read a book, lest it turn them into Booky McHatersons later on in life. But now I had permission from a fully-qualified educator to institute Mother’s Dreadful Reading Hour our daily reading time.
After the first week of summer (we do one week of freedom), Rob (just finished third grade) and William (just finished first grade) spend half an hour a day reading. Also, Paul reads to them for 20-30 minutes each night before bed. These are some of the books that have been successes:
The Phantom Tollbooth (by Norton Juster) is a book I read as a kid and liked, though it’s funnier to me as an adult: many of the puns went over my child-aged head.
Paul and I liked The Mysterious Benedict Society (by Trenton Lee Stewart) even more than the kids did, and in fact we both sneakily finished it ourselves instead of patiently waiting for the chapter-a-night. It’s a kid-adventure book with a plot interesting enough for adults.
Junie B. Jones books (by Barbara Park) are on the reading level of a first grader; this is the series William has chosen every single day for his reading time so far. Both Rob and William like the whole series, but chose Junie B. Jones has a Peep in Her Pocket as a favorite when pressed for an example I could use.
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (by Betty MacDonald) is a series I was crazy for as a child (the “won’t take a bath” cure where they plant radishes on the child! the “tiny bite taker” cure with the teensy dishes!), and Rob reads it now.
I asked the boys what their favorite book was, and both of them said The Name of This Book is Secret (by Pseudonymous Bosch). Paul read this one aloud to them; it’s on Rob’s reading level but too difficult for William to read on his own. The book instructs children NOT to read it, because the secret inside is much too dangerous to know. Ha ha! Psychological manipulation of children! Love it.