Public school symbolically kills another reader

My daughter spent the last two years with her nose cheerfully buried in a book.  She read with abandon, anything and everything.  She polished off short kids books in an hour or two, and read Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in a wild Saturday frenzy.  And she was getting every word of it.  She has such recall of the details of the Harry Potter books that it’s almost scary.

Things have changed, though.  After three weeks in public school, where she is required to read every night, she has told me that she doesn’t want to read any more.  It’s no fun now that it’s forced and associated in her mind with homework.  Because she is such a good reader, I’m seriously toying with the idea of telling her that she does not have to spend time reading anymore as part of her homework.  I’ll initial her homework worksheet without her.  On the one hand, it’s undercutting her teaching.  On the other hand, the teacher’s method is undercutting my daughter’s reading.

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  • Ymarsakar

    If you have a choice, prioritize reading over any short term benefits or goals. Because a person that reads a lot, also does better on the SAT verbal section and is better able to figure things out in their heads.

    Reading every night is very stressful. The program that I liked was the Summer Reading program in my Junior High. They required a minimum of 3 books read over the summer, with at least 60 hours total. You have to mark down when you read the book and how long it took you, signed off by parent or teacher.

    I was reading loads of RL Stein books about supernatural creatures and events. Every book was different, and some of the classics like Peter Pan was also different and interesting.

    That way, I could read my favorite books and get my hours too.

    However, if she won’t read her favorite books because she associates it with homework, then that is simply a bad habit. You can get around it with reward and punishment. Reward if she reads, punishment if she does not. Eventually, the wiring will get set so that good habits set in, regardless of the distaste with homework. Homework can be fun, if only because after you finish, you can do other things or get rewarded.

  • JJ

    Your daughter is the priority here, the teacher’s method is such a distant second to that it’s out of sight beyond the horizon.

    She spent the last two years with her nose in a book because she liked it. Now the teacher has managed to turn it from recreation to work – in only three weeks, too! A triumph for American education! Another round peg has been forced into a square hole.

    The teacher doesn’t know your kid: you do. In fairness to said teacher, she’s trying to universalize performance, which requires a general rule: everybody read. That this only tends to screw up those who already do on their own is unfortunate collateral damage.

    Take the pressure off, and I suspect your duaghter will go back to it in short order, as she has already demonstrated her enjoyment of reading. When she does, you are perfectly free to regard it as “homework” – just don’t tell her that’s what she’s been doing! In the meanwhile sign off as needed.

    She’s the priority, not the teacher.

  • mamapajamas

    Hmmm… have you read her school books to see what kind of crap she is being forced to read? If the books for school are below her intellectual level (which is a high probability if she read Half-Blood Prince in the course of one Saturday… it took me two days!), she could be associating “reading” with being a “moron”. If it turns out they’re below her level, could you perhaps suggest a more challenging reading list to her teacher as an alternative to her class assignments?

    One of the biggest problems my sister had with her two high-IQ kids was that they refused to do their homework. It turned out that the reason was because they had always been told that their homework was for drilling what they had been taught in class that day. Their problem was that they got it the first time, and didn’t need more practice! So their “problem” was that they had taken an offhand explanation as a literal instruction.

    When you’re dealing with particularly intelligent children, as your daughter would seem to be, they can throw curves at you that are completely unexpected.

  • Ymarsakar

    So Book, what are the books the teacher assigns. Does your daughter dislike the teacher’s books only or just any book now?

  • Bookworm

    The teacher has not assigned any books. My daughter has simply turned against forced reading. I think she’d go along with reading for a book report or reading a book to glean specific information. What she is required to do, though, is to read 20 minutes a night, whether she wants to or not. Since she is an exceptionally good reader, she takes this (correctly) as a form of bullying and since she is an oppositional personality, she rebels. I told her she no longer had to read for school homework anymore, and she promptly spent all afternoon reading today!

  • kevin

    Ever consider homeschooling?

  • Todd Christian

    Let’s see – your daughter spent two years with her nose buried in a book, but now that her teacher has assigned 20 minutes of reading each night (any book she wants, even the ones she would already be reading), she doesn’t want to read any more. And this is because of her “oppositional personality”.

    Sounds like she needs a parent to explain to her why homework is an important part of a teacher’s instructional technique, and not an opportunity to exercise her “oppositional personality” to get her Mom’s attention.

  • Ymarsakar

    Reading for 20 minutes is not an optimum time scale. Why can’t you just log it for her commulatively, so she can read whatever she wants, and you just add it up for her as part of fullfilling the assignment?

    If the teacher doesn’t care what she reads, then I don’t see the problem. If your daughter refuses to do something she likes because her emotions have turned her off, then that is going to be a bad habit if not corrected. She can’t be letting other people dictate to her behavior, likes or dislikes. Either she or you have to find a loophole.

    It’s the 20 minutes only that probably bothers her. Children sometimes take things too literally. If she thinks she has to start reading, and then stop after only 20 minutes, that would be very unpleasant to say the least for a young budding bookworm.

  • Ymarsakar

    There are a couple of other permutations that I can speculate about. You could tell her that if she doesn’t do anything that another forces upon her, then this just means she is beholden to the whims of others. If she is that predictable.

    She could still oppose it of course, but it need not be with blunt force resistance. She could go around it, find ways to get what she want without appearing to actively resist. You know, deception.

    I’m biased of course, I don’t favor brute force as a philosophy, although it does have its advantages sometimes.

  • Lulu

    I don’t make my kids read 20 minutes every day. I monitor a reasonable amount per week. Once they get through the first chapter, the rest of the book usually gets read very quickly because the story has become so interesting. Make a deal with your daughter that she read a couple of chapters or a short book when she wants to- like on the weekend. The 20 minutes per day rule is really for those kids who never pick up a book, not for avid readers like your daughter. If her recreational/homework weekend pleasure reading is all at once on Saturday in one big gulp rather than 20/day, what really is the problem? I would be comfortable signing off on that and having an agreement between my child and me. Why don’t you let her select some interesting books and make a family reading night in some comfy spot? That might work too. Last, try books on tape in the car.