How to make a reading kid a non-reader

Leave it up to the public school system to come up with a homework assignment geared to the lowest reading level in a classroom. Serve the lowest common denominator in the interest of making one child something better, and never mind what it does do the other 20 students in the class. Never mind that the other 20 students in the class are at risk of becoming a lowest common denominator.

Maybe I’m exaggerating. But this irks me [again]. Here is what happened:

We decided not to push Ben into following a specific homework assignment.

We received a note from his teacher about this new thing they’re doing to help kids read better. Ben is to bring home these books that are photocopied readers specific to a certain level, on a variety of topics, and he is to read them out loud a minimum of three times during the week. Both books. Three times out loud. To one of us parents.

The notes says it has to be an enjoyable experience for all of us, and that it is important to make the child re-read the books several times to assist with pronunciation, and comprehension. We are also to quiz the child about the books. Did he understand what he just read? Can he re-tell that paragraph in his own words and is it accurate?

This is a homework assignment that is causing Ben a lot of stress. This is also causing us stress.

Ben is a great reader. He sits and reads the books out loud to me once and I occasionally ask him a question, or ask him to repeat in his own words what he has just read. He does is accurately about 99% of the time. (We are in the second week of this assignment.)

Getting him to re-read that book the next day, out loud, again, is a pain in the wazoo. He complains. He cries. He freaks out. He doesn’t want to. He’d rather read something else.

The second time this happened to me I stopped forcing him. I had the most challenging week, I was on my own, all my backup and support systems were out of town, I had an ear infection, I was almost completely deaf, I was tired….fed up. And a kid who read his homework perfectly the day before is causing a scene.

I just wanted him to stop complaining.

I sent him to read something else. And he did.

Why should I make him re-read it when he’s done such a good job the first time? What the school is asking me to do is take away the joy of reading he has already mastered. He reads chapter books, comic books, encyclopedia-type books (like the Guiness Book of World Records, for example), Lego magazines, stories about wolves and their life cycle… and he does this on his own accord. He LIKES reading.

Making him do this assignment will take away that joy.

I have to initial a form once Ben’s read the book at least 3 times. Initial it authorizing, so to speak, that I supervised his repetitive reading of the school-assigned books.

Part of me wants to cheat and just sign it off. But I think instead what I’m going to do is write a diplomatic note to the teacher, or possibly an email cc’ed to the principal, expressing my views. I do not want to turn my second grade reader into a non-reader because of this assignment and I would hope that the school will support this decision.

Should I tell them the truth?

I understand the principle behind the homework assignment.  I realize, I know for a fact, that there are many kids who have trouble reading, or who don’t like reading, or who can read the words but do not comprehend what they are reading. I know about functional illiteracy…I’ve seen it all the way at the University level when I was a student. A professor explained the term to me when I complained to her about a group work assignment. She talked about the other student I was grouped with and why this girl wasn’t able to contribute to the project in the way I expected her to. The girl, according to my professor, should have never even passed high school. But there it is. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that years later, I would be exposed to the beginnings of reading difficulties while parenting my own children. And yet schools push kids through, functionally illiterate and all.

My kids read. We visit the library twice a week. We enjoy it, the kids see us read, and it has never been a problem to get them to read.

But now….this homework assignment promises to negate an enjoyable activity. And I won’t let it.


4 thoughts on “How to make a reading kid a non-reader

  1. I hear you – this is a tough one. My kids are not readers and find reading challenging, but I’m not sure an assignment like this would help in that case, either. Both my older two hate reading, and they have as homework to read every day – they don’t have to repeat read the same books but I do have to initial a form to say that they have done their daily reading. As a result, they have come to view reading as work, not something to do for pleasure. They both want to do their minimum required minutes per day and that is it.

    I would love for them to read spontaneously and enjoy it, but that looks unlikely, Maybe this homework thing is the only way to get them to read at all, but it sure isn’t the way to make them fall in love with books.

    I think you are absolutely right not to push your son to do this work if his reading is fine and he is already reading for enjoyment. What to tell the school – that’s something else. I guess you don’t want your son to have to lie to cover things up, nor do you want him to get in trouble if he admits he only read a book once, so I suppose it is best to come out to the teacher and tell her what is going on at home. Hopefully she’ll already know your kid is a great reader and will be understanding.

  2. Lynn, I wonder sometimes how the schools can service all the kids at some level that is fair to them all. Especially because, like you say, some kids just don’t like reading. Those are the kids who will need, and benefit, from a different method of reading education. Since reading will be prevalent for their entire school career it is of primary focus to the educating staff.

    Your kids must know you write. Tell them you wouldn’t be able to write if you didn’t like reading the words you write…:)

    Thank you for you comment. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to address it to the teacher. Benjamin has ‘lost’ his sheet I’m supposed to be signing off….and the teacher hasn’t said anything to me…My guess is when she tests his reading and comprehension she realizes there is no problem and isn’t watching it as closely. I’ll play it by ear. For now.


  3. Hello. We have run into the same issue with my daughter in grade 2. She loves to write and will sit and write a story of her own accord. However being forced to write sentences with uninteresting words (word wall words) drives her crazy. I try to get her to make up ridiculous ones to be silly yet still complete the assignment. However if we were given that reading assignment she would not enjoy that at all. I would do it once and move on to more interesting books for the second and third time and check off on the sheet the other books. The teachers we have had know they are dragging down some kids with assignments like this but I think it is just unavoidable for them with the disparity in the ability of students in the class. I feel as Aa parent you can work in partnership with the teacher and revise any assignment accordingly to match your child’s needs

  4. Thank you Alison for your insights. I’m still on the fence how I’m going to approach the school, but since his teacher hasn’t sent anything home that he’s not reading adequately I’m in no rush to address it. In fact, Ben came home with books from the next level up…so…I guess she isn’t too concerned about the form I’m supposed to sign? Who knows.

    I like your idea about letting Ben read another book if he doesn’t want to re-read the one from school.

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