Wednesday, March 19, 2008

From Basals to A.R.

Collin is reading! Well, he's been reading since kindergarten but he's really reading now. At the beginning of first grade Collin's teacher began sending home basal readers for students to read aloud to their parents. She would send one "real" book (not a photocopied one) and then 2 of these basal readers. I'm calling them basal readers because I think that is what they are. They are not of the Dick and Jane variety but they are part of a leveled collection of many titles that accompany a textbook/reading program. I don't think I'd ever seen one in person, so it's been interesting. The books are photocopied sets from a textbook publisher. They are patterned stories, sometimes with some simple humor. Collin actually enjoys the funny ones or the outrageous ones. I think he finds and found satisfaction in begin able to read them. He struggled though with some words. Words I'd not recognized as tricky like could or nurse. Funny how I've faced my assumptions during this process.

Collin's school uses A.R. His teacher told parents at the beginning of the year that she would not put students in A.R. until they were ready -- this is a thing parents push for? Who knew? Like any group of students, Collin's class had all kinds of readers in it. Some came into first grade reading chapter books--one, it was rumored, was reading Harry Potter! Collin was struggling to read Eric Carle on his own, but he was reading at grade level when he entered first grade.
He was not ready for A. R. , but Collin wanted to be in the A.R. program-- he wanted it bad.

You see, if you're reading books in A.R. and doing well on the tests and meeting or exceeding your goals then you get a "free dress" day at school. Is that fair to the kids that aren't ready for A.R. yet? Collin missed all of the free dress days early on and he was not happy about it-- that six-year-old sense of justice and fairness is fierce, I'm telling you. I can see how the reward is a motivator, but man... Punished by Rewards flashed through my mind.

He began the A.R. program after Christmas vacation. This Thursday is first "free dress" reward day. He is very excited. He's more excited about his reward than he is about having a long 4-day weekend. Can you believe it? I'm thrilled that his reading has taken off since Christmas. Collin's teacher said that many kids turn a corner as readers at that time of year and she was right. He is reading. He's reading the magazine headlines in line at Publix; he's reading all kinds of environmental print (sings, and bumper stickers and menus); he's reading Eric Carle beautifully and he can read many of the picture books he has in his room. He's even reading chapter books, albeit slowly--he's just finished a Magic Tree House book , #8, I think. We were reading it at home and he chose it to read during "drop everything and read" time at school.

I'm fascinated with his reading growth and how he's changing as a reader, but his first day with A.R. stays with me. I picked him up from school and his big news was that he was now allowed to do A.R. I congratulated him because I knew he had wanted to do it. I want to support him ans support what he does at school, but in my mind I'm full of questions, sometimes outrage. Anyway, then he said, "but now Mommy I can't read anything I want, I have to read A.R. books."

Blow to my heart, I'm tellin' you.

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