Friday, October 17, 2008

Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading

Deconstructing Penguins: Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading has been added to my essentials list. For any adult who desires to read and discuss books with children (their own or others), this book is a valuable resource.

The authors use their experience in leading parent/child book clubs to encourage parents and children to read a book like a puzzle, to discover hidden ideas rather than reading passively. Using basic literary elements~theme, setting, character, point of view, climax, and conflict~they show an adult how to develop meaningful conversations centered around a shared reading experience.

I enjoyed the detailed conversations of specific books in each chapter. Many of the books I have read, which certainly helped me understand where the conversations were leading. Although, I must admit, I originally spent little (or no) time dissecting the elements of each book.

I tend to simply experience each book I read and see it through my own little lens. Did I like it/dislike it? How do I feel about it? What spoke to me? Did I learn anything? Did it change my view of life in any way? Surely I learned about protagonists and antagonist in school, but I never internalized the lesson when it came to my own reading.

I am looking forward to using the lessons learned in Deconstructing Penguins to discuss literature with my boys. It would be tedious to have similar discussions on every book we read, but I think that engaging in thoughtful conversation after certain book selections will open our eyes and minds when reading other literature.

Deconstructing Penguins is directed specifically to second-fifth graders (with book lists included), but the ideas can easily be adapted to other grades, or even for adult reading. Obviously the conversational style is meant for discussions, either parent/child or for book clubs, but I felt that the information was relevant for getting the most out of independent reading, as well.

I found the book selections to be interesting. I never would have chosen Animal Farm for third graders (although I liked where the authors went with the discussion), and it seems as if The Giver would be more appropriate for late middle-school (again, rather than third grade). I did appreciate the chapter on introducing children to poetry. The authors remind the reader that their book lists are merely suggestions.

pg 189

What children read is important. The theory, still in vogue, that says that it doesn't matter what your child reads as long as he or she reads something is just plain wrong. If anyone tries to convince you otherwise, don't believe it. This notion springs from the assumption that kids need success--any success--to bolster their self-esteem, and if they have to struggle a little it might leave them feeling bad about themselves. Nothing could be more wrong-headed or insulting to children. Kids' self-esteem comes from the same source as adults' self-esteem: taking on something that seems hard at first and then doing better at it than you ever thought possible. Kids are hip; they know when they're being dumbed down, and no child develops genuine self-esteem from being praised for something he or she didn't work at.


Shell in your Pocket said...

I will check this out!!!
-Sandy Toes
p.s. is it like that Honey Book that talks about books??

Heidi said...

No, Honey for a Child's Heart is more about instilling a love for reading in a child and choosing good books that will enrich a child's life. It includes an extensive book list. This book is more about dissecting a book in a book club setting, and finding out what a book *means* or the author's intentions. Book lists are included, but only a few recommendations for only a few grades.

Both are great, though!

Unknown said...

Heidi, I can't tell you how much I appreciate your book recommendations. You truly are a "kindred" spirit in the literature department. Check out the post I just posted moments before reading this for one of those treasured "bonding" moments. I always say a beloved book in beloved company is better than chocolate. Or comparable at least =)

Jilly said...

This looks like a great book. I will definitely have to check it out.

As a former English teacher, I think one of the reasons we don't think to use character, plot, setting, etc, etc when we actually talk and think about literature is because its often just taught to us as a rote thing: name the protagonist. Name the antagonist. Describe the setting. Find two themes. Etc. But so many teachers fail to go beyond that and discuss how the setting was chosen by the authour for the story, and ask questions like why did they choose that setting? How does it add to the story / novel? What would change about the story if it was placed in a different setting? These are the sorts of questions that actually get you thinking and talking about the elements of fiction rather than just listing them off in rote fashion.

Okay, rant over. I read animal farm when I was a kid -- around 9 or 10 -- and I loved it. I didn't get all the political and historical overtones, but I did understand what it meant about human nature and power structures.

I've also found that reading "serious" literature as a child gives you a framework of images and stories that help you make sense of the world in a way that Captain Underpants never would.

Aja Jenise said...

oh yum yum... I will have to sit down with this one here soon! thanks lovey, aja

CC said...

Thanks! I just put it on hold at the library!

Anonymous said...

Dear Heidi:
I am very happy to read the article about your favorite book.I can feel what a great book it is from your recommentations.That is pity it isn't easy for me to get the book you recommended,since I am from china.But still very appreciate your blog so much.I will come to be here often.Thanks:)
lovely Joy