Okay, enough maudlin nostalgia.
Over the summer I shared with Isaac some of my favorite characters from books I loved when I was growing up and he read a book that was assigned by the third grade teachers.
I remember reading Beverly Cleary's Ramona books when I was Isaac's age. I love reading series and I devoured Cleary's books about the precocious Ramona and her family. I also read every Henry Huggins book she wrote. On a trip to the library I let Isaac pick out one and we brought home Ramona's World to read. This one came out when I was an adult. I had read it when I first started working in the library, but I didn't remember the plot. Books that I read as a child have stuck in my head much better than books I read last month, so it was like Isaac and I were reading it together for the first time. We would read a couple of chapters a night, just enough to keep Isaac's interest piqued so he would want to continue the story the next evening. Ramona is a universal character -- one that boys and girls can both enjoy. She is sweet, yet mischievous, but rarely purposefully mean. She is a typical kid whom children can still relate to after decades in print. I like her so much better than Junie B. Jones and I think Isaac does now, too.
Another series I loved was Encyclopedia Brown. We have ebooks at school and Isaac and I had read a digital version of the first book in the series, then he picked out another one at the library this summer. These books are a good example of how text complexity is important when helping children choose books. Isaac and I read these books together and while the book is technically on Isaac's reading level, I often had to explain how Encyclopedia came to his conclusions or solved the cases. The scenarios were just a little too advanced for him to understand or they required background knowledge that he didn't have. Isaac really likes the books though, and the format is easy to read since each chapter stands alone as a "case," so I think I will encourage him to revisit these books next summer.
For school this fall, the third grade teachers wanted the rising third graders to all read Freckly Juice by Judy Blume. They have a beginning of the year unit planned around the book, so we checked it out of the library. I made Isaac read at least twenty minutes most days during the summer, but I also read aloud to him. Since this book was an assignment, I made him read it himself. I don't remember reading this one as a child, so I couldn't tell from Isaac's abbreviated summary if he had actually read it or not. The week before school started I decided we would read it again, together, so it would be fresh in his mind for this week. Unfortunately, it was not his favorite story and he found it "boring." But I am confident that the teachers will make the unit fun, and there are great themes in the book that we explore at the beginning of the year as we build classroom communities that Isaac will be able to connect to. Maybe they will even make "Freckle Juice." Isaac wasn't interested in making it at home and I have to admit, I wasn't too keen to try it either.
We read other books, too, this summer -- some comic books, a Ripley's Believe It or Not style fact book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants, Sports Illustrated for Kids. Isaac still loves being read to, but is less enthusiastic about reading for himself. Third grade is often considered the grade when students are no longer learning to read, they are reading to learn. So, it is important for Isaac to be able to read and comprehend since instruction will be heavily focused on information and non-fiction. But it is also important for him to want to read -- to be curious and engaged. Finding the right balance and the right fit is going to be a major part of our reading journey this year.