Nothing seems to take the spark out of learning for my kids quicker than asking them to read a paragraph about which they have NO interest and then having them answer multiple choice questions about said paragraph.
Read more to understand why this can happen or jump to a real-life example of helping kids connect with stories.
Step #1: Understing why kids avoid reading
It took several attempts at me helping them with homework or reviewing graded worksheets from class to understand that they really did not know what they were reading. And they did not care. This was troubling. But I did see their point that a lot of the assigned reading passages are boring.
Step #2: Finding books that are exciting
Using books and stories that are interesting to my kids I tried to tackle the skill of understanding WHAT you are reading, not just the words themselves. I had to manage how often I asked questions about vocabulary, context, and inferences. I did not want my kids to feel like they were being interrogated.
At first the kids did not know how to answer and I would offer my simplest interpretation of the text. As the weeks and months continued with this approach I found that my kids would initiate the questions and comments. “I don’t know what that word means. Can you tell me?” “Oh! I think he is mad at her because she stole his football.”
Step #3: Find movies, plays, and other versions of the story
This strategy takes a while to implement but the rewards really were evident when it “clicked” for the kids. Once we got through some books we started watching the movie versions. We could then discuss, compare, and contrast the storytelling of the author versus the director/screen writers.
Real-life example of connecting books to movies to plays
Here is an example of how we started with book versions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda and then found other ways to experience the same stories.
After reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory we watched the original movie and then the updated movie. My kids had lots of strong opinions about which movie they liked better! And my kids also realized how much a movie can differ from a book – sometimes the details you love in the book don’t make the cut in the movie.
We also read the book Matilda, watched the movie, and we were lucky enough to find a local theatre production of the play.
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