How Not to Teach Kids to Read Aloud

February 7, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Posted in Reading with Kids | 5 Comments

My stepbunny, Sweetie Junior, is in high school now, so I figure we only have a few years left to salvage what we can of her education in a third-rate school district.  Here’s some new motivation that has lit a fire under my chair.

We were talking around the dinner table, and the subject of audio books came up.  SJ mentioned that “we” were listening to an audio book in which the narrator would make a mistake, say, “Oh, wait,” and re-read the mistaken sentence.  There appeared to be no post-production editing whatsoever.  “What book was that?” I wanted to know, “I want to make sure I don’t accidentally listen to it.”  “It was something about, like, Four Aprils,” she replied.  I asked if she meant Across Five Aprils, which I knew she’d read for school.  That was it.

Then a sinking feeling took hold of me.  I had assumed she and her mother were listening to this shoddy audio book, but now I wasn’t so sure.  “Who’s we?  Where were you listening to this book?”  “In school,” she said.

I froze.  “Do you mean to tell me you sit in class and listen to an audio book?”  “Yeah,” she said, “the teacher has, like, stuff to do.”

This explains so much.

I dropped my face into my hand and shook my head.  Then I tried to explain how important it is for kids to get every possible opportunity to practice reading out loud.  My man Rocket Scientist chimed in that it’s really embarrassing to mispronounce something when you’re giving a presentation at work.

The other things I’m wondering are, a) what the Sam Hill is the teacher doing during active class time that he couldn’t do during free periods or in the evening?  and b) where did they dig up this amateur production, that in no way could possibly be an improvement on the kids taking turns to read?

See, you’ll never find out what your kids are really doing in class.  You ask them how their day was and they say Okay.  You ask if they learned anything interesting and they may have something to share.  But no amount of probing is going to uncover fun facts such as, My teachers are incompetent, or They quit caring years ago, or I may not make it through college at this rate.

We’re finishing The Knife of Never Letting Go tonight.  I’m starting to wonder how we can find a way to do two books a week instead of one.  Twelve years of schooling isn’t that much, really, when you come down to it – especially in some places.

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