Before reading this post you have to know that the words in the blog title are not ones expressing frustration or anger. Because even though I might (or you might) say similar phrases when addressing a child that has made some crazy poor choice, in this case these are words of pure astonishment and awe!
They filled my mind and came out as praise both a week before Christmas and then again yesterday when Halle (who is only 7 years old) amazed me with yet another long and weighty-in-matter chapter book she had completed in just one sitting, in a little over two hours.
But let me back up to explain a little more about my marveling…
I know I have mentioned Halle’s love for reading on this blog before (here is one post) and some might know that she started reading when she was 4. And when I say ‘reading’ I mean she was reading fluently and reading chapter books (long chapter books) regularly and without any aid or prompting on my part.
I used to try to keep up with everything she has read by giving her an account on www.goodreads.com but it was an impossible task, and I lost track long ago. And what makes grasping her full literature intake all the trickier is that she reads and re-reads so many of her chapter stories over and over again. Even though I know what is on her book shelves, I am not always sure of what she picked up to read that day. We also get lots of books at the library each week that I don’t put effort into documenting. In addition to all that, even more literature floods our home because Rob’s mom has given Halle a subscription to several most excellent children magazines by a publisher called Cricket. Three of the magazines, Spider (ages 6 – 9), Ask (ages 6-9), and Cricket (ages 9-14) come in the mail each month, and when they do Halle will sit down and consume all the literature within in just a short while.
I have so wanted to be able to read along side of her and be able to discuss all that she is filling her mind with, but there is no way I can keep up!
The child literally wakes up reading and goes to bed reading! If I had to guess, I would say she reads an average of 5-6 hours a day. Because we homeschool, the mornings are pretty relaxed and often she will wake up around 7:30am, but remains back in her room until 9 reading through her chapter books. Then during rest time (2:30pm – 5:00pm everyday), she is reading some more. While I do school things with Dee and Gracie that are unique to them, Halle is reading. When we run errands, she is reading in the car and often times in the cart at the grocery stores. And when I am in the kitchen getting dinner ready in the evening, most of the time, she is in the den or back in her room reading, reading, reading! Then at bedtime (8ish), she is given a time limit as to when to stop reading which usually gives her another 1 1/2 hours or so of more time with books (but that nighttime estimate is on the conservative side, because many times Rob will get out of bed after 11pm and see that her light is STILL on and that she is STILL reading).
What gets me lately is not the amount of time she spends reading, but her speed and comprehension in doing so. I knew that slow was never a word that described her reading style, because she can easily breeze through a Boxcar Children Book in less than hour. She brings out a stack of around 7 each day that she goes through before dinnertime. But I figured the speed was because she reads them over and over again and is so familiar with the content and storyline. In 2010 there were 146 books in the series (now I see there are an additional two we need to acquire) and she has completed all of them (thanks to the library, half-price books, and amazon.com). She knows them so well that when a discussion came up between a 14 year old girl who mentioned she had read one of the Boxcar books once and thought the title had something to do with ‘a houseboat mystery’, Halle replied back, “Oh, you mean number 12?” Which sure enough, she was right. Number 12 is indeed The Houseboat Mystery.
I also do not comprehend how she picks up on the vocabulary of many of the books she reads. She sees a word used and then based on its surrounding context, she seems to get them and understand them. Even words like ‘polygamy.’ I know this because last year sometime, a friend of mine and I were watching one of the movie renditions of Jane Eyre during the kiddos’ rest time. When Halle came out, we were at the wedding scene that was interrupted between Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. We brought Halle up to speed and explained that the wedding could not continue because it was discovered Mr. Rochester was already married. Halle pondered this for no more than a second before concluding, ‘well if he were a polymast, he could get married.” Astonished at this, I asked “do you mean polygamist?” After her confirmation, I was able to discover that she had come across the word a couple years ago when she had read through the Lemony Snicket series. Apparently the word came up, Halle read about it, remembered it, and then used it again more than a year later with the correct application to poor Jane’s dilemma!
So you can see, I have much to wonder at with Halle and her reading. But with some recent happenings, I now see that she can read quickly (like speed reading) and with amazing comprehension when going through a book for the first time. When I mentioned that I was in awe just a week before Christmas, it was because we had given her The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to read. My mom had wanted to take the girls to see the movie and it was the one book Halle had not yet read in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Series. So at 2:30pm one rest time before we left for Houston, I handed her the book to begin her reading. And when she came out at 5:00pm, she had told me that she finished it. Hence the “seriously, child! I mean really????” response.
Could she have actually gone through it that fast and picked up all of the story? When I worked my way through them several years ago, I know that it took me at least a week to get through each one of them.
I decided I needed to check her comprehension of the material and with a little bit of googling, I found some questions here on the novel that I talked with her about. She pretty much aced the quiz I had come across! The questions that she missed upon first asking, she was able to complete correctly with a little assistance from me. She got it!!
Then yesterday, she took the book I had started as a read aloud, over the weekend, back to her bedroom during rest time. This was Little Pilgrims’s Progress a retelling of Paul Bunyan’s classic that is still 336 pages long. Sure enough, at 5 oclock out she came with the completed book in hand. Wha-what!!
Again, all I can say is ‘wow!’
I am still at a loss as to what I should do with this (if anything at all). When parents realize they have a child that has talent in a sport, they get them more involved and enroll them with teachers/coaches/instructors to help further develop their skill. But with reading, I don’t know what I can do. I have talked with other English teachers to get feedback on this (because I do think it is a gift she has as Rob and I do not read that way nor do Dee and Gracie show signs of similar potential), and they suggest to just keep encouraging her and find ways to expand her comprehension and thought process of the stories she reads.
So that is what I will try to introduce to her, but I just want to be careful that it doesn’t become a turn off for her. I so want her love for reading to be enhanced all the more by exploring deeper into what she reads! I just feel so inadequate trying to do so.
I am always open to thoughts and suggestions on this matter :-) and I would love more great book recommendations that I should stock her bookcases with!