Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fitting It All In: Reading and Time Management

Evenings are hectic around here, as I imagine they are in most homes.

We usually have only 1-2 hours, sometimes less, between the Slovak getting home from work and bedtime, and in that time we have to cook dinner, eat dinner, read a chapter book, do a reading lesson, and do the bedtime routine (story and songs).

Cooking dinner earlier doesn't really work for me most days, nor does doing the reading lesson. The 18-month-old really requires adult supervision, so getting anything done when the Slovak isn't home comes at a cost of, for instance, pulling everything out of the kitchen cabinets, rummaging in the trash for a snack, coloring on the refrigerator or climbing to unacceptable places on the furniture, to name a few favorites. K also finds it understandably hard to concentrate on a lesson when M is in the same room.

So we have to fit it all in to the after work - before bedtime window. Most nights this means leaving something out - sometimes we have leftovers so we don't lose time cooking, but it is still a stretch to fit everything in without being too rushed. Most of the time it ends up as a choice between doing a lesson or reading a chapter.

I would like to finish the lessons, but when I weigh the long-term benefits of learn-to-read lessons and reading together as a family, I think reading together wins out. So we've dialed back on the reading lessons a bit. We do a couple a week and we split them in half unless we have a lot of time to spare, and that is working well for now.

If we had continued doing a lesson every single night without fail we would be done with the book already; as it is we are around 2/3 to 3/4 done (or so). The important thing, though, is that we have already achieved our goal in doing the lessons in the first place: K's reading anxiety is essentially gone. Maybe entirely gone.

K finds the readings challenging but manageable and she enjoys counting the lines of each story to see how long it is. Last time I showed her the beginning of the book, where you read two letters together and the first story is three words long, and compared it to the 17-line story she read that day. She loved seeing how much progress she has made already.

She is also motivated to read books, signs and things we see around the house or around town. She likes to practice writing on paper or on a computer, usually self-directed and involving creative spelling. Occasionally I am allowed to suggest something she might try writing.

With this positive attitude I am comfortable pulling back on the formal lessons and we can finish slowly. I imagine that in the long run memories of reading together will be more valuable and contribute more to literacy for both children.

We finished Farmer Boy over the weekend and I asked what we should read next: the next Little House book or mix it up with something else? Both K and Apo put in immediate and enthusiastic votes for LITTLE HOUSE!! So we are working our way through Little House on the Prairie.

I hope we can make our evening readings such a habit that we continue them for years, even when the little ones are old enough to read for themselves. I think it's good for all of us.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Cultural Competence and Belonging

Yesterday my daughter handed me a book of Czech nursery rhymes and asked me to read. Some of them are actually song lyrics; in fact maybe all of them are songs and some I just haven't heard before.

When I was finished reading one particular poem, the Slovak burst into song (because the poem was apparently a song I haven't heard before). Almost immediately K joined in, because she knew the song from preschool. It is hard to explain, but I had this moment of complete dissonance looking at them, realizing that they share a culture that I don't.

It makes me proud (that my girl knows her father's culture, knows lots of songs, can carry a tune...), but also makes me feel a little left out! It occurs to me that this must be how people feel when they don't speak the language of their spouse or one of their children's languages. I can't imagine feeling like this all the time...

Guess I need to brush up on my lidovky [folk songs]. :)


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