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Friday, April 17, 2015

To Read Ahead or Not?

by Marcy Collier

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My eight-year-old son and I were talking about his day at school. He's the son who makes me work to pull information about his day.

His second grade teacher (who my older son also had) is a voracious reader and tried to read to the class aloud daily. He loves this part of the day because he is also an avid reader. He and I are usually reading several different chapter books together at one time, depending on his bedtime reading preference.

When I asked him what the teacher read in class that day, his eyes lit up as he asked, "Have you ever read The Indian in the Cupboard?"

Being a children's author and enthusiastic reader myself, I said, "No, I actually haven't read that one. Is is good?"

"Oh, Mom, you have to read it." He told me the premise. The boy in the story, Omri, gets a plastic Indian brave for his birthday from his friend Patrick. He puts the Indian in a cupboard and locks it with a strange key that once belonged to his great-grandmother. When he turns the key, the Indian changes from plastic to a real live Indian man.

My son insisted I read the book and asked if we could buy it so he could read ahead of the class. My older son used to do the same thing because he couldn't wait to read what came next. And as a reader myself, I have stayed up most of the night to finish way too many books to name because I just couldn't wait to see what happened next.

When my older son wanted to read ahead, we'd have to make a trip to the library or bookstore, which bought me some time to stay just a wee bit behind where they left off in school.

But now I have a Kindle and a Nook, where I can buy just about any book on the planet instantaneously. What to do?

The reader in me picked up the device that was charged (the Kindle) and within less than a minute, we were reading.

My son is trying hard not to tell me what happens next. He knows how much I enjoy surprises. But I'm usually the one recommending and reading books to him. Ones I've read that he hasn't. It is so much fun for him to share a book that he's read, but I haven't.

Thankfully, even though, we purchased the book right away, we were still able to stay behind the class (who incidentally just finished the book). My son really, really wants to tell me the ending and keeps giving me scenarios and asking me to choose the ending I think will happen.

So the question, do you read ahead of the class or stay slightly behind?

I typically stay slightly behind or on the same chapter. My older son always wanted to finish before the class too. In one book in particular, we were a few chapters ahead of the class, and I thank the stars we were. He was in third grade and had a permanent substitute teacher for the year. She decided to read one of her childhood favorites, Judy Blume's, Superfudge. I like Judy Blume's books. I can remember in middle school passing around someone's older sister's worn copy of Forever (and hiding what we were reading), but I had not read this one. Fortunately, we were a few chapters ahead at home and I saw the foreshadowing of a Christmas scene. I didn't like where it was going, not one bit. See the below link to the reviews of others who felt the same.


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That night I emailed the teacher and told her she absolutely had to skip that particular scene or my son and probably at least half of the class would be devastated. Fortunately, she did, and since we were reading this book at home, my son didn't feel the need to take it out of the library and re-read it a third time. And I am thankful we were ahead. Christmas was a month away and wouldn't have been the same for my son or most of those children because the teacher had not read the book ahead of time. She chose this book based on nostalgic memories from her youth. If you're a teacher, you should always read a book before reading it to your students.

So again, thoughts on reading ahead of the class? I have mixed emotions, but I want to know what you think.

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