Ringing in the New Year

 

 

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The other day I ran into a woman at the hairdresser who was a mother of an autistic child.  I heard her talking about taking her son out of school to home school him.

As a special education teacher and mother of a special needs child myself, I asked her why.  She said that there was no one on the south side of town  (Atlanta) to help her better understand how to help her son through the school system.

I asked her how I could help parents to better understand the school system and help the children. She told me that they need a consultant to answer questions about IEPs, educational-psychological reports, and how to get what their children need to learn.

I left the hairdresser feeling like the Lord was telling me something.  It has been several days and the conversation has not left my mind.  As I start a new year on this blog, I am feeling the need to focus on special education.  I would like to strengthen the partnership between teachers, parents, community, and the special needs children.  What do you think? Is there a need for a consultant on the south side of Atlanta?  Can I help? 

Top 5 suggested books from my book shelf

Welcome to the end of the year.  I can’t believe it is here.  With 10 days left, I began to think about some of the books that I have read this year and how they have impacted me.  Listed below is my top 5.  Browse through and see any of these books pique your interest.  I hope they do!

  1.  The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe – This book is about a mother/son book club that leaves a memory and bond of a lifetime.
  2. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert – This novel, written like a classic, this novel tells the life story of a wealthy daughter of a self-made millionaire back in the 1800s.
  3. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver – Kingsolver never disappoints.  A missionary takes his family overseas to the village of Kilanga in the Belgian Congo.  They live with a primitive tribe and must assimilate to the tribal ways.  Told by his wife and four daughters, this novel will make you feel every emotion in their assimilation, their growth, and their downfalls.
  4. Long Walk Home by Nelson Mandela – Nelson Mandela is one of my heroes.  This book tells his life story and leaves us with lessons to learn.  The last chapter is chockablock of wisdom!
  5. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai – I am so impressed with this young lady.  If you don’t remember her, she is the young girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban.  This book is her life story and recovery and the wisdom that she learned along the way.

Each of these books resonate with me, and I have become part of their adventures and lives.  What books have your read this year?  Do you have some favorites?  Please post them and tell me about them.  I’d love to hear from you.

Why do so many boys hate reading?

Over my 15 years of teaching English, I have noticed a disturbing trend — only one or two boys out of each class like to read.  I have asked myself why they don’t like to read so often; I have even asked them.  Usually, I get the standard, “I hate to read.” For the past several years, I have started fighting back, “It’s not that you hate reading; It’s that you hate to read what teachers want you to read,” I retort.  “You read everyday…sports, social media, texting…” That usually catches them off guard, and most boys actually think about what I have said, with a shrug, “Maybe.”  But, still to this day, I don’t know for sure why many boys don’t read without being tortured.

As a good wife and mother, I started asking my husband and son.  Of course, both will tell you they don’t like to read either.  My husband is even proud of the fact that he avoided reading any novels during high school.  My son, on the other hand, has always struggled with reading, and says that he would rather eat nails than to read.  Neither can give me any insight into the male psyche (or rather, they won’t break the man-code).

Over the years, I have read several articles on this subject but not to much avail.  I know, for instance, that boys usually prefer nonfiction over fiction (except for the Manga, sci-fi or fantasy reader), they prefer action over  drama-filled love stories, and many like books that are funny or that focus on their hobbies or interests — sports, cars, etc.

 

Some of the books that I have found that interest boys are:  Monster by Walter Dean Myers, Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers, Hatchet by Gary Paulson, The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis, and The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney.

So, here is your part.  I need your help.  What were some of the books your boys read growing up? What do you read (if you are male)?  Feel free to give me some insight and advice in the boys reading dilemma.  I am looking for ideas and solutions to solve this age-old problem.  Let’s get boys reading.

I hate reading…

Ladies and Gentlemen, the scores are in.  For 2015, the nation’s reading scores from the National Center for Educational Statistics show 36 percent of 4th graders scored proficient and 34 percent of 8th graders scored proficient in reading.  America — we have a problem!

Why can’t our students pass standardized testing?  Well, as a teacher, I can tell you that the problem is multi-layered.  Without getting into a rant on education, one of our major problems with reading is that students don’t understand what they are reading.  Many of our students today can read the words, sometimes very well, but don’t have a clue what they have read.  This skill is called reading comprehension.

Reading comprehension is understanding what you have read.  Many students struggle with this skill. To be able to understand what you have read, you must know how to decode (sound out words), make connections between what you have read and what you already know, and think deeply about what you have read.

Students must be able to predict, connect, apply, analyze, infer, make judgments, draw conclusions, synthesize, evaluate, and define vocabulary. Students must know the difference between facts, opinions, generalizations, and biases.  They must be able to sequence, summarize, find the main idea or theme, find supporting details, determine what caused an event to happen, and so on.  Reading comprehension is a huge task, yet in high school, I still get many, many students who struggle with this skill.  Students must combine reading with thinking and reasoning.

So how do you know if your child struggles? Here are some signs of reading comprehension problems:

  • My child is not able to summarize a passage or a book.
  • My child might be able to tell you what happened in the story, but can’t explain why events went the way they did.
  • My child can’t explain what a character’s thoughts or feelings might have been.
  • My child doesn’t link events in a book to similar events from another book or from real life.

So how can parents help?  Create a book club with your child.  Try to read a book/article a month and discuss it.  Make it a family affair.  Now, you can have a great conversation at the dinner table!

Discuss background events or issues that will make the book more appealing.  If you read about the Japanese internment camps, discuss what they are before you read.  If you can, take time to visit some places that are mentioned in a book; for instance, if you read about the Holocaust, visit the Holocaust Museum in D.C.  This is very important.  Many students cannot connect real issues/events with what they are reading.  If they don’t understand the context, they won’t understand the content.

Ask what they thought of the story/article.  Ask for their viewpoint about different issues.  Ask probing questions.  Ask about characters, setting, plot, theme, and point of view.

Help your child make connections between what he or she reads and similar experiences he has felt, saw in a movie, read in another book, or seen in real life. This is called synthesis.  Again, many students cannot make the connections.  Don’t assume they can.

Help your child monitor his or her understanding.  Teach your child to continually ask himself whether he understood.  If you are reading the book to them, or they are reading it to you, stop after each paragraph and ask what happened.

Help your child go back to the text to support his answers to your questions.

Discuss the meaning of unknown words. Look them up in the dictionary or thesaurus together.  Use them throughout the week when talking with your son/daughter.  Have fun with new words.

Create a craft project or do a task that is relevant with the book.  If the book is about fishing, go fishing.  Bring the book to life.

Parents, just get these kids reading.  Don’t be afraid to read with your child.  The more that they read, the better their vocabulary and reasoning skills become.  They also become more empathetic to the world around them.  Reading makes not only better citizens, but smarter citizens.  As Dr. Seuss says, “The more that you read, the more things you will know; the more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”