I picked up a fantastic book at my library’s recent booksale for a dime. It’s called “The Read-Aloud Handbook” by Jim Trelease (5th Edition).
I’ve always had my nose buried in a book, for as long as I could remember. Grandma used to pick up Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books for me at yard sales, and I would read them almost as fast as she could get them for me. My favorite was a huge, old encyclopedia that had at least 1000 pages. I could just flip open to any page and start reading.
So it was natural to me to read to George as soon as he was born. Same with Ethan, and both boys have demonstrated a marked interest in books.
Here’s an excerpt from “The Read-Aloud Handbook” that really grabbed my attention:
One case offers a dramatic example of learning by simply reading — and maybe the Guinness world record for SSR (sustained silent reading): that of Robert Allen. Fatherless at birth in 1949 and abandoned by his mother at age six, Allen was raised by his grandfather, three great-aunts, and a great-uncle living in a farmhouse without plumbing in the hills of West Tennessee. There Robert Allen stayed for the next twenty-six years, never attending school, or riding a bicycle or going to a movie theater or having a single playmate his own age.
When he was seven, one of his aunts began reading to him — especially Donald Duck comic books — and soon taught him to write. He began reading the Bible to his blind aunt. Since his relatives were so elderly, one of them was always bedridden, and young Robert’s duty was to take care of them. Looking to fill the vacant hours, at age twelve he picked up an old copy of Shakespeare’s plays and read through it in one sitting. Soon he was scavenging yard sales for old books, magazines, and comics. Books became his playmates, his escape from the loving but grim reality of where he was.
He read anything and everything until he discovered the county library. There the world’s classics awaited him and he waded into them, even teaching himself to read Greek and French until he had read every book in the library. Not surprisingly, the librarian encouraged him to pursue a college education, and in 1981, at thirty-two years of age, he showed up at Bethel College, a small Presbyterian college just fifteen miles from his farmhouse. His placement test showed he knew more than almost every faculty member, and they had him skip freshman year.
Graduating summa cum laude in three years (only typing kept him from straight A’s in his senior year), he went on to Vanderbilt University, where he earned master’s and doctoral degrees in English. Today he teaches at the University of Tennessee-Martin. For a guy who cam efrom the Tennessee backwoods, where they weren’t exactly speaking the King’s English, who missed all those childhoood vocabulary tests and book reports, who did no seat work except SSR (sustained silent reading) for twenty-five straight years, and, by my calcuations, missed at least 8,000 worksheets, he certainly did all right for himself.
Among the things Dr. Robert Allen’s situation might prove, none is stronger than the case it makes for pure, unadulterated, uninterrupted, random, and purposeful reading.
This book confirms the importance of reading aloud to your children, and encouraging them to read as much as they want. I signed George up for the summer reading program that started June 5 at the county library, and he’s already read a total of 4.5 hours over the past 17 days! I’ve also started reading aloud from chapter books — right now, we’re about 1/3 of the way through “Charlotte’s Web,” and his attention span is excellent — he’ll sit for 20 minutes while I read to him, and he interrupts only to ask questions about Wilbur or Charlotte or other various characters. Sometimes when the 20 minutes are up, he wants to read longer. I’m amazed at his interest level.