Tee is in grade four at the local public elementary school this year. One of the programs his teacher has in place is called Home Reading. As the teacher explained at the beginning of the year, it has been proven that readers become better readers by reading, and for her, the next logical step was to enforce that reading. So she insists that the children in her class read for at least a half hour every day at home, and after each reading session, write down the name of the book, how many pages were read, and a comment about the reading.
Up until this year, nobody had ever insisted that Tee read.
Predictably, within several weeks of starting school, his interest in reading dropped dramatically.
When I asked him about why he wasn’t reading much anymore, he told me that whenever he felt like reading, he remembered that he would have to write down all that stuff, and that made him not want to read. When his teacher began insisting that he read at least a half hour every day, he really became resistant, and started “forgetting” his backpack at school and “losing” the book he was supposed to be reading. Then he started getting weepy about it.
So I went in to the school for a little chat with the teacher.
I explained the situation. She said that “we all have to do things we don’t want to do.” I said that it was my understanding that she was trying to encourage reading. She agreed. I said that this program was not encouraging Tee’s reading, that it was in fact squelching his desire to read. I went on to explain that Tee didn’t need encouragement to read. That he had been an avid and skilled reader before he started in her class. That if she left him alone with his reading, he would continue to read. That we didn’t need to document the number of pages he read, and that by taking such an overzealous interest in his reading, we were taking away his intrinsic enjoyment of it. She pulled out the research that provided the evidence that children who read a lot become better readers.
Back to square one. We were clearly going in circles.
So I smiled and said that while her program might very well work for some children, it obviously wasn’t working for my son.
She said that it would be unfair if Tee was excused from doing homework that the rest of the class was expected to do.
I said that I thought it was unfair to be inhibiting Tee’s interest in reading.
She said that Tee needed a better attitude, that he was homeschooling no longer, that he was now part of a group, and that sometimes “we” do things because “we” are told to do them.
I finally just told the teacher that I truly did appreciate her care for her students but that I disagreed with her opinions on this matter. Then I said that I would no longer be insisting that Tee do the Home Reading when he was at my house. That I wasn’t willing to coerce him into doing something that I thought was to his detriment. That I had to pick my battles with my contrary young son, and that Home Reading wasn’t going to be one of them. She said that she would be having a chat with Tee about doing the homework, that she was his teacher, that she insisted. Fine by me, I said. Give it your best shot. Just don’t expect me to be one of your henchmen.
In counselling lingo, what I did was extricate myself from a relationship triangle.
I was no longer willing to be the middle person in a conflict between two other people.
I’m not sure what ended up happening with the Home Reading. I found the journal, soggy and torn, on the kitchen table this morning, and there were some entries in it, so he must record at least a bit of what he reads. All I know is that when he’s at my house, he’s back to his old reading self, and that’s what I care about.
note: why are the entries for dates that haven’t happened yet? and does he read anything but comics?