Why Blog

I’m passionate about finding ways to simplify comprehension instruction and learning. I’m concerned that we are defining comprehension too narrowly as an accumulation of five or six meta-cognitive strategies when cultivating comprehension involves so much more than that. We need to help children acquire accurate fluent reading skills and strategies; build background knowledge; develop their oral language and vocabulary; make reading-writing connections, and acquire a repertoire of meta-cognitive strategies to use as and if needed.

So I invite you to join me in blogging about this ever-so-important topic. I look forward to hearing your ideas, teaching strategies, book recommendations, classroom stories, etc., basically anything that will inspire a healthy conversation among colleagues.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Homework—Reading for the Fun of It

In Chapter 3 of Comprehension from the Ground Up I tell the story of Sofia, my seven-year-old granddaughter, becoming so totally engaged in putting together her craft jewelry box that she lost track of time. And how two hours later she resurfaced with a gorgeous sparkly jewelry box to show for her efforts. I compared that experience to the type of experiences we should try to create for students in our classrooms and families should provide at home. We want students to engage in their reading and read voluminously. But how…how can we make reading experiences sparkle so that children will love to read so much that time simply slips away?

One way is to make sure the homework we assign doesn’t involve the heavy-lifting feel that accompanies so many of children’s in-class assignments. Homework should be relaxing and fun. Kids should look forward to their home reading as a much needed and well-deserved break from the routines and rigors of the day.

When Sofia visited us over the President’s Day Weekend, I was thrilled to see that a transfer from arts and crafts to reading had taken place. Sofia read nonstop. She read Sharks while she was eating breakfast. She read Muggie Maggie while waiting for Eva to get dressed so they could go out and play. She read Owls in the afternoon when she needed a break from playing with cousins Jack and Danny. And at night her Mom read to her from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows! And the best part is that all the while Sofia was doing her homework—reading, simply reading. So thank you to Nicola Davies, Beverly Cleary, Gail Gibbons, and J. K. Rowling for helping to put fun back into homework. And thank you to Ms. Steele for letting these fine authors do what they do best. (And btw: Sofia still loves arts and crafts, soccer, basketball, and cooking...in addition to reading.)


  1. "Kids should look forward to their home reading as a much needed and well-deserved break from the routines and rigors of the day."

    Yeah! I love this. My daughter (third grade) "has" to read 20 minutes each day for homework. Thankfully there is no reading log this year, but it is still an "assignment." It has been fun to watch her grow as a reader. At first we'd get some guff for reminding her ... only to have her spend an hour trapped by a book. Now, she reminds US that she needs to spend time reading. Usually at night, after we've read with her, and she wants to stay up a little later "because I have to do my homework."

    So glad to have met you through Share a Story!

  2. Sharon~
    I love the thought of children curling up in a book and loosing track of time, regretting my redirection of a joke book today... tomorrow, Joel gets the joke book and an apology!
    This may jsut the break, or sparkle, he needs!

  3. i'm go happy you're giving your little guy (i'm assuming he's little) back his joke book! we all need down time...

  4. terry--it's thrilling, isn't it, to see authors work their magic on our children...yay!

  5. "Homework should be relaxing and fun" - right on!

  6. what an interesting blog...just joined.

  7. Yes! This is exactly it, Sharon! The joy, the total absorption that readers should have. Great post!

    We really experienced the killing off of an innate joy with a (horrid) first grade writing journal. AJ was in tears every night - and I didn't realize until later that I should have just stopped the whole darn thing. I didn't and instead, she fell behind in writing, had dramatic meltdowns, and is still reigniting her passion for writing two years later. (I'm a writer so it's killing me but I'm trying to just model and encourage.)

  8. Unfortunately, some parents and schools seem to measure successful learning by its weight - if it's heavy, it must be good for you! I totally support your call for homework to be relaxing and fun.

  9. I love it that Sofia can get lost in books the way she gets lost in crafts. Those moments of "flow" are my own favorite times, whether it's reading, fly fishing, writing...

  10. i never quite thought of it as "flow" but you're right. that's exactly what it is!