Friday, October 21, 2005

Got Books?

A few weeks ago our daughter came home from school with some information about a program called Books and Beyond. It's designed to encourage kids to read more outside of class and help parents "promote literacy behaviors at home." My wife and I are both avid readers and we'd love to see our kids follow suit, not just because studies suggest it would help them academically but just for the pure enjoyment of a good book!

Here's how the program works at her school, at least at the kindergarten level. A couple weeks ago the teachers gave each student a sheet with images and text describing Australia (this year's theme is "island hopping") and a list of related books the children may check out of the school library (they aren't required to read those books, any book will do). The students are then asked to read at least 15 minutes each day (someone can read to them, if they're not yet able to read). Each day they complete that minimum requirement, their parent initials/dates a box on the sheet. Once they've filled up the sheet (there's room for 15 days) they can turn it in to their teacher for a small prize (like a pencil or sticker) and the next sheet. If they complete all the assignments by the end of the school year they get a gold medal and a special book of their own.

Our daughter is now on her second sheet (the island of Honshu, Japan - which is kind of cool since my wife lived there for a while as a child) and it's the highlight of her evening to complete her assignment so her mom or I can sign her "homework project" (as she calls it). It's inspiring our son too, even though he's still in preschool and can't really read yet. We printed up a mock assignment sheet for him, and he delights in being able to do "homework" just like his big sister. Good stuff!

The Boxcar Children, the Little House on the Prairie series, the Chronicles of Narnia... those are some of my own childhood favorites that I can't wait to read with my kids. It'll be a few more years before our daughter's ready for those particular books, but it's exciting nonetheless to see her pick up one of her books and snuggle down in a comfortable chair for a read. I'm glad her school encourages recreational reading.

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