Monday, February 24, 2014

Reading Level

So Big Kid's teacher approached me and told me he was assessed at reading at a 11th grade in the 9th month level. He's in 5th grade.

This is not a humble brag because I thinks it's a little ridiculous and I don't really understand the metric. I will brag all day long about how he loves to read, but I don't really care what level he's reading at.

She said at school he now has to read books that are 11th grade or higher. Kind of a problem when he's an emotionally young 5th grader--this is a child who refuses to read Hunger Games because he disagrees with the premise.  She said the school was having to order books specifically for him and I asked that I have some input in this process, and offered to buy the books, but didn't hear back. So I guess that was a no.

He was pissed about the assessment though. He was certain it meant more work and no more kids' books. I assured him that was not true, it just meant actual literature--that THIS is when he'd learn to love all of the different combinations of words in the world. Then I promised he could read whatever he wanted at home.

He got in the car the next day and handed me his first assigned book. By Ayn Rand.

"Tell me it's not boring, mom. This IS boring."

I read the first two pages. "It's boring. Terribly so. A lot of people like her though. I am not one of them, but maybe you will be. She has some...very different ideas on society than I do but feel free to form your own opinion. You might like it."

He did not. I told him he didn't have to continue to read it, that I would tell the teacher it was too dry and philosophically mature for a 5th grader, but he insisted that he would finish. In the meantime, I bought a stack of stuff I'd rather he read. He started with "Of Mice and Men."

As a Steinbeck lover, this thrilled me. When he was a newborn, I spent two weeks reading East of Eden out loud to him, more because I didn't know what else to do with him than any attempt at Baby Geniusing.

He came out of his room on the first night. "Mom, I just want to tell you something about this book."

Ugh. I was a bit worried we were going to go the way of Ayn Rand, and ruin his love of Steinbeck before he was actually old enough to appreciate it.

"Steinbeck gets REALLY wordy with descriptions. I like that about him but some people don't. If you don't, feel free to skim that stuff, I promise the story is still good." I assured him.

"No, it's good. It's just that...there's curse words. I like the book and I want to read it but thought you should know in case you forgot."

Oh, Big Kid. Wonderful, honest Big Kid.

"Well, John Steinbeck's allowed to curse, baby. You're not. As long as you know that, I don't really care. Sometimes 'bad' words add emotion that is necessary for the story line. A 5th grader doesn't need to add that level of emphasis in his own life, but I really couldn't care less if you read some curse words in a book. You don't have to read it if you don't want to, though."

"To be honest, that's kind of why I want to read it." 

He read it, and he loved it. He was sad at the end. He went on to read Animal Farm and is now reading Lord of the Flies. 

I gave birth to my own book club. And now I'm probably one of the few 5th grade parents seeking out great literature that includes curse words.


Jacquie said...

As a kid who read at the college level in 5th grade I don't agree with this at all... they should not be picking books for him to read with out your imput and if he doesn't like a book then he should be allowed to stop there. I don't understand schools today....

Ashley said...

That's what irritates me--they're going to beat the love of reading out of him! It's not a skill you lose, really, I think we're safe to say he will continue being an advanced long as he likes reading.

He loves children's books--because he is a child! So I told him to read what he wants at home (while providing things I'd love for him to read) and just get through it at school.

Ashley said...

And to start with Ayn Rand? Jesus help me!! I seriously laughed out loud at the absurdity, what a weird choice.

Nova said...

I was a huuuuuge reader as a kid and pretty advanced too. Stephen King was my jam back then. I guess it's still simple enough stuff but creepy enough to hold my interest. The Long Walk is still one of my favorite books. Also my dad let me read his Kurt Vonnegut books when I'd visit him and I didn't really "get" them but I enjoyed the stories anyway. Also maybe get him some Ray Bradbury short stories? It's tough though, yeah because of his age. OH and for kids' books, The Maze Runner trilogy is really great.

Ashley said...

I also loved Stephen King! I read Misery the summer before third grade! I'll look into the Maze Runner, he loves series.

Cindy * GoodHaus Design said...

Oh man. Both my boys read many years above their age too. It's hard, because just because they are able to read the words doesn't mean they will always understand the context or be emotionally ready for books aimed at an older audience.

You're such a good mom. I'm way more protective and conservative and nervous than you are. LOL

Cindy * GoodHaus Design said...

Haha I just went back and read the comments. I read "The Shining" in middle school, and even though it scared the shizzle out of me, it was the first of dozens of Stephen King books I read. I still have a bunch of them on my bookshelf. :)

Leslie said...

First time commenter, but had to chime in... I was in the same boat as Big Kid, so I know what it's like. And Ayn Rand!! Ooof, I haven't even gathered the courage to try and read her and I'm almost 31... I'm not too sure on what the levels are of some of these suggestions, but has he read The Giver? Still one of my favorites. I also thought of Cynthia Voigt's books, but they may be a little old for him yet, but I'm not sure.

And to some degree, who cares if he is way above the "reading level" of some of those kids books? Just because he can and will read them faster than the other kids doesn't mean the underlying meaning or message in the book isn't age-appropriate for him...

Anyway, I hope you find a happy medium!

K.H.B.S said...

This is my first time commenting on a blog. I feel the need to tell you this in case I somehow horribly mess up ;)

My son was recently tested before his 5th birthday and he was evaluated at 5th year in the 6th month. I'm really struggling with finding books that "challenge" him but are still age appropriate. I purchased books 1-40 in the Magic Tree House series and he's been reading one every night. He knows every word in these books.

It's a struggle between him liking to look at picture books but also wanting to be challenged. Do you have any suggestions for me? I wanted to ask on the BHB but didn't want to deal with the special snowflake comments LOL

I really like your blog.....
back to lurking :)

Ashley said...

KHBS, at that age, Big Kid loved Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, and the Wrinkle in Time books. We also loved the Invention of Hugo Cabret. Not great literature, but he loves Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the Origami Yoda-type books. We also love everything by Roald Dahl, I think he's read all of them.

I think you've just got to keep him reading and keep it mostly age appropriate--like I said, I don't think their reading level is going to go DOWN just because you didn't force them to read way beyond their interest level!

Melaka said...

Perhaps you could introduce him to different genres - like biographies. I would suggest the first one be "Open" by Andre Agassi. Hands down this was one of the best biographies I've ever read.

A.D. said...

Ayn Rand...really? I didn't read her until college, and I had to force myself to finish it. I think the books you picked out for him sound great. My 4th grade teacher gave me Jane Eyre to read (after tearing through the Sweet Valley Twins series :)), and it is still one of my favorite books. I'm sure I didn't really understand everything the first time I read it, but I really do think it is what inspired me to love great books!

Unknown said...

I think my eyes almost popped out of my head when I read they gave him Ayn Rand. What are they trying to do to the kid?

(Also, hi! I'm a new reader! Love your writing style!)

Anonymous said...

That's kinda funny. When I was in fifth grade, I was reading at a high school or college level. While I could read anything I wanted at school if I brought it, I wasn't allowed to do my book report on Stephen King's It. I was pissed because if I read over 1000 pages, I wanted to write about it. So I sped through Cujo and did the report on that instead.
My son is 6 and has read almost all of the titles on the library's 4th grade reading suggestions, most of which he did last year. I feel your pain, but its also kind of awesome. But definitely hard when he wants to read things emotionally beyond him when he technically CAN read it. There are so many I've said, "Awesome book, just get a bit older." Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, The Cay, Where the Red Fern Grows. I can't wait to share them with him.

Alexa said...

Ugh, even adults have a hard time with Ayn Rand.

As someone who also read at a college level in 5th grade, my teachers got me into world mythology. I was encouraged to systematically read all the mythology from cultures around the world and compare and contrast, etc. in preparation for the National Mythology Exam. Not only was this more appropriate and interesting reading for an 11 year old, but it has also led to a firm "classics" foundation which aided me through the remainder of my schooling (currently post-grad research). At the end of 5th grade, I scored in the 98th percentile for my age group on the exam.

I read the myths of the Celts, all about dragons and giant worms and foretelling of King Arthur. Japanese myths about the creation of the sun, Norse myths about Rangnorak and Russian tales about Baba Yaga.

Further, because I thoroughly know my mythology, my experience reading sci-fi and fantasy novels, viewing art and seeing movies is so much richer. Plus, Shakespeare makes so much more sense.

Just a thought on a more pre-teen friendly reading curriculum (what next Nietzsche?)

Melda said...

This is the first post I've read of your blog so I know nothing more about you or Big Kid, but I would suggest the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett and another fantasy series I think called Belgariad - it's been a long time since I read it but thoroughly enjoyed it.

Pattee said...

Just dropping in to say that I love your blog! And in case you haven't seen Google's home page yet, they are honoring John Steinbeck's 112th birthday today! Thought I'd share. ;-)

Steff said...

I was at his same reading level in 5th grade and got up to college level by the end of the year (and I am young enough that I also had the same AR reading system) so I know how you/he feels! There were SO little books I could choose from at the library and they were all so terrible and so old. Even if I liked one it wasn't as fun because no one else in my class was reading it, and they were reading the fun silly books that were too 'easy' for me. Like another commenter mentioned, I ended up reading a LOT of biographies! Fortunately it didn't impact my love of reading because I still fly through books as an adult.