Sunday, June 01, 2008

Spontaneous Work

This is my 6 year-old's work. I took this picture after she went upstairs for bed. She was in the dining room all by herself after dinner and apparently this is how she decided to spend her free time. She copied sentences from the book we finished that day. How wonderful it is to come across that kind of work being done on its own!

She's recently discovered the joy of having chapter books read to her. Of course she liked Junie B. Jones (I don't know a single kid who doesn't), but any other reading was squashed unless it was a picture book (loves those pictures, don't ya know). She would pooh-pooh any other book.

That changed with a chance find of hers at the library in the beginning of the school year. Please keep in mind that we're talking about an almost (at the time) six year-old girl. She saw the most beautiful book cover ever. The book itself was about a 1/4" thick (a beginner chapter book type) and had a picture about every third page. But--but there was a unicorn on the front cover. A white unicorn. A white unicorn with sparkly stars all around it. A white unicorn with sparkly stars and swirly clouds all around it.

The book was called "My Secret Unicorn" (not to be confused with the Secret Unicorn--another beginning chapter book with more advanced words and ideas) and it's about a girl who discovers her plain boring pony will change to a unicorn after dark when she says special words. The book itself is OK. The ideas are about what you'd expect given the storyline. After reading that book, we discovered that there were more books and that this was a series. We got the rest they had at the library and she was hooked. However, she was adamant that she was NOT interested in any other books. I had to bribe her by reading passages of other books before reading a chapter of those.

If you have a 1st or 2nd grader (or even Kindergartner or 3rd grader) you will probably know what that book pictured above is. If you don't know what it is, I'll bet your kid does--he or she has probably been reading one if they go to public school or seen them at friend's houses. It's one of the Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborn.

The Magic Tree House are books about a tree house that will magically transport the two main characters, Jack and Annie, in location and time to any picture you look at in the books stored in the tree house. I question the books use of grammar and the dialogue is really, really boring. It even uses Morgan Le Fey as a good guy (yeah--nothing like trying to rewrite other actually compelling stories).

The books do touch on interesting aspects of history and science. Keep in mind, however, that the author takes a lot of license with making creatures friendly and having supernatural events or characters. Another recurring theme is the conflict between the two characters. Jack, the older brother, is more thoughtful and responsible. Annie, the younger sister, is willing to take a lot more risk and encourages her brother to 'don't think, do'.

Well, I don't like the books very much, but they have redeeming qualities in introducing historical and scientific events and characters that you can then explain properly. My youngest daughter does like the idea of the books and enjoys and asks for them and practices her own reading with them. I'm just thrilled she finds them interesting enough to read and write!


objectivistDad said...

Our son read Junie B. Jones and enjoyed them. Around the same time, he was also reading: "Cam Jansen" and "Jigsaw Jones" (just in case you have not tried those yet).

It's funny how a nice cover can motivate a kid. My son's first steps into Harry Potter started that way. He saw the steam engine on the cover of first book (non-US edition), and was curious, even though it was too advanced for him at the time. He would thumb through it. So, I decided to read it to him. Now, years later, he's read them all multiple times.

Kim said...

Come to think of it, when I'm browsing books in a bookstore, not looking for something in particular, I still rely on the cover to grab my attention.

We triend Cam Jansen (I bought a whole set of 6) but it didn't interest my youngest. She is the pickiest thing when it comes to books. If it's a Barbie movie book (ugh), she's in. I'm rather shocked she likes the Magic Tree House books, with their dearth of cute cuddly or fantastical creatures.

I just have to face it, she's a 'girly girl' and the more hearts, rainbows, unicorns, and butterflies, the better. The Magic Tree House books are giving me some hope, though.

It's awesome to read such great books to your kids! When they're too young to read it on their own, they are still completely fascinated by the story. I'll bet you cemented the awesomeness to books by doing that.