Books & the Fourth Grader: Discovering a Reader

It was a typical Wednesday evening … dinner dishes were cleared and the only homework to be done was the required 20 minutes/night of independent reading. Reading is always the last homework job.

Fourth grader (age 10): “Mom, I did my reading. I read more than 20 minutes.”
Mom (checking the timer): Yes, it was more than 20 minutes. 20 minutes and .1 seconds to be exact! Seriously. Not even a full second more.

I understand why teachers set a time frame for students to practice reading, and my daughter is probably no different than the majority of her elementary school peers. What I see is someone who does “just enough” to meet the requirement, and then move on.

Fourth grader: “I’m done my homework, can I go downstairs and play?”
Mom and Dad: “That’s fine, but no screens, not even the cable Radio station.”
Fourth grader: “Fine.” [stomps and huffs off]

She goes downstairs and we worry about how we’re going to get over this hump. When is she going to see how important reading is? When is she going to learn that just because 20 minutes is done, if you’re enjoying what you’re reading (Percy Jackson), then you can keep going?

Five minutes later …
Mr Shu reads elephant and piggieFourth grader, huffing and puffing up the steps. “I got all my favorite books. I want to read them all, starting with I Will Surprise My Friend. I remember Elephant and Piggie. I loved this series.” (Photo credit: MrSchuReads)

And for the next hour she read. All easy readers and picture books, but with each one she shared a personal memory.

“This was one of my favorites from a long, long time ago.”

“Gerald is so funny.”

“I used to love looking at the pictures in this one.”

She even read several books as though she were the teacher sharing the images with her class, holding them up so we could see each spread.

Was it because we said “no screens”? Maybe … but not necessarily. She still loves pretend play. But for a reason we’ll never know, she chose books over Barbies that night.

In that moment, as we listened to her share her memories, we were reminded that underneath that huffing, puffing, and just-get-by attitude is a reader.

We may not always recognize her, she may not look like what we “think” a reader looks like, but she’s there.

A fourth grader who loves to read. Cool!

Do you have a story to share? When was the last time a reader surprised you?


5 responses to “Books & the Fourth Grader: Discovering a Reader

    1. The reading gods must have intervened on this one … sometimes we look so hard and want so much, we just forget to step back and stop worrying 😉

      Thanks so much for being part of Share a Story this year!!

  1. Great story! Elephant and Piggie are favorites at our house too! I think it so cool that she even read them like a teacher.

    My story to share would be Elephant and Piggie related. My kids and I were reading many books from the series. We were reading and laughing really loud — which seems to happen when your read those books. In the back of my mind, I was secretly trying to figure out the best way to celebrate Mo Willems’ birthday for my blog. Then, I suggested to my five year old daughter, lets write our own Elephant and Piggie story about Mo Willems’ birthday. Honestly, in about 15 minutes my daughter and I “surprisingly” wrote this skit:

    It was one of the most memorable reading experiences that I have had with her.

  2. My kids love turning the pages of “The skin you live in” book – the colors and freshness of the illustrations are very eye-catching. Most importantly, the message is a natural, beautiful one about color and skin. My 2nd grader is studying a unit on Ellis Island and immigration and how America has been built by many people from different nations. This book is a great complement to their studies.
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