September 30, 2010

Raising Boys Who Read

My first child, a boy, came out of the womb reading. Well, practically. My second child, a girl, came out of the womb talking. Really. My third child, a boy, came out of the womb making machine gun noises. Seriously. And he was probably shooting at books.
Of the three, he provided the biggest challenge in teaching him to read. Of the three, he was the most challenging to get to read, once he knew how. Finding the right materials was the key. In his case, Mary Pope Osborne's Tales From the Odyssey were just what I needed to jumpstart him.  However, it's only this year, his first year in middle school, that he will independently select books from our family library to read. Of course, I still assign him a certain amount of pleasure reading each day, along with a heavy dose of historical fiction.

Because of this history, I was very interested in a recent Wall Street Journal article, How to Raise Boys Who Read.  It was interesting on several levels. The author, Thomas Spence, began by stating what he admitted is a well-known problem: boys are less proficient in reading than girls. And he notes that influential and well-intentioned folks want to do something about it. Spence's issue is with these folks' proposed remedy: "'meet them where they are' -- that is, pander to boys' untutored tastes." As any mother of an elementary- or middle-school boy knows, this involves all things gross. I mean, my youngest was playing his armpits and kneepits before he could sing well. And I didn't even know you could play a kneepit until he came along.

Spence falls back on wise men of the past to remind us that education, part of which is reading, is responsible for informing our manners and tastes. When Spence lists the books that are promoted for boys in this age group just to get them reading ("Worry about what they're reading later," postulates one library who, incidentally, throws gross-out parties to encourage reading.), I must admit that my sensibilities are offended. You'll want to read the article, because you wouldn't believe me if I told you.

Mr. Spense also notes that the discrepancy in boy-girl literacy has increased with the popularity of video games and other electronic entertainment. As books compete with these other entertainments for boys' attention, which do you suppose comes out on top? And a recent study confirmed the negative effect on boys' academic performance.

Thankfully, Mr. Spence offers helpful counsel on making a reader:

The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple -- keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.
 A couple of other notable quotes finish up the article:

 Most importantly, a boy raised on great literature is more likely to grow up to think, to speak, and to write like a civilized man. Whom would you prefer to have shaped the boyhood imagination of your daughter's husband -- Raymond Bean or Robert Louis Stevenson?

I offer a final piece of evidence that is perhaps unanswerable: There is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls. How many of these families, do you suppose, have thrown grossology parties?
I hope you'll read the article. I think it's worth the time.

September 26, 2010

Sunday Food

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. 
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain!
Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

(Psalm 139, ESV)

Photo credit: Microsoft Office Clipart and Media Gallery

September 5, 2010

Do you feel fall in the air?

It's always nice when September begins with a sudden drop in temperatures. I grew up in the Phoenix area and never really knew a season (unless you count the four days of winter). So I've enjoyed my time in Georgia, and now that we are only an hour south of it's northernmost border, I'm seeing even more of a difference in seasons. This spring was absolutely beautiful, with just about everything blooming at once. Of course, that meant everything polinating at once, too... Then we had two months of wonderful summer rains, followed by a very toasty August.

This morning, Jared and I enjoyed a walk (while Bella ran -- she feels the fall, too); I even wore a jacket! The high today will be only in the mid-eighties. I know we'll have another run of warm weather before fall comes in earnest, but the Jackson family is thanking the Lord for this respite and preview!

Happy Labor Day, y'all!

(By the way, the photo is from last year's annual Burt's Pumpkin Farm trip... we won't go this year until late October.)