Confession: My oldest son loves to read. In fact, when he gets into a book we’re all normally annoyed by how he binge reads – and neglects everything and everyone else. My daughter likes to read too…
… But when it comes to my youngest, asking him to sit down and read a book is like asking him to volunteer for wisdom tooth extraction.
Sit the youngest in front of the pediatrician and he can read 4th grade level texts at age 7. He knows a lot of “encyclopedic information” from books about animals and human anatomy. But there’s something about sitting down with a book for a few minutes, specially a fiction book or a chapter book, that he was just not having it.
Enter IDEA, stage right! (Interior Distance Education of Alaska)
They are our homeschooling charter school. I’m always very thankful of their educational support. They have always stood behind me as a homeschooling parent – an experience I’ve heard is unique to charter schools in Alaska.
Our schools every year participate in the Iditaread, a race against mushers actively competing in Iditarod. This race to Nome is a big deal for us Alaskans, as these Mushers access towns that are off the road system completely – only reachable by dog mushing or plane.
In the Iditaread, kids read on average a page per musher’s miles. They log their miles and try to make it from Fairbanks (only this year) to Nome (979 miles) before their selected musher does. Many homeschooling families do this challenge outside of the official Iditaread because it’s very fun for readers. (That’s the key… It’s a marathon of reading, usually all pages are done in two to three weeks!).
Obviously, this was daunting for my 7 year old. But I have a couple of liberties recommended to me by the teachers and staff at IDEA:
- Pick rookie mushers for emergent readers! Caleb is racing against Roger Lee in his first Iditarod, all the way from England! It gives them a chance to learn about new mushers. If your kid is a good speedster reader, he can tackle the more challenging mushers. My son always races against Dallas Seavey – and that’s hard to beat! He’s won multiple times and finished last year in record time.
- I get to “vet check” the books the way veterinarians check the dogs to make sure they’re healthy. In that sense, I can offer Caleb 2 miles per page if the book is more 2nd-3rd grade level, as well as make sure with my oldest who has read the entire I Am Number Four series that the content isn’t entirely inappropriate for a 10 year old.
- Keep track with maps and colors and progress book marks – provided entirely by IDEA, Caleb now has a visual so he doesn’t feel discouraged. He can trace his finger along his map and see how far he’s come!
We started with a kick off party at the school where each kid did a cut out of their lead dog. Then the staff can move their dogs along as the kids reach the check points along the way. This captivated all three of my kids!
Then we added a twist: Mom and Dad are doing the Iditaread too! We’re racing mushers as well (and falling tragically behind, but it’s the effort and attitude that counts!). We’re leading by example. The rules for us are a little different though:
- I can’t count pages I read during Paul’s work hours, because that’s not fair! So the pages I read have to be between 12-1pm (his lunch break) or after 5pm in the evening.
- Pages of books we read aloud to the kids in the evening or during lunch count for the parent who reads and the children who sit still and actively listen. Woo-hoo for the Read Aloud Revival led by Sarah McKenzie!
We’ve spent a lot of evenings just reading after dinner until bed time. The TV is collecting dust, and I kind of like it that way! However, we decided to take the weekend off, and our mushers didn’t, so now we’re pretty far behind them. But there has to be a balance to everything – a big learning point when you have 1 confirmed and one awaiting diagnosis for ADHD. So there is still school work, math, writing, chores, family board games, outings and church.
And for the record, Caleb read 300 pages this week. Motivated himself to make it 400 pages starting tomorrow. He’ll make it to Nome with his “lead dog Max” in no time!
How do you motivate children to love reading when they seem to prefer doing ANYTHING else?