Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Encouraging Reluctant Readers

 “If you had to choose between being able to read and being able to walk, which would you choose,” my instructor asked? She chose being able to read over being able to walk because reading could take you places your legs never could! And, legs wear out, but you can always read. Reading is that important? Well, in our society it is pretty much essential. She broke it down. There are three basic problems: word recognition, word meaning, and phrase comprehension—comprehending the relationship of one part of the sentence to the rest. But what do you do when the problem is none of the above? What do you do if it is an interest problem?
“Reading is boring!” If given a choice, Craig would rather play video games. Micaela, his mom, an avid reader, worried. Feeling being a good reader essential to school work, she poked through libraries and book stores looking for readers he would enjoy. The key for Craig was finding a topic he related to. She found Henry Winkler’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid—he identified and his reading ability soared.
Sassy Pants is a little early chapter book for grades 3-6. Younger readers also enjoy it, as do adults! The idea that choices have consequences is essential for children to learn if we parents take seriously the admonition to train them up to be successful adults! This little book comes with a free audio download so a struggling reader can “read along.” Parents can also download a parent/teacher manual for ideas to springboard conversations.

About Sassy Pants the story:
Sassy Pants is a cute little pig—little being the operative word. She was the runt, the littlest and the last to be born. The problem was that Mrs. Pig had 19 piggies but only 18 place settings! The other pigs in the litter “hogged it all!” Poor Sassy Pants would get none if it hadn’t been for Farmer White who quickly appraised the situation, snatched her up and took her to the house to be bottle fed. She quickly outgrew her box, the furnace room, the house and made a mess doing it, but she neither noticed, nor did she care! She thought it all great fun and games.
And it was, but it was that one game too many for Mrs. White that ended her stay in “The Big House.” However, Sassy Pants saw herself as one of the family, not a pig; most especially not a dirty pig! She has a terrible time adjusting to being back with her own kind. She resents being where she is, cannot accept what she is so she keeps trying to go back to a time and place that no longer exists! Her resentment and unhappiness turn into bullying the other small barnyard animals. They do everything in their power to do, but with no avail. Finally they turn to Farmer White for help. A flick of the wrist turns the electricity on in the electric fence. One shock blows all the “hi-falutin,” “better than you” ideas completely out of Sassy Pants head. She becomes a reformed pig—she notices and she cares!
How you can use Sassy Pants:
Story themes have been listed as “talking points.” Parents can use them as conversation starters with children. Teachers may use the talking points for classroom discussions and essay topics. More suggestions are available from the website, www.fromgodsheart.com as a free download.

Talking Points:
·         Choices and consequences
·         Different kinds of “sorry”
·         Respecting feelings, boundaries and authority
·         Character traits: stubbornness, self-centeredness versus thoughtfulness, kindness, wisdom and self control
·         Listening to others
·         Bullying
·         Learning the easy way versus the hard way
Choices and consequences is a very strong theme in the story. For children to be successful members of society they must learn that consequences always follow choices! Since the story is about animals there seems to be no defensive reactions to seeing that issue clearly. Children can laugh and while they are laughing, the lesson hits home. It is not a large step for children to make the connection to their own lives. Even adults love the story, identifying with various characters or situations along the way.
The different kinds of sorry fit with choices and consequences nicely.
Several character traits are easily identified in the story. As the child reacts to the different characters it can quickly go to, did you like it when . . . ., how would you feel if someone did that to you? To, how did that work for him/her? Was it a good idea? And how would you want to be treated? Is that how you are going to treat others? What kind of consequence will follow?
Learning the easy way rather than the hard way becomes abundantly clear in this story! This theme is also is woven through other stories in the series.
The final issue is that of bullying which has become such an issue today. Again, the consequences of Sassy Pants’ bullying are very stark: no one liked her or wanted to play with her or be around her. The story makes it quite clear that Sassy Pants chose to learn the hard way. She was given ample opportunity to change her ways and much advice to do so—yet she continued in her headstrong direction! Book I ends with her soaking her tush and her throbbing snout in the mud wallow with no one to console her! The second book in the series begins with her friendless, crying her eyes out down in a little ditch where no one could see her cry—but she does not remain there long!

Parents/Teachers can assign Sassy Pants as extra reading in coordination with:
·        Geography (latitude and longitude, path of the glacier and effects of glaciations)
·        Social studies and language arts or creative writing
·        American History—the periods of the early settlers and the American Indians who lived in northeastern Iowa along the Mississippi River, The Mound Builders
Additional suggestions are posted on the website, www.fromgodsheart.com as a free download.
On occasion vocabulary may be new, but the meaning is readily understood from context. The idea educationally for vocabulary expansion is to aim the vocabulary just a bit above the reading level of the child and make the meaning clear from context.
Other titles to follow:
·         Sassy Pants Makes Amends—about fixing a friendship when you are the one who
broke it—Available fall of 2011
·         Sassy Pants and the Strange Creature—about getting along with those different from
·         Sassy Pants and The Boss Hog—about finding her place in her father’s heart and the
A great series for your child or the “child within!”

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