No Reading Aloud (Allowed) in the Classroom? Fido Update.

Something has been in the back of my head, bothering me, for some time now. Now, as anyone who's spent any amount of time on knows (especially if you've read our manifesto), we strongly advocate reading aloud to your children, and vice versa.

Read the follow-up “Reading Aloud = Troublemaker.”

So a few weeks ago, our son came home and announced that his teacher had been admonished not to read aloud to his class. The reasoning behind this edict? The children are perfectly capable of reading on their own and should do so. This admonition came from the school literacy coach (!?!) to a veteran teacher.

One of the classics he's read to the class in the past, and we've subesequently gone out and gotten a copy of, is "Tom Sawyer."

Okay, this ban is wrong for so many reasons, I can't even get my mind wrapped around it.

Some reasons for reading aloud to 5th graders (and all children):

1. Increases attention span. In our media-driven world, children are bombarded with images. The simple act of listening and letting one's mind fill in the pictures is, as Martha Stewart would say, "a good thing."

2. Introduces children to classic pieces of literature that they might not otherwise come across. I defy anyone to find an adult out there who can't instantly call to memory a recollection of a classic book that was read to them by a teacher. I still remember my 6th grade teacher reading "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I went out and got a copy and have since read it many times.

3. Familiarizes children with proper sentence structure and grammar. This is very important. I've taken enough online courses to know that proper word usage, grammar, and sentence structure are not what they should be (and this is from college students).

4. Some pieces of literature are meant to be read aloud. Shakespeare's plays, for instance, are just that. They're plays meant to be spoken. Now, you should read them too, but to hear them aloud gives the listener a whole new perspective.

As one of the unintended consequences of the No Child Left Behind Act, teachers and school administrators live with the constant pressure of teaching to the state-mandated test. While the kids are learning the basics -- reading, writing, and arithmetic -- they are sorely lacking in the depth and breadth that education can provide. Science? Only that which is on the test. Art? No such thing. Music? Maybe if they're lucky, they can pick up an instrument in middle school.

Just how are we serving our children by turning them into unimaginative automatons? And who will be our future artists, musicians and inventors, not to mention great scientific minds?

So, it's up to us as parents and caregivers to fill the void. Good luck! (And we'll try to do our part and provide as many resources as we can.)


Update on Fido, the Butterfly

We learned that Fido was a Painted Lady, not a Monarch as we had assumed. Painted Ladies have a lifespan of two to four weeks, so even a healthy butterfly would have been short-lived. Fido's time came and went, but his last days were surrounded by beautiful flowers. He did not become food for birds (we take care of scores of wild birds in our backyard, so they're doing okay).

This morning Charlie asked me if it is possible to love a little butterfly. That's part of the human mystery, isn't it? Our limitless capacity to love, without reason, our heads questioning why our hearts make the sometimes illogical decisions that they do. This is evidenced by the improbable relationships we've all seen around us, maybe even our own.

Why not love a broken butterfly? Aren't we all broken, made whole by the love of those dear to us? I love that Charlie saves bugs. He removes snails and slugs from public pathways and is mindful of those around him. What will be sad is when he stops bringing home the broken and the stray. Perhaps he never will. And that will be just fine.

Saturday we "adopted" a caterpillar from the kids' museum. The circle continues. Our little friend is destined to one day, in a few short weeks, complete the metamorphosis process and become a beautiful butterfly, at which time we'll set him free in a happy butterfly-friendly zone. (Our friend with the plants has some bushes that are especially hospitable to butterflies).

Though they last only a brief season, we are thankful for the butterflies that provide so much to us. We can appreciate their beauty, the fragility of nature, and the important role they play in keeping a balanced ecosystem. (These thoughts are from Charlie.)

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