I don’t know how an avid reader who grew up in the South could have missed reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee–but I did.  I began it last week as a read-aloud literature study with my 7th grade homeschooled son–and I am in love!  We haven’t even gotten to the “good stuff” of the trial, we just finished Scout’s first day of school, but I am ready to declare it a “perfect book.” If 10 stars were the best, I’d give it 20.

What do we “do” with it for school?  First, we enjoy it–we laugh at the funny parts, we share our sadness at the sad parts.  Second, it’s got great words–without being too up in the stratosphere.  Some of them we “figure out” through context, some are looked up.  We talk about words with similar meanings and why Lee might have chosen that particular one.  We talk about the roots and other words with that root.  It’s a marvelous book for vocabulary study–without the vocabulary ruining the story by getting in the way or seeming out of place.  Third, we look at how she sets up the setting (brillantly, I say) and how she develops her characters. The first passage where she describes the Radley place is a masterpiece of “show me, don’t tell me” writing.  We read and relished that paragraph three times.

Last note, why do I read-aloud to my above grade level 7th grade reader?  It helps him become a better reader, simply put.  He hears new, complex sentence structures and new vocabulary.  It’s way easier to decipher that later in your own reading if you’ve heard something similar before.  It also helps me to check his comprehension as the text gets more complex.  Did he “get” the idea behind those words? Or did he only “get” the words?  And finally, it’s enjoyable time spent with mom and that increases his enjoyment of reading, making him more likely to keep reading.

I had the saddest conversation with a teacher today.  She brought her class in a couple weeks back and they each checked out books.  She let them check out books above their reading level and we both encouraged them to have a parent or other adult read those aloud to them.  Today she brought those books back.  Most of the parents, she said, did not want to read to their children.  Maybe some are poor readers and it’s just too hard.  Maybe some have absolutely crazy lives right now.  But I keep hoping if parents know that it is extremely good for their children, that they will do it.  I keep hoping.

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