Fringe Benefits

I always knew there were advantages to being a stay at home mom.  Things like getting to sleep in, not having to leave the house in crappy weather, and not having to take time off when the kids unexpectedly get sick.  But recently I’ve discovered another benefit that I would never have considered when deciding to stay at home.

Back at the beginning of the school year one of Brendan’s very first homework assignments was to read for 20 minutes.  It was recommended that he read alloud for 10 of the minutes and read to himself for 10 minutes.  We tweaked the assignment slightly and had him read to me for 10 minutes and then I would read to him for 10 minutes while he followed along.  He really seemed to enjoy reading together like that so we made it a part of his daily homework routine.

Now, months later, we don’t read like that any more.  Now when we get together and read it’s for 40 minutes or longer.  When Brendan reads to me he plows through an entire chapter in his A-Z Mystery, and when I read to him I’m reading a full chapter in either Fablehaven or Harry Potter.  And those chapters are 20-30 pages long.  I’ve created a monster!!  A reading monster.

When I worked I doubt I would have found the time to do as much reading together as we are, and he would have lost out on the benefit.  Before we started this school year he was on a very different level for reading.  He wouldn’t read to himself at all.  If we did get him to pick up a book it was one of our pre-school age books with simple words and lots of pictures.  He loved to be read to though, and during second grade we made it through the Ramona series.

Back then while reading through that series he couldn’t keep his interest very long.  There were many times when I’d be just a few sentences from ending the chapter and he would be done reading.  Nothing I could do would convince him to stay and listen to the last few words (which if you know me, it’s very hard for me to stop reading mid-chapter.  It hurts my brain.).  Now he drinks in every word of the chapter and frequently asks me to read another once we’ve finished.

Yesterday I obliged him.  I planned to read 2 full chapters from Fablehaven:  Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary but the second chapter I read was almost 30 pages long, and after an hour of reading we still had 10 pages to go.  I finally told Brendan I needed to take a break from reading and we’d finish it later that night (we did–right before bedtime).

I love how much his desire to read has increased and how much his selection in books has come up to his reading level.  For that I thank his best friend.  Brendan has been friends with this little boy since they were in first grade together.  All I’ve heard from Brendan for the past three years is how smart his friend is.  And believe me, from what I’ve been able to gather he really is that smart.

Not to say Brendan isn’t, he excels in almost all subjects at school.  But there’s smart and then there’s gifted and his friend definately falls into the latter category.  Brendan is jealous with the ease at which his friend learns and understands things and we frequently have to remind him that school is not a competition.

But the nice thing is that his friend loves to use his knowledge to help others.  He’s an avid reader himself and will help Brendan choose books from the library which are challenging enough for a third grader and overall enjoyable to read.  He’s the one who got Brendan hooked on A-Z Mysteries.  He’d originally suggested The Hardy Boys and I’m sure Brendan will eventually enjoy that series, but at this stage it was a little too difficult for him.  He struggled to read the first page and a half.

Once Brendan told him it was too difficult for him, his friend suggested the A-Z Mysteries because it was the same type of genre at a slightly easier reading level.  Now Brendan adores reading through the adventures of Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose and trying to figure the answer to the mystery before they do.

This friend is also the one who introduced him to Fablehaven.  And boy am I glad he did.  I admit, I didn’t like the series at first, and was quite concerned about some of the content as it seemed quite bizzare and creepy (if you haven’t read the series the first couple of chapters have the kids visiting their grandfather and him threatening to punish them by locking them in the attic–that’s definately creepy until you understand the story better).  Now I’ve read through the entire series myself, and in less than 4 months Brendan and I have gotten through three of the books and are just a few chapters from finishing the fourth.

With Cameron starting school this fall I’ll need to find time to do some reading with him as well.  Something tells me he won’t be as avid a reader as Brendan is.  He’s never shown the interest in bedtime stories that Brendan did when he was younger.  Don’t get me wrong, Cameron asks to be read to every night at bedtime but I get the feeling that’s more of a stall tactic than an actual interest in hearing the stories considering that he loses interest less than halfway through.

I know some day Brendan will grow out of wanting to be read to and will start reading books all on his own, and I’m looking forward to the day when he will pick up a book to pass the time.  But until that day I cherish every moment that he and I spend snuggled in my bed reading a book together and watching the wonder in his eyes as he discovers a story for the first time.

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