We hear it all the time. “Read with your child.” “Become a volunteer reader at your school to help children learn to read.” “Stamp out illiteracy, by helping adults learn to read.”
I found an interesting warning sign at BROWSEBOUT BOOKS, a bookstore in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, which helps reinforce my point. I have depicted the sign in Photo 1 below.
When my daughter asked me to help my 5 year old grandson with his homework, I jumped at the chance to help him with his 3 Rs, “readin, riten & rithmitic”. I thought to myself, “This should be easy. He is 5 and I am 72. I can handle this.”
We started off with some number flash cards, 1 – 10 that I mixed up. He then had the task of arranging them in proper order, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Perfect. He aced the math exercise, which I think is cool because he has only been in what I call “kidiegarden” for a month or so.
We then worked a writing exercise. There are some letters printed on a homework page with arrows that indicate how to execute the proper pencil strokes to form the letters. Next followed connect the dots where, if done properly with the correct pencil strokes, he would end up writing the letters. The finish is when he has to write the letters all by himself with no arrows or dots. He did this fairly well with only a couple of cases where we doubled back to make a correction or two.
Next came reading. The printed homework instructions look somewhat like what follows: “We Can Read: Have your child read the page.”
At this juncture, confusion set in. What page are the instructions referring to? There was no indication that I can see. No page number. No description directing me to a page above or below.
Hey, I am a grandfather, not an elementary school teacher.
To make it easy for you to understand what I am talking about, check out my photo below.
So, I tell my grandson we need to read the two paragraphs shown in Photo 2 above. He says, “Papa Joe, really?” His face turns kind of pasty white. He is a white kid to start with, but he turns so white I was afraid he was going to pass out. We looked at the reading material one more time. I thought maybe his head was going to explode. We both took a deep breath.
It looked like a lot of dry reading for a kindergartner, but I did not want to undermine my grandson by telling him he could not meet the challenge. Kids are challenged more these days. When I was his age, they were just barely inventing kindergarten. We were not challenged at all.
He successfully read the two paragraphs first time. We had two more times to go. I told him he would probably find it easier and faster on the second pass and then even easier and faster on the third and final effort. My projection proved to be true.
We finished the work and both were so proud. We spent some extra amount of time explaining the word etc. found in the last line of paragraph one. He had never heard the word, etc. before.
After we completed all the homework and as I flipped the pages to close the homework packet, I discovered the page depicted in Photo 3 shown below.
My grandson and I had a giant laugh. His parents will not let me help him with his homework anymore.
Someone told Clover Park Schools on me, so a warning poster with my face is posted at all the school entrances with instructions to not allow me to volunteer for school reading programs.
Our good community friend and volunteer, Andy Gernon, no longer encourages me to help kids with their reading.
As always, most—well at least some—of this story is true.