This fall K will be entering ninth grade.
We’ve reviewed the requirements for high school graduation in Minnesota, and J and I are beginning to plan how we will meet those requirements. But the thing we have started tackling *now* is high school reading.
We are very fortunate in that both of our kids are readers. They both enjoy books, and reading, and both read at an educated adult level. But it is a truth that people tend to gravitate towards reading the sort of book they love the MOST in their leisure time. And K, who is rather short of free time due to her extensive Circus Juventas commitments, likes to stick to known genres of books.
J and I, as parents and homeschooling teachers, want the kids to expand their reading horizons. We want them to level up in the type and complexity of books they finish, and we also want them each to read more broadly than their interests will lead.
And, yet, neither of us really got much out of school-assigned books when *we* were in high school. (Well, I did, depending on the class. My love of Walt Whitman stems from that time, and I remember really liking Russian Lit. But in general, no.) So how, then, to get two young teenagers to read more kinds of books in their free time?
We have devised an incentive program.
J and I began by selecting about twenty-five books from our shelves. Fiction and non-fiction, on a variety of topics. We then told the children that, for each book finished, a prize may be claimed upon delivery of a short oral report on the text. The prize bin was stocked with high-value items such as a light saber, a nail decorating kit, rolls of duct tape, stuffed animals, stickers, and other such things found at Goodwill.
As I type, M is reading The Poisoners’s Handbook and K is finishing And Then There Were None.
Both children have multiple books on their High School Reading lists.
It’s a good plan, apparently.
Oh, what books are on this first-round shelf?
The Poisoner’s Handbook, Deborah Blum
And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
March, vols 1-3, John Lewis
Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
Dracula, Bram Stoker
Strong Poison, Dorothy Sayers
The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
The Star Machine, Jeanine Basinger
Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
The Lost City of Z, David Grann
This I Believe, ed Jay Allison
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, Ursula Le Guin
Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie
Rite of Passage, Alexi Panshin
Beyond Feelings: A Guide to Critical Thinking, Vincent Ruggiero
The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins
(This is only a first-round, pulled off our shelves. If this continues, more books by a variety of authors will be selected.)