Thursday, July 14, 2011

miscellaneous etcetera

I was trying to figure out why this week felt so interminable, when I remembered that I was on call this weekend, so instead of two separate weeks, I'm living through one endless mega-week.  Like a monobrow, there was no line of demarcation.  And since I didn't have a weekend to take care of all my odds and ends, I started off my week behind, so now I am tired.

But first things first.  The winner of the guerilla marketing campaign (and the pack of awesome ultra-fine-tipped gel pens, along with a signed copy of my book) is Julia Blue, who's ingenious book cross-promotion on Facebook impressed both me and my editor.  Julia, e-mail me your address, and I'll send those out.

(Speaking of mailing things out, if you have not received your pre-order bookmark yet, don't worry, you're going to receive your bookmarks, and many of you have already.  It's just that I actually got, like, ten times the number of e-mails than I had initially anticipated, so I'm just very, very slowly hand-writing the notes and addressing the envelopes and mailing them all out in between other pressing tasks I have to do, like going to work and raising my kids.  International pre-orders will probably ship out last, just because those are the only ones I actually have to take into the post office for air mail.  Everyone else, be patient, they'll all get shipped eventually, even if it kills me.  THANK YOU.  Unless it really does kill me, in which case: avenge my death.)

Uh, where was I?

Oh yes, it's been a long week.


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OK, so tell me what you think about this.  Cal's starting a new school this year for first grade.  We just found a copy of the summer reading list for rising first graders.  I'll just put part of it up here, see what you think.

On-Grade Level:
1. Arthur Series
2. Biscuit Finds A Friend, Alyssa Capucilli
3. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?, Eric Carle
4. Dr. Seuss Beginning Reader Books
5. Franklin Series
6. Frog and Toad All Year, Arnold Label
7. Frog and Toad Are Friends, Arnold Label
8. Sheep in a Ship or Sheep in a Jeep, Nancy Shaw

A little more challenging:
1. Alex and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorist
2. Berenstain Bears Series, Stan and Jan Berenstain
3. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, Doreen
4. If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, Laura Joffe Numeroff
5. Little Bear’s Visit, Else Holmelund Minarik
6. Sheila Race the Brave, Kevin Henkes
7. Strega Nona Series
8. The Best Nest, P.D. Eastman
9. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle

OK, so look.  I like these books too.  I'm not saying my kid is some kind of super-brain, because he's not.  But really, these are the books that he's supposed to be reading for first grade?  "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" is a nice story, don't get me wrong, but is it really considered "a little more challenging" for a class of six and seven year-old kids?

Am I nuts?  Am I going Tiger Mom on this list?  Or do you think these books are too easy too?  Seriously, be honest, because I can't even tell.  I'm trying to figure out how much of it is just the fact that there's a range of books for all kids in the class, and how much of it is the fact that it seems like the expectations for our first graders is--look, I'm going to get flak for this, but I'm just going to say it--sadly low.

I'm not saying that I expect school to take the place of parents pushing (that word is so loaded, let's say "encouraging," because it sounds nicer although my meaning is the same) their kids to reach their full potential.  But I guess my fear is that if this reading list is a preview of the expectations for our first graders, school's going to be combination of mind-numbing boredom and then hours of meaningless busy work in the form of infinite homework assignments designed not to reinforce any actual learning, rather to fulfill some kind of meaningless quota.

I mean...OK.  Frog and Toad are very cute, and I love the fact that they are friends.  But people, really.  I mean, "THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR," for chrissake?


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Mack's enjoying school so far, even though the transition of actually being dropped off at school all day, coupled with a week of Extreme Togetherness (my new reality show) while we were on vacation for a week has turned him into some kind of Momma's Boy monster.  (MOMMA'S BOY MONSTER is the working title of my horror film screenplay.  Alternate title: THE CLINGER.)  The biggest problem with him right now is quite simply that he's two years old, and while Cal waited until he turned three for the worst of his behavioral tics, Mack has apparently been reading all the child development books and has seized upon the terrible twos with gusto.




I know it's a developmental phase, and that he's right on schedule, but seriously, watching him and his 720 degree changes of heart in under 30 seconds is vertiginous to say the least.  And it's just hard to keep up with exactly what phase of the I love you / I'm angry at you / I need you Mom, every second of every day, I must only breathe your exhaled air / NO MOM GO AWAY I DO IT MYSELF cycle he's on at any particular moment.

Kid's lucky he's cute is all I'm saying.


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Oh, and I'm not going to plug every last public thing I do excessively, because it's all on this page and you can just look at it at your leisure (or not), but I just wanted to share this one interview I did with Greg Berg on WGTD-FM, because Greg is a great interviewer who listens as much as he talks, and whose reading voice made the excerpts of the book sound much, much better than if I had read them myself.  Is there some NPR master class that teaches people how to talk good?  Because I'd sign up for that in a second.  And then I would narrate Ken Burns documentaries all freaking day.

Hope everyone's having a good week.

55 comments:

  1. If you are concerned that the books are too easy, you can figure it out yourself. There are formulas that involves counting words per sentence, syllables, etc to figure out the reading level. One is the Flesch-Kindaid readability formula, which can help to see if the book list is accurate for a beginning first grader.

    Of course, Cal's reading level is probably advanced. I remember him reading when he was like 3 on that etch-a-sketch!

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  2. Well, to be totally fair, when he was little was probably less reading and more just word recognition. But I do feel like these books on the list are probably too easy for most first graders though I don't have any concrete way of knowing if that's true or if I'm just being too pushy.

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  3. "school's going to be combination of mind-numbing boredom and then hours of meaningless busy work in the form of infinite homework assignments designed not to reinforce any actual learning, rather to fulfill some kind of meaningless quota."

    Wow, were you around during my childhood, or are you just reading my mind?

    It's good for character, but man, am I glad to be done with the public school system. Everything I learned was learned on my own, outside of class, when I should've been doing homework.

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  4. Anonymous4:40 PM

    I'm a medical student who was previously an elementary school teacher. I think the books are too easy. The kindergartners at the school that I taught at were reading those and these kids were not mega-geniuses by a long shot! In fact, most of these kids had some type of learning handicap. To Cal's school's defense, the teacher (not me... I taught 4th grade) there was amazing.

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  5. I agree with you. I read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to my two year old daughter. I think she should be able to read it on her own before first grade!

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  6. My son's first grade class had a classic bell-curve. 1/4 non-readers (like still needed help with alphabet), 1/2 both the lists you got were perfect, and 1/4 reading "Nate the Great" and "Captain Underpants" (on their own, I mean).

    Third Grade was a bit more smoothed out.

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  7. I think it depends on your neighborhood. In our neighborhood, it would be a rare incoming first grader who could read any of them.

    Those books are beginning readers. They are appropriate for kids who are not all the way to reading, can only sound out a few words and recognize a few words.

    The more advanced books are "advanced" because either the story is more complicated or the words are more complicated. Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day is really only a good book if you can appreciate the despair he feels. My first grader didn't have that kind of empathy. He might have thought it was funny that all the awful things happened to young Alex though. It's the same thing with Where the Wild Things Are - It's an "easy" read but appreciating the story line is much more difficult.

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  8. Trigem4:57 PM

    They seem easy to me. My first was reading Harry Potter after kinder and my 3 year old seems to be on the road to reading all of those before kinder. However my second son struggled to read three letter words after kinder so some kids aren't there.

    Then again what do I know. I'm just a premed. I only teach my own kids to read.

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  9. I read the Tiger Mother's book and you, ma'am, are no Tiger Mother! That said, as the mother of two kids who have recently been in 1st grade, I do not think those books are too easy. Not for a great many first graders.

    Some kids are natural early readers and it's pretty clear that Cal is one of them. His teacher will take note and put him in an appropriate reading group. But many, many MANY 6yos are just starting to read in 1st grade, and plenty of them (boys especially) aren't even fluent till the end of second grade. And these are not kids with learning problems.

    I think with the way the focus of kindergarten has changed (40 years ago it was just stories and singing the alphabet and cutting out paper shapes) to be far more academically oriented, there is this expectation now that of course every child should be able to read by the end of kindergarten, when developmentally, it's just not a reasonable expectation for a lot of kids. So actually, that list struck me as pretty ambitious.

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  10. Anonymous5:10 PM

    librarian checking in on the booklist::: It is great that you have an advanced reader. Not everyone does. And remember it is not all about challenging kids. It might be about content - ideas - creativity - god forbid JOY. I work with reading dogs and kids who have challenges and even some kids who are advanced have been sent my way because although they read, they are extremely shy and inhibited by reading aloud. For some kids they need a manageable book in order to actually practice the anxiety ridden process of reading aloud. If you make a reading list too challenging (maintenance) it has to potential to cause an overeager parent to expect too much--or overreact if they struggle-- in a type A demanding manner that hurts the child. Summer is vacation. It is like saying you can't hang out in the baby pool because you should be swimming laps constantly because you are a very talented lap swimmer.

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  11. I haven't read most of those books, and I don't currently know any first-graders, but I too was thrown by The Very Hungry Caterpillar in that second list. It's a real favourite of 1-2-year-olds we know; obviously they're not reading the text themselves. The story is simple enough for a toddler, so I'd be surprised if a first-grader would still enjoy it (unless I've failed to grasp a subtlety myself, a horrifyingly but hilariously embarrassing possibility). There are some words in there that maybe a five-year-old wouldn't be able to spell (can they spell "sausages?").

    For me, I suspect the general appropriateness (or lack thereof) of that list will just become clear when I get to know kids in first grade. I don't know how well Go, Dog. Go! will go over with my now-closer-to-three-than-to-two-year-old when she's four or five, although I can say I have never stopped enjoying the "Do you like my hat?" interludes.

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  12. I have a few cousins and friends who are that ageish, and I'd say the list seems decent enough, but The Very Hungry Caterpillar? I'm a little confused by that one. I remember reading the Berenstein Bears and the Arthur books at home and my sister and I (I definitely loved reading more than her) both enjoyed them at that age.

    Otherwise, have you seen the Great Illustrated Classics? The big hardcovers with huge font and pictures on the facing page of the texts? We just gave about 30 away to a friend of ours for his 5 year old, and even though they may be (are) too challenging for him, he still likes reading them with us and looking at the pictures.

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  13. Actually, I showed this post to my mom (sorry to be spamming!) and she said a) cute kids(!) and b) if she thought that the books weren't challenging enough (and she figured that one out really fast with our interest at school), she would just take us to the library, let us run free (w/in limits) and pick out books, with the condition that we had to give a valiant effort to read them, either together or on our own, by the time we returned them. Worked fairly well!

    And you're not being a Tiger Mom.

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  14. Remember that's for the general population, so more for average levels. Like someone else said, each class is going to have kids ranging from barely being able to read up to advanced reading. My oldest is going into 2nd grade. Last year at this time he couldn't (or wouldn't) read most of those. Now he's reading chapter books and doing very well--its amazing how when it clicks they just take off. My 2nd son is going into KG, and he can read all the ones on the basic list. So each kid is different and they're used to working with a range of skills. Once they get settled they'll see what each kid knows and then put them in groups based on their reading & math levels. He won't be reading Frog & Toad all year, they'll pull out more books for them.

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  15. Sonia5:46 PM

    My son just finished first grade. And I'd say that these books are age-appropriate. My son is like your Cal -- he is easily reading books that my friends' middle schoolers are struggling with -- and I can say with absolute certainty that our boys are NOT the norm. L tested as reading at a 6th grade level at the beginning of 1st grade, and so while he would not find any of these books challenging in the least, most of his classmates did. Kids learn to read in first grade; those who read fluently are the outliers. When I lived in Athens (GA), when my boy was in Kindergarten, teachers told us that even second graders who were struggling to read were considered normal -- fluency in reading was the goal to be achieved by the end of second grade. So, I think those books are fine for the average rising first grader.

    I also do not consider myself a Tiger Mom by any stretch of the imagination, but I did insist that his teacher accommodate his reading abilities. I felt strange about it at first, but then I figured that if he were struggling, I would move heaven and earth to get him up to speed. The combination of boredom-induced behavior issues and a growing apathy towards school convinced me to push for a challenge. And his teacher did it, and it was wonderful.

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  16. I was about to comment about the "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" when I saw it on the list until I read the paragraph that followed it... My daughter turned 4 at the end of May and she can "read" this book!

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  17. Laura6:10 PM

    I read "Remember the Stars" by Lois Lowry in 1st grade, although I definitely did not pick up on all of the meaning behind the events (why were they on a boat? at night? and the baby had to be drugged??) etc. As others have said, perhaps these are good books for mastery of not only reading but understanding the plot, and you or others can help Cal get other books at the library that will challenge him and allow him to expand his vocabulary/grammar/spelling skills (definitely worked for me) even if he does not fully grasp the plot of those ones.

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  18. The books may be too easy for your child, but the other children may be at different reading levels. I see it as more of a starting point because you know there are parents who do not encourage their children to read and if the list was too difficult it could lead to some frustration by the non reading children.

    A thousand years ago when I was in first grade they had not yet invented summer reading lists.

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  19. In my son's mixed age class (just 4 to almost 7), there is a range of reading ages from NADA (poor letter recognition) all the way up to my son (reading at age 13, though he is still 5). I have read with the class 1:1 this past year, and the sheer range of abilities ref. reading is staggering. And that is in a class of just 20 kids, in a middle class + farming environment.

    I'd say that they would be too easy for Cal, but could be challenging for children who are young for their year and are just getting the hang of putting sentences together. There are kids going into 2nd Grade (in the UK here) who aren't reading, and that terrifies me - but I did homeschool a kid who didn't read a word til age 7, but is exceedingly bright and has just been accepted to a leading Advertising company in Noo Yawk City.

    I'd go through the list, and then take Cal to the library and see what he wants to read. What is his level? As the mother of a gifted reader, I have had to be well ahead of the game on the more challenging (yet not soul-destroying or emotionally harmful) texts out there for small boys, and I would be very happy to help with recommendations. I've had to act as a filter for the 'challenging' books that have been brought home from school, that have been appropriately challenging reading, but utterly inappropriate emotionally for a very naive 5 year old!

    Plus as a previous commenter said - there is the 'pleasure' aspect as well. Although most 2 year olds love the story (my 3 year old can read it, but mostly through rote memorisation), it can be comforting to go back and read stuff that is well below a child's ability level, but the familiarity brings more understanding of emotions, context, etc - and just sheer pleasure. My son has read most of Roald Dahl's books multiple times - they are easy for him, but he loves them and finds something new and interesting every time, and loves reading them to his little sister, with the appropriate silly voices - so it is just a different approach to the same book, and teaches something along the way.

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  20. Anonymous7:52 PM

    my goodness--there is more to life than being superior. Look for lessons in books. Look for art. Teach tolerance. Teach humility. There are plenty of super smart people in the world and not nearly enough super nice people. There are lots of ways to influence your kids and not all of them involve academic superiority!!

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  21. Amber8:03 PM

    Cal is extremely bright and has two doctors for parents who have carefully and lovingly overseen every aspect of his development since birth. I'd have been surprised if he wasn't reading way above grade level. Not sure if this new school is public or private, but unfortunately, the reality of public school education is that 99%+ of children haven't had Cal's advantages and there is a shocking percentage of 12th-graders for whom "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" would be a challenging read.

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  22. Anonymous8:12 PM

    I actually think it's great that every book on there is a picture book. There is a huge push among parents and teachers for children to read "chapter books" - even if the text is often very simple, because it seems more "real" and "advanced." The truth is that a lot of the picture books out there have very challenging vocabulary (now, there are some books on that list that have less challenging vocab, too). Picture books give children more cues to the context, and make learning new vocab words (and reading these words) easier. I agree that the Very Hungry Caterpillar is pretty silly for that list - mostly because the holes in the pages and the text itself is geared towards younger children - but I do think that many of those books are quite appropriate for most 1st graders (most of whom are still in the earlier stages of reading). I especially think the Berenstain Bears series is very spot on for 1st graders.

    There are wonderful picture books out there that have great stories and very advanced vocabulary written in paragraph form. I would take a look at those for children who are more advanced readers. Picture books can be wonderful!

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  23. Anonymous8:31 PM

    More advanced picture books, all with wonderful vocabulary, and most have extremely deep thoughtful stories (not necessarily for cal, but for general info):

    Sylvester and the Magic Pebble - William Steig
    The Amazing Bone - William Steig
    A Chair for My Mother - Vera B. Willaims
    The Little House - Virginia Lee Burton
    Strega Nona - Tomie de Paola

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  24. I have no idea if that reading list is appropriate or not, but I wholeheartedly second the Great Illustrated Classics recommendation above. I think I read my first -- "Tom Sawyer" in first grade. The Magic School Bus is another great one for that age-group.

    And it's entirely appropriate to encourage Cal to read beyond his grade level. The worst possible thing you can do for a bright child is let him/her become bored in school.

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  25. Sonia9:31 PM

    I completely agree that the ability to read chapter books does not mean that a child should no longer read picture books. To the list above (Anon 8:31), I'd add Chris Van Allsburg, whose books have amazing pictures as well as quite philosophical text. Really fabulous books, that challenge even an adult to slow down and ponder the meaning or turn of phrase. There was a recent article about this in the Washington Post, which quite rightly pointed out that a selection of good picture books (such as, but not limited to, Caldecott winners & honorees) is its own art museum. There is more to reading a book than words.

    And, keep in mind that Cal will also be learning things like story structure, punctuation, & grammar in first grade, which means that he will be reading for more than content. One of the things my son's teacher had him doing was reading two (picture) books on the same theme (like Little Red Riding Hood), and then comparing and contrasting the structure of the story. He needed to read "simpler" books for that, because learning to deconstruct a narrative was a new skill for him.

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  26. My eldest just finished 1st grade at one of the highest rated public elementary schools in our state (as they were proud to point out). I think the list looks fine for the average child entering 1st grade. My daughter started out the year reading Biscuit, Dr. Seuss, and Frog and Toad and this summer has been chewing through the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books as fast as she can get her hands on them, with breaks for The Magic Schoolbus.

    There's a wide range of abilities at this age. I noticed the 1st grade teachers at my daughter's school pay a lot of attention to the differing abilities of the students. I would hope a good teacher will recognize if Cal isn't being sufficiently challenged and make sure he's given work appropriate to his skill level.

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  27. I'm a librarian and a big Michelle fan so I would like to weigh in here. The books in question are books people read to their kids when they're little, but they're a lot tougher than the leveled Easy Readers a lot of kids start at in first grade. Two-year-olds love Caterpillar because of the pictures and the repetition, but the vocab isn't really that simple for six-year-olds. The story is simple to understand when it's being read aloud, but reading it yourself is another story. That said, I think that Cal and all kids should be exposed to a range of books. Your local librarian can set you up with a mix of picture books, Easy Readers, and chapter books that will entertain Cal - some will challenge him and some will be comfort books and it's all good.

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  28. Anonymous1:25 AM

    I just found out a few days ago that you're going to be speaking at my medical school in CA (UC Davis SOM)!!!! That made my week! =)

    -MS2 from CA

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  29. Anonymous1:26 AM

    i wanted to view the video promo that won, but the link doesn't work. any tips?

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  30. Awww! That Ice Cream around his lips, he looks sooo cute.

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  31. I think summer reading lists are partly made for children and parents to feel good about themselves, and so you don't feel stressed out about the whole experience before school begins. Also (I'm in children's publishing) lots of research has shown that kids often stick with picture books for a long time - first it gets read to them, them they pick up simple words, then they can read the whole story and understand storyline implications (even when they are also reading harder books). For a lot of children that's an age 2-6 process. I've taken a lot of picture book authors into reception classes, for example. (I think that's the equivalent of first grade?)

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  32. Mondo8:01 AM

    My 9 year old is reading Ronald Dahl by herself (except for The Witches.....that's a scary book) but also loves to have me read The Bernstein Bears and other picture books - including the Hungry Caterpillar. We talked to our local librarian who gave her a range of things to read, so she's above what's average but is still being pushed.

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  33. I think it's important for kids to have success early in reading, and the way to do that is easier books. If it is too hard from them, then kids may give up and be poor readers for life. I'm sure the teacher will have different reading groups and Call will be in a higher one. The point is all kids are succeeding and enjoying reading. You can take him to the library yourself or buy more advanced things for him to read at home. My youngest son was a slow reader until 13 when he got interested in Japanese cartoons and took off. Before that time, I really worried about him because I'm an avid reader and wanted him to have that pleasure with the written word.

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  34. My 2 1/2 year old's favorite book currently is The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and he can almost read it along with me, so...yeah, I don't see how that's challenging for a five or six year old!

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  35. Anonymous9:48 AM

    I completely remember my mom ripping up my Berenstein Bear book in a fit of rage because I couldn't read it in first grade. She's no tiger mom at all. And don't worry, I eventually managed to learn to read and graduate as class valec.

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  36. Anonymous9:58 AM

    Definitely some easy reading, but of course this is in the same country where my cousin was advised to read To Kill A Mockingbird in her freshman year of COLLEGE. The same book I read when I was 9. I didn't know very many people growing up who were actually reading the books assigned to our grade though, as long as Cal continues reading at home he'll stay years ahead of his "grade level".

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  37. I don't know about reading levels. My kid is 4 and he can only read short 3-4 letter words. No idea where other kids are at this age. But I think everyone can get something out of all the books on that list. Many of them are funny or have great artwork (the Eric Carle books, while mostly easy to read, are beautiful). Some of them have advanced vocabulary. Some of them have stories that require a little extra empathy or curiosity to understand, as another commenter pointed out above. If you haven't read the Arnold Lobel books before (Frog and Toad, and he has many other great books -- Owl At Home is one of my favorites), they have a very quirky humor about them and are occasionally bizarrely abstract. So I think those are good lists.

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  38. It's the summer reading list and they go pretty light handed with that. Dumb it down to the lowest common denominator. After all, not every kid is reading Harry Potter in kindergarten, but a good number of them are. Unfortunately, Cal's got a lot of mind numbing books to read in the few weeks before school starts up.

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  39. No, I think it's pretty bad too. I mean, I think I remember about that age reading Black Beauty and the Wizard of Oz. I'm not sure they'd even quite keep interest at first grade level.

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  40. Victoria2:39 PM

    Perhaps they should have another list of 'stretching' books, for those who are good readers. It's all very well having easy books for the children who struggle, but those who are capable never seemed to get stretched any more in case it upsets the less able ones.

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  41. I agree with you about the books. I recall books with paragraphs in the first grade. By the second grade I was making it through Little House on the Prairie on my own. Maybe this list is what they're supposed to be reading when they *start* first grade, and it will get harder after that? Here's hoping!

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  42. Anonymous9:40 PM

    Dear Lord, "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?, Eric Carle" is considered at grade level? I have no experience in education (other than the medical kind, hee), and I was an early reader (probably much like the other nerds who comment here) but...meh. Take him to the library and see what types of books he is comfortable with?

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  43. Anonymous10:59 PM

    My child was not reading when he entered 1st grade. He learned to read in mid-1st grade. He is now a junior at a very selective college. So....yeah....some kids are not reading at age 6. And my child went to academic pre-kindergarten and we read to him every night.

    Shrug. The librarian at your library probably has loads of suggestions, so bag the list and go get harder books! Have fun!

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  44. I know it's been said ad nauseum by now, but that is a list the average first grader would find challenging. Cal is extraordinarily bright and is coming from a home where he had all sorts of educational advantages, just by virtue of you and Joe being his parents.
    I started reading The Berenstein Bears when I was four and was reading The Babysitters Club silently by the time I was in first grade, but I'm at the far end of the bell curve. I can remember that only two other people in my class were as advanced as me, and I still had problems reading aloud. Phonics and grammar are completely different than reading silently for content. Cal may find some of those books challenging on level that you may not anticipate.

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  45. Maybe they are aiming for the middle of the road kids who aren't really reading yet, but expect to be reading by the end of first grade. My own first grader was moved up from kindergarten: she could barely read ABCs when she started but now can read simple chapter books (i'm thinking around 3rd grade level). So maybe these simple books are to get the ball rolling.

    But yeah, i think The Hungry Caterpillar is something that one reads to a 2 year old...

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  46. Okay - I'm way late on posting here (just catching up on things), but wanted to say that MY 2.5 year old sounds JUST LIKE your 2.5 year old! Yay for small things! Thanks for posting about Mack's darling two year old behaviour anyway.

    And I have nothing to add about reading...

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  47. Anonymous7:57 PM

    Without question, the books on that list are way, way below where 1st-grade kids should be reading. The point is taken and well-understood that there are a great many kids for whom these books would be a challenge. That by no means is a good reason for schools to be "dumbed down"! I admit that this is unusual, but I was reading 'The Hobbit' with my mother at that age. Kids should definitely be encouraged to stretch their brain cells and not be assigned relatively simple books just because they are already behind.

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  48. Anonymous3:50 PM

    I know, I know--this post is very old at this point. But I couldn't disagree more with Anonymous above me. As a children's librarian, I'll say this list is highly typical for first grade. And, no, it's not dumbed down.

    Some kids are reading chapter books in first grade. Some are barely reading at all. But most are reading books very much like those on your list. The books are aimed at both print-vocabulary building and story comprehension. It's challenging to recommend books with higher reading levels because those books are often written for children with proportionately more advanced/mature comprehension skills.

    Picture books, because they're usually intended to be read aloud by adults, most often have more complex vocabulary, sentence structure, and narrative than easy readers. They also provide context clues in the illustrations, and they give more opportunities for kids to develop their own narrative skills. Best of all, they're still intended for young children and handle the plots in ways that make sense to them.

    For anyone who's struggling to find more advanced reading material, Multnomah County Library has a list of recommended books for kids who read above grade level. It's not a long list, but it's a good start: http://www.multcolib.org/kids/booklists/readingup.html

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