Required Reading… Sort Of

I went back and forth and back and forth about introducing required reading this year for the first time. It’s third gradeish this coming year. Both the boys can read well enough to be assigned a book like something from the Beverly Cleary cannon. I want them to begin reading more literary books independently. I’m completely fine with piles of Tintin, Amulet, Bones, Choose Your Own Adventures and various things of that ilk as well. We get plenty of classics read aloud, after all.

However, I want to push them a little. They have both read books like Runaway Ralph and Mr. Popper’s Penguins of their own accord, just few and far between. So I think they just need a small push.

The problem is that I do feel a little like their reading is fragile. And that loving reading is fragile in general in the lives of seven year old boys (or soon to be eight year old boys). Every once in awhile they will dive into a book and read for hours, but they are not nose in the book types most days. They enjoy reading, but they aren’t addicted like some children. There is an unschoolish part of me that is fine with our free reading time, but less fine with regulating it by forcing books that I think are better.

In the end, the two parts of me have decided to compromise a little. There will be required reading for third grade, but it will be choice reading, from a longish list and just one book a month. I was struggling to say which books were worthy of being absolutely required anyway, so this frees things a little and makes everything more open. I think the kids will like this as well: being given a choice yet also a push. BalletBoy, especially, craves the changes and new challenges that a new school year or a new math book brings. He’s not always the hardest worker, but having a new system and a new requirement usually spurs him on for the good.

To start us off, I printed a little poster with the book covers and made a box of some of the books, which I’ll unveil whenever we actually start third grade.  Here’s the list for the first half of the school year.  I assume that at some point later in the winter I’ll suddenly want to add some more options, which I think is fine.  I’ll note as well that I’ve ruined a lot of books that would have been perfect by reading them aloud, which I only occasionally regret, but I did sneak a couple of them on the list of choices anyway and I also included some things that one boy has read but not the other.  I tried to pick things across a number of genres and with different levels of difficulty.  Sometimes you’re in the mood for something easy and sometimes something harder.

  • Poppy by Avi
  • Babe: The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith
  • Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Avrill
  • Tornado by Betsy Byars
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
  • Ribsy by Beverly Cleary
  • The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo
  • The One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith
  • My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
  • Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling
  • Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
  • How to Get Fabulously Rich by Thomas Rockwell
  • Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
  • The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren
  • Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary
  • Frindle by Andrew Clements
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Water Horse by Dick King-Smith
  • Afternoon of the Elves by Janet Taylor Lisle
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner
  • By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleischman
  • In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Betty Bao Lord

12 thoughts on “Required Reading… Sort Of

  1. That’s about how I approach it! I give ds11 a list and let him pick something out. And it works. Right now he’s reading Inkheart, and The Headless Cupid, and enjoying both. As soon as dd9 is reading a little better, I’ll be doing the same thing with her.

  2. I’m hoping to gently introduce required reading this year, too. I’m going to use Usborne Young Reading books, because the kids have loved the ones I picked up in the past. Level three has a bunch of non-fiction history and literature adaptions that will tie into the period of time we’re studying. My daughter is a reading machine, but my son is more reluctant. If he balks too much with this plan, I may try letting him pick from a list too. My fingers are crossed!

  3. Question, Farrar: do you plan to have them discuss or write something for each “assigned” book? I’m on the fence about having my kids keep a reading journal or complete some kind of worksheet where they write the title and author and a few sentences about the characters, plots, favorite part, surprises, etc. for each book. On the one hand, I don’t want to suck the joy out of the books… but on the other hand I would like to get some kind of feedback and assurance that they actually read and understood the book. Thoughts?

    1. I considered doing something small, but ended up deciding not to. I’d rather just try to talk about the books. I know they’re reading them. I hear them tell me things about them, so I’m not worried. Certainly we’ll do some sort of writing with required reading eventually, but I’m not going to start for at least another couple of years, I think.

      1. When I taught Lang Arts I had little cards with those post-it flags on them. Each color meant something, like “Something I liked” “Something I don’t understand” “Something I want to know more about” “Something I didn’t like” “Something that suprised me” (I think those were it). As my students read, they flagged parts of the book, then when we discussed the chapter, they could go back through and look at the parts they flagged & tell me about them. If we homeschool next year, we will try something similar.

  4. Great list! I was really hoping you would post one. Taking notes over here. 🙂

    At our house, we have a “book discussion” over hot chocolate at a cafe when required reading is finished. We also tend to talk more informally about books as they’re coming along.

    1. Your lists are awesome as well. We have some overlap, I think you probably noticed. 😀 And I like the idea of an official book discussion. Maybe after poetry tea one day!

  5. Last summer my son and I read “Farmer Boy” after visiting Rosehill Manor in Frederick, MD. We just did the regular tour but there was so much overlap (i.e. looms, ice houses, etc.) that it really helped make the book come alive for him.

    I just found your blog tonight and I’m so happy to have a new, interesting blog to read! We don’t homeschool, but I look for ways to supplement all the time. I Capture the Castle is one of my favorite books.

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