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Reading comprehension


One of the requirements of being a new parent to the Durham Public School system--my 5-year-old son Spencer is a kindergartener at Creekside Elementary--is to read to your child a minimum of 20 minutes a night.

Half the time, I let my son pick any book he wants and I read it to him, encouraging him to identify, pronounce and spell high frequency words like "me," "to," "and," "see," "go," and other principle words a young mind could use to parcel together a sentence.

In the beginning he wanted me to read books about either nature (lizards, dinosaurs, lions and sharks) or sports (the autobiography by Redskin cornerback Brigg Owens about their 1972 Super Bowl season, how to race BMX, or the basic rules of soccer). But as the year went on, he began to get books out of his media center; books with levels that identify a reader's ability to comprehend. The purpose of the exercise is twofold: It encourages parents to take part in their child's education as well as teach their child that reading is fundamental.

In our family, both parents take turns reading to Spencer, who is usually joined by his little brother Cole--a 2-year-old on the brink of a cognitive explosion. So my wife has taken to reading books from Joy Berry's series A Children's Book About... with titles like Being Bossy, Whining and Throwing Tantrums (these just happen to be the most read at the present moment).

The other night I was diligently hacking away at the computer's keyboard when I heard a ruckus from the other room. I started to walk toward Spencer's room to check on the fuss when I heard his screams. Below the din of his howl, I could make out that my wife was in the middle of reading Being Bossy.

I walked closer to his room. And that's when I finally could make out his plea: "Tantrums!" he hollered, tears coming down his face. "I waaaannnnnttt to reeeeaaaddTantrums!" he cried out, making sure to lengthen his words for dramatic impact.

I don't think Being Bossy or Throwing Tantrums has sunk in yet.

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