Thursday, September 18, 2008

Zach's Story (and one more cheer for Dan Gutman)

Last night, as we were winding down for the night, Wyatt grabbed White Fang and Garrett grabbed Crash, but it wasn't smooth sailing like the previous night. Settling down didn't come easy. And then when they did settle down, Wyatt kept trying to figure out who Gray Beaver was in his story. "Maybe it's a beaver, duh!" said Garrett. "Beavers can't keep up with Dogs, DUH!" Wyatt shot back. While they were batting that argument back and forth Zach was trying to decide what book he was going to read. I passed him some Andrew Clements, since I'm going to review his books later today (check back in) and some Jerry Spinelli. I passed him the sequel to Holes. I told him to try one of the sequels to Hatchet, or some Goosebumps? All books I want to review soon.

It's not the first time we've gone through this. You all know what I'm talking about. Chosing a book is half the battle and Zach is my hardest son to please. He has the most emotional baggage about books. He went the longest feeling dumb because he tested low and struggled to decode words. I wasn't tuned in to the angst of reluctant readers until his 3rd grade year. By that time he had been teased one too many times and felt humiliated over being placed in lower then grade level SFA reading groups. His test scores in other subjects were plummeting too because he was expected to read directions and instructions by himself.

I got serious about working with him over the summer before 4th grade, but it was next to impossible by that time. He was already convinced he was dumb. I bought Hooked on Phonics and Audiblocks. (great program, btw) I read books about Dyslexia and A.D.D. I counseled with school counselors, consulted Dr. Google and started reading out loud to my boys at night. (The twins were already complaining that reading was dumb and boring). I began with Magic Tree House (YAWN), and from there tried every series I could get my hands on. It was a looooooooong and thorny path to get him past the first sentence of a book.

Thanks heavens for Franny K. Stein and for Dan Gutman.

So last night I had a slight flashback. Zach picked up 6 or 7 books, read the first sentence, snapped the book shut and tossed it aside.

"Mom, I am NOT reading this book!" he said. "Listen to this: The minute the two friends saw each other they burst into tears."

"Not reading this either: Yesterday I left Lathbury behind. I traveled with father and he let me drive the cart on the way to Bridewell."


A testament to how critical that first sentence of a book can be.

Fianlly he grabbed a Dan Gutman book. The Million Dollar Shot! It was about basketball. "I always prayed to be on the Shirts because I'm real skinny and I don't like taking my shirt off in front of people. It's embarrassing." Now there was something he could relate to.

He read the first chapter out loud. I found myself listening to his story and smiling rather than concentrating on the book I was reading.

Have I mentioned yet that I just LOVE LOVE LOVE Dan Gutman? Because if I haven't . . .


Laura said...

Dan Gutman! Dan Gutman! Can I join the Dan Gutman Fan Club? Should we start one?
I mean- this guy is brilliant! BRILLIANT I TELL YOU! But you go to the book stores and they have few of his books.
I don't care his books don't have a gold sticker on it saying it won the award for bla bla bla... all I know is my boys love every book this man writes and I hope that he starts an older series soon... because after the baseball series... I might be in trouble.

Lisa (Funny Farmer) said...

:Writing on my to-do list: Go to library and get Dan Gutman books.


Kris said...

I am new to the blog, Funny Farmer sent me, since I am her SIL. I also love Dan Gutman. If you have not read his latest, the Homework Machine, you and your boys will love it!!! Who wouldn't want a homework machine? As a mom of boys I love the authors that get boys without a lot of violence, My 14 year old loves the action packed stuff.