Tonight my 8-year-old begged me to read the next chapter of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. While reading, he blurted, “MOUNTAINOUS! What does that mean?” before I had even reached that part. If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect he actually likes reading. But I know better. My son hates reading.
It is no wonder my son hates reading. When I help him with his homework, I hate reading too! At first I was excited to read his assignments with him. Then I was appalled. Starting in first grade, his texts began to require that he read and then prove it by answering questions about it. “What is the main idea?” “Point to the topic sentence of the paragraph.”
For example, one text stated (and I summarize): Communities make parks to play in. Governments build the parks. Dogs play in the parks. People walk in the parks.
There were no ideas, just descriptions. And yet, they demanded that he state the main idea. I was honest with him. “This doesn’t have ideas,” I said. “It just states facts.” Was the idea that governments are necessary for public works? Or, was it that people enjoy parks, so they build them by forming governments? Is it that dogs make people want to build parks? Is it that dogs play where people walk?
I was flabbergasted trying to help him take an entirely descriptive text and pull out the main idea. Second grade and merely doubled down on the insanity. It is as if an internet bot has written the instructions for his texts. “I don’t know what they mean!” I hear myself saying over and over and over again. I get the feeling that the questions in his texts are pulled from a random sample of standardized test questions without the luxury of multiple choices. Take a lesson from Mr. Rogers and just ask, “Have you ever seen dogs playing in a park?”
My son hates reading because curiculli don’t model the love of reading! Instead, educational materials are designed to prepare second graders for the SAT instead of preparing them to give a flying fart about reading.