About two years ago (December 2009), I started a project I titled “1000 Books” in which I hoped to read 1000 different books with my son before his sixth birthday (fall 2013): picture books, chapter books, or essentially any books that we read in full. Originally, I said I wanted to read the books by his fifth birthday, but then I panicked because that was too soon and changed it to his sixth birthday. The purpose of this goal was to nurture his natural interest in reading, to expose him to a variety of good books, and to help him gain the literary exposure necessary to learn to read at age 5 or 6.
It’s been quite the wonderful experience for us.
I had no idea how easy it would be to get to 1000 books. It quickly became a habit to pick up a variety of different picture books from the library each week. We regularly had between 50 and 75 different library books out at a time; I had to put a small bookshelf in the family room just for library books to keep them separated from our other books (so we wouldn’t lose them before they were due!). Some books we didn’t read in full; some books we didn’t read more than once. But in general, we got in to a regular habit of “story time” every afternoon. Raisin and I loved that special cuddle time. And, as Raisin was learning to use the toilet at the beginning of the project and he continued to express intense interest in reading, I made his “toilet time” a special “read books” time, so he didn’t resent me. (I’d make him sit on the toilet after lunch and he’d sit there “reading” books happily for a short time. After six months of that, he was, essentially, ready to be toilet trained.)
We reached 1000 books at some point in December of 2011 (although in the last year I’ve had a harder time keeping track of books read), and we’re still reading like crazy. I had little idea that it would be so much fun. I suppose I should have known. I love reading and picture books are creative, artistic, and well written (for the most part). Cuddling with my boy – now four-years-old and too busy to cuddle often – is a precious part of our day. I love how Raisin sees a familiar book at the library and says “I love this one! Let’s get it again.” And sometimes, like this fall, when I was reading lots of picture books myself for the CYBILS awards, he’d say things like “No! We can’t return this book to the library! We’ve only read it three times!” I’d say he’s destined to be a reader for life now.
And then, I had no idea my son would learn how to read at age three. I can’t take credit for him learning last summer, and I don’t know that reading so frequently made all the difference either. (One known influence was the Leap Frog phonics video that he watched repeatedly as a two-year-old: he learned the sounds and somehow put together that the sounds combine to form the words in our books.) At any rate, he figured it out, and the future seems to include much more reading, this time by Raisin himself. We still love to read picture books, but now we’ve incorporated easy readers into our regular reading as well, where Raisin gets to read to me. Although I don’t intend to begin another 1000 books project (more on this in a minute), I love knowing that Raisin would be capable of making a new goal of reading books himself, or so forth.
He’s come so far since I started our “Growing a Reader”/1000 Books Project, and I’m so delighted to see where the next months and years of reading take us.
After 1000 Books: School at Home
I mentioned that I don’t intend another “1000 Books” project from here, and I don’t intend to keep updating the long list. It’s been very hard to keep the record of all the books we’ve read up to date, simply because we go through so many so frequently! Also, because I was focusing on reviewing CYBILS nominees in the fall, so many of the best books we’ve read on that list were never mentioned on this blog, and they deserve mention because they were good!
Further, Raisin’s needs have changed. As many of you know, I’ve been contemplating homeschooling him come kindergarten (in another 18 months). But Raisin has such an interest in learning, I decided to give some “focused” learning a chance in our home, just to see how it could work.
Raisin has adapted to “school at home” with a passion. We began by reading library books about the planets, which for some reason he loves. He wrote his own “book” about the planets and illustrated it too. This month he’s been fascinated about the human body, especially how digestion works (“…and then we poop it out!”) and the skeleton (since he can feel his bones). We wrote up another “book” and he’s going to illustrate it. We’ve learned how to read an analog clock and all about the coins (pennies, nickels, and dimes, mostly), so we can pretend to go grocery shopping with our pretend food.
I picked up a book of letters and number worksheets so Raisin can practice writing and now he is making me worksheets all the time. This is amazing because in December, before I began the writing worksheets, he always cried that writing was “too hard” so I never pushed it. Now he’s always writing things down. He also especially loves number games and worksheets. We’ve talked about odd and even numbers, numbers that are “greater’ or “less than”, and even some basic addition. (I’m sticking with numbers under 15 or 20 and addition in single digits for now.)
He also is fascinated by maps: we’ve learned about the seven continents, and we have been talking about Antarctica this month (he likes that it’s the South Pole, opposite where Santa lives). He has learned about map legends or keys, about the points of a compass, and scale (although this last concept has been rather difficult to understand).
In short, Raisin loves school at home. Some days, he wants to “do school” for hours. “Can I have another worksheet?” I don’t want to burn him out, but I’m fascinated by his fascination and I love seeing what he’ll want to learn next!
I’m considering posting occasionally about our “school at home” projects on this site. I could separate it into a different site (and in fact, I do have a personal family blog, but I don’t want that to go public, and I think public sharing of homeschooling ideas would be helpful) so just let me know if you’d be interested in hearing about Raisin’s School at Home progress….or not.
Whether or not I discuss more of Raisin’s “school” on this blog, I do plan on continuing to post about picture books and other books we’ve enjoyed together and that I’d recommend. My personal reading focus will remain classic literature, but since mothering is such a huge part of my life, I fully intend to keep picture books and other children’s literature in my regular reading too!