In the Light of Stellaluna

March 16, 2015

Amanda, Robert’s sister, read all those books.  She read Rainbow Fish, Streganona, Amazing Grace, and many, many more.  She, of course, read Stellaluna.  She loved the book so much, that she bought it with her lunch money during one of the Scholastic Books sales at her elementary school. But when Amanda got older, other books filled the bookshelves in her room.  I felt she outgrew the picture books and thus I brought them all to Salvation Army store.

I felt, that those books were of no use to Robert.  He had, after all,  other books. The books which should provide concrete information about animals, plants, human body.  All of them written on a level of kindergarten – third grade student.  Robert also had many other workbooks that were supposed to address deficits in his comprehension.  So they addressed one aspect of comprehension at a time: getting details,  answering WH question, finding main  topic, making inferences, and so on…They were called Comprehension Quickies, Close Reading, Addressing Specific Skills Series and so on… They all addressed some sort of deficits, I believe.  I used them a lot with Robert.  He didn’t enjoy them and I didn’t enjoy them either.  Moreover, they didn’t seem to improve Robert’s comprehension or my ability to teach reading comprehension.

Still, I believed they were right way to go, as they were short.  ‘Short’ was a synonym with easy and survivable. I believed, at that time, that Robert cannot listen to long stories.  I believed that Robert, despite his ability to decode the text, was not able to understand the plot. To make a matter worse, Robert didn’t want us to read to him, because he couldn’t listen. He would rather read himself then listen.  He would read, because when he was doing that, nobody expected him to listen at the same time.

I still remember how doubtful I felt, when I had to read to Robert (relatively) long stories from Reasoning and Writing Part A. I was sure, that he would not sit through.  And he didn’t.  He got up a few times during the first part of the story, and another few times the following day when I read to him the second part. But, I expected worse.  So, I continued, and Robert stopped getting up in the middle of my reading.

As we followed with reading stories from Reasoning and Writing, Robert learned to listened and I learned to read to him.  I learned to stop, add a comment, ask a question, repeat a sentence, pretend to explain it to myself,  and so on.  Nothing special.

Then, I looked through The Power of Retelling and realized how much Robert could learned through proper reading instruction. How much his vocabulary would improve, his ability to connect concepts in the way that would weave a path to better understanding of his  life.  But I wasn’t trained Reading Instructor, so I couldn’t transform general idea into a practical instruction. Luckily, someone on one of the parents’ internet list advised The Magic of Stories.

The Magic of Stories, brought me back to Rainbow Fish, Streganona, and Stellaluna.
From  The Magic of Stories,  I learned how to prepare for reading, how to read, and how to place the book in the context of readers experiences, abilities, challenges.  How to make more probable, that the reader  is not just capable of answering WH questions but that his language and his life is clearly enriched by the stories.

So, I got Stellaluna from our library.  No, I didn’t make any preparation for reading.  I didn’t follow any of the advises from Magic of Stories.   They are great and I will use the ideas behind them in the future. But this time, I was just curious how Robert would like this book as we alternate reading it, looking at the pictures, predicting what might happened and trying to figure out  some of the  confusing statements.

I had the feeling that Robert loved the book. He was relaxed, calm, and smiled with his eyes.

Later that evening, I called my daughter to tell her that Robert liked Stellaluna. “Oh, I adored that book”, said Amanda.

Sadly, I realized that I was feeding Robert with many  texts created specifically to address comprehension deficiency, but I have never read him stories that would match his humanity.  Moreover, I also realized that had I ever fed such educational  texts to my daughter as I fed them to my son, she would have lost her love of reading before finishing second or third grade.

Mine is a foolery of replacing wonderful children’s literature with soulless texts in the name of teaching.

Well, Robert is 23 years old, but he doesn’t mind reading Stellaluna again. Neither do I.




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