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How I helped a 7-year-old find dessert in an eat-your-spinach world.

by Babs Hadjusiewicz July 18, 2009

Wigglers and gigglers danced through the door. Babies to  Eight’s kept asking for more. A tale of a bridge? A lining-up rhyme? A fraidy-dog poem? ‘Twas Kids’ Café™ time!
My Starbucks event last week prompted a delightful email from the mom of a 7-year-old. She wrote, “As for reading, he has been reluctant lately.” So reluctant, she added, that his tutor suggested they focus on phonics. “So I was glad,” she said, “to pick up your book [More] Phonics through Poetry, and asked him to read just one poem to me on the ride home.” “He read one,” she wrote, “and, though he stumbled over a few words, was eager to read it through again because it was funny once he had the words straight. THEN, he said, ‘How about I read another one?’ !! ” Those two exclamation marks and her use of caps told me this parent was eager to share her feelings of true amazement. “THEN,” she said, “he read several more [poems]––the same way with an initial rough read––and [he] finally put the book beside him and said, ‘I really like that book.’ ” His mother adds, “Let me tell you it has definitely been over a year since I've heard him say such a thing!” Hmmm. Over a year means last spring or early summer. That would have been around the end of this boy’s kindergarten year…the very time in a child’s life when everyone, including the child, expects the presence of a whole lot of readiness to read. And eagerness to match. But this young fellow had already been turned off and tuned out. And he’d now finished first grade. Ouch. This mom’s story presented yet another affirmation that I’d gotten it right back there in my student-teaching days. I’d faced fourth-grade students who were struggling to read. First, I’d tried all the strategies I’d learned. My students still looked at books as the worst chores imaginable. Then one day, I began serving up desserts. I read aloud. I chanted rhymes. I read poems. I sang their favorite songs and then invited these uninterested readers to pretend with me to take away a song's music. We chorally recited what was left...a poem. With each book, poem, song, and rhyme, these kids asked for more. Soon, they were reading familiar words we’d said and sung. Reluctant readers turned into word-hungry readers…and then, writers. They were acting, I’d pondered, just like me when I’m offered a chocolate-chip cookie. I always want another. And that’s why, to this day, I serve up desserts to kids––fun poems, songs, books, and rhymes. And like Aidan, they always ask for more. Speaking of more, I’ll blog more about what happens to veggies, such as spinach, in a kid’s dessert-first world. And there’s also much more to tell about our Starbucks Kids’ Café experience. There’s storytelling led by Zach and Sam at their home later that night. And there’s Baby Abby whose response to the poems and songs is a must-tell story. So stay tuned for more tales, and more....


Babs Hadjusiewicz
Babs Hadjusiewicz

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