Sunday, December 12, 2010

Children's books: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Early this week we finished Little House in the Big Wood, which was a big hit, even with my boys. After watching the Little House Christmas special (which made me cry a little), it was time to start a new book.

But which one? I couldn't decide between The Indian in the Cupboard and Mrs. Frisby, so I took a suggestion from the article I talked about a few posts ago and put it to a vote. I read the back of each book to the kids (which also gave me a chance to talk about the way that I pick out books for myself) and then the kids voted. Now, in my experience, raised-hand votes don't work. You have kids who'll raise their hands for both options. Instead, I have my kids move to different areas of the room depending on their choice. That way we stick to "one person, one vote" instead of "vote early, vote often". :)

Somewhat surprisingly, Mrs. Frisby beat The Indian by a pretty large margin. We're about three chapters in now, and it's been interesting how we've been able to draw parallels between our current story and the other novels we've read. For example, Mrs. Frisby (a field mouse) was afraid to go through the woods at night just like Pa (in Little House) was. We've been able to make connections to things we've seen in our own lives: the way the crow, who accidentally ties himself to the fence reminds us of a dog on a tether. We've been able to talk about the nature of courage (Mrs. Frisby crossing a dangerous field so that she can get medicine to her sick son or risking her life to free the crow). And we've talked about new vocabulary and concepts, like what the crow means when he tells Mrs. Frisby that he's in her debt.

All of this and more, in only three chapters. Our reading time is WELL worth the "instructional time" we lose to fit it in. And best of all, it's both a real treat for the kids, who love to listen, and a real-world example of why they're learning to read...not so they can say the words on the page, but because books are the closest thing to magic we have in our world.

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