This summer, I am spending 12 days in a reading clinic working with a 3rd grade student to complete a teaching certificate in remedial reading. The student, let’s call him “M” has no problem with reading comprehension, especially if the book he is reading is engaging…and the book he is reading is very engaging.
Knowing “M’s” taste, one of the other teachers in the clinic brought in a copy of The Summer Camp from the Black Lagoon by Michael Thaler and illustrated by Jared Lee. When she brought out the text, “M” looked at the length of the book and whined.
“It’s a chapter book,” he protested.
“You are going into third grade, ‘M’; you will be reading chapter books,” she replied calmly.
He inspected the book.
“64 pages!” he complained. “I can’t read 64 pages!!”
“Try a chapter,” she suggested, so he sat and began to read.
Six chapters later, the time for reading was over.
The next day, “M” wrote “more reading” on the “to do” list.
“Can we start with the Black Lagoon book?” he begged.
One of the goals this summer for “M” is to increase his fluency, but picking up his “words per minute” (WPM) speed with this particular book is difficult. That is because “M” enjoys the word play Thaler has scattered throughout the text; several are in the titles of his chapters. For example, there is “For Goodness Snakes” and “What’s Canoe with You?” Lee’s illustrations are even funnier, and many characters have little captions. Each bit of humor catches “M’s” attention. He laughs, repeats the joke, and adds a comment of his own. He turns back pages when a pun suddenly makes sense.
Needless to say, this does slow his wpm speed in reading the text.
I am not convinced that the wpm is a good measurement of “M’s” reading ability. Especially when I think that Thayer and Lee would be delighted with “M’s” enjoyment of the text. That is why they wrote the book, to engage the reader, and “M” is definitely engaged. Speed is one thing, building a love of reading is another.