Surprising themes in my first grader’s public school reading
Over the last year or two, the state’s political dialogue has constantly focused on Alabama’s public education standards, and that’s not a bad conversation to have. Some suggest the standards are “developmentally inappropriate” while others highlight the standards’ benefit for college and workforce readiness.
I’m the proud father of three boys. My eldest is in first grade, and I’ve paid close attention to his education. I’ve written about my experience with Common Core-aligned math, but I’m also following his reading material closely.
Like many parents, I’m concerned with what my children are actually learning outside my home and whether that instruction is equipping them with the tools they need to have opportunities in the future.
When my son comes home from school, he usually has three books in a satchel for his reading homework. His teacher has asked parents to read 20 minutes a night with their child. It’s not always easy to find the time, but it’s a priority for us.
The books are short and pretty straightforward. If he does his reading homework for the week, he receives Smarties—amazing what you can get a six-year-old to do for candy.
What I’ve found so far has been particularly encouraging. If the Alabama State Department of Education is conspiring to raise the Iron Curtain, they have a funny way of showing it.
Already, I’ve come across two books advocating critical principles of work and the marketplace. The first was a book about sledding. Two kids want a new sled, but they realize they need to perform small jobs to earn the money to buy it. They work, get paid and buy the sled. My son lives in Alabama and has virtually no use for a sled, but I’m pretty sure he understood the point.
This week we read a book called “The Animal Painter.” The book was about an artist who sells her wares to the satisfaction of both buyer and seller. Again, the book reinforced market principles and the importance of work in a few short pages.
Some of the books are just fun. We read a story about a missing frog where the solution to finding said frog is cutting out a blue piece of paper that mimics a pond. I’ve captured many frogs in my life, but I apparently missed the memo on the fake water trick. While it seemed silly to me, the reading provided an opportunity for me to talk with my son about the best way to catch frogs. He’s using his mind; he’s thinking critically. I like that.
For all the negatives we hear about Alabama education, my initial experience is with the reading work is quite positive. I’m encouraged to see some of the lessons we’re teaching him at home being reinforced at school.
My family’s experience may not be the same for others around the state, but these are the types of conversations we need to be having. Our education choices and policies are critically related to the success of our state, but it’s often tough to find common ground precisely because the stakes are so high. For those of us willing to try, let’s highlight the successes and focus on improving the weaknesses. Our kids are worth it even if we don’t get a roll of Smarties for doing the work.