Why I don’t care if my students finish a book


That said, this quote comes to mind:

“Grown-ups shouldn’t finish books they’re not enjoying. When you’re no longer a child, and you no longer live at home, you don’t have to finish everything on your plate. One reward of leaving school is that you don’t have to finish books you don’t like.”  – John Irving

Not only grown-ups, kids too. I can hear my reader’s inner monolog now- ” She must not mean the classics.”  I do.

There are so many books, and we have only so many years to discuss them with our children. There is nothing quite like some dark Socratic banter between teacher and student. That only happens if the student is engaged in the material. Sure you can drag them along, but you know it’s not the same experience that it is when the student is actively involved in the content.

I am lucky enough to live in a state with minimal oversight of homeschoolers and therefore, have the great privilege of designing my own curriculum. I compile my book list from many sources. Over the last few years, I have started only planning our reading 6 weeks in advance. If a book isn’t a hit, I have a few others in the wings that we can turn to immediately. If a big is a huge hit, I can search out companion books without the fear of throwing off a 36-week schedule. Over the years, I’ve been quite sure that a certain book would be a hit and then find out that I indeed was mistaken.

A few years ago I read Classic Connections: Turning Teens on to Great Literature (Libraries Unlimited Professional Guides for Young Adult Librarians Series) and within its pages, I learned about the Rule of Fifty.

Part of what I try to determine with my kids is whether they don’t like it or they don’t get it. There is a huge difference. If they aren’t getting it- that I can work with. I will go line by line in a book together if they like it and want to dive in.

The Rule of Fifty is simple: If you find yourself fifty pages into a book and it has left you cold, unmoved, bored, longing to clean the litter box or under your bed, you can: PUT IT DOWN.

You can choose a different number of pages, but I have found that in fifty pages a book doesn’t change much in tone or plot.

“Reading takes time, and even when challenging, should always remain a pleasure.’- Holly Koelling

To be clear, I don’t just hand any “school” book over without having read it myself first.  You can’t just hand a book over without reading it and expect to have any credibility with your kids. I have read books and not liked them. I have handed them over, and sometimes we both decide that it isn’t our favorite, but we are happy to have read it. Sometimes, like in the case of Treasure Island after fifty pages I knew that we were both done. We even tried reading it aloud in pirate voices as an attempt to stem the boredom. It was a no go, and that’s OK with me. We went on and read the next book on our list, and the sky did not fall.