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A Letter from a Worried Parent

This is an email I recently received from a parent. My response follows:

Hi Mr. G,

I am a mom of two sons (ages 9 and 5) and we live in north Edison. I found your recent blog on "Five Ways to Maximize Learning at Home" very interesting and practical! My older son is currently in the third grade. We have encouraged him to read more, and gradually he is picking up on more books to read. Yet he is very reluctant to write anything. I tried to ask him to keep a journal on our trips etc., or write about his favorite subject - cars, with very limited success.

What advice do you have to encourage him to:

1) expand his reading and go beyond what he normally reads (Big Nate, Wimpy Kids) and 2) write more?

As for your summer intensive daily classes for third/fourth graders - how can he get a taste of it to see if he is up for it? I have learned my lessons of signing up for classes that "I" think he would benefit from, which do not end up well. Now that he is getting older, having him on board is key in choosing activities and classes.


Mrs. X


Dear Mrs. X,

Thank you for your email.

To get your 3rd grader to read different books, all I can do is suggest what worked for my sons at that age: require that they read a certain amount each day before doing a fun activity they enjoy. If you don't want your son to read Big Nate or Diary of a Wimpy Kid, then tell him he has to read something else, but give him a choice. Here are some books my younger students have enjoyed:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl Matilda, by Roald Dahl James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl The BFG, by Roald Dahl Mr. Popper's Penguins, by Richard & Florence Atwater Frindle, by Andrew Clements The Lemonade War, by Jacqueline Davies The Mouse and the Motorcycle, by Beverly Cleary

With regard to writing, again, "bribe" him with some computer game time, but only after he sits down and writes a page. Tell him he can write a story, or write about something he enjoys. Some possible topics:

Write a story about a little boy who finds a magic item that gives him a special power. Write about your favorite movie/book/TV show/computer game. Write about your favorite hobby/sport/activity. Write about where you would like to go for summer vacation Write about what you think would be a perfect summer vacation

I hope this helps.

About summer classes, my policy is to evaluate students before enrolling them, so you will need to bring your son in so I can analyze his writing and reading abilities before I sign him up for a class. As far as "testing out" the class, what I allow is for parents to pay for one trial class, where the new student meets the other students and sees what the class is like, and then both the student and parents can decide whether to continue. After the trial class, I do require that parents pay for at least one week of daytime classes, however (or one month of once-a-week classes).

Lester Gesteland Tiger Workshops Learning Center 280 Amboy Avenue Metuchen, NJ 08840 (908) 510-5982


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