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School's Back; So's Homework

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Ah, fall. No more camp, sleeping in, and lazy days at the pool. Now it is school, up before dawn, and --- HOMEWORK.

Teachers love it, kids hate it. Right?

Wrong.

At least this fourth teacher doesn't love it. We do a lot during the school day in my classroom and when we are done I want my students to go home and do other things -- play, build with Legos, dream, shoot hoops, relax, spend time with family, draw, dance, sing, listen, and create. Oh yes, and read. It is the one sort of homework I feel very strongly about and so I require that my fourth graders read self-selected books at home every evening. While some of these nine and ten year-olds have been avid readers for years others are just getting to a point where reading isn't a struggle, where they can forget about the mechanics and simply lose themselves in the story.

All of them are still figuring out what sort of learners and readers they are outside of school. Where do they read best -- in bed, on the couch, cuddling a pet, under a tree, next to a parent? Do they need pristine silence or lively sound? They need to figure out for themselves what sorts of books they like best -- some can't get enough of the big fantasy novels, others prefer anything sports-related, there are those who get lost in graphic novels, and those who want to sob over something sad. Each child needs to figure out this taste business by exploring and experimenting, going so far as to abandon a book that isn't doing anything for him or her.

Sometimes avid adult readers express dismay at this sort of homework, arguing that it fosters a hatred of reading. I'm guessing this is because they associate all homework with drudgery and misery. Happily it doesn't have to be that way. Indeed there is such a thing as fun homework! Think about it -- instead of battling with your child at home to do his or her homework why not make it over stopping -- to say it is time for bed, time for the lights to go out, time to stop the reading homework? Instead of dealing with a child crying over homework why not one who races into class the next morning and blurts out, " Ms. Edinger, I'm so sorry, but I read for more time than you required. I had to find out what was going to happen!"

Homework that you can't wait to do and don't want to stop doing -- that's the kind I like to give!

Also posted at educating alice.