I have known Jan Benson for over 10 years. First as a teacher and then, quickly, as a friend. She is an extraordinary teacher who is passionate about supporting children on their learning journey. She has left the public school system to tutor and work with homeschoolers on her own terms, and she couldn’t be happier with her decision.
Recently, she struggled with an older kid who was just learning to read. I gave her “The Adventuring Pack” to try out. This interview is about what happened.
Kyla Ryman: So, Jan, tell me how this started (give us some background on the child, what you were struggling with, etc.)
Jan Benson: I had a new 8 year old boy join our homeschooling group that wasn't reading yet. He showed a genuine curiosity and enjoyed looking at different books. He was most drawn to non-fiction but also enjoyed looking at story books. He showed a deep interest in knights and their history. He dictated a great story about an adventure with knights. “The Adventuring Pack” felt like the perfect choice to introduce to him. It has detailed pictures along with matching text. Right away he liked the books. He used his own knowledge and experience to relate to the adventurers in the different books. He looked deeply at the illustrations and talked openly about how they related to himself.
KR: How did you introduce the book pack? Describe the first time and his interaction.
JB: We talked about the pack before I showed it to him. I let him know they were books about adventures. He immediately wanted to look and see. I had him look through all the books in the pack and then choose one that he wanted to read. As he went through the pages, he stopped at each page and looked carefully at all the illustrations. If he didn't know the word that went with the picture, I asked him to look at the first letter for a clue and then back at the illustrations. His success and confidence with the book showed me that it was appropriate and meaningful.
KR: How has the child interacted with the book pack since then?
JB: He has taken home a few books from the pack. We are still making our way through the rest of the books.
KR: Anything else that you think is relevant and important about your work around using this pack that may not have come up yet? Any thoughts for others about using this pack, or other packs, or how this pack differs from the others?
JB: Because this pack has so many illustrations around adventures, I feel that it works with older kids. They can relate to the illustrations in a more sophisticated way. The books are "early readers" ages 3+, however, this 8 year old was engaged and wants to go back to the books and read them over and over.
KR: What got you excited while using this pack or what makes these books stand apart? Is it difficult to find books for a child in his situation?
JB: Using the illustrations as a jumping off point was exciting. Watching him use a prior knowledge was empowering. Some of the illustrations prompted new thinking and questions. The books also inspired him to add more illustrations to the knight book he was already working on.
It's hard to find high interest books for a beginning reader who is 8 years old. There are plenty of low level books, but the content in them is not age appropriate. Using books that activate prior knowledge and dialogue are great ways to start conversations and support readers where they are at. “The Adventuring Pack” did all these things. I'm looking forward to using more Home Grown Books!