A generation ago my daughters read all the 8 Ramona books by Beverly Cleary in English and loved them. Now I read Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (in Hebrew) with a young friend and she loves it just the same.
The Ramona series has been around since the 1950s but it is easy to love Ramona Quimby. She is a sweet “ordinary American girl” who is dealing with the same issues that still preoccupy her readers-- family, school, food, and friends.
Yet, there is one difference between Ramona and my young friend, unlike Ramona the avid reader, my young friend still finds reading challenging. And that difference made this book even better choice for us to read together..
We take turns reading aloud, my friend reads one page and I read the next. We usually read together a whole chapter ( which means that she reads in a session about 6 to 7 pages), and then as a reward, I read to her the following chapter. Reading together provides a wonderful opportunity for us to discuss the characters and the plot and through this opening we discuss my friend’s life. We also talk about concepts and unfamiliar words that appear in the text. The other day we talked about the concept of being "at ease", how is it that with some people we could never be at ease while with true friends we just are.
My friend is always looking for the shorter pages to read out loud and we exchange a long page, which I read, with a shorter one which she reads. This is a little game that we play which gives her a short respite from the effort of reading.
Ramona loves to read and in her third grade class they conduct a sustained silent reading (SSR), an activity which, for her is the best part of the day (from Wikipedia it is a form of school-based recreational reading, or free voluntary reading, where students read silently in a designated time period every day in school. An underlying assumption of SSR is that students learn to read by reading constantly. Successful models of SSR typically allow students to select their own books and require neither testing for comprehension nor book reports). In my daughters school it was called DEAR time: "Drop Everything and Read “.
I am not sure that in my friend’s class they have a similar DEAR activity, but I know that although she loves the books that we read together and looks forward to our sessions, my friend still dreads reading. By herself she never picks up the book until I come to read with her again the following week.
I am determined to keep on bringing wonderful books to read together until my friend feels comfortable that she has overcome the technical difficulties of reading. But I put my trust in the magical power of books and wait patiently for the day when she says “Orna I have a surprise for you, I have finished the book by myself”.
P.S Last week we finished the book; the last chapter ends with a sweet and surprisng story. After a long rainy Sunday, which the family spends cooped indoor, the father takes the family for dinner in a restaurant. This is an unusual and happy event as the family doesn't have much money to eat out. In the restaurant Ramona sees an older man who sits and eats alone and she looks at him uneasily. However, at the end of the meal, when the family is ready to leave and the father asks for the cheque, the waitress tells him that their bill has already been paid. The old man told the waitress that he wanted to buy dinner for that very nice family.
That was a very satisfying ending.