spacerErin's Book Lists—pg. 1
Compiled by Erin Hassett
and her parents
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One Family, One Child, and a Menu of Read-Alouds

Excerpted from Chapter Two of The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (Penguin, 2013, 6th ed.)

"E"rin had no idea what a lucky girl she was when Linda Kelly-Hassett and her husband, Jim, brought her home from the hospital that Thanksgiving Day in 1988—but she soon found out. A few years later, I found out, too, when Erin's mom shared with me her journal of reading experiences. Since I didn't keep such a document with my own children, and since Linda began even earlier than I did (ignorant parent that I was back in those days), I think her words speak louder than anything I might write in this space.

Linda had been an elementary-grade teacher for twenty-two years when Erin was born, and a devoted reader-aloud to her students. Everything she did in class, and recommended to the parents of her students, she applied to Erin. Not every parent has the time to do all that Linda did, but if they did even half as much, all children’s futures would be brighter. In the print edition of The Read-aloud Handbook, Linda shares her daily reading diary.

Erin Hassett photo

Erin Hassett in 2006

    With all of that reading, Erin's attention span and interests grew by leaps and bounds. By four years of age, she was listening to hundred-page novels along with her picture books. When it came time to attend school, Erin's mom decided to use her own years of professional teaching experience and home-school Erin. Home schooling wasn’t a political or religious issue with the Hassetts; they felt that their only child should receive the best they could possibly give her—a veteran twenty-two-year teacher called Mom. Furthermore, with the head start she received at home, much of her first years in formal school would have been redundant and probably bored her to tears. In the ensuing years, Linda and Erin would be involved in weekly cooperative ventures with other community home-schoolers, and by age twelve, Erin began taking band and physical education at the local middle school for 310 minutes a week.

Aware of the bonding that occurs during read-aloud, as well as the difference between a child's listening level and reading level (more on that later), the Hassetts continued to read to Erin.

"I don't want to read these dumb books . . . "

Erin’s progress in learning to read is a story in itself. After expressing a desire at age five to know her letters and sounds, she quickly mastered them but balked at formal reading. Listening to Mom and Dad reading novels was still a daily experience, but when her mother began to press her about reading herself in first grade, Erin declared, "I don’t want to read those dumb books, those baby books (primers and easy-readers). I'm not going to read until I can do chapter books."

Her mother backed off—to a degree. There was a local Head Start program of four- and five-year-olds whom Linda and Erin had begun visiting as volunteers once a week, and one of the activities was reading to the children. Since the children quickly began to look up to Erin, she hedged on her determination and agreed to read some "big books" like Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar to these classes. Obviously, Erin had learned how to read.

Finally, in the summer between first and second grade, the Hassetts were visiting friends who had a daughter three years older than Erin. Though the two girls went to bed at the same time, Erin was a night owl and not at all tired. When she was told she could read in bed, the older girl gave her some chapter books she had outgrown. The next morning, Erin came down to breakfast, handed her mother a novel and said, "I read that last night." Thinking she meant she had glanced through it, Linda said that was nice and didn't think more about it. When it happened with a second novel the following morning, Linda asked her to read aloud a chapter. Erin did, with perfect inflection, and didn't miss a word.

"B"y the end of third grade, Erin was scoring in the ninety-ninth percentile in reading and listening comprehension, as well as vocabulary—and she had never done a workbook page in her life. Nearing age twelve, she read the 732-page Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in a weekend.

Through the years, thanks to that initial letter from her mom, I've lunched and dined with Erin, even interviewed her in front of seminar audiences in Pennsylvania and Colorado. She is poised, enthusiastic, articulate, talented, and one of the most extraordinary young ladies I’ve ever known. Despite her abilities and accomplishments, Jim and Linda continue to read to her. By age 16, they'd done 652 novels together. And far from being a bookworm, she loves swimming, softball, and singing. In fact, in 2005, she was accepted to Michigan's Interlochen Arts Camp vocal program, and was grand prize winner of the Rocky Mountain District "Stars of Tomorrow" competition (won by Judy Collins back in 1958). Add to that several years competing in "Odyssey of the Mind" competitions and you've got an All-American kid.

Erin's Book List — Novels from Age 4-12

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