Chapter I Language and Literature Reading, Writing, and Your Fourth Grader: A Note to Parents In this chapter, you and your child will learn to appreciate the magic of words, travel to other worlds without leaving the room, and understand how words work together to create meaning. This chapter presents a rich and varied selection of literature, including poems and stories. You will also read brief discussions of grammar and writing and explanations of common sayings and phrases. By the end of fourth grade, students should be able to engage in the mental process of turning letters into sounds automatically. This year, they will focus more on meaning as they read, extending their vocabulary and understanding of the texts. Asking questions is a good way to draw your children into a story. Here are a few that work well: "What do you think is going to happen next?" "How might the story have turned out differently if . . . ?" "What did you hear/read that makes you believe that . . . ?" "What does the author mean by the statement . . . ?" "How is this story similar to . . . ?" You might also ask your child to retell the story. You can even encourage your child to change events or characters: this is a rich tradition of storytelling and explains why there are so many versions of traditional stories. You may also encourage your child to write and illustrate her own stories. Some children may be interested in beginning to keep a journal or writing letters to friends or relatives--these are both fine ways for children to cultivate their writing skills. Another way to build vocabulary and foster language skills is by playing word games such as Scrabble, Boggle, or hangman and doing crossword puzzles. You can download many of these popular word games on tablet devices and computers. Experts say our children already know more about grammar than we can ever teach them. But standard written language does have special characteristics that children need to learn. The treatment of grammar and language conventions in this book is an overview. It needs to be supplemented and rounded out by giving your child opportunities to read and write and to discuss reading and writing in connection with grammar and spelling. At school, children should be working on vocabulary and spelling in the fourth grade. They should enjoy a rich diet of fiction, poetry, drama, biography, and nonfiction. They should be involved in the writing process, inventing topics, discovering ideas in early drafts, and revising toward "publication" of polished final drafts--all with encouragement and guidance along the way. They should practice writing in many modes, including stories, poetry, journal entries, formal reports, dialogues, and descriptions. For some children, the section on sayings and phrases may not be needed; they will have picked up these sayings by hearing them in everyday speech. But this section will be useful for children from homes where American English is not spoken. For additional resources to use in conjunction with this section, visit the Core Knowledge Foundation's website at www.coreknowledge.org. Literature Introduction This selection of poetry, stories, and myths can, in most cases, be read independently by fourth graders. We hope you'll take this as a starting point in your search for more literature for your child to read and enjoy. We have included both poetry and prose. The best way to help children appreciate the spirit of poetry is to read it aloud to them and encourage them to speak it aloud so that they can experience the music in the words. Until children take pleasure in the sound of poetry, there is little reason to analyze it technically. Most of the stories in this book are either excerpts from longer works or abridged versions of those works. If a child enjoys a particular story, he should be encouraged to read a longer version. Several of the novels excerpted here are available in child-friendly versions as part of the Core Knowledge Foundation's Core Classics series, available for purchase through the foundation's website, www.coreknowledge.org. This book continues the effort, begun in previous books, to allow you to coordinate readings about literature and other subjects, including history, visual arts, music, and science. These stories and poems also give you the opportunity to discuss the value of virtues, such as friendship, courage, and honesty, with your child. Poetry Monday's Child Is Fair of Face (author unknown) Monday's child is fair of face, Tuesday's child is full of grace, Wednesday's child is full of woe, Thursday's child has far to go, Friday's child is loving and giving, Saturday's child works hard for a living, But the child that is born on the Sabbath day Is fair and wise and good and gay. Humanity by Elma Stuckey If I am blind and need someone To keep me safe from harm, It matters not the race to me Of the one who takes my arm. If I am saved from drowning As I grasp and grope, I will not stop to see the face Of the one who throws the rope. Or if out on some battlefield I'm falling faint and weak, The one who gently lifts me up May any language speak. We sip the water clear and cool, No matter the hand that gives it. A life that's lived worthwhile and fine, What matters the one who lives it? Fog by Carl Sandburg The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on. Clouds by Christina G. Rossetti White sheep, white sheep On a blue hill, When the wind stops You all stand still. When the wind blows, You walk away slow. White sheep, white sheep, Where do you go? Excerpted from What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know (Revised and Updated): Fundamentals of a Good Fourth-Grade Education by E. D. Hirsch All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.