The High Wire Act of a 3rd Grade Book Report

Had to help my son with his 3rd grade book report project this last week. Here’s what went well with it:


  • He was prepared. The book was read well in advance. He had an idea of what he wanted to do to meet the criteria for an advertisement billboard. He wanted to buy the poster board and get started well before the due date.
  • He was receptive to guidance. Since he had never done this type of project before and he’s only eight, he realized Mommy might actually have some valuable advice and strategies worth listening to.
  • He managed his time well. He worked on it a little each day of the week so it didn’t become overwhelming. There was no rush to finish it and he had time to set it aside if he grew frustrated.
  • In the end it came out wonderful. It was actually a 3rd grade level production, driven by his own creativity and eight year old capabilities without too much interference by Mommy.

 Here’s what didn’t go so well with the book report project:


  • Creativity is not his specialty. He is a human calculator, but when it comes to arts he is a minimalist. He has no interest in putting a little extra effort into an art project or upping the bar beyond kindergarten stick figures.
  • Creativity is my specialty. I had to physically remove myself and drew blood biting my tongue so that this would not become the best 3rd grade book report I have ever done.
  • He wasn’t always receptive to guidance. The fact that Mommy used to be a teacher holds no water in this house. Apparently, I know nothing and his teacher knows everything. The kid can be as stubborn as his mother.
  • The “Giving Your Best” talk and semantics. It is a tightrope walk between pushing your kids to do their best and not eroding their self-confidence when they think they are. I think I finally found the right words after retiring for a potty break after we had a joint melt-down over the supposedly finished project. Here’s what I told him when he thought he was done and I thought he could have done a little more:

For each grade of school there are higher expectations of what you should be able to do. Just because it worked in second grade doesn’t mean it’s still good for third grade. You’ve learned more so you should be able to do more.


Tomorrow, you will probably see three types of book report projects. Ones that look like a little more effort could have been put into it. Others that look like a 3rd grader gave their best effort. And a few that will look like their parents really enjoy doing 3rd grade book reports. I want yours in the second group. So, this project is good, but how can it be made better?


It just so happened that last Friday was my volunteer day in the classroom. I got to see all the book report projects being turned in. There were some that could’ve used a little more effort. There were many that looked like a 3rd grader gave their best effort. And there were some where Mommy and Daddy are going to get an A+.


And with little interference and a bit of guidance from Mommy, my son’s project was right where it was supposed to be with his best effort and he was proud of it.


For that I think we both deserve an A+.


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