July 23, 2010

Summer Reading and Its Rewards

Henry's new library bag (just don't call it a backpack)

This evening I was sorting through the boys' books and found a few of my favorites.  Okay, I wasn't sorting, I was just trying to clear a path in the bedroom so no one would break an ankle before morning.  Liam has taken to pulling out each and every book on the shelves in search of a Thomas the Tank Engine story.  (Notice that stories about the little blue train did not make my list.)

I enjoy reading these to my boys because they gently illustrate how trying it can be to parent little ones. Each book ends with a stronger bond between the mom and child.  Sometimes I sneak one or more of these titles into the bedtime line-up because I need to hear the story.

Two additional favorites are Overboard! and Llama, Llama Mad at Mama.  The young characters in these stories are chafing against the behavior expections the adult world places on them.  I like to share these with my boys because it helps me look at our interactions from their perspective.  It's a helpful exercise and a great way to connect after a long day of tantrums and timeouts.  Actually, maybe I shouldn't be waiting until bedtime to read these.

At first glance, Duck and Goose: How Are You Feeling? seems too basic for my preschooler.  But the simplicity of the illustrations and one-word-per-page text is what make it so accessible.  I use it as a conversation starter when one, (two or three) of us has had a bad day and is reluctant to talk about it.  We start out talking about what's happening to the characters and end up discussing our own feelings in similar situations.

Liam with the prizes from his very first summer reading program.

The entire family participated in the local library's summer reading program:  Ticket to Read.  They had very specific guidelines for each age group.  For toddlers, parents had to read five books to the child, then read another story three times together.  In addition, we had to recite nursery rhymes, sing songs and register for our choice of a program at the library. For preschoolers, the requirements were 45 stories in a two-month period.  No problem, except the little booklet where we wrote Henry's titles is got a bit tattered.  For every fifteen books he "read", we stopped back at the library for a prize.  For last year's adult program, patrons were asked to read six books. This year the requirement is fifteen titles!  I would LOVE to have the time to read 15 books.  Actually, right now I'd love to have the time to read 1.5 books.

The summer began with a stack of books and high hopes.  Some titles are from reviews I carefully saved until this spring when I purchased them for my highly anticipated summer reading.  Others are books that I know will be very helpful when I return to the classroom in August.  In addition to the five books I brought home in June, I came across these two titles:   What Great Teachers Do Differently and That Crumpled Paper That Was Due Last Week   After skimming their chapters, I know that I need to sit down and take time to process the authors' recommendations in order to get my school year off to a good start.  I just don't know where I'm going to find the time.  There are so many other tasks consuming my days right now.  Cooking, cleaning, comforting and caring for the boys is an 16 hour-a-day job.  I barely have time to read the mail or the directions on the back of the Hamburger Helper box.

When I do squeeze in a few minutes to read for just for me, I feel guilty and distracted.  However, I'm glad I made time for The Possibility of Everything.  It is a mom's memoir of her child's difficult behavior at age three.  The author  is so honest and unafraid to describe her own flaws, indecision and worries.  I felt a real kinship with this mother.  I didn't want the book to end but I did want her to find a peaceful, lasting solution to the family's problems.

I finished Everyone Is Beautiful in record time thanks to the vivid characters.   I felt as though I lived in their brownstone and passed them on the stairs each day.  I hope to make time to read Half Broke Horses.  It has been on my wishlist for months.   I hate to have to choose between reading for pleasure and reading to improve my teaching.  Right now I'm leaning towards diving into this novel instead of professional books.   It is, after all, still summer for a few more weeks.


  1. Thank you for sharing all of these book titles! Reading with my child is one thing I look forward to most!

  2. I'm glad you mentioned these books, B is always excited to get new books at the library and we'll have to check these out, and start rotating them into our daily and nightly readings! H looks so proud with his library bag; he's one smart cookie!

  3. My personal favourites: Oh David!, Yael loved this book since she was 1.5. Adam's favourite is a book that imitates animal sounds. And Robert Munsch library of stories. If you have not read it yet, get a hold of those books, they are awesome.