Tag Archives: Children’s literature

It’s Summertime and the Reading Is Easy

Five weeks of summer have been dawdled away on quiet afternoons with books in hand, feet up, and minds lost in stories too good to interrupt. During the hectic rush of the school year, these are the days we long for: lazy summer days when there are more chapters than hours to read them.

But that hasn’t always been the case. Last summer was quite a different story. I had to beg my kids to do any summer reading. My husband and I read to our kids every night at bedtime. They love books, but they can be picky. Bookstores can be overwhelming. With a lot of patience, persistence, and the determination of a youthful heroine, I made sure this summer the kids found some hits. I’m glad because I just love happy endings.

Here are the books we haven’t been able to put down this summer, including a few simple ways I got my picky readers to try something new (in italics).

Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. My son didn’t want to try anything new when he finally finished Harry Potter. He wanted to read that lengthy series again! I picked up The Lightning Thief and read the first few pages to him one night before bed. He was hooked. Riordan does a great job of getting straight to the action. We’ve had to rush to the library for the next book each time my son finishes one. Thanks, Mr. Riordan.

summer reading

A little summer reading. What series should follow Percy Jackson?

Darth Paper Strikes Back: An Origami Yoda Book by Tom Angleberger. While Origami Yoda knew how to solve problems, Darth Paper causes a bit of trouble at the middle school. When my son found out this author plans a book signing in our town, he couldn’t wait to finish this book and has his sights set on the next one due in August.

Just Grace series by Charise Mericle Harper. My daughter was skeptical until I enticed her with the idea that these books were a tiny bit like Diary of a Wimpy Kid for girls, only because it’s broken up into really short bits like a diary and has cute child-like drawings so the narrator can show the reader what she’s talking about. But that’s where the similarities end. The books are cute, age appropriate, and well written. I love Harper’s style. Grace is a cool kid I don’t mind my daughter reading about.

Just Grace

Just Grace is a good series about a girl in a class with other Graces. She gets the nickname “Just Grace,” though she’s anything but ordinary.

The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. When my daughter read the American Girl series about Julie, the girl from 1974, she became interested in the Little House books because Julie was. I took advantage of the connection to another book and read them to her. We’re on the fourth book and love Laura’s antics and Pa’s wisdom. These are a great change of pace from modern life.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I’ve had this book for a while and put off reading it. I wish I hadn’t. I loved it and can’t wait to read the sequels. It’s a great summer read and more girly than I expected. My son wants to read it and I questioned the violence. When I finished, I told him what it was about. He said, “You lost me when you said it was about a girl.” Problem solved.

The Messy Quest for Meaning by Stephen Martin. Martin is a good friend of mine and this book tells about his struggle to find purpose in his life, what he learned from Trappist monks, and how readers can discover their own calling in the world. What, I have purpose other than wiping rears and messes?

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson. Funny. Books that make everyone else laugh don’t usually make me laugh. Parts of this made me cry. My husband read this too and every time he laughed, I’d say, “What part are you on?”

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz. I’m not very familiar with Grimm’s fairy tales. Evidently they’re pretty violent and gory. This book follows the formula. I don’t like that kind of stuff but I loved this well-written book. Clever plot twists move the story along and the characters really do deserve what they get. My son previously started this book and lost interest. When he saw me reading it, he immediately wanted to read it. But he was already into Percy Jackson, which is fine with me.

Even though we’re out of this stage, here are some summer picture books we have loved.

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla FrazeeEvery now and then my son still likes to read this book about two boys who spend a week with one of boys’ grandparents doing what they want to do instead of the fun nature things the grandpa has planned. The boys in it are funny and real and in the end, they really do get the point.

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne. This story tells the life of Jacques Cousteau, including his early years and his contributions to scuba diving and early marine conservation. To a kid, it’s a cool book about a boy, an ocean, and a passion.

Rattletrap Car by Phyllis Root. In this heat, a day at the lake is in order. Can Poppa get the family’s rattletrap car to work long enough to make it to the lake? Maybe if the whole family pitches in. Some days I feel like this in our rattletrap van. “Son, hand me your razzleberry, dazzleberry, snazzleberry gum. I need it to fix the door.”

So tell me, what have you been reading this summer? Five weeks left. There’s plenty time for more in our house. 

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Bedtime Stories

Whether we’re tired, it’s late, or someone has stomped up the stairs and slammed the door in a very bad mood, every night I read to each of my kids. Even when my daughter melts down because she can’t get the toothpaste on or my son gets a second wind and bounces on his bed like a super ball on a linoleum floor, it’s just our ritual.

Often it is the part of our busy day I look forward to most, one on one. For ten to twenty minutes, it’s just the two of us, curled up and lost in a story. Sometimes I read longer, wanting to see what happens next just as much as my child does.

This has always been our bedtime routine, and I plan to do it as long as they will let me. Many years ago I read that it’s important to read to your children long after they know how to read themselves. High school I think. It sounds crazy, but even at that age, hearing someone read with passion benefits them.

If I read to them, they want me to go on and on. If they read to me, I fall right to sleep.

I’ve read to my kids since they were babies. My son read to his sister the day she came home from the hospital because I told him that was a big brother’s important role. Now he listens as she reads to him and helps her with words she can’t pronounce.

When my son was less than two years old, he made us read the same book to him like a CD stuck on repeat. I would beg him to pick another book. As soon as the last word was read, he’d say, “Again,” and I wanted to cry. But when he was able to speak well, he squeezed between the couch and end table and “read” those books to himself. He memorized every word of every book. I had no idea that’s what he was doing.

When my kids learned their letters and letter sounds, I taught them to read. Seeing my kids read their very first sentence was cooler than the first goal, the first pop fly, the first bike ride without training wheels. Reading is the foundation for their whole lifetime of learning, and there we sat, cheering at each word formed, shock that it had happened. No teacher could take that glory from us. It was our moment.

Many times the kids writhed in agony and yanked at their hair as words became harder, and I clenched my fists to keep myself from doing it. But we pulled through and they read to themselves often.

And now, every night, I am theirs and they are mine. We laughed till we cried when Greg’s dog licked itself, then slathered kisses on his dad’s face in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. We ponder the mystery of the intruder in Nathaniel Fludd. I itch to tell my son whether Snape is friend or foe in the Harry Potter books. And we learn about life through the decades thanks to the American Girl series. Afterward, my kids talk to me about their day, spill their problems, or give me an extra-long hug.

I have taken our reading away as punishment in times of desperation, knowing they still have their father’s turn to look forward to, but the kids are so fond of this time together and it breaks my heart too. I’ve learned to find other consequences.

I know there will come a day when my kids will end their nights with phone calls, studying, or more important things. But I hope it will still include me, even if our stories don’t come from a book.

I’ve been reading The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma about a daughter and father who promised to read every night for 100 nights, then 1,000, and then kept going until she left for college. They began in fourth grade. If I read to my son every night until he leaves for college, by my count, we’ll have read more than 3,000 nights. My daughter, more than 4,000. We do skip when someone is sick or if the grandparents are in town. To me, it’s not about the contest; it’s the bond that matters. No matter what kind of day we’ve had, I’m still there. That’s the moral I hope my kids take away from our story.

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