When I was a child Summer was the magic of endless days filled with possibility and reading. Reading for as long as I wanted and whatever I could get my hands on. One particular Summer is something of legend to my own children and they have me tell the story again and again.
In a simple version it goes like this.
One Summer when I was about 10 I and the kids of my street decided that we would live in the trees (why I don't know.. guess is sounded fun). We were blessed with properties that all touched and were filled with large Black Jack oaks that were in their prime. These trees had the added bonus of being gnarled together with some sort of thick woody vine that went from tree to tree crisscrossing and meshing many of the trees together under their leafy canopy.
Each morning we would rise, eat hasty breakfasts, pack lunches and books and meet together to head into the trees. One by one we would climb into the branches passing up sacks and pillows and red plaid thermoses until each of us had settled into a comfortable tree nook supported by those thick woody vines. Out would then come the books and as the sun rose and streamed in through the dappled canopy we would read.
We each had our own book all on different topics, but talking and sharing what we were reading in a relaxed way of children who were more like siblings than neighbors. As the Summer wore on each time we were able you would find us in those trees but more than that you would find us lost in books.
To this day I remember that Summer with a fondness that is hard to describe but brought to mind each time I hand my child a new book and watch as they fall in love with words all over again each time.
Summer is here and with it the opportunity to share with your child some of the best reading out there. The dog days of Summer are a low pressure reading time that helps kids come to love the world of literature not dread it and think of a million things they would rather be doing. The key is creating a reading friendly environment - more on that later!
Sadly school reading lists are not what they once were. If not dumbed down and stripped for political correctness or the errant chance at a juicy curse word ( Hello, Catcher in the Rye!) they are limited by time and resources given to even well funded programs. Gone are the days of mind expanding reads, only to be replaced with a reading list selection that includes "The Babysitter's Club and the Capt'n Underpants series. I will not even dip my toe in the water of the idea that three books is considered a full season of reading... ~shaking head in disappointment~
My number one plan was to raise readers and in that I have succeeded to the extent that you rarely see my brood without a book or Nook tucked under their arm, I could not be more proud. Reading widely as well and deeply is always my goal so exposing them to books on all topics and levels is a given but does take a bit of research. ( More on that tomorrow)
I am often asked how I cultivated my mighty readers ... My views on this are sometime unpopular/controversial to say the least so.. take and use any ideas that speak to you and feel free to ignore the rest.
Maddie's slightly unpopular guide to the well read child-
Turn off (get rid of, remove, don't buy) TV and the video games or limit them in a serious way before the age of 10. As a rule, the more often the TV and video games are on in a house the less often books are picked up. That means as a parent you are the one responsible for creating a reader. In our house we have never allowed handheld video games, while not a popular thought I suspect that Games Boys are a significant reason why today's literary rates are dropping. The proof will be in the pudding but I think that time will show that parents who have slapped these little games into the hands of children as opposed to handing them a book will have raised children with significantly lower reading skills and verbal scores than those who avoided such things in the early years.
Create nooks of reading bliss. Piles of pillows in a corner, a special reading swing, or a hammock in a tree with a soft pad and pillows. Fun reading places make for fun reading. At the very least make sure your child has good light and a good place to keep books.
Currently shopping for one of these!
Make sure your kids see you read! If your kids know more about how you feel about who got booted off Dancing with the Stars than what book you are currently reading you are doing something wrong -nuff'said.
Let them have lots of good quality books- Shower your children in books, not video games, not toys, not clothes, make a trip to Barnes and Nobel the thing they want more than a trip to Toys R Us. And reemmber,without even a penny to your name you can walk into any library and give you child more than most will ever have. No money is no excuse.
Tomorrow I till tackle reading lists for the well read child.
So what do you think?.. have you raised a reader? If you have made a misstep in your family road to reading what are you doing to get back on track?