Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Plea- A Rant- A Rally Cry - A Call to Action

I've tried over the past year to remove a lot of personal opinion from my blog. -Keepin' it just about the art. All "professional" don't ya know?! But lately - I've been a bit thrown by confounding experiences of the literary kind.

Conversations and interactions with adults and children who seem to view reading as a pastime of the - past. Parents who either sadly express that their kids don't want to read or others who brush it off as a time hassle amongst too many other activities.

We all want kids who exercise- wrestling- Taekwondo- dancing- softball- swimming - baseball - soccer - are all great. But what about exercising the brain? The imagination- if neglected, atrophies. Flex it. Stretch it. Grow it. Imaginations that flourish can turn kids into one day scientists, inventors, explorers, doctors, teachers, artists, writers, builders... creative thinkers. creativity is applicable to every single walk of life. Kids don't get the time in the school day to be creative these days... it has to be built in to home life.

Our elementary school has a 20 min a night obligatory reading rule until the 5th grade. I believe that at 5th grade- the habit is understood to be ingrained- so it will continue without obligation. The ending of that rule is not to say- "Hey, great news! You don't have to read anymore!" It's not relief they should feel- they should just keep reading.

On top of these interesting new insights .. I've had conversations with the school librarian- my daughter's best friend- and other Moms that have revealed a wide spread reading of the "Twilight" series by 4th and 5th grade girls. So- your daughters have not read Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" series- but they are jumping to read about a lusty teenage vampire who has a dysfunctional hormone swollen relationship with a girl that eventually leads to sex and death and the girl giving up every single molecule of herself to be with a boy?(yes-I have read them.) The school librarian- much to her credit will not have the books in the elementary school library. That leaves it up to the parents. There's time for these books- later. When they are emotionally mature enough to think about the issues raised in the Twilight Series. Not at 9 when unicorns and wizards on the page are as real to them as a freaky vampire boyfriend can be. At 9 - words on the page etch into the brain.

At 9!!! At 9 - 13 the books kids read are the books that will be their favorites. The books they will love. The books that will be their escapes from puberty and cliques and pressures and family stress. At 9-13, the imagination thrives!! If you feed it, it can lead to the creation of who they will be as adults.

Between 9 and 13, I read some of my all time favorite books. My Mom hung a hammock in the backyard in the summer and handed me a stack of books saying "Here- you're gonna love these". That's what it takes- some time - a pitcher of lemonade - a parent suggesting, making an effort, showing interest- handing the book to the kid.

Some of the Books I read between 9 -13:

1. A Wrinkle in Time
2. The Lion , the witch and the Wardrobe
3. From the From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
4. Little Women
5. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
6. SO many Nancy Drew books
7. Jane Eyre
8. David Copperfield
9. The Last Unicorn
10. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn
11. All Judy Blume books(has there been any other author that deals w/ puberty better?-I don't think so)
12. Tolkien (my older brother LOVED these)
13. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (my favorite book of all time)

How do you get your kids to read???

I think it's part of my job as a parent to seek and find great books for her to read. It is not hard to do. Walk up to the library counter - the librarian will be so happy when you ask her for recommendations. Go to the book store armed with your kids interests- tune in to what your kid likes. Is it music? Is it horses? Is it mystery? Is it sports? - Find the book with the hook. Hook 'em. It's a domino effect. The Scholastic book club Flier is for you to look at too. Blurbs about each book- right there for you to read and the books are discounted so much.

I have Frankie- my neighborhood boy who does not love to read. I buy him comics and young graphic novels. He gets a bag of them for his birthday - and his parents tell me- before they toys get played with- the books are all read. I know he loves science- I know he loves action. Franklin Richards- son of the Fantastic Four- boom. BIG HIT.

Comics are a gateway book. There is nothing wrong with comics- you peruse them first. You decide which are appropriate or not. My daughter loves comics and that doesn't stop her from picking up 500 page novels.

Turn off the TV. (I am not a TV hater. My kid watches TV. But I decide when- or she asks.) So turn it off and turn ON the imagination with a book. TV is the reward in my house. Is everything else done?- Sure. Watch away. A dvr is an awesome tool. Save up their favorite programs- so they can watch them when they have the time. If a kid has a book that he/she is really into- they won't put it down. "TV- what TV?" ".. shhh.. Mom, I'm reading".

I recently read a book about life on an Indian Reservation - opened my eyes and mind up to another life experience so drastically different then my own- but in that book.. I connected to a 14 year old kid. From age 29 - 37 , I got to go to Hogwart's School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry. 2 years ago - I was in the Napoleonic Era- and every few years I visit Pemberly w/ my friend Jane Austen. My love of reading probably began with Peter Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh, Richard Scary and Curious George- but it took hold between 9 and 13. Seize those years parents... cause after that... the kids want to choose for themselves, as they should.

I hope this wasn't too preachy. I know, from personal experience- life is hectic and crazy. Being a parent is a constant race from place to place while juggling all of life's flaming swords. Reading slows that pace down. Give that gift to yourself and to your children.- Kelly

Ps- The List I sent to the school librarian of elementary -school appropriate graphic novels:

Our Author/Illustrator Visit in March - Woo Hoo!

Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute (Paperback)

~ Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Author) - New Serie

Oddly Normal, Vol. 1 (Paperback)
~ Otis Frampton (Auth We just got these- Maggie likes the first one a lot.

Babymouse #1: Queen of the World! (Paperback)
~ Jennifer Holm (Author), Matthew Holm (Illustrator)
There are 12 books in this series. Maggie has 10- likes them a lot.

The Whole World's Crazy (Amelia Rules) (Paperback)
~ Jimmy Gownley (Author, Illustrator)
We have a few of these. Good- deals with divorce

~ Kazu Kibuishi (Author) this hasn't come out yet- but looks good.
We have these- 2 Amulet Books - fantasy adventure. Death of one parent- on level of Harry Potter

Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School (Hardcover)~ Ruth McNally Barshaw (Author, Illustrator)
Maggie has these- a girl's diary/journal- the flip side of Wimpy Kid- Resourceful girl

Sound Off! #1 (DANIEL BOOM AKA LOUD BOY) (Paperback)
~ D.J. Steinberg (Author), Brian Smith (Illustrator)
Have bought this for boys as gift

Knights Of The Lunch Table (Paperback)
~ Frank Cammuso (Author)

Graphic Classics:series of classic books.
I have given these as gifts to boys. I think Boys connect with comic books so easily- reluctant readers will read these and then pick up a real version of the book later.

Below is a list I made over a year ago- some titles may still be in print. I don't own all of these- so can't say if they are all good.

$13.60 Used & New from: $12.91

3. Clan Apis by Jay Hosler
$10.80 Used & New from: $7.99

 - a little mature humor- 5th grade. fart humor- name calling - won lots of awards

5. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
$14.96 Used & New from: $10.00

 - Wordless- Gorgeous book

7. The Plain Janes (Minx) by Cecil Castellucci
$9.99 Used & New from: $1.49

8. Kampung Boy by Lat
$13.46 Used & New from: $1.28

The list author says:

"I read these years ago, in the 90's. Walt Kelly meets Miyazaki. Great."
$26.37 Used & New from: $14.50

10. Sundiata: A Legend of Africa by Will Eisner
Used & New from: $10.00

11. The Courageous Princess by Rod Espinosa
$10.17 Used & New from: $3.56

 - Maggie has this loves it- good for 2-3rd graders

Used & New from: $16.11

$9.56 Used & New from: $2.99

14. Spiral-Bound by Aaron Renier
$10.17 Used & New from: $0.18


$8.00 Used & New from: $0.73
More in this series- great for 2-3rd graders

16. Scary Godmother: Wild About Harry by Jill Thompson
Used & New from: $25.86

Used & New from: $2.00

More in this series- maggie liked this a lot- girl Indiana Jones-ish

Used & New from: $4.98

20. Open Me...I'm a Dog by Art Spiegelman
$11.55 Used & New from: $0.01

Used & New from: $16.55

$6.99 Used & New from: $0.95
Maggie has this- Ok -not great

23. Gray Horses by Hope Larson
$11.66 Used & New from: $5.72

24. Four Pictures by Emily Carr by Nicolas Debon

$8.95 Used & New from: $3.16

$9.32 Used & New from: $5.69

$7.95 Used & New from: $2.21

28. Southpaw by Scott Morse
Used & New from: $4.99

$4.99 Used & New from: $0.01

$4.99 Used & New from: $0.01

Used & New from: $3.71

$10.39 Used & New from: $3.79

37. Lil Bird Keeps His Word by Daniel Rossi

38. To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel


Laura Zarrin said...

Thank you for this post and the list. My kids don't like to read much. I can't believe it, because I can't not read. Every once in awhile, I find something they love, but it's few and far between. They tend to like 1 out of every 10 books I find. Graphic novels are great, but hard to find, so your list will help. Thanks again.

Sean Ingvard Ashby said...

Oh, I agree. I have a son (3), and I definitely hope he reads like I did. I put him to bed every single night, and I'm the one who reads to him. I also try to make it a point to let him SEE me reading when I'm home. Children learn sooo much by observation and doing what older kids and adults do, especially parents.

Great post!

Gina Perry said...

What a fantastic list! I need to bring this with me to the library (for the next year - so much to check out, haha)

We're on a good path in my house. I started Miles @ 7 weeks with BaBaHaHa, he truly loves books above most other toys. But if that TV is on for a second he's a zombie (which is why I'm so clueless lately). I adore watching his love of books grow and hope to buck the trend of boys reading far less for pleasure than girls even.

I struggle with foisting too many books on my neices and nephews but several of them really are losing out by not enjoying books as they aren't promoted at home. I love sharing books with them and getting ideas from our librarians.

I love your school's reading policy.

This is a great soapbox for you - Your enthusiasm is infectious. :D

Erin said...

I loved your list of books you read between 9-13. So true that many a child reads then will become their favorites of all time. I share your love of "The Mixed Up Files..." and I've reread Jane Eyre so many times I've lost count. Now there was some romantic angst! I also LOVED "A Wrinkle in Time," "Brave New World," and one I don't see around much anymore "The Phantom Tollbooth." My kids are 4 and 3 and while I plan to read aloud to them as long as they will have me, I plan on instituting you school's reading policy in my own house as they start to read independently. Thanks for a great post.

Tom Barrett said...

Our childrens' school has a certain number of books that should be read each month, based on grade level, and I attribute much of their love of reading to that, with proper encouragement from us. My daughter is just learning to read, so we read to her mostly, allowing her to read part of the book to us. My son is reading small chapter books; loves Spongebob, Capt. Underpants, and recently read a few of the Goosebumps series. He'll fight us on non-fiction, but reluctantly admits he enjoyed it afterwards! We also will read books together as a family many nights, and have found a bunch of books we enjoy thru that!

I think for that love of books to develop, the child has to be around someone who loves to read, but also someone who enjoys their kinds of books as well (in other words, it isn't a labor or bother for them to read to the kids, or listen to the kids read). Unfortunately, many kids don't have that.