I love summer because it reminds me of all the times I got to finally put down those academic books and pick up a fun one….like The Great Brain, Amelia Bedelia or just about any book by Judy Blume or Shel Silverstein. Growing up, I could spend a whole three months with my nose buried in a book.
I am thoughtful about how I came to be that way. I don’t remember storytime at my house, but I do remember long visits to our local library. I remember I was always allowed to order at least one book when the Scholastic Book Club flyer came to school. And I remember my mom always reading, when she wasn’t busy finishing a needlepoint project, that is.
I want to instill my love of reading in my children, but it’s not always easy. Both kids read at a fairly high level. Boy Genius (BG) is only interested in nonfiction. Twirl in fiction. Pop lit is easy to find – Twirl just finished the Twilight series – but she still can be very picky. And trying to find a book on quarks that a fourth grade boy can understand is simply not possible. Trust me on this one.
So when resources come out that help me navigate the complexities of helping my kids find the right books (when a librarian isn’t handy), I’m interested in them. When I was asked to read and review a copy of Pam Allyn’s new book, Best Books for Boys, I was anxious to get my hands on it.
Though the book is really designed to help teachers navigate the challenges of getting boys interested in reading, there’s plenty of helpful information for parents, as well.
I particularly like Allyn’s model for a robust reading life using the acrostic READ: ritual, environment, access and dialog. It offers a good pattern to set now as we prepare to battle Summer Brain Drain.
Start with a RITUAL – reading before bedtime or in the morning. Reading together. Taking turns. Whatever works for your kids. In our family, we used to have a reading night, where we each grabbed a book, turned off the television and read in the same room. Not quite sure why we stopped. I think we are going to start again.
Choose your ENVIRONMENT wisely – Find a big comfy sofa, a couch or a soft patch of grass. Whatever suits your fancy – just make it your special reading space. Then, immerse yourself in an adventure with Encyclopedia Brown, early America with Lincoln, classroom escapades with Junie B or motorcycle dreams with a mouse. Twirl likes to read in bed or sitting in a chair with her legs thrown over the edge. I think she got that from me.
Provide ACCESS. Here, Allyn makes an interesting statement: “Access is about not just having a lot of books, but having the right ones.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to lead Boy Genius to a book, only to have him refuse to read it. It’s a lot like food. You can offer a taste, but at the end of the day, your child is only going to dig into something he – as an individual – really likes.
Create DIALOG. We are our kids’ best role models. When we read, they read. When we talk about what we’ve read, they talk about what they’ve read. And if they don’t, we should be asking. Open-ended questions, please. And listen. In fact, pick up a book your child just read and read it for yourself. Then, dialog about it. That’s how great conversations begin.
I’d love to say Allyn offers up a solution to the fourth-grade quark book, but she doesn’t. Instead, what she has done is to create an extensive, annotated list of books divided by theme, labeled with maturity codes and filled out with descriptions, conversation starters and related book suggestions.
As I write this, I watch my kids, both online – BG on his computer, Twirl on her phone. And while Allyn is the first to say websites and smartphones offer up whole new ways of developing literacy, there’s still something wonderful about holding a new book in your hands and reading it cover to cover as you listen to the crinkly of the plastic book sleeve on top and smell the wonderful aroma of freshly printed literature.
Now let’s get on it and read!
For some great literacy events happening in San Antonio this weekend, visit SA Busy Kids on KENS5.com.