12 May 2011

It's Summer Time and the Reading's Awesome

Don't really click to look inside....

When I was in Fifth grade, my teacher, the excellent, awesome, and legendary Mrs. Polk, had us complete an exercise in encouragement.
Each child in the class got a sheet of paper and wrote down the name of every other child in the class.  Out beside each name, each child chose one thing about the person that they especially liked or just was generally great.  Mrs. Polk then took a piece of nice paper, wrote our name all big and pretty in the middle, and then wrote our encouragements around it in a cloud, laminated it, and gave it to us as a present.   I still have it.  Somewhere. 
I said she was awesome.

I remember most of the encouragements I got.  (At the beginning of adolescence, your self-esteem, no matter how strong it started, has some faltering moments, and encouragements are huge).  They were anonymous, and of course we all wondered who said what.  I got one bizarre one:  Great Cheerleader.  Yes, I was a fifth grade cheerleader, and yes, that was the last time I was a cheerleader, but the fact that anyone at any point thought I made a good one, well.....

But, I got some that you'd expect as well.  One of the ones that wasn't surprising to me or anyone was that no fewer than 3 of my 20 classmates commented on my reading.  The most eloquent *cough* was "Likes to Read a lot."  I don't know that this particular child, whoever he was, quite got the essence of encouraging words, but, it was true.   Or, maybe he didn't like me at all, and that was the best thing he could come up with.  Who knows. 

I did read a lot.  I sat on the curb each day after school waiting for my mother and I read.  I ran into things in the hallway because I had my nose in a book.  It didn't hurt my feelings when it was raining or freezing and we skipped recess and had free-reading in stead.  I was poor at P.E., mediocre at art, music and Spanish, but our fifth weekly elective, Library, well, I kicked tail and took names.

I'm a nerd.  I own it.  Frankly, I owned it always.

And, folks, the acorn doesn't fall far.  Paul and I will always require a certain amount of reading from our children - being both bibliophiles, and both teachers, so knowing how valuable ingestion of the written word. 

But, we won't have to require it of our first born, because she's creating a life in which she'll also have "Likes to Read a lot" on her encouragement list.  We lose her a lot because she is so enraptured she doesn't hear us calling her name.  (And no, this is not okay, don't worry, she's not allowed to ignore us because she's reading anymore than she would be if she were watching television or playing a game.)  She's voracious.  This isn't a skill or an ability - it's an affinity.  It's like Eason likes to climb.  Yeah, he's good at it, but only 'cause he never quits, which is because he loves it so much.  Ada Bee reads like I cook, beause it's the most fun thing she can think of.  Nerd, jr.  Which yes, I love, but I very much love Eason's affinities, which don't, as of yet, tend toward anything nerdy. 

So, when you have a kid that likes to climb, you take him to the park as often as possible, and you conquer your tendency to fret when he's more than 3.7 feet off the ground.  When you have a kid that likes to draw, you buy colored pencils and maybe art lessons.  When you have a kid that likes to dance, well, you get the picture.  We're supposed to encourage our children's talents and loves. 

My friend Ragan has this little boy, who, incidentally is in my top five favorite kids ever.  This little boy loves snakes, weeezirds (as collins says), and all other things reptilian or amphibian. 
He doesn't just like them, but because he likes them, he's darn good at them.  Do you have a snake in your yard that you wonder if it's poisonous or not?  I have an almost-seven-year-old you can call.  He knows.  He can catch an animal like nothing I've ever seen.  Ever.  And sometimes he gifts them to my daughter.  And that makes me love him a little more and a little less. 

Do you know what my friend Ragan does?  Well, the husband of Ragan and father of this sweet child is a great help in this, but Ragan herself, as Mama, is encouraging of this affinity and talent.  She lets the child keep snakes in her house, for heavens sake.  They're relegated to a certain room, but she has snakes (only perfectly safe ones, obviously) in her house.  They read snake books and go to the science museum on snake day.  He loves it, he's good at it, so his parents encourage it. 

So, what to do with the little girl who cannot get enough books?  Well, take her to the library of course.  But what first?  Make the child a summer reading list. 

Ada, like most children, loves to have lists and goals.  So, here is Ada Brooks's summer reading list. 
Most of them are recommendations for her class (Rising 3rd Graders) from Jackson Classical, where she goes 2 days a week during the school year. 
She has a corresponding Google Spreadsheet that she and I created together with dates she'd like to have them completed, number of pages in each, and where we'll find them (have to buy 2, own 2 already, 5 are free kindle books (public domain b/c they are old- awesome!), and 5 are found at our local library!). 

Some have already been read aloud to her, but there is a difference, and now she needs and wants to read the words herself. 

The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis (The First in the Narnia Series)
The True Story of Noah's Ark by Tom Dooley
The Cat of Bubastes by G. A. Henty
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
Detectives in Togas by Henry Winterfield
Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
The Little Riders by Margaret Shemin
The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit
Goblin Market by Christia Rosetti
Twice Freed by Patricia St. John
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge

This list works out to be 1 book a week from now through mid-August.  I'm going to require that she space them out until then, and if she finishes a book mid-week, she can read Nancy Drew or Encyclopedia Brown or whatever else she chooses as free reading.  She and I are going to make a schedule and order them, alternating the easier and harder ones, the deeper and lighter ones.  I haven't read all of these, so Amazon information is invaluable.  Number of pages, reading difficulty and reader reviews are all helpful to me. 

It would be wrong to expect nerdiness from all the Forster babies (though, with their genes, it could happen), but it would be equally unfortunate if I didn't support them in all of their endeavours, nerdy or not. 

Have you read any of these?  What would you take off?  What would you add for rising third graders? 

And now, off to the library we go.  


  1. AHH Charlotte's Web - such a right of passage for a little girl! :)

    I loved this post, AL, because I loved to read with I was Ada's age (still do!). My grandmother was my encourager in the reading department and we went to the library more times in a week than I can count! Among my most favorite and treasured memories!

    Have fun!

  2. This is Jessica W, BTW.

    A funny story about the "exercise" that your teacher had you do... I heard this at Bible Study a few years ago...one of the boys described one of the girls as "hot". The teacher recognized the writing and called him up to talk to him about it, thinking the worst. When she asked him way he put that or what he meant by it, he said "because she always says she is hot when she comes inside from recess!" I love kids.

    We would love to join you at the library some this summer. We tried to go by today, but it is closed for inventory. Sydney cried.