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Summer reading in three-part harmony

Submitted by on Wednesday, 26 May 2010 No Comment

Mom’s Two Commandments of Summer: Thou shalt stay out of my hair in the mornings so I can work, and thou shalt read and like it.

It’s a given that the first is not going to happen – it’s more of a dream than a goal. The second part gets tricky when it comes to the “like it.” After a week of wracking my brain, the solution arrived in a Barnes & Noble box – new book collections for each guy, plus one for me to read to them.

I’d looked at various programs online, such as Book Adventures, but rejected that one in particular because the post library is tiny and I would have wound up ordering books almost weekly to keep up with the latest whim. Plus I didn’t like the quiz component – too much like school work – though that part appeals to some parents.

The post library  has a summer reading program, but remember what I said about the library being tiny? There’s just not much there anymore that Big Guy likes, plus I don’t want to be stuck with overdue books while we’re out of town.

So I decided to wing it.

Using the Book Adventures handy-dandy search, I looked for books a bit up from their current reading levels. I wanted something that would challenge them without making them struggle. It also had to be something I thought would interest them, and I was leaning toward a series.

I could have gone with something we already have – Big Guy got a Junie B Jones collection for Christmas, while Santa brought Boots some Thomas selections. Big Guy, though, was suffering from Junie B burnout, and Boots has memorized many of the Thomas books. Plus you can’t discount the value of the UPS man toting a box to your porch and the guys’ excitement when they find out it’s full of stuff for them instead of more camera gear for me.

I wound up with “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” for Big Guy and several “Froggy” books for Boots.

Big Guy had shown some interest in Wimpy Kid even before we saw the movie, plus he knows several older friends who are reading the series and that appeals to his competitive streak. Even though the Wimpy Kid is considerably older than Big Guy, he still can relate to him. Particularly since Wimpy Kid also has a Baby Who Ruined His Life.

Even the title itself inspires discussion.

“He’s not really that wimpy, is he? He’s more of a nerd,” Big Guy said.

“Nothing wrong with being a nerd,” I replied. “I’m pretty nerdy. That just means you’re smart.”

“OK. Maybe he’s a dork. I saw a dork at the park today.”

“What’s a dork?”

“It’s someone who’s, well, umm … dorky. Oh, I don’t know but I know when I see one.” It reminded me of the Supreme Court’s definition of porn.

Froggy gained credibility with Boots when we saw one of the books we already owned – “Froggy Plays Tee Ball” – come to life this spring. It was the passage where Froggy’s coach tells him to “run home” and Froggy takes off for his house. With Boots’ team, the coach yelled for a player to “go home,” and the poor kid ran to the dugout, tears streaming, and began packing his equipment bag.

I mostly picked new books that reflect Boots’ life this summer – learning to swim, playing soccer, going to school. While he can read only a few words in each sentence, he’s picking up new ones at a rapid pace because the story is interesting. He’s also learning to sound out unfamiliar words. This same system worked well with Big Guy, too, by the way.

I’d initially picked “Love You, Soldier,” a tale about a 7-year-old whose father is off to war, for the book I’d read to them. Then I found out that the dad in the story dies. Yikes! Big Guy didn’t seem to mind that when I explained why I wasn’t going to read it – “It’s just a story. That’s not what’s going to happen to Daddy,” he said – but I was concerned about Boots and switched to “How to Train Your Dragon.” Yes, it’s another movie book but we already had it and I knew the guys like the story.

I’ve tried to keep it fairly loosey-goosey to avoid a Big Guy rebellion, plus I need a break from structured homework, too. We curl up in bed with our books, just like we did during the school year. I help Boots with his while Big Guy reads silently – but I stealthily quiz him afterward to make sure he’s not just staring into space. Then I read the group book to them.

There are no grand prizes like in Book Adventures or in library programs we’ve done in the past. They do get a sticker for finishing the book – or, in Big Guy’s case, for completing his time since he’s reading much longer books – and stickers turn into allowance at the end of the week.

Is it the reading by choice that I’d prefer? No, but then, I didn’t read without prodding when I was their age either. It’s still reading for fun, though, and I’m hoping that habit will linger long after they’ve spent their allowance on slushies.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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