No Picky Readers in This House

Ryan (age 3) and I, reading at our public library

Within the first week of school, my son’s sixth grade English teacher noticed his strong reading skills, and he asked Ryan what types of books he likes to read.

“It was hard for me to answer at first,” Ryan told me that afternoon after I picked him up from school and he filled me in on his day. 

I smiled.

Of course it was hard to answer.

My son may be a bit of a picky eater (he refuses to try macaroni and cheese, yet he loves a daily serving or two of cucumbers and carrots). 

But he certainly isn’t a picky reader.

Currently, we are reading Martin Luther King: The Peaceful Warrior – a biography about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Most of our reading happens at bedtime as part of our nightly routine. It’s a serious book filled with facts that are not easy to read and discuss. But they are important and necessary not just because they are a part of our nation’s history, but our family’s history as well. (We are a mixed race family, and Ryan was understandably astounded to learn that not-too-long-ago my husband and I would not have legally been permitted to marry.)

Before this nonfiction book, Ryan had read the latest installment of a popular graphic novel series – Dog Man #7: For Whom the Ball Rolls. That book isn’t serious. It’s silly and off-the-wall and entertaining (for him). I enjoy the clever titles referencing literature classics (Lord of the Fleas, A Tale of Two Kitties, Brawl of the Wild).

Later that afternoon, I got the rest of the story.

“I told Mr. V. I like to read books about space,” Ryan told me. (Reaching For the Moon). 

“Yes you do,” I said. 

And basketball (Dream Big: Michael Jordan and the Pursuit of Excellence). 

And famous people (Who Was Rachel Carson?).

And dogs (Because of Winn-Dixie).

And girls with magical powers (Matilda). 

And kids in middle school (Diary of a Wimpy Kid). I silently added all these to the list.

So I will happily take this trade-off. 

I’ll deal with a somewhat limited rotation of dinner menus in exchange for my son’s plentiful book appetite. 

Our Family’s Version of Summer Brain Drain

Have you heard of “summer brain drain?”  

It’s a catch-all phrase representing the lack of learning that happens during summer vacation.  The time when children aren’t actively engaged, aren’t learning, aren’t practicing what they’ve already learned, and aren’t reading.

I’m proud to say it’s not an issue in our house.  

And don’t think that means I’m bragging. 

And please don’t think that means I have my eleven-year-old son sitting down, completing worksheets and practice books. 

Because I don’t.

It’s just that in our house, there is always some sort of learning or practicing going on.  My son is, thankfully, an enthusiastic reader.

I like to think it’s because my husband and I read Goodnight Moon to him each night as soon as I found out I was pregnant.  I like to think it’s because my son is growing up knowing books are valuable and special and important.  Ryan receives a book on each birthday, at the start of each school year, and scattered throughout the year for different occasions and holidays.

The hard part for us is tracking his summer reading time.  Ryan is participating in the Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Program which requires him to document eight books he’s read.  No problem.

The summer reading program through the public library is a different matter.  That one requires Ryan to track the number of hours he reads.  And that’s the tricky part for us.  I can easily count the minutes we read at bedtime each night.  (This week, it’s a family-favorite:  Because of Winn-Dixie.) 

But it’s because reading is such an integrated part of our family that it’s all the other moments that are harder to keep track of.  

I came downstairs the other day to find Ryan quietly sitting on the couch, reading CD liner notes.  A few days ago, we browsed in our local book store, picking up random books, reading the back covers and the first few pages of books that caught our interest.  Sunday mornings, Ryan scans the sports page looking for news about his favorite basketball team.  

It all counts as reading.  It’s just hard to count.

In an effort not to drain my brain this summer, we’ll just make an estimate.

 

 

 

Summer Reading

A photo taken a few months ago showing Ryan and I browsing at the library.

We’re coming to the end of summer break.  In our family that means school resumes next week, as does afternoon homework and a note packed into my son’s lunchbox each day.

Our summers usually consist of:  one family trip (we were in Santa Barbara and Cambria this year); numerous museum visits (including LACMA, the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, the Natural History Museum, the California Science Center, the Norton Simon Museum, the Getty Center, and the Skirball Cultural Center); and lots of reading.

My ten-year-old son just completed the reading log required for the public library’s summer reading program.  We never tell Ryan what to read, or insist he sit down and read each day.  He just reads.  Sometimes alone, sometimes together — on our patio, on our couch, at our local Coffee Bean.

And looking over his list of books makes me smile.  Ryan read about LeBron James and King Tut.  He read joke books and books based on Pixar films.  He read about Katherine Johnson and Buzz Aldrin.  He read about Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder.  He read about Nintendo’s Mario and Curious George.

It’s been a good summer.

All Reading Is Good Reading

Fourth grade classroom, 2010. The carpet hadn’t yet arrived.

 

When I taught, I always made sure to have a “cozy” library corner — pillows, stuffed animals, and hundreds of books.  Because I’m a firm believer that all reading, however it’s done, is beneficial.

I have always loved to read (you can find me on Goodreads, by the way), and I’m proud to say that my son, Ryan, also loves to read.

You can click here to read one of my latest personal essays “All Reading Is Good Reading – Even Comic Books” on MomsLA.com.