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. 

5 Inspirational Books

Did you know Friday, August 9th is National Book Lovers Day?

To celebrate – the day; the power of books; and those of us who find comfort, knowledge, and entertainment between their pages; I’d like to share with you books I have found helpful, inspirational, and just plain good.  Books I have turned to (some of them more than once) as I navigate this journey of living with an invisible disability.

The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan.  You can click here to read my blog post citing some of the passages that most touched me.

Chronic Resilience by Danea Horn.  This is one of the few books I ordered from Amazon without ever having seen a physical copy of the book.  I’m so glad I did.  I’ve read it a few times now.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.  You can click here to read the blog post I wrote while in the middle of reading this book. I will tell you that this was one of those books that started conversations among people I didn’t know, people who saw me carrying this book and reading this book and felt a connection to it as well.

Everybody’s Got Something by Robin Roberts.  This book came recommended by a friend of mine (you can read my blog post about it here). 

And that led me to:

From the Heart: Eight Rules to Live By by Robin Roberts.  You can click here to read my blog post, gushing with praise for this book. 

 

 

Readers, I’d love to learn about the books you turn to for help, for guidance, for strength, or just a plain-ole-good read!  Feel free to share in the comments section.

The Best Kind of Gift

My ten-and-a-half year old son received an early Christmas gift last week from a friend of the family.  Well, she’s not just a friend of the family.  Several years ago, she and I taught at the same school.  Now she teaches at Ryan’s elementary school, and two years ago, she was his third-grade teacher.

The gift was a surprise to us both.  

It was wrapped, so as Ryan looked at it and felt it, he first thought it was an iPad.  It would have been an incredibly generous, though unlikely, gift.  But in his mind it was the right size.

It wasn’t an iPad.  It was a book.  A hardcover book.  A hardcover book signed by the author.  A hardcover book signed by the author and inscribed to Ryan.

And Ryan loves it.  

Ryan loves it so much he whooped and hollered around the house.  He proudly showed it off. 

I don’t think it’s a book Ryan would have picked up on his own had we just been browsing at our local Barnes and Noble or public library.  But because his teacher selected this book for him, because his teacher asked the author to sign the book for Ryan, Ryan is reading it. 

It’s a beautiful testament to the power of books and putting a book in a child’s hands.

 

My Reading Homework

I have just completed “Creative Nonfiction III,” a ten-week writing course offered through UCLA Extension.

And, I didn’t complete all my homework.

In addition to workshopping essays every other week, each student was supposed to read a book a week.  There was no prescribed reading list.  We were simply to read one book each week of class.  And I didn’t.

When I’ve taken this course in prior years, I diligently completed all my reading homework.  I calculated the minimum number of pages I needed to read each day to make sure the book would be finished on time.  It was stressful.  I’d power-read, just trying to get the book finished without truly enjoying what I was reading or paying attention to the author’s tone or the book’s structure.

So with this class, I decided I wasn’t going to do that again.  I would try to read a book a week, but if it didn’t happen, so be it.  There is no negative consequence.  I wasn’t taking this class for a grade.  I was taking it for me.  I pushed myself during this class, writing in a couple of new styles, writing on different topics.  And I slowed myself down to enjoy what I was reading.

I may not have finished ten books in ten weeks, but overall, I did pretty well.

Since class started in October, I have read:

  • Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood by Phillip Done 
  • The Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo   
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi  
  • Tell Me More – Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan 
  • Writing Is My Drink by Theo Pauline Nestor
  • Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage by Dani Shapiro

And I’m currently reading. Wherever You Are: A Memoir of Love, Marriage, and Brain Injury by Cynthia Lim (an author I first met through a Writers Retreat and who has also taken classes through UCLA Extension).

Readers, I’d love to hear about any books you’ve read in the last ten weeks.  Feel free to share in the comments section!

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.