Over the last few weeks, I’ve watched as my six year-old has fallen madly, deeply head over heels in love. With reading.
It’s our school’s annual Celebrate Reading month at school in which they all log minutes spent with books for their Readathon. With a fabulous first grade teacher dedicated to winning (I mean, reading), the kids are all in. Thalia is begging to get in bed early to spend more time with Amelia Bedelia or Mouse Soup. She’s staying up far too late, begging me for just one more chapter in the latest Oz book.
Of course, if I am to be honest, Thalia is also madly, deeply in love with competition; maybe just a teeeeeensy bit more than she is with reading. Still, I’ll take it.
Because right now, I’m falling back in love with reading too.
Ever since I broke down and committed to the Kindle for iPad and iPhone, I find my morning commutes are nicer inputting instead of outputting. I could spend those 20 minutes stressing over everything I have to do that day, jotting down notes, getting a head start on work projects–or melting into Katnis Everdeen‘s world (I was addicted thanks to Christina‘s recommendation!), keeping up with the inventive chronology in A Visit From the Goon Squad, or discovering how the heck Keith Richards ended up Keith Richards.
Until recently, I was averaging maybe a novel a year. Two if it was a slow summer. Nate on the other hand, is voracious. He often has 2 or 3 books going at a time–Christopher Hitchens, Kurt Vonnegut, Nick Hornsby, Alan Richman.
I envy the dedication. And, yeah, the free time too.
It does take time. Time I often don’t have.
I need to make that time though. Because I had forgotten that when I read, I find myself refreshed. Inspired. Wanting to create. I don’t think you can be a writer without being a reader.
Actually, I think there’s a lot you can’t do when you’re not a reader.
Last week I had the joy of meeting Mo Willems at a press event for his new app, which is less ironic than it sounds for a guy so wildly committed to books. He happens to be a rock star in Brooklyn, and you can’t find a classroom here without pretty much every one of his titles. But when he spoke about his app, I was really moved by his motivation–it grew out of a desire to help kids to be their own writers and readers and storytellers. It was proven later in the talk, when he answered a question from a 4 year-old boy who asked, Can your next book be “Don’t Let the Pigeon Poop On People’s Heads?”
The audience laughed, of course. And Mo answered, so genuinely, “no…but your next book can be. Why don’t you write it and send it to my publisher. I’ll make sure I read it.”
It renewed my commitment to continue bringing that spirit into my own home. Not just in thought, but in deed.
From an early age, we’ve kept journals for me to jot down stories Thalia and Sage dictate. We play Mad Libs-style bedtime stories where they help create the characters. We write our own plays. And my mother (praise Gob for Grandma) is constantly “binding” little books that they illustrate.
But the truth is, some of those journals haven’t been used for a while. Sometimes I’d rather sit and play a game with the kids than read to them. And sometimes it’s easier at the end of the day when I’m exhausted, to just press play on Annie for the zillionth time (aw, orphans are so talented!) than to tell the girls it’s book time.
I’m kind of wondering how I can do it more, though.
I want my kids to know the joy of good books. I want them to know the book is often better than the movie. I want them to know the book is better than the iPad app. And last week, when Thalia dressed up like Ozma for Halloween, I wanted her to know that it’s okay that people recognized Sage as Dorothy 100 times more often–save for the one wonderful woman in our building who looked at the red flower in her hair and said, well you must be Ozma. Bless her.
But mostly I want them to keep up this raging dedication to books that I’ve been seeing lately, even when there are no Readathon prizes to be won.
Do you honestly feel your kids are spending enough time with books? How do you encourage your kids to read?