20 Bookish Christmas Gifts: Kids Edition

It is the first week of December and all of my Christmas shopping is done. I am not going to lie, I have been feeling pretty good about myself with this one. To make it even better, when I looked through the Christmas bins to get out the decorations I found an entire bin full of stocking presents I had bought during the week after Christmas clearance sales last year! WHAT?!?! How smart was I?!

I did not envision this forethought and efficiency coming with any complications. Except that it has. Now, I realize, I have to not spend anymore money on presents for the next twenty days. No matter how many that-would-be-perfect-for deals I see. And so to help me with this impulse control, I have started shopping for the readers in your home. Since I am already done with my shopping, none of my kids will be getting any of these things but your kids; your kids could have it all!

Here are twenty perfect gifts for the young reader in your life:

Book light – After looking at entirely too many book lights, I am going to give this one a try. This is perfect for your night owl and when the kids want to read in the car but it is already dark at 2:13 pm!

Magazine Subscription – There are several that are literary in nature. These expose kids to different kinds of literature, like short stories, poems, and non-fiction content. I recommend Top Secret Adventures by Highlights Magazine, which is kind of like a literary “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” and Cricket magazine, with its eleven different off-shoots, it has been dubbed “The New Yorker” for kids.

Post Its – Every reader knows the importance of annotation. Here is your perfect chance to teach them this exciting and essential past time. Post Its are a guaranteed hit, with their half sticker, half note pad self, also they are very cheap (as presents go). I am partial to the book dart size post its, but to each their own (unless you like something else, in which case, you are wrong).

Reading Logs and Journals –  These are the perfect gift for your book lover. They are books. That you write in. Yep. You can pick from any number of the bajillion blank journals out there, like these. If you are looking for something more like a reading log, two I have seen recommended for kids are the Bookworm Journal and My Reading Adventure Journal.

Framed Book Covers – I first saw this brilliant idea in a good friend of mine’s kids’ bedrooms. She took their favorite books and framed the book covers! I love, love, love this idea! It is such a cool, personal, creative, and, as an added bonus, inexpensive gift.

Framed Book Quotes – I got going with the wall hangings and now I just can’t stop. But again, this can be a very personalized gift. Those are always the best gifts. You can, of course, go the ultra fancy lithograph route or you can fall down the Pinterest rabbit hole and make your own.

Bookmarks – Please, let us give these children some bookmarks. I need my random receipts, socks, game cards, etc back for my book marking use. Fortunately for us, BookRiot just compiled a list of 50 FREE printable bookmarks. Some of these I will be gifting to myself this year.

Book Shelf – It is a book lovers dream to have book shelves all your own to arrange (and rearrange and rearrange again) in whichever way pleases you most. This is a joy your child should know.

Apparel – From socks to T-shirts to onesies, there are some very creative and fantastic options out there. While this will not be your cheapest route, gift wise, choose wisely and this will be a favorite.

Library Stamp – I am partial to the embossers because stamps have to dry and children have no patience. Anything that removes the ink of any given scenario is alright by me. You can find places that will do this on Etsy that may be a bit cheaper.

Book Related Toys – The beauty of this option is that it is open to wild speculation. For example, while this taco holder is neither a toy nor directly related to Dragons Love Tacos, it must be gifted to the child (or adult) who reads that book again and again. If speculation is not your thing, rest assured there are a limitless number of options directly related to books, all ages: babies, younger kids, and older ones too.

Ornaments -This would be a fantastic way to document your child’s favorite book that year. Recycle book covers or pictures from old favorites and turn them into ornaments. I have no idea how…but I have heard there is a site for that (lookin’ at you, Pinterest). You can also just buy beauties like this or this.

Jewelry – Earrings and necklaces galore. Etsy and Bookish Gifts are two excellent places to find uncommon treasures.

Games and PuzzlesThe Very Hungry Caterpillar Game is a favorite in our house. Or, once again, you can do it yourself! Puzzles are a difficult thing, with the losing of the pieces, the fighting over how the puzzling process is done (free-for-all versus edge pieces first), and the quarantined off space required to accommodate a work in progress. However, all of that aside, if your kids are older, puzzles can be awesome. Like this one.

Totes – All those books have to go where they go somehow (unless you want to carry them)! As in all things, these range from simple, like the $1 section of Target that often has Dr. Seuss themed totes, to the elaborate, like these.

Pencil Cases – I realize that $12 for a pencil case is a bit much, but just have a look!

Magnetic Character scenes – Mudpuppy.com has options for both Good Night, Good Night Construction Site and Eric Carle books.

Lap Trays – I love these ones that you can find at Michael’s. They do not take up too much room on the couch or, more importantly, in the car. These specific ones fit over the arms of booster seats, so even my younger kids are able to use them. It gives them somewhere to store their books and then a level surface to read on.

Gift Cards – You love buying your own books, chances are, so would they!

Phew! Now you are done Christmas shopping, too!

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In Defense of Buying Everything on that School Supply List, When You Can

My family is officially in the single digit countdown to the new school year. The emotions accompanying said countdown range from elated enthusiasm to deepening discouragement to nagging nervousness. (See what I did there? Don’t worry, it’s completely acceptable and not at all cheesy to alliterate as long as your writing about school. Yeah, let’s go with that!)

That’s how the kids feel. As for myself, I am, unsurprisingly, unprepared.

Woefully so:

  • There are backpacks to replace or clean.
  • Lunch boxes to assess and then replace or clean.
  • School clothes to appraise based on summer growth spurts or summer destruction.
  • Shoe sizes to reevaluate.
  • Manners to re-instill.
  • Brain drain to repair.

But all of that pales in comparison to the weight of responsibility that is school supply acquiring. I had to dig through mountains of “to be filed” papers from the end of last school year to find three separate school supplies lists.

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Let me tell you, school supply lists times three make for a very long and expensive shopping trip. In years past I have been known to have a spreadsheet with all the supplies needed along with the store offering the best deal on that item. It is a time-consuming but thoroughly enjoyable process. The subsequent store to store shopping, not so much.

Every year while I am out shopping for school supplies, there is a dull roar heard throughout the store of parental complaints. Parents are bonding on a level unseen since Kindergarten graduation over the atrocity that is the communal school supply list. You will hear no end of, “Why should I have to buy supplies for the whole class?” “I shouldn’t have to spend my hard-earned money on someone else’s child?” “The school should be providing all of this for the classroom.”

While it is nice to hold on to the ideals that the school districts can give schools budgets large enough that they are able to provide Kleenex and pencils for the classrooms or that every child can equally contribute to the classroom necessities, it is simply not the reality. We complain about school districts not filling the classroom with glue sticks and dry erase markers, but then complain about our taxes being raised to increase funding to schools. We complain about having to spend any out-of-pocket money at our own jobs, but have no problem leaving teachers to do the same. We complain about having to buy school supplies for the whole classroom rather than just our own child, but never get to know each other enough to find out what incredibly difficult life circumstance our neighbor is going through that may be preventing them from contributing “equally.”

The fact is, like we tell our children and students every day, life is not fair. And a little perspective goes a very long way. To that end, I suggest visiting an amazing website called DonorsChoose.org before embarking on your school supply finding endeavors.

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DonorsChoose.org is a site where teachers can post their classroom needs and anyone can donate funds to purchase those items. Take a minute to scroll through these teachers’ requests. It is a humbling and sobering experience. You can search by geographic location or greatest need or nearest deadline. Any way you choose to search the needs posted, you will be surprised by what teachers are up against when it comes to furnishing their classrooms.

So now, when I am standing in line thinking about how much it is costing me to help furnish my children’s classrooms, I think about those teachers’ requests. I think about the teachers who don’t have enough books for their students. I think about the teachers who don’t have enough notebooks and pencils. I think about the teachers who don’t have any playground equipment for their students at recess. Perspective is a powerful thing. It is something I sorely need when I feel like grumbling about my purchases of extra crayons and post its.

My challenge at the start of this school year is to not only graciously and generously (there’s that alliteration again!) give to your own child’s classroom needs, but consider taking it a step further and sponsoring a teacher’s dream on DonorsChoose.org. It will come as no surprise to you that many of the requests are for books.

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The iPod Tax

My grandmother had this cross-stitched picture in her house for, well I don’t know exactly, but for all the years I remember.

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It has long been one of my favorites. Now I have it in my house. It reminds me that it’s alright; things are not always going to go as planned. It reminds me to relax, laugh, and go with it. Tomorrow will be better…maybe. “(Grand)Mama said there’d be days like this.” (Thanks, Shirelles!)

Right now, I find myself in need of this reminder. Because, I have done something from which I am not certain there is any recovery. It has me second guessing everything. Before I tell you what I have done:

My first daughter loved reading from the moment she was born. I remember reading to her at two weeks old and I swear she was cooing and tracking the words with her eyes. She loved learning to read, she loved progressing as a reader, and she still loves to read to this day. My second daughter loved being cuddled and hearing stories. Being read to suited/suits her very well. She also enjoyed learning to read. She was exceptional at sounding out words right from the start, which made learning to read pretty easy for her. As I have admitted previously, it took her longer to find her footing as an independent reader. But since realizing her independence, she has become a voracious reader. She reads in the car. She reads in her room for hours. She uses a flashlight to read late into the night. All of it.

Now my third daughter, my third daughter has changed the game. She loves being read to as much as the next kid, but she has absolutely zero, and I mean that literally, zero interest in learning to read. At least from me. She knows all the rules. She knows the sight words. She knows what to do. But I sit down with a book to have her read to me and you would think all the fairies in the world have died. There is moaning, rolling on the ground, sobbing, all manner of shenanigans at the merest hint that I may ask her to read out loud to me.

So, half way through our summer break, I panicked. And panicking, I stepped in the proverbial “it” of my grandmother’s picture.

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I bribed my child to read. But not only that, it gets worse. I called that bribe a tax. Yes, I am literally and metaphorically “taxing” my child to read.

I know! Yes, you are right, it goes against everything you are supposed to do. Yes, you are right, I easily could have thought of a different way. Yes, you are right, there is no reason to panic, every child progresses at their own pace. You are right about all of it. But here’s the thing: it’s working.

My third daughter loves drama and music and dress up and drama (did I mention that?) more than most six year-olds. One of her favorite things to do is take the iPod into her room for resting time and dress up, sing, and make up plays. She can do this for actual hours, happily. A few days ago, after a particularly frustrating (for both of us) session of “read out loud to mom,” I told her that if she wanted the iPod in her room, she would have to pay me an iPod tax. That tax is reading out loud to me for 20 minutes. I know, I KNOW, you are right. But…it’s working.

She has willing read out loud to me two days in a row (and counting.) Have I potentially caused her to see reading as a tax, literally and figuratively? Probably. Have I extrinsically rather than intrinsically motivated her? Absolutely. Have I taught her that electronic devices are the reward and actual books-in-hand reading are simply the means? Likely.

But for two days (and counting), she has sat by my side without a moan, groan, or sob and read. Out loud. To me. I’m not going to lie, I am having a hard time seeing the downside, short-sighted as that may be.

As with everything involving the care and instruction of children, time will tell.

To Fathers That Read

My father was many things. He was witty, hilarious, kind, sarcastic, affectionate, and sacrificial, just to name a few. He was also very selective and precise. He stood at a noticeable 6ft 6in and always moved with the careful precision of someone too big for the world around him. This hyper awareness seemed to trickle down into everything he did. He spoke with a slow, exacting pace, choosing each word carefully before speaking it out loud. He read directions thoroughly and completely before proceeding with any task. He took great joy in finding the shortest route on any given path, allowing him to make up the time his “relaxed” walking pace lost him. He was selective and precise in nearly every part of his life, except his reading.

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My father reading.

I do not have very many memories of my dad reading out loud to me, but I have innumerable memories of seeing him read. When I picture him now, often he is lying on his stomach with a huge orange pillow under his chest and a book on the floor in front of him. My father read all the time. He would read anything, from Asterix comics to Robert Ludlum to Tom Clancy to Louis L’Amour to John Grisham. Then in his 40s, he decided that he was reading too much fiction. He made a precise decision (of course he did) to start using his reading time for non-fiction almost exclusively. His one exception to this self-imposed rule was listening to fiction audiobooks while driving. I cannot count the number of things I wish I could still talk to my dad about, but this decision is very high on that list.

He set an example of reading for joy, rest, and recovery. Not coincidentally, all the things I now associate with reading. But he was not the only one to instill a love of reading in me. Some of my favorite reading memories as a child are with his father, my grandfather. For two years of elementary school, my family lived in the same neighborhood as my grandparents. My sister and I would sometimes spend the night at their house on the weekend. We would play endless games of Monopoly and Careers with my grandfather while my grandmother made us orange sherbet. These nights always ended with him sitting down beside our sleeping bags and reading to us. I still hear Heidi with his voice. The joy of reading was embedded deep within me.

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My grandfather reading to me.

Now I get to watch my husband, and his father, read to my kids. My husband is excellent at reading aloud. He does all the voices, he dramatizes, he lets the kids climb all over him, and they love it. He will change the words while he’s reading to make up silly things, always relishing in the guaranteed collective groans of “Daaaaaaad.” He says lines from their favorite books at all the appropriate times. Anytime someone is embarrassed he will tell them they are “looking more red in the face than green” (Froggy). Whenever someone cheekily replies, “We’ll see about that,” he adds “said Portly” (Hipponotamus). The groans and laughs that follow diffuse the situation (partially). Watching them, I cannot help but feel an overwhelming happiness that they are getting to make those same precious memories with their own dad as I did with mine.

And so to you, fathers and grandfathers who read, I see you.

I see you, boa wrapped around your neck, pretending you are at yet another tea party while reading Fancy Nancy.

I see you answering unanswerable questions like, “How did the man with the yellow hat get his name?”

I see you creatively reading with dramatic inflection and doing sound effects over groans of “Oh Dad” which are secretly internal squeals of joy.

I see you, weary and burdened, gathering your kids close to read I’m Stinky for the one hundredth time.

Your children will remember these moments all their lives and will, one day, thank you. For now they will go on unrelentingly shouting “one more, just one more, pleeeeassse.” The joy of reading, and of your presence, will be deeply embedded in them.

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Year One!

I cannot tell you the date this occurred, but I can pinpoint the exact moment two years ago when I suddenly looked at myself and realized, “I’m back.” After nearly 8 consecutive years of being pregnant and nursing, I was finally feeling like “myself” again. The pregnancy brain, the newborn haze, and the zombie mom effect had lifted. I could think beyond how many weeks I had left until this baby was finally born, or when the baby last ate, or when nap time would come, or when I would ever, ever sleep again. “I” was back. The question was, what did that mean?

At my stage of life, I have found that much of life revolves around things outside myself: investment in the relationship with my husband, the needs of my children, the demands of a job (even if it is a non-paying job), the involvement in my community. I began to equivocate my identity with those roles and responsibilities, and rightly so. But I am not the sum of only those parts, there are others often left forgotten. I started to remember this part of me that belonged outside those categories. Writing, even “just” about books, has connected me back to that part, long dormant and waiting.

Recognizing that, I had an idea. An idea so preposterous that for almost a year it was just a figment of my wild imagination. Slowly, very silently, this idea for a blog began to germinate. Each thought of “just do it” would be met with 1,081 variations of “but the world is already over saturated with blogs,” “there are other people significantly more qualified, more well read, better writers,” “there is nothing new you can add,” on and on and on. And while these rationalizations were true to some extent, I still found myself creating a whole section of my Google Keep app specifically for blog ideas. This progressed to tentatively speaking out loud to my family and one friend about “my imaginary blog.” I can tell you now that my imaginary blog was perfect, an instant viral hit.

Then exactly one year ago, I realized it was better to be imperfect and real than perfect and imaginary. Putting the proverbial cart well before the horse, I blundered blindly forward. With reckless impulsiveness, born out of a fear that if I did not act now I would never act at all, Well Worn Pages came into real life existence. And I couldn’t be happier. It is, because I am, still quite imperfect but it is real. On an almost daily basis, I learn more about what I am doing and how I want to do it. Anyone would tell you these are all things you should know before you start, but I have never been one for rules.

As I look back on a humbling, exciting, daunting, and fulfilling year, I am grateful. Grateful for new opportunities, the chance to connect with new people, and for the chance to show myself that I can not only have an idea, but follow through with that idea as well. I am grateful for people who read what I write with gracious eyes and embrace the imperfect “realness” of Well Worn Pages.

While reflecting on this first year of blogging, I went back and read through some of the most read posts. So consider this the highlight reel. In my mind, I imagine slow motion montages, inspirational music, and the inevitable, building slow clap. In reality, this is my Kindergarten graduation. But just like your 5 or 6 year-old, I am smiling from ear to ear. Here they are, the 5 most read blog posts of my first year:

  1. Representation Matters (and its counterpart Representation Matters: Redux)
  2. It’s A List!
  3. Best Family Read Alouds
  4. Girls Can Do Big Things Too: Part 1 (and Part 2)
  5. To Mothers That Read

My kids ask me why I have this blog. My answer is because I want to. It is something that gives me joy. At first I felt like I needed to explain more or be more specific or even rationalize my use of time. But then I realized I am happy for them to see me creating something, to see me producing something, to see me enjoy something even if it does not contribute financially. It may not seem brave or important to them now, but I hope one day when they are adults giving the majority of their time to other people that they will remember it is okay to spend time doing something they love, that brings them joy.

May you find the something you love, that brings you joy. (If books are among those things, I hear there’s a relatively new blog out there with just the list you need!)

To Mothers That Read

As children do, I have not given my mother enough credit. Before you start chasing me with pitchforks, let me clarify. I have given my mother credit for many things: her unconditional hospitality, her unending generosity, her unbreakable strength, her unreserved friendliness, just to name a few. But in all these long years, I have never given her credit for helping me become the reader I am today. Today seems like the perfect time to do just that.

Because my mom and I read very different styles of books, it has taken me entirely too long to realize what an avid reader my mother is. Sometime during the last few years (likely coinciding with the birth of my first child, when daughters universally become more appreciative and aware of their own mothers), I began to recognize the signs of a true book lover in my own mom. She reads. A lot. She gives books as gifts for any occasion: graduation –  you get a book, wedding – you get a book, breathing – you get a book! She gives books as gifts so much that this year she bought each of her children a book and said she wanted our Mother’s Day present to her to be reading the book. My mom has surrounded me, and now my children, with books.

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But more importantly, she read to me. At this point, my mother is laughing so hard she’s crying. Because for literal years I begged her not to read to me. I would close my door, put on my Walkman headphones (yep, I’m that old), yell, and pull all manner of shenanigans to avoid being read out loud to. But she was unrelenting, in the very best way. Anytime we were driving, it was a well established fact that out loud reading would be involved. Mobile electronic devices were the stuff of science fiction in those times, as were in-vehicle DVD players (or DVD’s at all for that matter), and individualized music listening was not an option. And so it was that we heard the majority of the Chronicles of Narnia on one mechanically challenged road trip, or almost ran out of gas in the middle of the night listening to the Count of Monte Cristo, or listened to the tales and trails of Naya Nuki while traveling through the Pacific Northwest.

And I am grateful.

It seems important to mention that she comes by this love of books naturally. Her mother was, what I unbiasedly consider, a literary genius. My grandmother was very rarely without a book within arms reach. She had the most enviable collection of books and had read them all. She could recite poems in their entirety without a second thought. She would find a way to reference or quote a book or poem in almost every conversation I ever had with her. And, again, she read to me. I remember, very clearly, her visiting us when I was in 5th grade. Every night before I went to sleep, she would pull up a chair next to my bed and read A Wrinkle in Time to me.

And I am grateful.

So to all you mothers out there reading to your own children and surrounding them with books. I see you.

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I see you exhausted mothers of tiny babies trying to keep your eyes open through The Going To Bed Book.

I see you worn out mothers of toddlers reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See for the 8,000th time to the whirlwind swirling around you.

I see you patient mothers of preschoolers reading Green Eggs and Ham, all the while being interrupted by random shouts of word recognition.

I see you mothers of elementary school age children scouring the library bookshelves for *the book* that your child cannot wait to read on their own, and still finding ways to read Charlotte’s Web out loud to them.

I see you middle grade mothers trying to keep one step ahead of your child’s reading so you can discuss the triumphs, the failures, the misery, and the joy of this stage with them through the characters you read about together.

I see you mothers of teenagers setting your children free to discover their own literary preferences, even if those preferences greatly diverge from your own, while continually reminding them that they have not out grown being read aloud to.

I see you mothers of college age “children” sending care packages always guaranteed to include at least one book to your child so far away.

I see you mothers as you become grandmothers gathering those precious little ones in your lap and starting all over again.

To you, mothers who read, we are grateful.

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My Not-Quite-Mid-Year Progress Report

My kids just came home with their progress reports. Each of their comment sections was filled with wonderful notes like, “She is a joy to teach,” “She is doing very well,” “I could not ask for a better student.” I am, of course, very proud of how well they are doing. Though, I can’t help but notice what a stark contrast they are to my progress reports. Pick a grade, any grade of mine, between 2nd and 9th and they all have a distinctly different tone from what my kids received. Think more Professor Snape’s would be comments on Harry Potter’s progress report and less McGonagall writing to Hermione. And now I have gone and compared myself to the hero of the wizarding world and my teachers to the professor who hated him (…Or did he?! That is a discussion for a different day.) So hold on for just a minute.

Former 2nd – 9th grade teachers, if by some bizarre turn of events you happen to be reading this…it wasn’t you, it was me. I know that now. You would have never guessed at the time but, my atrocious grammar aside, I became an excellent student in my later years. I eventually became a teacher with students just like my former self…because, life. Lessons learned, albeit too late for your benefit, but better late than never, right?! – Christy

Okay, thanks for waiting. It needed to be said. Back to progress reports. The point is for many consecutive years, mine were bad. Bad despite the fact that my father was one of their fellow teachers and, at my first school, my grandfather was the principal.  I received a lot of comments along the lines of, “Christy should put in more of an effort.” Or, “There is room to improve.” Or, “Christy has some difficulty staying on track.” Or, my personal favorite, “She started off better than she finished!” Well, that pretty much sums up my entire life.

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“She started off better than she finished.” Honestly, it’s like that teacher looked into my soul and saw my true potential. It’s why, now in May, one of my daughters’ lunch today consisted of a breakfast bar (whatever that is), an applesauce, and a fig newton. It’s why my children can say, “Well, for awhile we were doing our chores.” And it’s why, now not-quite-mid-year, I have read less and less books. Yep, you read that right. So apparently, I still need progress reports, given to myself, by myself, and for myself (to ensure a completely unbiased report.)

Here it is. At the end of last year, I set a goal of reading at least 52 books this year (one a week). I did not specify which kind of books, but ideally, I was thinking that the list of 52 would not include any of the children’s books I read. I naively did not believe that specification would matter. Children’s books are such fast reading and all I need is space for one of “my” books a week. No problem. And for the first couple of months it was.

But now, now I am beginning to slide. Here are some cold hard facts about my literary life at this moment:

  • I have only read eight (8!) non-children’s books so far this year.

  • Of those eight (8!), half were for my book club. Meaning, I have only read four (4!!) of my own volition.
  • I have quit reading five books. One of them not even getting past the first page.
  • I have returned ten (10!) books to the library that I never even opened once.
  • I am enjoying the book I am reading now but am averaging about two pages a day. TWO. PAGES. A. DAY.

Not-quite-mid-year progress report comments:

“Christy has shown potential for success. She needs to work hard and remain focused. I know she will enjoy the challenge of learning to finish better than she started.”

Or so help me!

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Library or Coffee Shop

Let’s play a little game I like to call, “Library or Coffee Shop.” The object of this game is to blatantly judge other people’s behavior and determine whether it belongs in a library or a coffee shop. I know, blatant judgement of other people’s behavior is very, very wrong. Don’t worry, this game also has an educational component (as all games must today). This educational game may be used liberally to instruct people about the differences between these two types of establishments.

There seems to be a great deal of confusion about this. The lines between the two are being blurred more and more everyday, with coffee shops adding libraries and libraries adding coffee shops. But let’s be clear, these two things Are. Not. The. Same.

Now back to the game. I will give you two pictures or scenarios and you can guess which place the pictures or scenarios belong.

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2.  Gatherings, social or otherwise, that invite audible discourse

or solitary confinement, the good kind.

3.

4.   Respectful care of books for the purpose of reading them

or staged arrangement of books for Instagram or for use as coasters (NO!).

5.

You win if you are able to clearly distinguish between the activities appropriate to a library and the very different activities appropriate to a coffee shop. Should there be any doubt, the answers can be found at the bottom of the page. Winners will receive a free copy of the newly published, Definitive Guide to Library Etiquette, written by me. (It’s really just a future blog post. Think of me as Oprah, “you get a blog post, you get a blog post, everyone gets a blog post.” See how exciting that is now!)

I will admit that there are few things on earth as soothing as a hot beverage and a book, together in the same place. Because of that, sometimes people want to read paper books at a coffee shop or drink coffee at the library. I will also admit that libraries are more and more becoming community centers, and thus places of group gatherings. Because of that, sometimes people get excited and forget to meet in the designated meeting rooms or you hear the incessant tapping of the keyboard. But for the love of anything, really, could we find a way to muster even the tiniest bit of etiquette at the library.

I realize that it is not 1883 and that we are no longer in need of “Miss Porter’s Finishing School.” I realize that it is now 2017 and we see ourselves as finished. We are beyond rules. We are free. Society cannot contain or restrain our natural inclinations or whims.  Congratulations! We figured out that there is more to human existence than a strict code of behavioral regiments. Though somehow in the process of letting our collective hair down, our wig flew off. What we have going on now is nothing short of chaotic anarchy. Well, okay, maybe it’s a lot short of chaotic anarchy (also, isn’t all anarchy chaotic…never mind) but you get the idea: coffee shop behavior taking over library decorum.

While I am usually the last person people would associate with decorum of any kind, exceptions must be made…for the perservation of the library.

 

Answer key: #1 – library, coffee shop. #2 – coffee shop, library. #3 – coffee shop, library.   #4 – library, coffee shop. #5 – library, coffee shop

 

 

 

My Daughter Hated Reading and It Was All My Fault

There are innumerable ways in which I imagine getting it all wrong with my children. I yell too much. I am too sarcastic. I am grumpy. I am inconsistent in my discipline (with myself and them). I am difficult to please. Many nights I lay awake in bed mentally creating all the ways I will inevitably fail them. I have, what I affectionately refer to as, “The Therapy Fund.” It is the imaginary vault I add pretend money to every time I do something that I KNOW will come back up with their therapist 15 years from now. Their very real future therapy is already very imaginarily funded and they are 10 years old and below. Clearly, I’ve got this parenting thing down.

Never in my wildest late night creations did I imagine that one of those parental failings would be in regard to reading. That simply is not possible.  I read, write, and dream books. And children’s books in particular. I know exactly what to do to instill a lifelong love of reading in children. I know exactly how to spur on the most reluctant reader to be a voracious reader. I know exactly which books to hand a child I have talked to inspiring him or her to find joy in the written word.

In theory, it turns out.

Because the hard, honest truth is that my very own second born hated reading. I read out loud to her. I got books from the library for her. I bought books for her. I tried it all, repeatedly. But still she would only read for homework points, never for joy. I told myself it was just a phase. But it was a phase I could not make any sense of.

Then one day a friend gave me this quote (knowing nothing of my predicament):

“There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books.” – James Patterson

As I was reading it, my oldest daughter said, “Oh, that’s just like my sister.” Wait, what?! How?! She’s not reading the wrong books. She’s reading exactly the right books, the books I give her. They are excellent.

Except, and this sentence took me weeks to admit, she does not like them.

She likes fairies and princesses and fancy dresses. And I have actively steered her away from Fancy Nancy, Cinderella, and Rainbow Fairies. I know it goes against every teach-your-child-to-love-reading theory available, but there it is. I do not always practice what I preach.

And so I put my pride aside and let her decide.

She started coming home with books from the Disney Fairy Collection. I put on my best smile-through-the-pain look. But then she started going to her room to read; then reading to her siblings *out loud;* then getting her homework done faster so that she could read. She was falling in love with reading before my very eyes.

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I found myself checking out every Disney Fairy book I could find, putting them on hold from other libraries, and scouring the digital collections to see if any extra ones could be found on the Kindle, all to see that look of joy on her face. Over a book! I found myself discussing fairies and their talents, reading oh-you-have-to-read-this pages, and actively listening to long-winded recaps of her favorite parts, all to hear the excitement in her voice. Over a book!

With the spark lit by fairies, she fans her literary fire with all different kinds of books now, all of her own choosing. And then this week, she reached for a set of books I have been gently encouraging (ahem) her to read for a long time. She took The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe off the shelf!

Yesterday at Disneyland, she looked at me and said, “I wish I had brought my book!”

 

Audiobooks: Maybe There’s Something There

As I write this, my mind is spinning its proverbial wheels with all the things I have to do:

  1. Deal with overflowing piles of laundry in two different rooms.
  2. Put away two laundry baskets full of clean clothes.
  3. Wash sink full of dirty dishes.
  4. Wash dishwasher full of dirty dishes.
  5. Go to the store and get soap for the dishwasher so those dishes can get washed.
  6. Fill out jog-a-thon pledge forms times three for the school fundraiser.
  7. Have weekly meeting with the husband about how to navigate the families’ various and numerous activities for the coming week.
  8. Plan meals for the week based on: precisely zero edible things in the house, times any number of the six of us will actually be in the house at the same time, the surprise, random inedible items of the week.
  9. Finish this post.
  10. Plan multiple lessons for upcoming children’s programs.
  11. Navigate two highly sensitive school situations.
  12. Respond to five emails I have been putting off.

I will spare you the rest. Like you, my life seems to be a constant cycle of never having enough time to do the things I have to do, never mind getting to the things I want to do. I have found myself increasingly frustrated with the everyday life tasks getting in the way of “my time.” “My time” is also known as reading time, preferably in an atmosphere of total silence. You can see why there are multiple layers of frustration, since time and silence are as far from me as Hogwarts (the real one, not the Universal Studios variety).

It seems like an ineffective parenting strategy to find oneself constantly annoyed by the tasks of parenting. But try as I may, I cannot carve out enough of the time to read that keeps me sane. I have tried waking up early before everyone else is awake, but then I don’t want to put the book down when they all wake up. I have tried staying up late, but then I am exhausted when they all wake up. I have tried reading during the miniscule amount of time I set aside for exercise and immediately gained ten pounds.

A few months ago, while ironing (yes, I begrudgingly iron) I was feeling especially hard done by, because I COULD BE READING! The thought occurred to me that instead of listening to Hamilton for the 82 millionth time (here’s to 82 million more times), I could be listening to a book. Wait, what?! Listen to a book. But that thought was immediately dismissed because listening to books is not reading them and I read books. Everyone knows you read with your eyes not your ears.

And here is where I admit a far amount of book snobbery on my part. I have long-held the belief that audiobooks are not *real* books. To my way of thinking, their sole purpose is to replace movies during road trips. I have stood firmly on the soap box called “paper-in-hand.”

But when that fleeting audiobook thought entered my mind I started thinking about all the hours I spend during the day with at least one ear bud in my ear. (Because if I can’t read, I have to listen to music…my music. This is to stay sane and, let’s be honest, drown out the incessant fighting, complaining, and whining. Again, perhaps not the most effective parenting strategy, but something has to give and it is better for all of us if that thing is not my mind.) I slowly came to the realization that if I listened to books during all those times when I was listening to music, I could actually start to make small amounts of progress on my “to be read” list. Hmmmmm…

And so for the first time ever, I find myself looking up books on Overdrive and intentionally checking for the headphone icon as opposed to pompously filtering that icon out of my sight. I am beginning to have hope that maybe, just maybe, there is way to make progress on this never-ending list of things to do while also getting the chance to cross some books off my list. In my imagination, this possibility gives way to a mother of a bright and bubbly disposition and a family seamlessly gliding from one thing to the next with nary a bump in the road.

It really could be that simple, right?!