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.

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Allow Me to Introduce Myself

When Well Worn Pages began, the only people reading it were my family and a few friends. Over the last year, some new readers have been added along the way. This seems like a good time to officially introduce myself.

If you have read the “About” section of this blog, then you know the essentials. I am the wife of a fantastic college professor and the mother of four children (three girls and one boy, ranging in ages from ten to four) who has a librarian complex. If you have read a few of my posts over the year, then you may have picked up on the fact that I am a walking contradiction: equal parts sarcastic and sentimental, impulsive and cautious, rebellious and rule monger-y.  I truly love books, reading, and almost anything related to those two things. These are the well documented facts.

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Here is the back story. I grew up in the beautiful country of Nigeria in West Africa. My life there was, in many ways, ideal. I am grateful for everyday that I was there. While I can never claim it as home the way I wish I could, Nigeria shaped me in ways my “country of origin” (the United States) never could.

I spent the majority of my youth on a soccer field or basketball court. To say that I was a reluctant reader would be an extreme understatement. I can pinpoint the teacher and the moment that overwhelming reluctance took hold, as well as the teacher and the moment that reluctance began to abate. Those are stories for another day.

Had I known myself at all at 18, I would have immediately started a course of study that ended in my becoming a librarian. Instead, I did the second best thing for me and became a teacher. Before making the decision to stay at home with my own kids, I worked with elementary school age children for six years. Some of those years were teaching in a classroom, others were teaching P.E. or directing an after-school program. Now, I spend my days working with children in an entirely different capacity.

Aside from telling my story, likely the best way for me to introduce myself to you is through the books that have influenced me the most. To that end, I give you:

The books that I enjoyed most as a child:

  1. Amelia Bedelia (Peggy Parish) – The Amelia Bedelia books are the first books I remember scouring the library shelves for.
  2. The Yellow Boat (Margaret Hillert) – This is the first book I remember getting from Scholastic. I still have it.
  3. Frog and Toad (Arnold Lobel) – These treasured friends were my childhood favorites.
  4. A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle) –  This is the first book I remember my grandmother reading to me. It was the first spark that would ignite an interest in fantasy fiction.
  5. The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster) – Here is my all time favorite children’s book. This is the first book I remember laughing out loud with.

The most significant books of my young adulthood:

  1. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint Exupery) – The poetry and beauty of the writing in the this book blew me away.
  2. Cry, the Beloved Country (Alan Paton) – I have read this book more times than I can count and I learn more every time. This story affected me deeply and put words to an injustice in the world that I will spend my whole life trying to bring light to.
  3. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe) – I think this may be the first book that ever changed me. It gave me a perspective no one else would tell me. I needed to hear it.
  4. Poems of West Africa (edited by Wole Soyinka) – Wole Soyinka deeply impacted my love of reading and writing. The poems in this book have been a constant source of solace in my life for a very long time.
  5. Hind’s Feet for High Places (Hannah Hurnard) – Of all the books I own, this is the book I have read most often. It is odd because allegory is not usually my “thing,” but I make an exception with this one. This would be the second book that changed me.

Favorite books from my actual adulthood:

  1. Americanah (Chimamanda Adichie) – I have a deep affection for African literature and am always looking for books by African, particularly Nigerian, authors. Chimamanda Adichie never disappoints. This book is my favorite of hers. Her vivid descriptions of adjusting to life in the United States are brilliant.
  2. The Eye of the World (Robert Jordan) – The Wheel of Time series took that spark that A Wrinkle in Time started and lit my love of fantasy fiction to full flame. I have read this series all the way through twice and will likely do so again.
  3. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller) – I love this book. It is the first book I read as an adult that I remember laughing out loud with.
  4. The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss) – This book is everything that fantasy fiction should be and one of my all time favorite reads.
  5. Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson) – Just Mercy has become a yearly read of mine, which is highly unusual for me with non-fiction. The perspective and insight given is vital to understanding life in the United States and I recommend it to everyone.

Welcome to the broad strokes of my life,

Christy Peterson

 

 

 

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!)

Summer Reading List: Preschool Edition

Just like that, May is gone. June finally arrived and all is well in the world. (Except that some things are exactly the same, like getting woken up at 4:30 AM by the recent Kindergarten graduate because her finger stings.) In a stroke of genius, my girls’ school scheduled their last day of school today. June could not be off to a better start. A few short hours from now, my kids will all be out of school. We can catch our collective breath and rest.

My son, the one child not even in school yet, may be the most excited about school getting out. He has been home alone with me all year and he is beyond ready for his sisters to be back home. He has visions of playing Candyland and being read to all day dancing in his head. During this last week of school, he has sat through three end of the year parties, one school performance, and one Kindergarten graduation. At each event, he brings his little bag full of books and patiently starts to read.

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It goes like this: tap book on me, tap book on me harder, tap book on me even harder, include “read to me, Mom,” repeat only louder, and louder still. I *calmly* say, “You need to read to yourself right now.” A child at the end of the school party interrupts, “Mrs. Peterson, can you start the game.” My son, ignoring that interruption, says, “I don’t know how to read.” I hurriedly say, “Just look at the pictures, you have this book memorized anyway.” Then, apologetically, start whichever game I am stationed at for that moment.  My son looks at one page and then begins the process over again. If all of that can be considered “patiently starting to read” then yeah, we’ve got that down.

All of this to say, while the older kids have dreams of the books they want to read over the summer, the youngest one does too. And so here are 11 books for your preschooler to look forward to this summer.

  1. Dragons Love Tacos 2 (Adam Rubin)
  2. The Day The Crayons Came Home (Drew Daywalt)
  3. Tap the Magic Tree (Christie Matheson)
  4. Animals By The Numbers (Steve Jenkins)
  5. Dino-Swimming (Lisa Wheeler)
  6. Ada Twist, Scientist (Andrea Beaty)
  7. The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors (Drew Daywalt)
  8. Ladybug Girl’s Day Out with Grandpa (David Soman)
  9. No Matter What (Debi Gliori)
  10. How to Raise A Mom (Jean Reagan)
  11. Hattie and Hudson (Chris Van Dusen)

You can find other lists of picture books here:

Happy Summer! May your preschooler handle their “read to me” demands with patience and calmness. (Hey, it’s summer now, a person can dream!)

 

Summer Reading List: The Early Grades

Oh my goodness, I am done. Just. Done. I know that humans don’t hibernate, but we should and it should be for the month of May. Please, someone save me from my calendar. Why have I personified my calendar, you ask? Because it is alive and it hates me. Hates. Me.

I am not exaggerating when I say that every part of me wants to curl up into a ball on my corner of the couch, put on noise cancelling headphones, and read. Then read more. And cap it all off with, well yes, reading even more. I find myself struggling not to shut down due to a system overload. Now I have completed the cycle by making my calendar alive and myself the machine. See, I am done.

It should come as no surprise to you then that this list has been a struggle for me. There are so many excellent and exciting books coming out for the older kids which made last week’s post easy to write. The next post after this one will be about summer reading ideas for preschoolers and it kind of writes itself. But this one, this one is just sitting in my mind like a weight. Its getting the middle child treatment right now. That misplaced, looked over, lost in the shuffle treatment.

Here’s the thing. In the early elementary school grades, it is really just about helping kids discover their own love of reading. Which often means, they are going to be reading some stuff you definitely would not have picked off the shelf (I’m looking at you, Rainbow Fairies). That is a good thing. They are discovering their own literary interests. At this stage, whatever they are interested in reading, put in their hands (and then try not to cringe).

You may remember that a few months back I did a post about the best beginner chapter books. The books in that list are excellent for readers just starting out on the chapter book adventure. But if you have a reader who is starting to find those books a bit too easy. This list includes some books that would be good for the next level.

Sticking with the “one book for each week of summer” model, here are 11 “next level” chapter books for the early grades.

  1. Nate the Great (Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
  2. Hank the Cowdog (John R. Erickson)
  3. The Littles (John Peterson)
  4. Mercy Watson (Kate DiCamillo)
  5. A to Z Mysteries (Ron Roy)
  6. Clementine (Sarah Pennypacker)
  7. Keena Ford (Melissa Thomson)
  8. Magic Animal Friends (Daisy Meadows)
  9. The Mouse and The Motorcycle (Beverly Cleary)
  10. Big Nate (Lincoln Peirce)
  11. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls (Elena Favalli and Francesca Cavallo)

My advice to you is: get them as many of these books as you can find and then follow the old adage, “read while the child is reading.” You are right, that is not how that saying goes. But we can all agree that is how it should go.

Happy imaginary hibernation!

 

 

 

 

Summer Reading List: The Middle Grades

You can feel it in the air. You can see it in the dark circles under teachers’ eyes. You can hear it in the restless rumble of every classroom. You can smell it in the school clothes piled high on bedroom floors. Students can taste it in the school lunches that were once Pinterest worthy bento box art and are now a slice of bread and leftover Easter (who are we kidding, Valentine’s Day) candy.

Summer is coming.

Just not yet.

Right now, we are still in the throes of dark circles, restless rumbles, school clothes laundry that still will not wash itself, and school lunches no one cares about anymore (except the kids, their whining gives me the impression they still care).

Right now, the tardy slips, missed homework assignments, and the forms begging for parent participation at the 100 end of the year parties are piled up higher than all the stacks of art and school work you brought home from Open House with every intention of properly storing and preserving for posterity.

Right now, parents, teachers, and students alike are dragging each other to that glorious last day of school.

Summer is coming.

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Just not yet.

Except we don’t even care that it’s not here yet. In our minds, this school year is done. No one has energy for this school year anymore, but when thinking about summer suddenly the ideas come flooding in. You will hike, you will creatively prevent the summer brain drain, you will actively engage the children’s minds and bodies, you will read together, you will eat healthy lunches, on and on and on the list goes.

These things absolutely will happen.

Except when they don’t. Which, in my experience, usually starts around week two of the ten week break, when all (every.single.one) of your amazing, inspiring ideas are already used up. You begin to hear the first makings of the sentence that will, all too soon, be fully expressed as, “I’m bored.”

But that is a problem for another day. Today our creative minds are ready for summer. This is the sweet spot when we have the ability to think about summer with excitement and relief. And so it is the perfect time to start thinking about summer reading lists.

Let’s start with books for the middle grades because, of all the young students, they are the most ready for summer. Unless I am counting wrong, and I likely am, there are 11 weeks of summer break, so here are 11 books to get your reader started.

  1. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  2. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  3. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood
  4. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
  5. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
  6. The Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
  7. Wonder by R. J. Palacio
  8. Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper
  9. Pax by Sara Pennypacker
  10. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
  11. The Genius Files by Dan Gutman

If your child or student is looking for something more topical, here are a few blog posts to reference:

For those junior high age kids, I suggest giving them a rest from the plethra of dystopian love triangles and challenging them a bit. The Newberry Medal Winners list is an excellent reading list. The books are relatively short and consistently fantastic. It will be a good recalibration for your older reader.

Ah, recalibration! We all need it.

Summer is coming. Just not yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

1.

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