Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wolf Story by William McCleery

Wolf StoryWilliam McCleery expertly weaves two stories together in this book. One being the story of Michael and his father, interacting together in the most endearing way during the telling of Michael's favorite tale. The other is the tale itself, which centers around Waldo the Wolf and Rainbow the Hen. This book will have children and adults alike cackling at the antics of Waldo, cheering for the rescue of Rainbow, and smiling at the universal "boys will be boys" behavior of Michael. Our whole family enjoyed this book as a read-aloud when the kids were young, then they enjoyed reading it on their own as an early chapter book. It is out of print, so check it out at your library and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Power of a Good Book

I once read about a certain culture which is known to produce an abundance of talented musicians. The children are observed playing instruments at a very young age. This is not to say that the parents enroll their three-year-olds in Suzuki violin lessons, but rather when the adults gather to play music together (which is frequently), the children are welcomed. They are encouraged to hold and experiment with various instruments, joining in while the adults play. By the time the children are of an age to receive musical instruction, they are familiar with the instrument; the way it feels and the sound it makes. People are amazed at the seemingly large a number of natural musicians born in this region, when in truth, the environment and early exposure to music must play as important a role as heredity.
Another example of this thinking was made clear to me during a conversation with my son, a college baseball player. We were discussing a teammate who had the good fortune of being drafted by a major league team.  My son stated, “It was easy for this guy, his older brother plays in the majors.”  I questioned him, arguing that the kid must be good, must have put in lots of hard work. His answer was, “Yes, but just knowing that it’s possible is huge. He grew up expecting to be drafted like his brother.”  I see what he means. The more information and exposure a person has to an idea, the more confidence he has in pursuing it.
I share a similar philosophy when it comes to helping a child look at the world and all of its possibilities. What better way than through the reading of good books?   A gifted writer can create a world that is so real, the reader joins in the experiences of the characters and learns lessons that he may take with him as he faces challenges and opportunities of his own. When my children were in the 7-13 year old range, we read every book we could find with a nature/survival theme.   Sign of the Beaver, Tracker, Indian Captive, and My Side of the Mountain are a few that we loved. I feel certain the kids would have been fine had I turned them out into the woods for a week…in fact, they begged me to do just that! Such an appreciation of nature and of man’s ingenuity was fostered in them during that time.
We became absorbed by many other topics throughout the years of our read-aloud journey, and now that the kids are older, I sometimes see evidence of what we learned in their actions and choices. So, my challenge to you, parents, is to find out what captures your child’s interest and read about it! Read until his imagination is filled with possibilities. Then just sit back and wait for the music to begin.

Monday, February 6, 2012

How It All Started...

The hours spent reading aloud to my children are hard to number. I started reading to my first daughter when she was new born. If someone asked why, my answer would have been a jumble of ideas: listening to someone read is a great way to learn words and ideas; I wanted her to be a reader when she grew older; the one-on-one time was precious. It wasn’t until my second child, a son, was born almost two years later that my intuitive idea about reading began to take more clear shape. By this time, my daughter had graduated to simple chapter books and stories, so baby brother spent many hours cuddled between us listening to the magical, musical words being read to his big sister. During my frequent trips to the library, I came to the unpleasant realization that not all cute children's books are created equal! Some of the books promote ideas and beliefs with which I don’t agree, but what I found even more disturbing was the number of books that exist which say nothing, mean nothing, teach nothing! What a wasted opportunity! This began my effort to be discerning when choosing what to read to my children.
 There are so many good books; classics and those written by thoughtful, principled authors. As the number of children in our family grew to five and our reading continued, so did our list of favorite books. The criteria was simple; well written stories with admirable characters (along with interesting, well-penned villains) demonstrating noble qualities amidst the humorous, challenging, tragic and blessed situations that arise in life. The benefits of all this reading for my children range from the development of awesome vocabularies, to an understanding of right and wrong, a distinction that has become blurred for so many of our country’s youth today.
All of this to say that through this blog, I hope to share our reading adventures! I will include many of my family's favorite book suggestions as well as thoughts on other things related to kids and learning. Writing this entry has caused me to look back and remember the times I spent with the children lost in the pages of a great book.  And if you’re a fan of The Princess Bride, you will appreciate knowing that many a day, as I finished up reading to my kids, they invariably begged “one more chapter, pleeeease!”. I would gaze around, noting the half-cleaned kitchen and stacks of laundry before settling back onto the couch, taking up the beloved book with the reply, “As you wish”.