Friday, January 25, 2008


I picked up the guys from carpoop yesterday and the Bohemian said to me,

"Guess what Mom? I finished the first Spiderwick book today, and it was really good! I can't wait to read the next one!"

I was driving at the time, or I would have jumped up and down like a pubescent girl with a crush. Oh. My. God, Debbie! (*not really talking to a particular Debbie - it's Valley Girl Speak) As it was, there was a bit of swerving as I craned my head around and exclaimed,

"Oh honey, I am SO proud of you! Let's go buy the rest of the series this weekend!"

When we got home, and homework had been done, the Bohemian, our resident Edward Scissorhands, made a "Seeing Stone", like the one in the book that helps the kids see the goblins, etc. All by himself, he made it, and damn if it doesn't look exactly like the one on the front of the book!

I love that kid! and I am so relieved that we are finally turning the corner with the reading. It's been a long, uphill battle with this one; especially trying to NOT make it a battle.

These are the wonder books that helped turn the corner for my little Bohemian:

Granted, I have been reading The Hobbit to them both, this past week as well, and we did see a trailer for the Spiderwick Chronicles film that's coming out, so those may have also played a part.

I was having an email conversation yesterday with Jodi over at Slow Panic, about getting kids, namely, little boys, to be prolific readers, and this what I wrote to her, concerning my personal philosophy as to how to bring that about. I haven't received her permission to publish her side of the conversation, so you'll have to divine what she said! (Note* If I get permission, I'll amend this.)

"We have tried everything under the sun with my youngest, and most of it hasn't been working. When we take him to the book store (so he can pick out what he wants, he picks either picture books or giant tomes that I know he can't read, so what's the point? The Spiderwick books have a lot of pictures, so its a good bridge from picture books to chapter books. Personally? I liked the Lemony Snicket Series Of Unfortunate Incidences, but I couldn't get either of my guys to read them. The Captain Underpants books, by Dave Pilkey, are good too, and little boys love them for the toilet humor (and the Flip-o-rama, of course!)

I know reading fluently is a developmental thing, but man, it's been an uphill battle at times. I guess just keep at it - we do prohibit TV on weeknights to encourage more reading (now if I could just get my husband to turn off the TV and read!), and reading aloud to them goes in that time. I try to read the stuff they might not read alone, like Harry Potter. Doing the voice of Hagrid, though, is quite the dialectic challenge - I think it's a cockney or scottish accent - but blimey- it's all "'Ere now Arry, wot's up wiff yer mum?" kind of talking."

"My eldest son, The Professor, is 10 and a great reader (we lucked out - other than reading to him, it just clicked for him at about 8). My other son, The Bohemian, is 8 and a half and is a much more physically oriented person (read: future jock), but is really creative - we call him Edward Scissorhands, if that tells you anything! BUT, he hasn't clicked with the reading just yet. It took him a long time to be able to sit still just to read to, which was really frustrating, so there were intervals that we just didn't, rather than fight about it.

My husband is one of those people who turn on the TV when he walks in the door, and I am the kind of person who chooses vacations based on their unplugged value. I have had to convince the Hubster (over many years)that constant TV DOES get in the way of the kids' ability to focus, to do homework, and to find the impetus to read. We watch TV after the kids are in bed (I love the DVR!), and the boys can watch a program in the morning before I get up. They like to watch History Channel shows, like Engineering An Empire, and Ancient Almanac, so we DVR the stuff they want. They are not allowed computer time, except on the weekends, and it's based on a combination of factors: school performance/attitude that week/willingness to perform light chores (putting away clothes, cleaning their room/messes, occasionally vacumning, setting the table, etc.) If they had been extra good/helpful that week, I might let them have extra computer time on a Friday afternoon, but generally, their time is on Saturday and Sunday mornings, until noon. If they were not helpful, that's it - no computer, and maybe no TV either.

I know - I'm a mean old mom! But having those ground rules and sticking by them has given them incentive to perform their responsibilities, with the reward at the end of the week, and they have lots of time to just go outside and play, or draw, or whatever, because they have no expectation of being plugged in during the week. I see so many kids at school, whose only point of reference is what they've seen on TV, in both their conversation/connections, as well as in their play, and it's so sad to me. I can't help but wonder how much more they could acheive if they were unplugged just part of the time.

Sorry for the sermon - you asked me, and I'm afraid it's a pet rant of mine, so I ran down to the store and back with it! As an artist, creativity is vitally important to me, so nurturing it is something I put a lead foot down about in our house, and the sports fan husband has to DVR his stuff and watch it later.

And again, I am running on at the mouth - I do hope I have not stepped on your toes - ultimately what I think doesn't matter -You have to do what you feel is best; I'm just happy to opine at length, as you can see!"

I just finished updating a profile on bloglog, where I said I don't proffer my opinions about parenting and politics, because I'm not a big fan of soapboxes, so of course I had to go and stick my foot in my mouth, right?!

Hey, It's my blog and I can opine at length, if I want to!


liv said...

Yay! A victory for parenthood! I'll be sure to ask Jodi what she said when I see her next!

Julie Pippert said...

LOL at the Debbie/Valley Girl reference. I so need to see that movie again,now, as the 80s come back into style...

And yahoo girlie squeal he likes the books.

My oldest is not into the whole book thing. Never has been. She's a doer. So I got her doer books. The books she comes home from school with? Things like "How to draw..."

Her favorite books at home? Grossology experiments and Magnify Bugs. Yes, that's what we read to go to bed at night, "What are farts?"


shaking head

Whatever works.

Oh she also likes the graphic novels, like the graphic novel version of Lion, Witch and Wardrobe.

She is such a NASA geek already.

shaking head

On the flip side, the little one LOVES books. Sleeps with them. Story books.

Chanda (aka Bea) said...

I knew he had it in him! He's so smart and creative in his own little bohemian way. He even reads outloud better than most adults. Perhaps there's a little Sarah Bernhardt in him as well.

FairiesNest said...

You know Chris went through the same thing, I think it was the Time Warp Trio books that did it for him..all the bits about farting giants...It's so telling what book geeks you and I are that we get so excited over our kids's the BEST feeling when they finally get it!

Maggie said...

OH, MAN. I totally get this. All I ever wanted was for my kids to love reading the way I do, even though I tell myself they need to be exactly who they are and not who I want them to be...And it's SO gratifying that they do! Yay for your bohemian. :)

Queen of Shake-Shake said...

I'm glad I read this today. Payton is only seven, so maybe around 8, he'll get over this anti-fiction kick and read some.

Girl con Queso said...

I love the book suggestions. My son is only two, but I'm already creating a bookshelf for him with good suggestions as we go. Because if I don't, I'll forget great recs like this later on. And I don't know. I have a feeling that we'll be needing all the cool inspiration we can get. Just a hunch.

flutter said...

Oh I love it! I am so proud of the little Bohemian

hele said...

Glad to meet you. I love the picture of the tap-dancing host and I enjoyed your opinion so much I am almost ready to buy the books for me.

slouching mom said...

Ben LOVED Spiderwick.

I'll share a few others he loved just in case they might at some point suit the little Bohemian...

The Indian in the Cupboard series
R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series
Lemony Snicket
The Phantom Tollbooth

It's so wonderful when they like a book, I agree.


Autumn LeBeau said...

Hi there! I really like your blog (especially the cookie posts- I'm definitely trying the oatmeal choc. chip recipe) and your kids (and cats; I'm a HUGE cat person) are adorable.
I was going to recommend Goosebumps as well. My seven year old daughter is an avid reader, like her dad and me, but my son (6) hasn't caught the reading bug. So we keep trying. My daughter's a big Goosebumps reader, as well as my old Judy Blumes... not really boy books, but the Fudge books are pretty non gender specific. I think we'll try Spiderwick- maybe Jakers will want to give them a try.

Professor J said...

I am SO GLAD you guys turned the corner in the reading wars! He is a lucky boy to have a mom who cares so much about reading.