I love the time of year when one of the kids comes running from the bus, slams the door, and shouts, “Mom! Have you ever read…?” and then names a book. Most of the time I have read the book and we are set for some mother/child bonding over what it all means. Some of the time they don’t like that I read the book AND that I can also remember what the book is about. In detail. On any given school night I can ask, “So how far along are you in the book?” and I can tell immediately if they have done their reading or not. I have explained The Scarlet Letter so many times that I should be getting a piece of Mr. Hawthorne’s royalty check!
But, alas, no royalty checks for helping moms! However, I have gotten to read some pretty cool books over the years. If a book comes into my house via a backpack, I am going to read it and discuss it. This year I got lucky as two of my favorites are currently being read by the eighth grader and the fifth grader. The prepubescent teen is burning his way through Fahrenheit 451 and the youngest is reading My Side of the Mountain. Both are excellent books and provide many moments for discussion.
To be very honest, I had to tell the ten-year old that he could not live in the woods for a year on his own no matter how cool it sounds, no matter that his main character is doing it! Each night when we are drying the dishes or working on spelling words we talk about what all the boy in his book is doing and whether he might be scared or not. We discuss winter temperatures and the difficulties of the boy living in a tree in freezing cold January and February. I try to steer him into a discussion of the merits of a well written book like My Side of the Mountain over the super popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
He shrugs and clings to his Diary books. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is an OK series and the kids love them. We actually own all of them but I still prefer the classics such as: My Side of the Mountain, Hatchet, Charlotte’s Web, and Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. I can vividly remember reading how Johnny Tremain hurt his hand in the silver shop and how The Girl of the Limberlost wanted so badly to go to school. I bawled my way through Where the Red Fern Grows and begged my parents for goats every time I worked my way through Heidi.
I didn’t get the goats and there were times I thought my own mother was The Witch of Blackbird Pond but we didn’t live on The Island of the Blue Dolphins so my reality was that I was expected to put my books down now and then and take out the trash or help with supper. I whipped through the chores in record time so I could get back to my pirate ship or apprenticeship.
Unfortunately, my youthful readers are not as transported as I once was. When young they were enthralled with the rhyming of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (will there be enough room?) and the funny names of the little ducks in Make Way for Ducklings. One in particular loved to read Fox in Socks as fast and loud as he could without giggling but he hardly ever made it to the end of the poodle puddle piddle paddle muddling mess. We had such fun reading on our old couch, but now not even the thrill of burning books and running from mechanical dogs can transport some readers.
My Fahrenheit 451 reader is not enthralled with his selection. I try to engage him about the sadness of burning books and he gives me the eye roll. “What’s the big deal? They get to watch TV don’t they? No discussion about a future with no books! Now if we were discussing a future with no electronic devices, I am sure that he would be up in arms. In fact, he would be flailing his arms about and crying because there would be “nothing to do!”
And ultimately I would suggest that he go READ a BOOK or move to The Other Side of the Mountain!