Treating books with kindness

This goes along with my last post, about considering books as a “treasure.”

Once you think of books that way, you can’t help but have a certain reverence for them and this in turn reinforces the idea that they contain something valuable. Accordingly, I don’t allow books on the floor, or to be thrown or stepped on. That’s just not cool in our house.

Understandably, books get torn and damaged through everyday use – that’s different. When they do get banged up, they’re repaired as soon as possible. I don’t make anyone feel bad about accidentally damaging a book, because if you feel you have to pussy-foot around books you’ll be afraid to open them.

But really, you don’t step on a treasure chest – you open it. And you savour the treasure.

How did I get my son to treat his books kindly? When I walk in his room and there’s a book on the floor, I gasp. I say, “There’s a book on the floor!” as if I just can’t believe it. (And I kind of can’t.) He got the message early on, and now he doesn’t like to see a book mistreated either.

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A book is a treasure chest

When I see a book, I think of it as a “treasure chest.”

The person who opens the cover will discover infinite possibilities – excitement, emotion, great characters, facts, new ideas! When I leave a book on my son’s bed for him to “find,” it’s like I’m leaving him buried treasure.

Sometimes I’ll sweeten the pot a little. As I put the book down I’ll say, “Hmph, I never knew that was the largest land animal! It’s all in there.” And then I’ll walk out of the room, leaving him alone with this – treasure – to find.

Consider how different “books contain treasure” is from “reading is hard work.” Who wants to open a book if it’s going to mean work? Who doesn’t want to open a treasure chest?!

An attitude shift from the parent is often all that’s needed to elicit a big change in the child. Change the way you think about books, and so will your child.

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So your kid loves superheroes? No problem.

When is a comic not a comic? When it’s a book.

I have nothing against comic books, except that sometimes they can be a bit violent and they’re not always terribly well-written. Fortunately, there is a healthier alternative.

These books have superheroes and illustrations like comic books, but they’re non-violent and the vocabulary is age-appropriate.

Perfect Man – Michael Maxwell McAllum suspects that his teacher is Perfect Man’s alter ego. A heartwarming book with a wonderful ending. My favourite.

Atomic Ace (He’s Just My Dad) – Atomic Ace misses his son’s recital because he’s battling crime. Even superhero dads mess up. The main text is written as a poem; the illustrations are very similar to a comic book.

Max – Born into a legendary family of superheroes, will little Max ever develop superpowers? The illustrations, and the characters, are cute and endearing.

Superhero ABC – From Astro-Man is always alert for an alien attack, to The Zinger zanily zigzags through the zero zone. Author Bob Mcleod illustrated Spiderman and Superman comics before this.

There’s also Atomic Ace and the Robot Rampage, which is also excellent but might be a bit scary for younger readers. If you know of any other superhero books like these, please let me know.

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Why I love the library: Part I

There are so many great ways to enjoy the library.

This post is the first of many, as I share with you a love of libraries. Being enthusiastic about libraries rubs off on children, and the library can become a place where kids feel comfortable and empowered.

When my son was about three years old, I was, like many new mothers, exhausted. I wanted to go to the library, but how? My son didn’t want to go (and I didn’t need a war on my hands), and I knew that it would just end up being work for me, as I reshelved the books he got down – never mind finding time to browse.

Here’s how I solved it. The library has computers! And they have a half-hour time limit. So I would tell my son, “Let’s go to the library.” (Screaming, whining.) “You can use the computer for a little while.” (Zoooom! – coat on, shoes on.)

He always understood that when the computer shut off, that was it, time to go – I never gave him “another” half-hour. During that 30 minutes, I could browse the children’s books to my heart’s content. He would go on the very kid-friendly and educational TVO website. The added bonus was that he got to use a computer – but not mine.

And after the library computer shut off, I would let him pick out some books, and we would check them out together. He got familiar with the people and the layout of the library, and began to understand how it all worked and to feel like it could be his place, too.

We also do a ton of other things at the library, so there’s not much danger of my son seeing the library only as his “computer arcade.” Still, I respect other parents’ views on computers and not allowing their kids to use them until they’re older. I’m just saying this was something that worked for me. I welcome your comments!

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What you say he is, he will become

How many times have you said, “My child’s not a reader.”

If you’ve said it, he’s heard it.

The way we define our children goes a long way towards making them that way. So if we tell people our child’s not interested in reading, he’ll live up to that expectation.

Fortunately, when we speak positively about our child’s reading, he’ll internalize that message, too.

So instead of, “My daughter’s not a reader,” how about, “My son loves those Magic Treehouse books.” Or, “Last week, Martina read Amelia Bedelia at school.” Or, “I love it when I see Sam reading.”

Let those “big ears” of your child hear that you think he’s a reader – and that’s what he’ll become.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Election literacy

Elections provide great opportunities for reading.

Not just the words themselves, but what everything on an election sign means. My son and I discussed the concept of the “incumbent,” sparked by the word “re-elect” on a sign we saw. Check out an election sign, and talk to your child about the various elements including the slogan, logo and other messages, verbal and pictoral.

Three-minute discussion topics:
*Each party uses a different colour.
*There are five people who want to be PM.
*Who is the Prime Minister right now?
*Where our family will vote, and when.

Slightly longer discussions:
*The differences between the parties (left-wing, right-wing).
*Federal vs. municipal elections.
*Each party has a set of ideals.
*The election in the States (who is President now, and who wants to be President).

I’m not pushing any specific political party – I tried to get a generic sign but it’s harder than you think. In the end, I just downloaded this one from the Liberals.

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Mom got her son reading!

  • October 6, 2008 at 10:28 am
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Great news. Remember the mom from the Oct. 1 post?

Well, she has done an amazing job and in just one short week, her son is now picking up books and reading more.

She says she went right home and got out a selection of books in subjects that interested her son. She put some on the coffee table, one or two on her son’s bed, and scattered others throughout the house. Her husband saw the books in the living room, and started flipping through them. Before she knew it, her son had joined him and they were both sitting there reading.

Not only that, but the other day she was wondering why it was taking her son so long to get ready for his bath. She thought, “What the heck’s taking him so long?” And then she realized – he was up there reading. Something he wouldn’t have done before.

She also tried out the Hide-a-Kiss idea, and said it was really fun, and it worked.

Congratulations to another super reading-friendly family – way to go!

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Great make: plasticine books

  • October 3, 2008 at 2:03 pm
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This great comment from Cathy was too good to leave in the comments section.

Hi Joyce:

You’ve got me thinking about what sorts of things encouraged my boys to enjoy reading when they were small. One idea that really worked and was a lot of fun:

When my son was about seven or eight years old, he spent several snowy afternoons writing a simple story and illustrating it with playdough art. He was inspired by the Barbara Reid books, particularly “Two by Two,” which is a wonderful depiction of “Noah’s Ark.”

Ryan worked for hours and hours on his “illustrations.” I covered a flat surface for him with plastic and he produced eight different pictures. Then I took photos of each illustration and he dictated while I typed out the words for each page.

We put words and pictures together and created a book. Ryan was really proud of it. I think his grandpa was as well because he took Ryan’s book to church where Barbara Reid was also a member. She was kind enough to respond with a letter to my son.

A nice memory!

Cathy

The image on this page is a plasticine picture by Barbara Reid, from her new book, Fun With Modeling Clay. Here are the step-by-step instructions for this project.

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Books wherever they are

I was talking to a mom at baseball practice on the weekend.

She said her son wasn’t reading at grade-level, and she’s just signed him up for an expensive course to teach him phonics. (Or read this blog – for free. Plus it’s more fun. But I digress.)

Another mom had a great idea. She said, “I put books in the bathroom!”

She said she always has to “hold it,” because her kid’s in there reading. (The things we do for our children.)

But it is a good idea, sprinkling books all over the house, wherever the kids tend to lurk. And the bathroom’s the perfect place for a little Robert Munsch or, well, Capt. Underpants.

When kids are surrounded by books, they’ll eventually pick one up and flip through it – and that’s the first step to creating a ravenous reader.

No photo on this post because, I figured, who needs pictures of the bathroom? Not us. Gack.
Oh, and by the way, if you haven’t put your phone on the Do Not Call list yet to get rid of those pesky telemarketers, here’s the website (Canada only). Nothing to do with literacy; I just hate getting calls during dinner.

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Word on the Street – over for another year

  • September 28, 2008 at 2:54 pm
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It was a crush, but I got a lot of great books.

Here’s the Scholastic booth, which is where I spend most of my time – and money – at Word on the Street.

It looks crowded, and it is, but you get to the front pretty quickly.

The Scholastic people offer these great “book bundles” – five or six books from a series for one low price. I got a set of Geronimo Stilton for 10 bucks, for instance. (That’s going to be a Christmas gift.)

Half the Scholastic booth is French, which is perfect for me, because I’ve just started teaching my son some French. For some reason, though, every book I bought in French is about a dog.

This year I bought more than a dozen books for what I would normally spend on one or two books. A pretty great deal.

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