I know nobody wants to hear it. I sure don’t want to admit it, but summer is coming to an end. My kids have cycled through the full-range of summer vacation emotions from freedom, to boredom, to excitement, elation, and exhaustion. They’ve had a great summer! They’ve played all of their electronic devices. Thankfully they had opportunities to play with their cousins and neighborhood friends. They’ve taken road trips, gone to amusement parks, barbecues, pools, block parties, drank oceans of lemonade, and ate plenty of ice cream.
I’ve done my due diligence and insisted that they do worksheets, keep summer writing journals, and read at least a few times a week. My insistence has been met with much resistance at times, but I’ve held fast. This summer, my son graduated to reading his first chapter book, The Stories Julian Tell. My daughter chose a book in the American Girl series, Grace Stirs It Up, and I finished the Untethered Soul.
I’ve noticed that since my kids schedules have been less structured during the past 6 weeks, so has mine. I’ve taken liberties to rush outside and toss water balloons instead of writing when I get home from work. I’ve skipped cooking dinner to watch the colors of the sunset at the beach over take-out. I’ve felt guilty at times, but it’s given me moments to pause to have some fun and enjoy my children’s fleeting childhood. I’ve created new memories that I’m certain will end up on the page...come fall!
Carol Higgins-Lawrence wrote her first story at the age of five. Her father paid her a quarter for it and she's been writing ever since. She's taken a variety of courses in writing for children. Multicultural perspectives are of particular interest to her. Carol is of Jamaican descent and was born and raised in Canada. She has a BA in Communications and Sociology and she has completed coursework towards a MA in TESOL. She has worked as a literacy educator for the past 15 years. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two young children. You can visit her website at carolhl.weebly.com
Almost 14 years ago, I started reading everything aloud to my newborn son. He dutifully listened to Emily Dickinson's poems, all the latest adult novels and numerous classics. At the time, I didn’t realize how much reading aloud would shape our family, but I did know that it felt right. Later I read age appropriate books--Sandra Boynton and Dr. Suess with an occasional Walt Whitman or Rudyard Kipling poem thrown in the mix. We graduated to longer books and now I still read aloud to all five of my kids, mostly when they are doing the dishes or cleaning their rooms. One day last fall, I read an entire 200 pages of Because of Mr. Terupt for 3 hours as my kids weeded!
My instincts are correct, according to Jim Trelease, the author of the Read-Aloud Handbook. When I first read it a couple of year ago, I was thrilled to find hundreds of read aloud titles, tips for luring kids away from electronics and into reading, and reasons why reading aloud is essential for all ages. Here are my top 3 reasons for reading aloud to my kids.
3. Bonding: I interviewed my kids about this topic and this was the top reason they liked being read to. This last year I’ve done a record amount of reading aloud since we started our homeschooling journey. We’ve laughed and cried together as we’ve lived the stories of Johnny Tremain, The Westing Game, Mr. Terupt Falls Again and many others. I’ve learned how my kids think about discrimination, abuse, slavery, addiction, bullying, philanthropy, relationships and more because of discussions elicited by reading aloud together.
Learning vocabulary, increasing empathy, and bonding with your children are not the only benefits to reading aloud together. It’s just plain fun!
When asked: “At what age should parents stop reading to their kids?” My children responded with:
“When the kids are 89 or something.” Sammy (5 yrs)
“19?” Sophia (7 yrs)
“NEVER!!!!” Sydney (9 yrs)
“Never!” Naomi (12 yrs)
“Once the kid is an adult and moves out and is reading to their own kids.” James (13 yrs)
Why do you read aloud?
Kirsti Call is a homeschooling mom of five. Her debut picture book, The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall, came out December 2013. Her family band, Calling Out, plays songs written by her children. She contributes to Writer's Rumpus, and Kids are Writers. If you visit her house, you’ll likely find her reading aloud to her children and anyone else who will listen. You can find out more about her at www.kirsticall.com.
One of the things a writer does most of all is watch.
Then we make stuff up and write it down.
Because we can’t just write about ourselves, sitting alone in a room with our computer, we need somebody to talk to. it can be somebody we like or, perhaps preferably, don’t like. Because, maybe, most of all, we need somebody to bother us.
They become watch-worthy. And then they fade from our awareness, making room for imagination to do its work.
Pretty soon there’s us and then there’s the other guy who isn’t quite as real a guy.
When a writer brings a character to a reader, it’s through an emotional experience. We begin to see our other guy as more than a concept. As somebody we might like. Or don’t like. But we see them really up close, we get to know them at least as well as we know ourselves. Probably better.
We want our readers to see them the same way. We write something over and over until we feel like we got it right.
We form hopeful groups and hand our writing to people who want to write something else entirely, like poetry or memoir, and who may not even want to read our work, they want to read their work, they want somebody else to read their work and love it.
But we read all, comment in pencil, and pass the pages along to the reader on the right, while accepting a new set of pages from the reader on the left.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter whether we’re reading poetry or memoir or fiction of one genre or another, we’re going to tell what our experience of the work is. We laughed. We cried. We shared—except, what did this line mean here in the third paragraph on pg 6, anyway? Who was talking at that point?
It’s a little like turning in homework for a grade, it’s also a little like making an appointment for a root canal, only it isn’t an A we’re looking for now or a painless encounter with hot chocolate. It’s a happy reader.
And when our homework comes back from the third or fourth reader, it’s covered with pencil marks and brown rings from somebody’s coffee cup and maybe a greasy spot from where she set her sandwich down. We know she read it all the way through, no matter that she mostly wants to know what everybody thought of her work.
I once got a page back that had a picture drawn on in crayon. A fellow writer/reader’s four-year-old had gone around the house looking for drawing paper and he found some.
I was less certain about that reader at first, but her comments were ruthlessly intelligent, and brief, without making a judgment about what my writing ought to be. Her critiques taught me to cut to the chase.
This process sounds a little grueling, but it’s good practice, a writer spends months, sometimes years, trying to find a happy reader,
someone who cares enough about the words we’ve written to mark all over the manuscript with purple pencil, asking questions about everything in the story, making sure we thought of everything. They ask us to write some parts over and over until they think we got it right.
We do this gladly.
Only a month away from the end of the annual summer publishing slump, i hope you're all writing madly for that moment when the various houses' departments (editorial, art, sales, pr) have reconvened from vacations to read and discuss our work.
Alternatively, i suppose, you could be sitting on the porch swing, thinking about writing ; )
Perhaps, watching the watch-worthy?
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