Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer Reading

Does your local library have a summer reading program? Read books, log your hours, get prizes? Ours does, and since both of my kids are motivated beyond all reason by prizes, they wanted to sign up for it.

They went to it right away, hunkering down with their stacks of books. A preternatural calm settled over the house. The only sound was the rustle of turning pages. It was a miracle. I was so happy I almost cried. OK, maybe I did cry just a little.

Within three days they had earned their first prize (a Japanese fan) and it was all downhill from there. Keeping track of how long it took to read each book and writing a little summary turned out to be a huge pain. Willem wakes up before everyone else and reads in bed, often re-reading a book several times, which we couldn't count. He probably read several more hours than the 900 minutes we officially logged for him.

They did most of their reading to themselves, but I did give them a break by reading aloud one of my childhood favorites, The Pushcart War. It made me want to go back to New York.

Obsessing over favorite books hindered their progress somewhat. Even though it was old for them, both boys pored over Doug TenNapel's Ghostopolis for weeks. Willem couldn't follow the story very well, but he loved the ghoulish drawings. And the potty humor.

The defining literary moment of our summer, though, has been the discovery of Calvin and Hobbes. Our library has only one of the individual books and one of the enormous collections that spans several years. We've already renewed it once, which means the boys have spent the last several weeks fighting over it. They've taken to "calling" it to save it when they get up to eat or go to the bathroom, just like my sisters and I used to do with our favorite chair when we were kids. Yes, it's provoked many battles, but it did provide four hours of log-able reading time per child, so that's something.

It took a few weeks to get Nels to stop calling the characters "Kevin and Hubbies." Nels gets a lot of the humor and understands the devices Watterson uses to show what is "real" and what is imaginary in Calvin's world. He's also getting some great vocabulary.

Willem, on the other hand, misses a lot of the jokes and reads the whole thing in deadly earnest. I can't imagine that failing to take Calvin with a grain of salt is putting some fairly oddball ideas into his head, but he hasn't done anything too crazy yet.

When it's Willem's turn for the book, it's "Mom, listen to this" every few minutes. It gets old, but his clear little voice reading Calvin's dialogue is like having the character right there in the flesh in the room with me. And the way he says Susie (Soo-see) is so charming that I can hardly bear to correct him.

When Nels finished up his summer reading and Willem still had 90 minutes to go, it threw Willem into such deep despair (and he threw such a huge fit) that I almost decided the program hadn't been worth it. But they both finished, and now each boy has a garish yellow t-shirt and a stronger-than-ever reading habit to show for his efforts. It's good.


Amy said...

I so enjoy your blog, Gypsy! Keep it up! My children are "Calvin and Hobbes" fanatics. They've spent a ton of allowance money buying the collection one by one at Half Price Books. There's only one book left that they have yet to buy, although they read it as a library copy. They were so sad to find they'd made it all the way through the books and there would never be another new "Calvin and Hobbes" to read. (Then they started over.) Oh, and Grace called it "Calvin and Hobbies" for ages. I loved it.

Gypmar said...

Thank you, Amy! After almost four years at it I feel like I've been having a bloggy dry spell/identity crisis lately, so I appreciate the encouraging comment.

I can SO see your kids loving Calvin and Hobbes! (No matter that I've never met them. Facebook and blogs are the next best thing.)

alison owen said...

yes, mac is also a calvin and hobbes fan. I think it was great for his vocabulary and also gave him a really nice sarcastic edge (although having peter as a dad may have also contributed to that). Of all the child-role-models, he's one of my favorites. Also Ramona, have your boys read those books yet? Mac loved them almost as much as I did.

Gypmar said...

Alison, it might have been your mention of it that reminded me of Calvin and Hobbes and made me think to try it for the boys. We read the first Ramona book (on your recommendation) and the boys really liked it, even though they spent much of it being appalled at Ramona's behavior :)

And yes, I love the great vocabulary they're getting from C&H, although my feelings were mixed tonight when Willem used "dismembered" properly in a sentence.

Annie Nannie said...

"Dismembered"!!?? Tooooo funny! I was delighted and awestruck to be hear Willem read The Three Little Pigs to me with character voices, to boot. He was reading multisylabic words with aplomb. His kindergarten teacher won't know what to do with him! Absolutely wonder-full.

Annie Nannie said...

Oops - drop the "be".

Oleg K. said...

You should email or print out your post for your librarian. I know if someone brought it to me I would be thrilled.

Ah, the sound of pages in the silence. A beautiful noise.