"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Friday, March 29, 2013

In the better late than never category

Way back in Once Upon a Time Time, Mr. Schu of Watch.Connect.Read challenged people to recall in sixty seconds their top read aloud experiences or memories. The blog challenge arose while promoting and supporting World Read Aloud Day.

I wrote mine down, but never had a chance to explain them. I think that celebrating reading aloud experiences never goes out of style, so, John, here they are!

Top read aloud experiences in sixty seconds:
Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver
by E.L. Konigsburg
One summer about 11 years ago, my two young children and I were staying with my parents.  I was reading this book aloud to them at night.  By the third night, my parents had joined the group.  For the next few days, our days began and ended with a three generation read aloud. This experience started a long tradition of multi-generation family read alouds continuing today with my now college age children.

Lions of Little Rock
by Kristin Levine
I wrote about this experience back in January, so will shorten it here, but my father fell and suffered a brain bleed.  Five long days in the hospital were spent reading and rereading this book.  It was so poignant because both my parents were very active in the Civil Rights Movement.  This well-written, well-researched very engaging book prompted moving discussions about my parents' life at the time: the events they experiences and the people they knew.  I will never forget sitting by my father's bedside with my mother, needing this book to help make things right.  It wasn't just the three of us, my father's nurse's got engrossed in the story as well, which created a bond and opened a space for friendship.

Gyo Fujikawa
I can remember my mother reading this book to me and then pouring over the pages again and again. This book is here because I was also able to read it aloud to my own children and see the same response in them. 

Jasmine's Parlour Day
My now eighteen year old son asked me recently if I had ever found a recipe for sugar cakes.  I knew instantly to what he was referring.  This was one of his favorite books when he was young - he would pull it off the shelf in preschool and we would read it over and over.  When I was in graduate school, I met a student from Trinidad who brought back sugar cakes for us.  I love that he is holding onto this book somewhere in his psyche

Tiger Who Came to Tea
This book is all about English sensibilities. My daughter loved this book.  For a two year period, I think I read this book more than any other.  I loved reading it because I could add fun English accents and really ham it up, but what I really loved was my daughter's attachment to this book and her attachment to the characters in the book.  

Nine Ducks Nine
I was not there for one particular read aloud experience but it goes on my list because I wish I had been there.  In the story, there is a fox that wants to eat some ducks and they outsmart him.  He eventually leaves, after being humiliated, and says "stupid ducks" and they retort "stupid fox."  Well, up until my children were 3 and 5, I replaced the word stupid with silly. My mother was babysitting one night, being the early childhood educator and honest forthright person she is, she read the book word for word.  She said that Nicholas' eyes grew to the size of saucers as he asked, "Does it really say stupid?"  Ha!  I had been caught!

It's Winnie-the-Pooh.  That is really enough said, but I will add to this by sharing that I started reading this book to my children when I was nursing.  Probably too much information, but we read and reread and reread this book over and over again.  I credit Christopher Robin as the inspiration for the many adventures my children had with just a cardboard box and their imaginations.

Chronicles of Narnia
C.S. Lewis
When my son was 6 or 7, we sat down and read the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe series cover to cover. I read from the books I had carried with me from my childhood home.  I loved sharing his enjoyment of the series and eagerness to get right back to reading as soon as school and work were over. 

While going back and writing this post I thought of so many more like Blueberries for Sal, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Whistle for Willie, but I am sticking with John's rules.

I also decided to stay on the family environment, instead of my school environment.  There are some stellar read aloud moments there, but this challenge felt more personal.  

Note: I did not have a school library or library teacher until I hit seventh grade, at which point we only went to the library to learn about the classification system and use the card catalog to find books for research projects. Sad, I know.  I so love how I spend each day at my school.


As part of our World Read Aloud Day celebration, I asked families to make a book mark sharing why they like to read aloud or why they think reading is important. I finally got around to photographing them!  I loved going through them and reading the  inspiring messages, especially the ones written by several family members.  The creativity and artistic expression brought a smile to my face.  What a way to read it forward!  I'll think the children in the LitWorld LitClubs will be excited to receive these bookmarks.  I am grateful to the families who helped (book) mark this wonderful event.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wherein this March snowstorm reminds me of another March snowstorm

Back in 2004, I wrote these two short stories about my children.  They were around the ages of eight and ten at the time.  I share them with a bit of trepidation, due to the quality of the writing and personal nature, but the memory of writing them came to me this morning.  On this March 19th snow day, as my family was reluctantly heading out to shovel, my now 18-year-old son said, "I used to like shoveling until this winter.  I mean it was fun to head out in the first storm, now my back already hurts thinking of it."  I couldn't help but to think of these stories. 

I, too, am slightly done with winter, my comment today is, "-->does not remember saying anything untoward to Mother Nature, but sincerely apologizes nonetheless and would like to declare a truce."
Happy~ish Snow Day ~Jennifer

 December Storm
The air coming in through the open bedroom window felt damp.  Madeleine pushed off her covers, got out of bed, and padded across the floor to the window.  She pulled back the curtain.  The yard was covered in a thick blanket of snow.  Her eyes grew wide and excitement coursed through her body.  Madeleine had been waiting for the first snow of the season.
            Running into her parent’s bedroom she quickly threw up the shade and exclaimed, “Mom, Dad, look!  It snowed last night!”  From the other room a sleepy voice called out, “How much?”  Madeleine replied, “Enough.  Let’s go!” 
Madeleine and her younger brother Nicholas ran down the stairs in their pajamas.  They ignored their grumbling stomachs and passed through the kitchen without stopping for breakfast.  Who needed food?  This was the moment they had been waiting for.  Their winter gear had been brought down from the attic a few weeks before and they had been eagerly eying it hanging unused on hooks by the door.  “My favorite hat!” said Madeleine as she pulled it from the basket.  “My snow pants are so warm,” said Nicholas.  “Hey! Remember? We got new mittens at the end of last winter.”  Each piece of winter clothing was impatiently pulled on.
Outside the world looked new.  Madeleine and Nicholas breathed in the cold winter air.  It stung their noses and filled their lungs.  They took another deep breath enjoying the cold but damp, snowy air.  Then they went straight to work.  The sleds were pulled from the shed and the shovels were lined up along the house.  Then the two children grabbed the sleds and headed for the hill in the backyard.  This was the best sledding, fresh snow meant fresh tracks. 
Madeleine and Nicholas each wrote their own stories in the snow.  Nicholas, who liked to go fast and bail out of his sled near the bottom (rolling head over heels and getting covered in snow), left tracks straight down the hill with a wide area of disturbed snow at the bottom. Madeleine, who liked a longer, slower cruise, left graceful, curving tracks in the new snow.  Up the hill they climbed and down the hill they glided until their legs grew tired.  Then they sat down, quenched their thirst with mittens full of snow, and rested.  They needed to save energy for shoveling.
Up the hill they climbed again and left their sleds at the top.  Madeleine and Nicholas headed for the driveway and began to make paths and roads through the snow.  Truck noises filled the air as the two industrious workers cleared the roads. It was not the most efficient method, but it was fun.  From the house, the driveway looked like a maze, although a maze with no recognizable entrance or exit. 
“Who wants warm maple syrup on snow?” Their mom called from the porch.  “We do!” they replied.  Madeleine and Nicholas eagerly collected snow in the bowls given to them and headed inside, their faces flushed and rosy. 
The inviting smell of homemade waffles filled the house.  Madeleine and Nicholas quickly peeled off damp layers of gear and left them in a heap on the floor.   They grabbed their bowls of snow and headed for the kitchen.  “Mom, will you help us hang up our gear?  We want to go out again after breakfast,” asked Madeleine.  Smiling, because she felt their joy, their mother hung up their wet gear around the furnace and on every possible surface. 
As the children sat at the kitchen counter eating fresh waffles and warm maple syrup on snow, they talked about all the fun they would have this winter.  Unspoken in their conversation was that they knew this day was special.  It was the first snow of the season and the first snow is always the best snow.

March Storm
The children slept soundly in their beds.  The air coming into their bedrooms from the open windows was cool and had that damp quality of spring precipitation.  Madeleine was snuggled deep in her covers.  She stirred and opened a bleary eye.  She could smell the dampness in the air.  It’s snowing, she thought.  She turned on her light and began to read
A while later Nicholas called out from his bedroom, “Are you awake?  It’s snowing.”
“I know,” answered Madeleine.
“Do you want to go out?” asked Nicholas.
Madeleine, still snuggled in her covers with her head propped up on two pillows and her book on her chest, replied, “Not yet, I’m reading, but maybe after breakfast.”
Her mom poked her head in the door, “We’re going down to make breakfast.”
“Alright, I’ll be down in a while.” replied Madeleine.
“Let me know when it’s ready.” added Nicholas, who was busy arranging his rescue vehicles around a block building.
When the smell of blueberry pancakes came drifting up the stairs, Madeleine reluctantly put down her book and made her way down stairs to the kitchen.  Over breakfast of pancakes, warm maple syrup, bacon and orange juice, the family decided what the plans should be for the day. 
Dad asked, “Who wants to help shovel? “
Nicholas responded, “Can’t you use the snow blower dad?”
“Not on this snow, it’s too heavy for our machine,” replied the dad.
“Okay,” said Nicholas, “I’ll help shovel, just let me finish building my Lego ship.”
“I’ll help too, when I’m finished building this airplane.” Madeleine added.
Their parents headed out to begin shoveling.  The street was dressed in a blanket of snow.  The trees looked liked dancers, gracefully extending their decorated limbs.  A little while later the children appeared on the scene.  Everyone shoveled for a while.  This was not the play shoveling of December, but the get-it-done shoveling of March.  Madeleine and Nicholas grew tired and headed for the back yard.  “Want to make a fort?” asked Nicholas.
“Sure, let’s use this pile from shoveling for one of the sides.  You start collecting snow from over there,” directed Madeleine.  They hauled and packed snow until they had created a small fort.  There was even a window from which to watch people or throw snowballs, a feature tested on the unsuspecting parents.  Spring snow is packing snow and what better item to pack than a snowman. The zigzagging paths across the backyard resulted in one large and one not so large snowmen.  They faced the back of the house, as if watching it.  There was a scramble to find accessories and then a call to witness the final product.  “Well done!” cheered the children’s parents as they admired the snowmen. 
 It was well past lunch and time to head in.  They were hungry after their busy morning.  It had been a fun morning, not as much fun as the first snow of the season, but snow, at any time, always brings a fresh blanket of opportunity when it arrives.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"I learned to follow your dreams and start early."

Last week, my 4th graders Skyped 
author of 
They loved this visit!
The students asked Chris questions.
1. Did you like writing when you were in elementary school?

2. What made you want to be an author?

3. What is your favorite part of the writing process?

4. Have any of your ideas been rejected?

5. What inspired you to write the Fourth Stall?

6. How long does it take for you to finish a book?

7. How did you develop the characters in the Fourth Stall?

8. If you could be any one of your characters, who would it be and why?

9. Which books inspired you when you were a young reader?

All of which Chris answered in an entertaining 
and thoughtful way.

I loved these two pieces of advice:
"If you want to be a writer. be a writer. 
Start right now!"
"I am a writer because I am a reader."

The students also got answers to some of their questions about The Fourth Stall, such as how Chris came up with the baseball trivia questions between Mac and Vince and what purpose they served in the book. 
My students left with some cool advice about writing and life: