We're changing things up around here this summer. Instead of the traditional "How many books can you read this summer?" kind of challenge posed by the library and some local businesses, we're going for "How big a book can you read?"
My summer theme (come on, all your seasons have themes, too, don't they?) is Slow. I want to nurture slow. I want to practice slow. Every person in this house needs to pull over to the slow lane. We've been going so fast and so hard for so long, we've forgotten what slow feels like. To sit idle seems like some sort of sin. To face a day without a lengthy to-do list makes one feel untethered. We've forgotten how to be still and know.
There's nothing like a fat book to slow a soul into a place of rest.
I chose some fat books for summer reading this year. For the girls, the bonus was pretty new editions of fat books. Sarah will read The Little Princess. She has heard this story read aloud and loved it as much as any little girl named Sarah who has a heart for good will love Sara Crewe. She loved it a lot. And she's over-the-moon delighted with this pretty version. There have been literal sighs of contentment coming from her direction.
Karoline is my voracious reader. She's the one who reminds me all these years later what I thought the biggest benefit to homeschooling would be: the opportunity to stay up late and binge read and not have to get up for the bus in the morning. She reads like I do-- with her whole self invested in the story. She's been burning through the Harry Potter series with a goal to read the last book before our late August beach trip in order to move on and pack Rick Riordan in her beach bag. So, she was annoyed by my suggestion that she read Little Women and Anne of Green Gables this summer. I did have a plan, though. First, she's got four chapters left of Harry Potter Book 6. She'll be finished tomorrow. Then, that only leaves Book 7. Two weeks, max. There's a whole lot of summer between the second week of June and the last week of August. ...
She'll read Little Women and Katie will read Anne and then they'll swap. Both girls have heard both books read aloud. I'm huge fan of read alouds and I dearly love Audible. I have an Audible book going for my personal reading at all times. Always. It's my sanity (and we'll talk about that tomorrow). My kids, too, have all grown up with books read aloud. It's so good for them to hear quality language all the time.
But let's talk a minute about some pitfalls. At a recent conversation in our family about a beloved book, my third child looked up with endearing big brown eyes and said, "I have absolutely no idea what you all are talking about. I have no recall about that book whatsoever."
"Yes, you do," replied his sister with authority. "We listened to it in the car that time we drove to Florida when Karoline was baby..."
"Oh, yeah," he said. "I remember the South of the Border signs and counting the Walmarts off every exit in Georgia."
"But do you remember the story at all?" I asked.
"Nope. Not a bit. Now that she's mentioned it, I do remember a story, but I have no idea the details of it."
This is amazing to me, because I am 100% certain that story sunk in at the time. I have blog proof in the form of a little story of my own.
So, I wanted to pursue this conversation a little further. Patrick has ADHD. There is no doubt about it. He knows it. I know it. Everyone in the athletes' study center knows it. Everyone who has sat next to him at Mass knows it. He is in perpetual motion even when sitting down and his mind wanders--big time. He also finished his undergraduate degree in three years and he'll have a Master's Degree by December. He knows his strengths and his weaknesses and how to work with both.
As we talked about the book, the trip, and countless other books on audio in the car, he explained how he'd hear snatches of the book and then go off on rabbit trails in his own mind, asking all the questions, making up answers, detailing his own narratives, and pretty much zoning out. He's a smart kid, so he could hold his own in discussions later and he clearly wowed me with his ability to absorb the particular speech patterns of the book. But years later, he remembers almost nothing of the content of many, many books.
The conversation then included the girl who'd been his sidekick for all those stories, the one who actually did remember the book.
"I hate audio books," she pronounced firmly. "Hate them. I want to see the words. I want to have the language in front of me. It doesn't become a part of me unless I see it. I remember the audio books, but I also remember being frustrated because I couldn't see them."
Another now-grown child, the one whose sense of story is strong, but who still fights with the printed page all these years later: "I remember every story. I can tell you where we were when we listened and whether or not I liked the narrator." And boy, does he remember the details.
Here's the thing: Every child needs to develop the ability to listen to a story. It's a necessary skill. But that means of delivery won't play to every child's strength. Some books are worth "reading" both ways. For some books, the printed language is so excellent and will so impact the child's writing that it should not be missed. For some books, the lyrical quality of the words really do beg to spoken aloud. Little Women and Anne of Green Gables fit both those categories. Plus, these are beautiful editions. And (wait, there's more!), they fit our criteria for fat summer books.
So, both it is. Karoline will easily blow through both and finish well before she wants to start the Percy Jackson series. Katie will need the summer for both.
I have no idea how I found Escape from Mr. Lemencello's Library, but I ordered it for Nick when I ordered the others. It's light and fine for summer. The publisher's description pulled me in:
We loved The Mysterious Benedict Society , all of them, (that's a fabulous price on the collection;-) and this one sounds like it could be equally lovable. But it's not fat. So, for his fat book he's going to read Nation on Kindle (with backup Whispersync audio, if necessary).
Stephen is well-read. Period. He's read them all. All of them. (Note: that booklist is really buried and I bet no one has visited it since the blog migration two years ago. I should do something about that, because even I had to adjust the code to find it...) He loves classics. He likes to dig deep. He's actually incredibly literary in a family that's full of boys who struggle to sit still with a book. It's fun to talk shop with him. For this summer, I bought him The Brothers Karamozov. I wanted strong characters with complex psychology. I wanted a book we could discuss for hours on end. I promised to read it with him. he received the book with obvious gratitude for its weight--both physically and intellectually. Good pick.
This post is long and my people are stirring, so my summer books will have to wait until tomorrow. ...