I was a bit surprised when my oldest son announced he was going to see the midnight showing of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows--Part 2, on opening night, no less. It was a female friend's 14th birthday, and trust me, if you ever want to get a 14 year-old boy to do anything, just have a 14 year-old girl ask him.
Never before had my son expressed even an iota of interest in seeing The Deathly Hallows"Part 1, or the Prisoner of Azkaban or any of the other films in the immensely popular series. He had never read a single one of the books. It seemed the wizard world just didn't do it for him.
I'd always kind of hoped he'd eventually jump on the Harry Potter bandwagon. It seemed to be the pop-cultural thing to do. Like Judy Blume books and Sherwood Schwartz (RIP) sitcoms have been for me, they could provide a shared experience and immediate connection to all other kids born in same generation. Hogwarts could be something for him to talk about with his new college roommate on that first awkward day.
But he always preferred non-fiction to tales of magic and Muggles. Why read about Albus Dumbledore when you could read about Abraham Lincoln or Ulysses S. Grant--bearded men who actually lived? Why study up on the rules of Quidditch when a Golden Snitch was so much more elusive than a real-life baseball.
But at least he read. A lot. Son number two? Not so much.
I've been struggling this summer to get him to crack a book at all. Sometimes he'll humor me by reading inappropriate song lyrics on-line. Occasionally I can get him to get to tackle the back of cereal boxes. He is starting to know quite a bit about the benefits of oat bran, and that's not all bad.
But an actual book, you know, with pages, seemed out of the question. I was kind of afraid he might forget how.
"Mom, you can't forget how to read," he'd remind me. "It's just like riding a bike, but not as fun."
I had my work cut out for me.
I set timers set to 30 minutes, but he never seemed to get beyond page one. We encouraged him to enter the Madison Public Library reading challenge that, upon completion of 10 books, entered you in a drawing to shadow Paul Soglin for the day. It was a no-go: I think the Mayor is still on my son's naughty list for threatening to pull the plug on "Ride the Drive." We even dinked around with our own reward system, promising a trip to Babcock Hall for completing a non-fiction work. And a malt at Michael's for fiction. There is very little he won't do for a frozen dairy treat.
Except, as it turns out, read.
I felt like we'd tried every trick in the book.
But we'd never tried the book about magic.
My husband and I had somehow assumed that since Son #1 hadn't really sparked to Harry Potter, that Son #2 wouldn't either--as if taste in reading material was somehow hereditary and we had both passed on a recessive Rowling gene.
But when his brother was out seeing the Potter movie, we read the first chapter of book one of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone out loud to him. And he was hooked. The 309-page book is now almost finished and we have the second installment waiting for immediate inhalation upon its completion.
I don't care if it is black magic or some other illegal substance that J.K. Rowling sprinkles on those books. "The Boy Who Lived" has turned my son into "The Boy Who Read." I'll happily sell my soul to "he-who-must-not-be-named" if we can just keep this up through the school year.
We still have a while before he's made it through the whole Potter series. But I need suggestions for the follow-up. What titles have you relied on for keeping your kids reading this summer?comments powered by Disqus
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.
My 11th-grade and 8th-grade sons have heard "the chant" for years. You know which one I'm talking about -- the ESFY (U?) chant (I'm not sure what the parenting post rules are for writing two of the more forbidden four-letter words in the English language) that appears to have both Barry Alvarez and Chancellor Blank quite concerned.
There are many different criteria parents use when evaluating which pre-school programs will be right for their children. Some parents might be looking for an educational philosophy that stresses creativity and community. Others may desire an option that revolves around learning through play or is more academic in approach.
We spent hours poring over name books and checking for inappropriate initial combinations. We looked at meanings, variant spellings and popularity charts. And, as I am sure every parent does, we thought we'd hit the name jackpot with each of our kids. But there are always surprises.
A generation or two ago, the pediatrician was the guy (yes, they were mostly guys) who gave your kids shots and prescribed big bottles of antibiotics for every sniffle. Madison's Dipesh Navsaria is a different breed of pediatrician.
Gamehole Con will be the premier tabletop gaming convention in the region. And with Wisconsin being the birthplace of Dungeons and Dragons, as well as the nation's leader in gaming stores per capita, it kind of makes sense that the convention's organizers want the Dairy State to be known for more than just cheese, beer and bratwurst.
This year I will also try to ease up some of my previous costume concerns. Sure, the world is rife with inappropriate dress up choices for our kids; there is no parent out there that is keen on his or her child dressing like a pint-sized prostitute, even for one night.
This past Saturday, I took my youngest to hear Caldecott award-winning author/illustrator Kevin Henkes read from his latest work, The Year of Billy Miller, a short novel for the early elementary grades.
I was greeted at the door by Tom Moen, who has served as executive director of what he likes to call "Madison's best kept secret", for the past 39 of the center's 47 years. Located in the middle of the subsidized Truax Park apartment complex, EMCC, with its vast array of offerings for kids, seniors and everyone in between, is unquestionably the heart of the neighborhood.
Madison's Kashmira Sheth has written four award-winning novels for middle grade and teen readers, and a popular chapter book for six- to nine-year-olds, but right now her picture books are what she's excited to talk about.
A few summers back, my daughter, maybe 8 or 9 at the time, decided to take part in our swimming pool's annual water ballet show. I'm not really sure what initially piqued her interest in the somewhat under-the-radar, very much under-the-water sport of synchronized swimming.
We rarely included a stop at the Central Library as part of our regular outing. For those of you who've been in Madison for a while, I'm sure you'd agree that the old building was pretty run down. Not to mention, dark, cavernous and depressing. Libraries, at their best, should be portals to discovery, right?
My eleven-year-old daughter spent most of last weekend alone in her room, door shut. It wasn't a temper tantrum or an overwhelming need for tween privacy that led to her self-induced isolation, though. Instead, I didn't see her (except for meals) for two days because she was, in her words, "going through her closet."
Yes, the 2004 classic comedy Mean Girls is an absolutely delightful movie. But it's definitely not the smartest mother/daughter viewing as your child is about to enter her inaugural year of middle school.
Despite celebrating 30 years in business this year, Knowledge Unlimited Inc. remains relatively unknown in the community. Those concerned with closing the achievement gap in Madison's schools, however, may want to take note. This award-winning educational-materials producer, based in Middleton, is unique in emphasizing multiculturalism throughout its lines of educational posters, DVDs and children's books.