For those of you unfamiliar, Book Bowl is a Madison public school rite of passage. The voluntary contest, designed to encourage kids to read more and explore new genres, begins in fourth grade. The kids pick their own teams, usually of four, and begin the sometimes daunting task of finishing 16 fiction titles in preparation for a "Quiz Bowl"-style literary smackdown in early March.
My oldest never did Book Bowl. He was an all-non-fiction-all-the-time kind of guy and certainly didn't want any "pesky" (my word, his sentiment) adult telling him what kinds of books he should be reading for pleasure. But the kid already had Steven Ambrose's Band of Brothers on his nightstand and Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals half finished under his bed. Sure, I wouldn't have minded him stretching a bit and considering a topic that didn't involve the United States' presidency or one of the World Wars. But I chose not to meddle.
For son number two though, Book Bowl was the highlight of his elementary school experience. Two years later, I am still not sure which of his friends convinced him to compete, but I owe that boy a big thank-you. My kid was not what you'd call a voracious reader. I'd have assumed he'd be the kid picked last for a Book Bowl team. Kind of like me for grade school kickball.
I owe even bigger thanks to whichever kid had the genius idea to invite the boy with the librarian mom to be on their team. That woman, a saint, divided up the books among the boys, had them reading an additional few for "back-up", and invited the team over every Monday during the "training period" for cookies, milk and book discussions.
The boys worked hard. They did the all their assigned readings and then some. They learned to spell authors names, like Patricia C. McKissack, with the appropriate upper case M and lower case c. Precision counts in the world of competitive reading.
I think it was the first time my son genuinely realized that there was very little he couldn't do well if he chose to put in the time. It wasn't quite Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours . But it was enough to bring home the Randall Elementary championship.
Having been inspired, or at least envious, of her brother's success, my daughter, a light reader herself, chose to participate this past week in the "Bowl". I hoped she too would discover that working beyond your comfort zone is a good thing. That, and that reading quietly without the constant blare of the Disney Channel in the background can really help with comprehension.
But no such luck. She and her teammates divided up the 16 books evenly, four books per girl. I guess I should have been happy that their rudimentary division skills were okay. But none of them had much desire to read even a page beyond the bare minimum. And I think they got together only once to prepare during which time they discussed Selena Gomez's post-Wizards of Waverly Place career options as opposed to the actual books.
Come Book Bowl morning, my daughter's worst fears were realized. One of her teammates was sick. It was down to three of them to hope and pray that the questions they would receive would be about the books they'd actually read. But unfortunately question #1 was from the sickie's book, as was question #2 and question #8. And given that they grew up in the post-Gloria Steinem era, neither my daughter, nor any of her teammates, could seem to remember that the title of E.L. Konigsberg's 1967 Newbury award-winning book was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, not Ms.
So when it came time for the librarian Master of Ceremonies to announce the winners, they already knew. It definitely wasn't them. It is entirely possible her team, "The Intergalactic Flying Bagels" (they could have won for best name), had come in dead last.
My daughter was bummed. But we discussed that while I was very proud of her for participating (it was voluntary, after all), each member of her team hadn't read all the books. She hadn't done title-spelling drills or participated in plotline discussions. She hadn't worked her hardest. She probably didn't deserve to win.
But she discovered, as is true with so many lessons, that sometimes it's not just what you learn inside, but outside the book as well, that ends up mattering the most.comments powered by Disqus
New Year's resolutions are hard to keep. In fact, something around 90% of people fail every year! But one way that you can increase your odds of victory is to get other people involved.
Like many parents, I look at the wide world around my kids and do my best to prepare them for life. We talk about working hard, being kind and responsible, Internet safety, stranger danger, and the (gulp) birds and the bees. But what about a topic such as race?
If you're like me, looking around your house in the weeks before Christmas will probably have you convinced that the last thing your kids need to find underneath the tree is a pile of new toys.
I spend a lot of time talking to my kids about how lucky we are to have what we have. Though our house is tiny and our van is unequipped with automatic doors, we have all we could ever need, and a lot of what we want.
On the evening of Nov. 6, a throng of people gathered at Monona Terrace. They were there to attend an impressive anniversary shindig, but the real buzz of excitement centered on the event's guest of honor.
You may call them "play dates," but I like the term "mom dates," especially since my kids are still too young to really care that there's another small person to squabble over toys with.
If there is an excuse for not working out and eating healthy, I have used it: I don't have time. I'm too tired. I'll start tomorrow. I'm no good at this, I give up. I don't know where to start. Yes, I have used all of these and more.
At almost a year old, my kids are in the blissful stage of life where they'll eat nearly anything that I put in front of them (at least as long as it doesn't require much in the way of molar action).
My family recently went through something that we have not experienced in over eight years. We have become a household that no longer harbors a crib or a changing table.
"There really is no wrong way to do it." That's how Madeline, age 13, describes creating artwork. She and her classmates at Prairie View Middle School in Sun Prairie are honing their artistic skills by participating in the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art's Art on Tour program.
I'm having trouble enjoying the season, because I can't keep myself from thinking about the miserable weather that's sure to be following close on the heels of the crisp, pleasant fall we've been having. I am not at all emotionally prepared to be the parent of two toddlers during a Wisconsin winter.
I've always been a supporter of companies that empower women and girls, and when the creator of such a company is a fellow Wisconsinite, I get even more excited. When Melissa Wardy of Janesville got fed up with stereotypes found in clothing for girls, she started her own company.
Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.
At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.
Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"
After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?