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
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?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.