Mama Madison: My summer book list

Incentives to start reading, for kids and parents alike

A little while back, a very literate friend of mine paid me a backhanded compliment that was perhaps meant to be high praise. "Sari," she said, "I think you are one of the only people I like who doesn't do much reading."

And she was right. Not just about me being likeable (I hope), but about my seeming inability to finish a book these days, as well. Things were different when I was growing up; I completed the entire canons of Judy Blume (okay, not Forever) and Sydney Taylor several times before I was 12. I went on to major in English in college.

But 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. Instead I caught up on back issues of US Weekly -- my current attention span is taxed by anything more challenging than the Kardashian wedding.

I don't know how Becky Holmes, of A Book a Week does it. I'm still working on a book a season.

My husband, on the other hand, has at least fifteen books going at once. If I stacked his current Piketty, poetry and Pulitzer Prize winners on top of each other, they might reach to the ceiling. And my oldest child takes after him. Just last month the kid asked for the works of Aristotle and Plato, among other ancient political philosophers, for his seventeenth birthday. He has his nose buried in a book just about all the time.

But my two younger children seem to have inherited my reading reticence. I can sometimes get my 14-year-old son to crack open an issue or two of Sports Illustrated right around Fantasy Football time, but besides school requirements, that's often all his reading for the year. And while my 12-year-old daughter shares my obsession with Judy Blume, she's pretty cautious about anything else. She claims it's out of fear that nothing can live up to Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. But I think it's really out of fear that books may infringe on her ability to incessantly post to Instagram.

The end of school is looming, though, and I know that if I don't do something summer slide -- the atrophy that can happen by letting a brain lie dormant from mid June through August -- is something I need to be concerned about. That's why I'm planning to get the kids involved in the Madison Public Library's Summer Reading Clubs that begin on June 2. Hopefully the clubs, which award prizes for finishing books, will give both of them, as well as me (there's an adult club, too) the necessary literary push we'll need this summer.

And to kick-off our newfound bibliophilia, we should plan to spend part of this coming Father's Day at Beyond the Page, a joint effort of the Dane County Library Service and Madison Community Foundation to create a permanent endowment that will support humanities programming in all 28 public libraries in Dane County -- forever.

And summer reading club registrations will also be available, of course.

So I guess I can catch up on the whole George Clooney getting married thing later. But for now, I hereby pledging my to finish I am Malala before I hit the dance floor of the Capital Brewery. Because I can't think of a better way to say "Happy Father's Day" than to honor my husband's good example when it comes to summer (and all-season) reading.

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