February 25, 2016

It's the end of the week, and it was one of the weeks where I felt like writing a book of all of the things I was forced to say as a teacher and as a parent. I, in no way, have the energy to write a book about anything right now, but here's a top-ten list:

"Please stop barking. We can't hear the video."

"Do we ninja-kick chairs? No, I don't think we ninja-kick chairs."

"Why can't you use my scissors? Because no one in her right mind would trust you with a pair of big-girl scissors".

"Rubbing your body parts on that does not make it yours."

"I had planned to grade your essays today, but I was way too busy giving a lecture on paper/pencil management."

"Nose picking is my favorite thing ever! Why use a tissue when you can go knuckle deep!" (Apparently you are not supposed to use sarcasm in the classroom...such a pity)

The next person to talk during our silent reading time is going to be the all-time winder of the Nope-bel Peace Prize!!!"

"I've been talking to you about how unhealthy McDonald's is for your whole entire life, but now that the lady who comes to school to talk about the importance of hand washing says McDonald's is not healthy, by all means, stop eating it."

"I know how hard you must be working to help Simon learn to not say the F-word in front of his grandparents" (said about a 3-year-old)


"It would be completely fine with us if you married another boy instead of a girl, but we'd be pretty disappointed with you if you did so in order to gain another set of XBOX controllers."


February 21, 2016

     As I write this post, I am making the most awesome discovery ever. But first...I will catch you up.

     Every night, time permitting, I read aloud to my two boys, Rabbit (9) and Hippo (7). I do this for many reasons. Both of them need it, first of all. One of them truly struggles with reading, and the other one truly struggles with finding the motivation to read. I consider this nightly reading time equivalent to forcing my children to eat organic kale after a day full of sugary, processed foods. It has to do SOME good and wipe away SOME bad, right? This is what I'm thinking.
     One of the most important reasons I have for committing to this reading time is that perhaps it will inspire them to, someday, choose some decent books to read on their own. To this end, I allow them to do some of the choosing (while also surrounding them with book choices that are not THAT bad). There is always, of course, the school library...and even better...school book fairs. Don't get me wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the school library or the book fair. I actually love these two opportunities for kids to make their own reading selections. It can be assumed, however, that neither of my children will ever come home with a book bearing a metal on the cover. They search as if they have been programmed with certain tag words and phrases: Lego, Bionicle, Star Wars, Easy Reader, Diaper, Captain, and Underpants. I actually read one of these books that came home from the book fair during our reading time. I'm not sure what happened. I'm fairly certain that I read at a level higher than the reading level of the "good captain", but about two minutes into reading it, I heard, "Wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-waaaaaaaaaaah...", and it was coming from ME. I just couldn't stay with it. By the end of the first chapter, I just didn't get it. No clue. Had the boys given me comprehension questions, I would have failed. Miserably.
     This made me think about the fact that it wouldn't be a bad idea to use this reading time as a time to turn them on to a new series they might enjoy on their own. Of course, I reached for Diary of a Wimpy Kid first, and both kids immediately decided they weren't into it (we have tested them to ensure they are human boys...testing was inconclusive). but really, there's something to be said for a good series. It hooks the reader and can do wonders for a reluctant reader. it was Hippo who found My Life As A Book.

     My Life As A Book was written by Janet Tashjian and illustrated by her 14-year-old son, Jake Tashjian. While the book follows standard chapter book form, Derek, the 12-year-old main character, states in the beginning of the book, that he often has difficulty with reading and other school-related tasks, so he keeps a running journal of illustrations that depict the vocabulary words he finds challenging. Unfortunately, Derek's struggle with reading and his love for mischief and adventure combined, do not cultivate a love of learning. This was a relatable topic in my house and may hit close to home in other families. 
     Summer comes, and Derek is looking forward to randomly decorating the bushes outside his house with Christmas decorations (seriously, I died laughing as I read this) and other reckless adventures with his buddy, Matt, and his dog, Bodi, when he discovers a family secret in the attic. Just when Derek thinks he has a plan to uncover the truth behind this family secret, his parents send him off to Learning Camp. Learning Camp comes complete with unexpected friendships and a path to even more discoveries.
     This Bank Street "Best Book of the Year" was loved by all of us AND can be followed up with My Life As A Stuntboy, My Life As A Gamer, My Life As A Cartoonist, and My Life As A Joke. Nothing is better than learning a book you loved is the first part of an awesome sequel! 

February 14, 2016

How Am I Going To Get My Kids To Read...TODAY?

     "Rabbit! Turn that off. It's time to do your reading."
     "Not today..."
     "Yes today! You didn't do it yesterday, because you claimed it was a holiday. It wasn't, by the way...I realize holidays OFTEN fall on Mondays, but not this Monday, chief! This time a Monday was just a Monday...and you missed it. As far as I know, the only holiday you can claim yesterday to be is "THE DAY YOU SHIRKED ALL OF YOUR PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITIES, MOST NOTABLY TO YOUR MOTHER, A READING TEACHER, THE 30 MINUTES OF READING YOU ARE REQUIRED TO DO EACH DAY....AN ACTIVITY WHICH ENCOURAGING YOU TO DO IS LIKE PULLING TEETH!" That is the only holiday yesterday could possibly have been".
     (Barely moving his eyes from the screen) "Right, well today is DEFINITELY a holiday. It's Tuesday. The only Tuesday we will have all week."

     I turn to the seven-year-old, hoping that he will be slightly more willing.
     "Hippo, it's time for your 30 minutes of reading."
     "Ok, I'll get my book."
     One minute of upstairs silence...
     Two minutes of upstairs silence.....
     Three minutes of upstairs silence. Ok. I'll bite.
     "Hippo? Were you planning on...comping DOWNSTAIRS with that book? Is that what you meant?"
     Silence...a very faint sound of two plastic edges coming together in a Lego union...
     My feet hit the stairs, I fly to the top and land in the Hippo's room, barefoot, directly on to the beginning of the Lego firewall currently providing his room with Fort Knox security.
     "Arghghghyah! Wha! Ah! T! Happened to going upstairs to get a book?!"
     "I did, but then I noticed that the wizard didn't have a hat. The hat kind of makes the wizard, so I dumped out all of the other Legos in every other bin in my room to find the wizard's hat".
     Oh, no...not because it's over, but because I just can't take any more. Not one. more. second.
     In no way do I want to get this blog off on the wrong foot. The Zoo Librarian is all about all of the wonderful books we should be reading with our kids. I just want it to be understood that getting our kids to actually BE READERS in a world full of much more tempting distractions is really, really challenging even for those of us who are supposed to have a toolbox full of strategies.
     How do you get your kids to be readers?