Sunday, August 22, 2010

Crooks and Kindling

He greeted us cheerfully, eagerly, grinning a too-wide smile before we were fully through the door. I eyed him warily, met his Cheshire grin with a steady look that politely said - don't even try it with me, Buster. His very presence was an affront to the beloved store we'd just entered. I announced, "C'mon, this way to the books!" (heavy emphasis.) I triumphantly marched by him, my posse of children and their adoring grandma in tow, straight to the back of the store where the magic of Eric Carle, Mo Willems and Mary Pope Osborne awaited us. He watched us go, sheepish, knowing he had nothing - nothing to offer us; slightly (hopefully) deflated, he returned to his position behind the Nook display and waited for his next target. He had to be lonely - there he stood, a veritable hot dog vendor in a sea of vegetarians.

I make no attempt at hiding my true feelings about the Nook and the Kindle. They are filthy words in my mouth; I prefer to call them what they really are - Crook and Kindling, for they steal paper-and-binding books out of people's hands and their only use might be kindling for a bonfire (Farenheit 651). I loathe them, I detest them, I despise them. Like the octogenarians of today who shun email and cling to stationary and stamps, I will be the 85 year old woman who refuses to give up my beloved, true, actual books. I vow, here and now, that I will never, ever own a Crook, Kindling, or anything else that threatens the existence of my beloved books.

Aidan has recently taken another giant leap forward in his reading. At the beginning of the summer, he could not read Osborne's Magic Treehouse books without a lot of support. He loved the stories, though, so Jeff and I spent many lazy summer afternoons reading the books aloud to him. Gradually, he started rereading the ones we'd read, gaining confidence - and comprehension - each time he decoded and fluently recited the words on the page. Then, suddenly, he was reading them fluently, with accurate comprehension, and completely independently. I was stressing one afternoon over the homework assignment we'd somehow managed to lose - a collection of words he was supposed to sort and practice spelling. The words were review, and very easy for him - cot, hot, lot, mat, hat, bat. After listening to him read Magic Treehouse without so much as pausing before reading "Pennsylvania," I decided we could stop stressing about the words. He was reading circles around "cot" and "hat"!

He can be a voracious reader. After school one day, I asked him if he wanted to help make banana bread with me and Leo - something he positively loves to do. "Not right now," he said. "I'm reading, and I just don't want to stop!!" "Really?" I asked incredulously. "Yes, Mom, I need to find out where Annie and Jack are going next!" I paused, relishing in the moment, letting it sink in to my permanent memory. He has arrived, I thought to myself. He has arrived at the discovery of the magic and power and love and lure of books.

I love the smell of books, the sound they make the first time you open them. I love books from the library; I always look at the dates stamped on the check out card to see when else this book was checked out, how many people had read it. I think about who they might be, and I wonder if they loved (or hated) the book as much as I did.

There are few purchases that bring me more pleasure than buying a book - book buying even beats a great sale on a fabulous outfit. Buying books feels indulgent and decadent, yet it also feels like I'm doing something really good for myself, since books make you smarter and more interesting. Books are cheap. I can take risks - try books beyond my usual preferences - with no regrets except possibly not liking it. Books don't come in one size only; I don't have to try them on, and I can share them with all my friends. Books aren't exclusive to age; although I can no longer pull off a onesie or a miniskirt, I certainly can still get lost in a Leo Lionni book or the latest adolescent read. Books decorate a shelf, add interest and personality to a room, act as coasters on a coffee table, and can be used by home dwellers in self-defense against creepy crawlies from the outside. I ask you, Dear Reader: can the Crook do all that? The Kindling?

The revered Thomas Jefferson aptly stated, "I cannot live without books." I cannot live without books, either. But I certainly will live without Crooks and Kindling. The score? We, the reader of true, real, actual books: 1. Them, the Crooks and Kindling peddlers -seller of that hated "n" word - Nook - 0.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sweet Tooth

(left in the tooth pillow under his pillow)

Dear Tooth Fairy,
Mommy accidentally put a brownie in the sandwich baggie that had my front tooth in it, and sent the brownie/tooth to work with my daddy. Will you still visit me tonight? Love, Aidan.

Dear Aidan,
Your mommy is so silly! Do not worry about not leaving the tooth. I have extras. Love, The Tooth Fairy.

P.S. Now that's what I call a sweet tooth!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dear Mrs. Jackson

Tomorrow we head off to Business Day at Aidan's elementary school to meet his first grade teacher, Mrs. Jackson. He is very excited to give her this letter that he wrote to her; when I was teaching full time, one of the last assignments my students did each year was to write a letter to their future teacher as a way of introducing themselves. Aidan loved this idea when I presented it to him, and worked hard and diligently to complete the letter. Aside from giving him the correct spelling of "Jackson" and except for a few reminders about spacing, this is 100% Aidan's work. (For those of you who might be a little rusty in reading first grade writing, it reads, Dear Mrs. Jackson, I am excited to be in your class. This summer I went on a airplane to California. Did you go on vacation? One of the things I like to do is read non-fiction books. See you on Tuesday. From, Aidan Carter.)

One year ago, Aidan was writing short, simple sentences and still practicing the letters of the alphabet. Even though I've had more exposure than most parents to the process of learning to write and read, this developmental milestone ceases to amaze me. I am so proud of Aidan for the writer he is, and the writer he is becoming.