End of the Reading Streak

We’ve thrown in the towel.
Our almost-6-year-reading-streak has come to an end.
I’d love to say we went out with a bang,
or at least on a nice round number…
but the truth is,
We got busy… then tired… distracted and then we forgot a string of days
and that’s when we finally we gave up.

Read aloud #90:
by Lois Lowry

Read aloud #91:
“Gathering Blue”
by Lois Lowry

I wish we’d finished our 6th year.
Or made it through our 100th read aloud…
(to achieve that nice round number thing).

We didn’t.
We finally finished #91 back in April.
And decided we’d had enough.

But hey,
91 official read alouds over almost 6 years of daily reading is pretty darn good.
My goals were to
1.  Encourage my boys to read
2.  Share some of my old favorite books with them
3.  Give us something to do together everyday.

For the most part, I think we met those goals.
My older boy is going through a phase where he thinks he doesn’t like to read…
I’m hoping he’ll outgrow it.
The younger boy devours books daily.
I hope he continues this trend.
I did get to read many of my childhood favorites to them.
And all three of us loved our reading streak for a long time.
But the whole thing with kids is that everything is always changing.
One of our recent changes has been to end our reading streak.
But near-6-years is quite a chunk of reading together.
I’m proud of us.

Read Aloud #88 and #89

It dawned on me that my older boy will be leaving home in less than four years.
A bubble of panic started welling up.
Would he be ready?
Yes.  I’m sure he will.
Will I be ready?
Definitely not.
That day will surely break my heart a little.
What does he still need to learn before I cut him loose on the world?
What are the non-negotiables I still need to teach him?

The boys know how to clean the house.
They do their own laundry.
I suppose I should make them cook a few meals.
I’ve noticed they are scared of the stove…
But they can microwave the heck out of anything.
Functionally, I know they’ll be fine.
What about spiritually?

We’ve attended church all their lives.
They believe in God.
They know the concept of grace & salvation.
I’m not sure they really get it though.
Shoot, I’m just finally comprehending the nature of grace myself.
They’re still kids.
How deeply can they really understand?
How do I encourage them along on this road?

One morning over breakfast,
One of them flippantly stated he wasn’t sure he wanted to live forever.
He was trying for funny.
I couldn’t let it go as such.

I looked them both dead in the eye and said,
“Your choice is not IF you live for eternity.  It’s WHERE you spend it.”

And that’s the lead in to #88 and #89 of our read alouds.

Read aloud #88
The Screwtape Letters
by C.S. Lewis

Read aloud #89
The Great Divorce
by C.S. Lewis

Not our usual read aloud material.
But I was feeling the onus to cram a little wisdom into their hearts.
C.S. Lewis explains it so much better than I can.
Both books are full of truths I hope my boys will, in time, internalize.

If I had to choose one lesson for them to remember,
It is this quote from The Great Divorce:

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: 
those who say to God, “Thy will be done,”
and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” 
All that are in Hell, choose it.
Without that self-choice, there could be no Hell.
No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.
Those who seek find.
Those who knock it is opened.”

Read Aloud #87

Read aloud #87:
“Nurture Shock”
Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman

It was my turn to choose our book to read aloud.

“Nurture Shock” is the one parenting book I’ve ever read cover to cover.
I first read it when it came out in 2009.
It made a quite an impression on me.
So much so, that now that my boys are mature enough,
I insisted we not not only read the book aloud,
but we also discuss the contents of each chapter.
I also used each chapter discussion to explain my interpretation of the topic
how it affected my decision making for our family.

Why was this so important to me?

The bottom line is this:
I want my kids to understand the decisions I make as their mom.
They’re getting bigger.
One is in high school and the other in middle school.
They are starting to question me and to push back on some of my rules.

I always tell my boys that they don’t have to agree with me.
But while they are still home, they need to respect me and to obey me.
At the same time,
I don’t want them to think I make up rules on a whim.
I want them to know there is rhyme and reason to my decisions.
I want them to understand how much thought and care has gone into raising them.
And to have some inkling of what they will need to think about when it is their turn to be parents.

There was a lot of information in this book.
Which in turn generated quite a bit of conversation.
My hope is that some of what we talked will stick with them.
Because in just a few short years,
They’ll be out on their own.
And when that moment comes,
I hope…
I hope…
they will understand my whys  
be agreement with me
grow up to be the men we are trying to raise.

Read Aloud #86

Read aloud #86:
“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind”
William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.

This is true story we all should hear.
If you have the time,
please consider reading William Kamkwamba’s book.
If you prefer to hear him tell it himself,
you can find recordings of him on youtube.

My 9th grader was assigned to read this by his science teacher.
It came to my attention when he complained of the book making no sense.
Rather than leaving him to struggle through the reading alone,
I picked the book up and read it aloud to both my boys.

The first two chapters were indeed a challenge to read.
We had no context for the world, the lives and the superstitions being described.
I could see why a 14 year old American might rebel against the assignment.
But not on my watch.
We powered through those first two chapters.
I did my best discuss why the author started the book as he did and to try to build a connection between the life in Africa he was describing versus our own lives in America.
By chapter three,
we were immersed in William Kamkwamba’s tale.

It’s powerful, humbling and inspiring.
When I think of the hardships he lived through,
I am both shamed by our own excess and inspired by his perseverance.
I am especially touched by his words in the book’s epilogue:

“I hope this story finds its way to our brothers and sisters out there who are trying to elevate themselves and their communities, but who may feel discouraged by their poor situation.
I want them to know they’re not alone. 
By working together, we can help remove this burden of bad luck form their backs, just as I did, and use it to build a better future.”

Read Aloud #85

Read aloud #85:
The Moves Make the Man
by Bruce Brooks.

We broke our reading streak.
We skipped three days when I was out of town.
And then we completely forgot to read one day this weekend.

But we’re determined to read on anyway.
So what if it’s not hundreds of days in row.
We’ve decided we’ll do our best day by day.
And not beat ourselves up for the occasional missed day of reading.

As my boys grow older, it feels like we’re all running every which way.
The high school boy is gone by 6:30 am, home in the afternoon and then often back out again for sports.
The middle school boy has a later start to his day, but is not home til after 5pm.
I’m determined to make a go at being a “real” artist.
Which means lots of studio time and then a rush to get chores done and dinner cooked.
That quiet time to just be together and read?
Harder and harder to achieve.
But even more important to make that time to come together each day.

“The Moves Make the Man” is 6th grade assigned reading.
The front cover shows two boys playing basketball.
But the story itself is about so much more than that.

All three of us were completely drawn into this story.
We liked the main character, Jerome Foxworthy, ever so much.
We were furious for him when he wasn’t allowed to try out for the basketball team.
We grieved with him when his momma had that horrible accident.
We chuckled over some of his goofier interactions with his brothers.
Like Jerome, we were intrigued about Bix.
We actually speculated long and hard over what kind of diagnoses Bix needed.
We wanted to feel close to Bix.
But in the end, like Jerome, we had to let Bix go.

It’s a really powerful book.
And an excellent aloud.
Though if  you are considering reading this one aloud,
be warned that the author pulls no punches when it comes to racial slurs.
You may want to consider who else is around when you’re reading this aloud.

I never would have picked this book up on my own.
But I’m so glad this one landed on our reading pile.
Now it’s onto our next book –
More about that soon.

Read Aloud #84

Read aloud #84:
Lord of the Flies
William Golding.

Another school reading assignment.
I knew the story line.
But I never actually read it til now.

Oh boy.
It’s a tough one.
Golding’s characters felt so real.
Their chief, Ralph, who held tight to their true goal of rescue.
The annoying, righteous and loyal Piggy.
Clear sighted Simon.
Charismatic and obsessive Jack.

The boy, Jack, truly frightened me.
Because he genuinely didn’t care who he trampled so he could stay on top.
Because he was so focused on his own short term goal to hunt for meat,
but seemed incapable of understanding or caring about the true goal of keeping a signal fire.
He knew how to whip the other boys into a frenzy,
And was capable of cold blooded violence.
True, Jack is just a character in a book.
But it seems to me, that our own current events show that we have a Jack in charge.

I had a hard time reading this book aloud to my boys.
We didn’t want to hear about
the splintering of that small society,
the slide into savagery,
the deaths of Simon and Piggy.
The reality of the human condition behind the story.
Golding says it best:
“Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.”