Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


"...But this is not a fairy tale.  This is about REAL WITCHES..."

Alex's eyes got so huge that for a moment I second-guessed my choice of bedtime book.  But my literally captive audience hung on every word, and I realized that for quite possibly the first time since the boys discovered that the definition of "brother" is "ready-made backseat best friend," Kirk and I did not have to spend the majority of the ride home from the library issuing reminders like, "How many times do I have to tell you, you guys can't be that loud in the car?!"  In that moment, I stood firm in my decision: Roald Dahl's The Witches.

It took a few convergent paths to arrive at this moment.

1.  The bedtime story path: We read a bedtime story to the kids almost every night.  They have their favorites.  Are You My Mother?  They love to take turns saying SNORT.  Snug House, Bug House.  Pretty sure they have that one memorized.  I have my favorites.  Fox in Socks.  The tweetle beetle battle is just so fun to read.  And I know that the repetition of familiar books is good for little minds.

But it is so boring for can't-sit-still-anyway moms like me.  Instead of enjoying the reading time, I zone out - mouth reading words while brain organizes tomorrow's schedule - and I know I'm missing out on precious time.

2.  The library path: A few weeks ago on the way home from school, I told Adam I needed to stop at the library to drop off some overdue items (that's how I roll).  "Oh, Mom... can we go in?" he asked.  We actually had a pretty full evening planned, but I'm pretty pro-library, so we stole a few minutes to go in and look around.  Adam chose a couple of books and movies, and I happened past a book which caught my attention.  "Roald Dahl," it said in large letters across the top.  The title read, Vile Verses, and knowing that Roald Dahl's works belong in two categories: children's books and SO NOT CHILDREN'S BOOKS, I cracked the cover for a quick double check.  Goldilocks.  Veruca Salt.  Snow White.  We're good.

I took the book home and read from it nightly for the three weeks it was ours.  The boys enjoyed choosing the poems, and they were short enough that I could read two or three on some nights.  Kirk enjoyed listening to Dahl's depiction of Goldilock's fat behind.  I enjoyed reading words I hadn't read thirteen million times.  And I remembered how much I love Roald Dahl.

3.  The Roald Dahl path: I always loved reading.  My first memory is of being four years old and flying from Utah to Ohio.  I don't remember the plane.  I don't remember my uncle's funeral (the reason for the flight).  But I clearly recall the feeling of utter despair when I realized I'd left my bag of books on the plane.  But when I read Roald Dahl, the love became more of an obsession.  The BFG was the first book I read cover-to-cover without stopping for more than a meal or bathroom break, and I remember the feeling of satisfaction when I placed the book on top of my dresser.  Finished.  I devoured all of his children's books, loving each, and was elated in sixth grade when I realized I'd missed one.  Danny, the  Champion of the World did not disappoint!

4.  The reading group path: At the beginning of the school year, Adam's reading was iffy.  He was well above what was expected in his public kindergarten but under his true potential and grade level at NPA.  In fact, he was put in a lower math group because he couldn't read the story problems well enough to keep up.  Thankfully, with great reading teachers and dedication to reading 15 minutes every night, his reading has skyrocketed.  In November, he moved math groups, with reading no longer a hindrance.  This week, he's moved reading groups, and I'm confident that in Mrs. Neff's group, he's just going to continue to soar.

In September, his 15 minutes got him painfully through a few pages of One Fish, Two Fish, or a similar book.  By November, he could make it through its entirety in 15 minutes.  Now, he's devoured every children's book we own, and he rolls his eyes when he finishes a book and the response to "How long have I been reading?" is "Four minutes, dude."

His Grandma Casdorph, wonderfully accessible at school since she teaches across the hall from me, told Adam to come visit her classroom if he got moved up a reading group.  She wants to introduce him to the Boxcar Children series.  I'd already suggested to him that it's probably time to replace his evening Dr. Seuss with some chapter books, so he was up for the idea.

We haven't had a chance to meet with Grandma yet, but we did take a trip to the library last night.  I carefully perused the YE section: the early readers.  I looked at the library's suggested list for 1st graders, and there was not a thing that would have kept Adam busy for a full 15 minutes.  Inexplicably proud, I left the YE section and ventured into a whole new area: YF.  I found the Boxcar series, and while I think Adam is fully capable, the sheer volume of words per page seemed a bit daunting.  Referencing the latter half of the libary's second grade list, I settled on Pirates Eat Porridge, and Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs.  I'm mentally working on a great reward for the first chapter book finished.

5.  The Read It First pledge path: A friend of mine has a badge on her blog which means she committed to always read the book first before seeing a book-based movie.  I love this idea.  I haven't pledged {yet} but the idea is firmly rooted in my mind.  Especially in this era when great books become great movies so very quickly, it really does take commitment to read before watching.  In pondering ideas to make reading seem really awesome at our house, I thought about reading books to the boys which have been made into movies.  We can read the book together, then watch the movie together, possibly forging some sort of subconscious Read It First.  It'll just be the way it is.

And all of that comes from setting a good example at home.  I figured we could also support Adam's transition by reading our bedtime books over the course of several nights.  So all the paths led to me sitting at the library, five Roald Dahl books in hand, asking Alex to pick which book I would be reading to them.  He picked The Witches, but I couldn't stop myself from bringing home a gorgeously old copy of The BFG for which I may end up just paying the replacement fine, because I'm not sure I'll have the willpower to return it.  I mean - it comes with a bookmark!

So there it is.  The long tale of how it came to be that my boys are anxiously awaiting further discoveries about REAL WITCHES.  Of how it came to be that I can't wait for story time tonight so I can share the joy of reading with my boys.  And if Alex has nightmares about witches, I guess we'll have a story for that, too.