Book reports are the worst but reading is cool

These days, it’s hard to get my kiddos to succumb to an interview about why they liked a book.

(They aren’t as interested in my blog and there’s some attitude sneaking in. Help!)

So, I try to pay attention to what’s popular at my house.

In the last two months, Brad Meltzer’s “I am” books have made a resurgence. This was thanks to the school assignment to present on a famous woman or African-American at school.

Honestly, I hate these school reports. It’s a constant exercise in nagging and vigilance.

And even with these supreme parenting skills, I still found myself working on a PowerPoint when I had the flu in December. That’s right – lying in bed, looking up information on rocks, trying to make my kid do the work but get it done.

But I digress.

This last report was a little better because Rosa Parks (Calvin) and Helen Keller (Max) are pretty interesting. (Not that elements aren’t interesting.) It also revived their love for Meltzer’s books, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos.

Max and Calvin requested that I get ALL THE BOOKS from the library (we own a few). They couldn’t get enough.

“Who wouldn’t like them,” Max said. “They are addicting to read.”

Max and Meltzer

Max checks out the latest haul from the library.

Calvin had no comment but he would read these books in bed learning about Sacagawea, Billie Jean King, Neil Armstrong, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Lucille Ball and more.

I like these books because they often tackle tough subjects with a simple and straightforward approach. I’m pretty open with my kids about the tough stuff but sometimes a little help is welcome. Civil Rights is addressed in “I am Martin Luther King, Jr.” Gender equality in “I am Billie Jean King.” Slavery is discussed in “I am Abraham Lincoln” and “I am Lucille Ball” addresses how she persevered over a tough childhood.

That’s the beauty of these books. The subjects – Jackie Robinson, Jane Goodall, Albert Einstein – overcome obstacles and succeed.

I enjoy reading them myself. As Max says, who wouldn’t want to read them?

But I am happy summer is on the horizon and that means no more reports.

 

 

Using books for the tough stuff

Parenting can be heart wrenching.

Right?

A few weeks ago, Calvin and I were snuggling as I tucked him in for the night.

He shared some tough things. We all have tough days but to hear it from your seven-year-old…ouch!

He told me was sad because at recess his friends like to jump rope and he found it hard.

I took a deep breath and told my oldest twin, “You know what, Calvy? You had to learn how to walk TWICE and I bet none of the other kids did. You are really strong! But when you were sick, it might have made it hard to jump rope, but that’s ok. You’re still awesome and don’t forget that.”

Then I told Calvin that it was my job and his dad’s to take on the hard things, so he could go to sleep and forget about them. Ok, I didn’t make this one up – I borrowed it from an essay Glennon Doyle Melton wrote about an interaction with her son.
(Thank you, G!)

Calvin hugged me hard, seemed ok, and went to sleep.

I’m not bringing this up to show that I’m some superhero mom – because I’m not. We all have our stuff and one of Calvin’s is that he had a brain tumor at two and there are some residuals. But he and Max don’t remember or know the details (right now) and just live their lives.

I’m sharing this because I think parenting is tough and coming up with answers is hard and seeing your kids hurt is the most difficult of all. But maybe if we keep reading and sharing, we can all help each other.

After this happened, I thought about some of the books we’ve been reading. Many children’s books about famous people share the obstacles they’ve overcome.

Max and Calvin seem drawn to these books. My hope is that they are internalizing these messages.

Here are some of our favorites:

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Alta wants to be like Wilma Rudolph

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Frank Morrison. In this story, young Alta wants to be like her hero, Wilma Rudolph, the fastest woman in the world, from Alta’s hometown. Alta and her rival Charmaine, who has new shoes, eventually join forces and watch Wilma in a victory parade. Not only did Wilma overcome polio and poverty to become the fastest woman in 1960, as an African American athlete, she insisted that her homecoming events be integrated and open to everyone. (This story is important on so many levels and it’s Black History Month!)

Hello, My Name is Octicorn by Kevin Diller and Justin Lowe, illustrated by Binny Talib lures my kids in by its seemingly silly illustrations and subject matter. Who has ever heard of a half octopus, half unicorn? But sometimes it’s hard to be Octi – he’s the only of his kind and sometimes he gets left out because he’s different. He’s different on land and on sea. But Octi points out all the things he’s good at – making s’mores, eating cupcakes, and hugs. He makes a great friend.

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Octi’s family tree.

Brad Meltzer’s books have become a constant in our lives. After Calvin and I had the aforementioned conversation, we read his book I Am Helen Keller. The kids were pretty amazed by Helen’s achievements and there is braille in the book which they loved. I Am Albert Einstein shares that he wasn’t thought to be very bright! And even Lucille Ball had to be persistent. I Am Lucille Ball‘s  message helped me with something I was going through at the time.

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Great advice from Lucy.

“This isn’t a joke: Don’t let other people change you. Be true to who you are.”

My friend Ryan had a great suggestion for Calvin – trying to turn the rope for his friends. When I told Calvin this, I could see the wheels turning in his head. Whatever happens, I’ll keep trying to say the right thing and I’ll keep turning to books for help!