TV and movies can be valuable, but I think that we are neglecting a very important channel that we can use for these ongoing discussions and common experiences. That channel is books. The problem is that for us to really have a shared experience, we have to read what they are reading, or at the very least, ask them about what they are reading.
This summer, I wanted to make a concerted effort to read with my daughter. She is an avid reader, but I still try to read aloud with her at night. A few of the books that we've read have been new to both of us, but some were books that I read as a child (the Little House series, and Mandy, which she loved as much as I remembered loving it). I had seen several recommendations for the book The Penderwicks.
I wanted to read it first, because I thought it might be a little too old for her. However, I find that I can read books aloud to her that might be just a bit above her reading level, as long as the story is appropriate. Well, I loved this book as soon as I started it! She is a strong reader for a second grader, so she's actually reading it on her own, but I think it would be appropriate to read aloud to ages six or seven and up (all the way up to young teens). My complete review of the book is here.
I have written a little question/discussion guide to go along with the book. I think that the book opens doors to talk about your own childhood, and the way your family is now. My goal is that the whole family could be involved in the discussions, even if the whole family isn't involved in reading it. For example, a four year old wouldn't be interested in the story, but could answer the question, "What was a really great day your family spent together?" Same goes with the husbands. If they want to be a part of reading aloud, or want to read the book on their own, great. Terry doesn't share my appreciation for children's literature, but he can still participate in the discussions when asked, "What is something that each member of your family does well?"
You can introduce this to your family in several ways:
- The least involved is to have your child read the book, and tell you about it as you go through the questions with them.
- You can each read the book independently and discuss the questions (after every chapter, or every few chapters, depending on how fast they are reading through it).
- You can read the book aloud as a family, discussing the questions at the end of each chapter. I noticed that there is also an unabridged Audio CD version, which could be a great alternative to TV or a way to bide time on a long car trip, when you have a captive audience.
You can email me if you would like a copy of the questions(jennifer(DOT)snapshotATyahoo(DOT)com). I would love to share them, but if you do request a copy of the questions, I would also ask that you give feedback on them. When I send the questions, I will also send feedback that I would appreciate. I would also ask that instead of passing them along, you would simply direct the person to this entry, so that they can read the idea behind them, and so that I know who has the copies.
If you've successfully done something like this in your family, please leave a comment and let me know. I am looking for new books to read together and write about. Even if you don't choose to read this book, I hope that you will think of ways that you can encourage your child to read this summer and throughout the year.