A Reading Summer 

Summer has officially started for my three sons since Friday was the last day of school. We celebrated with them, but my husband and I also have been anxious to figure out what we will do to keep them busy and active and learning this summer. This is not always the simplest of tasks. 🙂

One of the biggest things that we would like to focus on for our twins is reading since their school year was a challenge to meet the required minimum level. We would love to see them start off the new year without falling back on any levels, but our biggest hope is that with a good solid push over the summer, they may start the new year ahead. 

In addition to seeking out other activities to keep them physically active, one of our goals this weekend was to find some academically challenging workbooks and get them going on books to read. I was very happy to find this fantastic workbook that takes them week by week through the summer with ideas for learning activities, suggested reading, and then many pages of exercises in reading, writing and math. Included with the exercises is a rewards system of stickers and certificates, so we have a great way to offer incentives. 

For my gifted and talented oldest son, I skipped the workbook for his grade level and picked out a few logic and puzzle books. His teacher also gave her class a lovely Brain Teaser packet full of logic problems for the summer. He may not have been fired up for it, but his dad and I thought it was great! 

Speaking of great teachers who help over the summer, one of the twins’ teachers offers a bookmobile service over the summer where she will meet us at the school once a week on a designated day and at a specific time to bring some leveled reader books to kids that are needing a little extra help over the summer. What a gift! You gotta love teachers! 

We also have a fantastic library near us that works in conjunction with the schools to push a summer reading program, so we signed up the whole family for the summer reading challenge – me and my husband included! To get them started on it, I took my twins in today and they got their first library cards! We have been to the library there for years but I didn’t realize until recently that they could have their own cards. I thought they were excited, though one of them promptly set his down on the floor to pick something up and forgot all about it. So, maybe not. 😉

Everyone got new books this weekend and everyone is signed up for the summer reading program and everyone is committing to read. This will be our Summer of Reading, and I must tell you I, at least, am very excited for it! 

How about you? Will you be reading this summer? Have kids you are working on reading with? What did you do to keep them reading? 

Thanks for stopping by and have a great week! 

~CJS

Hey Mom, You Should Read This

My super smart, super wonderful 8 year old son (and no, I am not at all biased! 🙂 ) gave me his first serious book recommendation this week. At the time, I was tired, and more than a little overwhelmed with all the STUFF there is to get accomplished and to worry about, so I’ll be honest, at first, I didn’t really give a lot of thought to what that meant to me. But I have thought about it since and decided it was worth a middle of the week bonus blog post to share.

My husband and I are both serious readers. As a writer, it’s an essential job tool, but it is also simply one of my absolute favorite things. For as long as I can remember I have loved to read, so I have always tried to pass along this lifelong love of reading to my three young sons.

Their dad and I have tried to make it a point to always let the boys see us reading. I even make an effort to check out actual books from the library or buy real books at the book store instead of reading all books on my Kindle. My kids are smart enough to know that mommy may be looking at pictures of Tom Hiddleston instead of reading a book on her Kindle. (Don’t you judge me. 😉 ) But also, going to the library for books and buying books at the bookstore are part of the joy for me.

We’ve also always read to them, both for school and just as part of bedtime. When they were babies I remember reading something that said it didn’t matter what you read to your kids, it could even be the sports page, as long as you were reading to them, it would benefit them. I proceeded to read them all the Harry Potter books before they were able to walk. I’m certain this benefitted them greatly.

Here’s what happened that made me realize that I must be doing something right.

My family made a special adventure to the ginormous Half Price Books flagship store in Dallas. The place is seriously really huge and packed full of wonderful goodness. While we were there, we gave the boys a limit on how many books they could get and then did our best to manage the giddy excitement of finding new books.

For my twins, who are 6, this meant superhero books mostly. My oldest twin thoughtfully picked up a Thor book with Loki in it for mommy. He’s a sweet kid.

My oldest’s priority was sports books, specifically football, but then he wanted to look at chapter books. While looking, he found the section with graphic novels. He then became very excited and wanted to find this “awesome” book he’d read at school.

I am not sure if this was through the school library or in the classroom possibly, but he had read Zita The Space Girl. Seeing all the books like the one he wanted, he decided we had to get it.

So the search began.

Thanks to the greatness that is having all answers readily available on a trusty iPhone, I was able to find the author’s name (Ben Hatke) and begin looking for the book. The Half Price Books’ employee was very kind but had not heard of the book, so we did our own search, and -miracle of miracles- found the one copy they had in stock!

The book went home with us (along with many others) and my son read it the next day. He then had my husband read it. He then repeatedly told me I needed to read it, going so far as to set it alongside my other books piled up on the nightstand by the bed. Then, and I am not exaggerating here, actually nudged me with the thing while we were all piled in bed watching TV. Evidently I was not reading it as soon as I should.

So after the kids went to bed, I kept my promise and read the book.

I will admit here that I was not excited. I haven’t paid much attention to graphic novels. I told myself, though, that I would at least start taking a look at it.

It turned out though that my son was right. The book is awesome. The pictures are engaging and lovely. The characters are well defined and interesting. And it left me wanting more.

The next day, driving to work, I started thinking about it all. I thought how cool it was that my son cared enough about a book he read to seek it out and them to recommend it to others.

Isn’t that what I want? I have a child who was passionate about something that means a lot to me – a book – and then shared that with me. What an amazing gift.

I am thankful I opened my eyes to see it.

Being in a Good Writer’s Group

In a recent comment on this blog, a friend asked some really great questions about what I like about my writer’s group. Her experience had not been as good as mine. Her questions started me thinking how fortunate I have been. So I thought I’d share in greater detail how I came to be in the group that I belong to and share a little bit about my experience so far.

I’ve belonged to my writer’s group since January of 2013. I joined because – you guessed it – I had made a resolution to actually finish something I had started writing. I found the group on the local library webpage under the calendar of events. I considered going for awhile before I actually plucked up the courage to go.

With my resolution I made myself take that first leap into acknowledging myself as a writer by checking out the group. Fortunately for me, I walked into a really great group.

My group meets twice a month on Sundays at the local library. Years ago, the library asked a writer (and editor for a small press) to moderate the group. Amanda S. Green has knowledge of the industry and the experience as both fellow writer and as editor to share with the group. Her books are smart and fun. I would recommend reading both her Nocturnal Lives books and her Hunters Moon series as Ellie Ferguson.

I would also absolutely say that a large part of the success of our small group is due to the excellent moderation provided by her as the group’s leader.

New members are always more than welcome and are greeted with a quick rundown of what the group is about and what to expect should you choose to join. It’s clear from the beginning that the group provides thoughtful critique of work submitted, and encouragement as needed, but is not about negative commentary that is not constructive.

New members are also not immediately able to access the work of the group. Newbies need to attend a few meetings before they can access our works in progress, so we feel our work is well protected.

Meetings usually consist of general discussion about what is going on in the always changing world of publishing, as well as critiquing of work submitted.

I haven’t submitted much for critique but I always get a lot out of meetings anyway just listening to suggestions for how to improve what has been submitted.

The group is a mix of both published and unpublished writers. Our work is varied, including poetry, essays, a small amount of non-fiction and lots of short stories and novels.

Many genres are represented, from literary fiction to horror to romance to urban fantasy. Having writers from other genres reading your work has its benefits. Amanda points out how it keeps us from relying too much on the tropes within the genre. For me, I always see how despite the genre, the writing should have a lot of the same quality characteristics. Regardless of genre, you should show and not tell, for example. But we have covered many little details that make up solid writing skills. I always learn general writing concepts that are helping to make me a better writer.

Probably one of the best things about my group, and what I would recommend you seek out if looking for your own group, is that it is very low drama. No one seems to treat anyone in the group with an air of superiority, regardless of their level of success. Everyone gives support and encouragement as we all are working to be better writers – even the ones who have novels or books already published. We all acknowledge there is work to be done and improvement to be made.

Perhaps that in itself is the most comforting part of being in a good group, just the community of other writers all working toward the same goal. To be better.

I know I am.