Why It’s Important To Shut Up & Listen

Reading picture books is one of my favorite things to do. I can’t wait to read aloud to my students, I’d do it all day if I could.  I cherish the times Declan brings me a book to read to him and he snuggles on my lap. I even had a period in college when I would read bedtime stories to my roommates. What college student didn’t want to hear Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs?! But recently I’ve realized I read to my students and son so much I often don’t get the chance to listen to other people read books aloud.

Now, as a parent, I get to hear another take on many of my favorite books, through the eyes of my husband, Chris.  As he reads aloud I love to hear his interpretation on books I have read a million times.  I use to read Goodnight Gorilla to my nieces and we’d laugh at the end when the wife wakes up. But listening to it read by my husband he started to point out the balloon on the pages, because that’s what Declan liked at the time. And sure enough did you know that in almost every page of that book there is a balloon?! I had no idea. While reading the Airport Book by Lisa Brown he discussed with Declan how many of the characters have their own stories through the illustrations, that the biker bikes to the airport and then bikes away once he has his bike back from the luggage carousel. I have to be honest I never saw it.  

So, my take away, even though reading aloud is my favorite, sometimes it’s is just nice to just sit back and see someone else do it and you might learn (or see) something new!

The Journey…

My love of kid lit began as an undergraduate elementary education student during my very first introduction to children’s literature. My professor was amazing and ‘book talked’ at the beginning of each class to inspire us and develop a never ending love of books. Well it worked. I loved being a listener while she sang praises about the fantastically written and beautifully illustrated books she was sharing with us. After graduating my love for kid lit grew even more as I was getting ready to start my career as a second grade teacher. I was the newbie teacher spending copious amounts of money on new books. My husband couldn’t believe how much I was actually spending in my new career and sometimes there were words shared that weren’t as inspiring as my college professors.

Throughout my years of teaching my love for books continued to grow. With Courtney I went to the International Reading Association Conference and we came away with new ideas to change our teaching and of course bags full of books. Kim and I started our journey together as “tech nerds” (a name we enthusiastically gave ourselves). We shared a love for technology and we began discussing how we could integrate technology in meaningful ways with our students. We added “book lovers” to our self-named title once we started sharing about books we were reading with our students. Throughout the years we shared our love of technology and books through constant conversations, presenting at various conferences, becoming life-long friends and eventually Kim and I had our baby boys almost exactly one year apart. Soon after her son was born she began taking a picture a day of reading with her son and excitedly told me about her new hashtag #dsbookaday. I shared in her excitement and told her I was sad I didn’t start taking pictures beginning a year earlier of my son, but nonetheless I started taking pictures the next day with my own hashtag #jsbookaday.

I now have two young boys, a three year old and a seven month old, who I share a love of children’s literature with and take pictures daily of our reading experiences. My husband, someone who didn’t read himself as a young child, has grown to love children’s books, maybe as much as me. He has so much fun reading books to our little guys and he now says to me, “we need more of ______ books!” and he has jumped on board taking pictures of me reading with our boys when I can’t or when the picture just looks better without the selfie view.

I’d like to say that I am now much more frugal about spending money on books but actually nowadays I’m spending more money, more frequently. I can’t look at Twitter or Instagram without adding at least 5 books to my Amazon cart to later buy (while hopefully supporting a local bookstore). But it’s not about the money, it’s about the experiences, conversations and connections we have while reading. It is our book experiences that inspire discussions about friendship, love, math concepts, word knowledge, rhyming, diversity, creativity, art, inspiration, etc. with our three year old and seven month old. And what better way to teach a child about life than through amazing literature? I am proud that my obsession with kid lit has had a huge impact on how my husband and my sons view reading and I hope this will only continue. My reason behind wanting to write this blog with two wonderful friends is to maybe bring you a bit of inspiration like my college professor did for me, send some new titles your way and share or make connections to your book experiences.  

Hidden Gems

I cannot remember the last time I bought myself a new book, or even stood perusing the shelves at the library, looking for my next treasure. My trips to the library are now spent primarily in the children’s section, where we pick a handful of books, convincing my three year old that no, we are not getting a Barbie movie for movie night, and lastly running past the new fiction section where I grab three or four books that look interesting based on the blur of the cover as I chase after a toddler with a hungry baby. I’ll have time to read the flaps at home and see if any of them sound interesting. It’s like playing the book lottery, so far with minimal success. But despite my failed attempts, this works wonders in the children’s department, so I’m not ready to give up on my strategy just yet.

On most visits, I push the stroller into the mural-covered room with a general idea of what to get based on which author has a new book out, which title I read about, a book that was previewed at school, etc. But my daughter wants nothing to do with my input, no surprise there. Instead she randomly pulls books from the shelf, not even bothering to give the cover a look, and throws them in the bottom of our stroller. These are the books we are taking home no matter how much I pitch an alternative. And you know what? We have found some real gems this way. Don’t get me wrong, it has also led us to some utter fails, but it has also provided a variety that perhaps even my guidance wouldn’t have given her. This week alone I’ve become an expert on hayrides, autumn, and bats. And If I’ve learned a thing or two, you can imagine that the sponge that exists between her ears has, as well.

So the next time you are looking for a book, have a little faith, and approach it like a three year old. You might just be surprised with what you find.

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Thanks for Reading….

I’ve been anxious for a while about my first blog entry. Should I write about how Declan pulled out Press Here and screamed so loud at the part where he had to tap the page 5 times, or about how I got to meet the very funny and inspiring Maggie Beadie Roberts, co-author of DIY Literacy. Nope, instead I’m taking advice from a seasoned blogger, Pernille Ripp, who I chatted with at a tech conference this summer. Her advice was to write from your heart and what matters to me. And at this moment what matters is my two co-blogger authors, Courtney and Ashley. They both started as professional friends, which quickly turned into personal friends.  We used to see each other on a daily basis as we taught in the same school, but now Courtney moved to a different school and I moved to a different state.  It is nice to know that every few days we text or email to check in. But one of the special parts of our relationship centers around literacy. We are all elementary teachers and have a passion for finding the best kids lit out there. I was so excited to text Ashley the moment I read The Thank You Book, wow, what an ending! (Get all elephant and piggie books if you haven’t already). Also, my Instagram notifications go off each day with Ashley’s post about her two sons’ book interactions.  I smile at their cuteness and often write the titles down to read to Declan. This year, Courtney and I both taught 3rd grade. During the school year, I would text her for advice or offer mine. “What’s your next read aloud?”  or “I just finished Fenway and Hattie, you should read that to your kids!”. On the flip side, I was the first person Courtney texted when she got to meet and chat with Oliver Jeffers. He’s quite a celebrity in our book (and cute too).  So as I go on and on about Ashley and Courtney I want them to know that I value our friendship, but having the same passion of kid lit together has continued to drive my engine to find out more, read more, and share more! I hope if you are reading this that you will enjoy this journey the three of us are taking together.