A Latter-day Bluestocking

For the love of reading

Category: Education

My Dictionary is Bigger Than Your Dictionary!

No, really, it is.

I picked up this lovely baby at my son’s school.  They had to find a good home for it because the elementary school is too small and they do not have a library to keep it.  It’s beautiful and the moment I laid eyes on it I was in love and offered to take it off their hands.

It is an unabridged Webster’s New International Dictionary (Second Edition) from 1956.  So now it’s in my apartment with no real place to call home (it lives on the dining room table).  But I figure one day I’ll find a used library stand at a yard sale or thrift shop.

I love my new (to me) dictionary.

Drop Everything and Go Get a Library Card

New York Public Library Reading Room

Yesterday was, apparently, National Buy A Book Day.  Oh well, missed that.  But not to worry because the American Library Association (ALA) has declared September to be Library Card Sign-Up month.  So, if you don’t already have one go to your nearest library and apply for one.  They are free and give you access to myriads of books and other media.  And for all you parents out there:  Hands down, it’s the most important and inexpensive school supply you can get your children!

Books Should Never be Banned, EVER!

1933 May 10 Berlin book burning -- taken from ...

Image via Wikipedia

I just read an article at Care2.com entitled “Student Runs Secret Banned Books Library from Locker” which needs no explanation.  I, for one, could go hours ranting about this one.  Once in high school I had an English teacher who passed out a list of past and present books that had been banned.  This list included The Wizard of Oz, The Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, and The Great Gatsby!  I remember being horrified and asked myself what could possibly have been in these books so subversive that we, the American reading public had to be protected.  My horror turned to anger and abhorrence when I discovered that my school library had banned all Judy Blume books which recount tastefully and poignantly the concerns of adolescent girls.  I decided right then and there to embark on my own personal crusade to read every book on that list.

That was the extent of my militancy and I have to say my interest flagged after a while because many of the books didn’t pique my interest enough.  So when I read this article describing a Catholic school student’s subversive library I was thrilled.  Here is a kid who is doing something about banned books that makes a difference!  In the article the reasons for the school’s banning such books as Paradise Lost and The Canterbury Tales are based in religion, a premise I find disconcerting as it suggests aggressive control and apparently so does Nekochan (the student’s preferred avatar name).

Nekochan states that she now has a locker filled with 62 banned books which she loans out to fellow interested students and realizes that she is at risk for getting into trouble.  But her belief that she is right in her stance encourages her to continue her rebellious activity despite the danger of getting caught.

Continue, Nekochan, to “Fight the Power!!  Knowledge is a gift and we should be allowed to make our own choices about what we should and should not read.

The Best of Read Alouds

Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear from Uncle Remus, His...

Image via Wikipedia

The days are getting shorter and there is a hint of crispness in the air.  Soon, too soon, the languid days of summer will be over and autumn will be here.  Naturally, my mind has begun to turn towards preparing my son for his inevitable return to school.  Its been a flurry of clothes and supplies shopping, arranging for after-school, and the return to routine.  Once again, I will begin to mandate a time for reading, both alone and together.  Ever since he was a baby he’s been read to and although my son will be entering the 5th grade this year we will choose and put aside books especially to be read aloud.

Presumably one would think he’s too old to be read to, that it’s too babyish.  I disagree.  An article at the website Education World (Reading Aloud: Are Students Ever Too Old?) corroborates my belief.  Not only does reading aloud to your child promote reading literacy but it’s also great bonding time.  Some of my greatest childhood memories were of my father reading to my sister and I.  My Dad was a master of reading with character voices, he had the wonderful talent of becoming a persona; I remember with great fondness his reading, in the vernacular, the adventures of Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox and his interpretation of Kipling’s Rikki-Tikki-Tavi made real for me the epic life and death battle of the stalwart little mongoose with the evil snake Nagaina.  The latter so fondly remembered that a few years ago while reading aloud with family I coerced my Dad to read, once again, one of my favorite stories.  And for a moment, at the age of 40, I was able to relive a wonderful childhood memory.  I don’t think he truly understood what a wonderful gift he gave me that summer evening.  (Dad:  If you’re reading this now, Thanks).

I too, want to give this gift to my son.  I try very hard to do voices; my pirate voice is pretty good (but I recommend having a glass of water on hand) and some of my very favorite characters to read have been those of Roald Dahl.   It feels so good to become the deliciously bratty Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the sinister Grand High Witch from The Witches.  I suppose I must be doing something right because my tween still looks forward to laying in bed listening to Mom’s interpretation of stories, bad accents and all.  At least, I haven’t yet had any complaints!

A Brief List of past, present and future read-alouds

  • Rudyard Kipling, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi
  • Roald Dahl, The Witches
  • Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Roald Dahl, The BFG
  • Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • Edward Eager, Half Magic
  • E.B. White, Stuart Little
  • Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia
  • Walter D. Edmonds, The Matchlock Gun
  • Grace Lin, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
  • C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  • Elizabeth George Speare, The Witch of Blackbird Pond
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