Summer reading

“Let children choose what they want to read,” the summer reading handout from our school instructs.  “Even those popular fictions parents frown upon.”

Somehow, when they came up with that advice, I don’t think they anticipated the reading selections we’ve encountered around here this summer.

Lilah began the summer by plucking Sense and Sensibility off my shelf and insisting I read it to her.  She didn’t understand a damned thing I was reading, but she doesn’t get most of Blueberries for Sal, either, so I guess it didn’t make much of a difference whether we were reading Jane Austen or Robert McCloskey.

Then there was Benjamin’s fascination with The Making of Americans.  This is a tome that I once dedicated an entire month to reading.  Perhaps impressed by the sheer heft of it, Ben pulled it off the shelf.

“Mommy, can you read this to me?”  Sure, I can read it to you.  Just don’t ask me to explain it to you.

We did three sessions and made it five pages in, which is four pages more than most people do.  He dumped Gertrude Stein the minute the new American Girl catalogue came in.

“Mommy, I want an American Girl Doll,” Benjamin declared.  Now, I’m all for buying boys dolls, but those suckers go for a hundred bucks a pop, and that’s before the outfits, the puppy, and the outfit for the puppy.

This created a dilemma.  You see, if a girlchild asked for the doll, it would be because her friends had it and she was being invited to American Girl birthday parties.  Benjamin just thought the dolls looked pretty.  While he had just had his fourth birthday and we hadn’t gotten him a present, we were not interested in spending that much for a doll that would just be another toy to him.

We came up with a new policy: we will not discuss American Girl Dolls with children under five.  When they turn five, they are free to ask their grandparents for a hundred dollar doll with two hundred dollars worth of accessories.  Grandma would get a good laugh out of it.

I came up with an even more practical solution.  Lilah and I picked up a few Lionel train catalogues, and Benjamin has taken to reading one of those.  Lilah sleeps with the other one.

Zachary – the child with the actual summer reading list – is reading his way through the recommended books in whatever order I can get them out of the library.  We are keeping a separate list of the books we read to him.  Latest on the list?  Le Morte d’Arthur.  Because Malory is just the right speed for a five-year-old.

What amazes me the most is he actually comprehends what I’m reading to him. The book was published in 1485.  The version we have has somewhat modernized language, but it is still completely baffling to my husband.  Yet our rising first-grader understands it so well that it is keeping him up at night.

“Maybe we should stop reading that book if you can’t sleep,” I told him.

“Yeah, maybe I won’t get nightmares from it when I’m seven.”  That’s just what I was thinking – set Malory aside till second grade.

Maybe it’s time to start looking around for some of that popular fiction that parents frown upon.

11 responses to “Summer reading

  1. We’re reading the first Harry Potter to Ryan….I am shocked, but he loves it. Over half of the vocabulary goes over his head, I am sure, but he will sit and listen to it for over an hour. Crazy.

  2. Love the thought of the precocious Malory reader!

    I basically read my way up our bookshelves so I read what was height available rather than age appropriate. My mum did put picture books on the bottom, children’s on the next two and a half and then adult books (alpha by author) above those. However, the right bay was kept for mystery novels of the golden era, so I read those from the start (beginning with Sayers and only getting to Christie when I was seven or so, thank you alphabet!) and I never even noticed when I went from Alcott, Louisa to Thirkell, Angela and Tolkien, J.R.R!

  3. My grandfather had an amazing leather bound library that I inherited as the only grandchild with space for such a library. 2 entire walls of my guestroom are now devoted to shelves. This had led to some similar requests from 5 y/o Henry. We read one chapter of Red Badge of Courage. There are 20-30 childrens novels like Alice in Wonderland and some Kipling.

  4. Snort.
    I’m reading Anne of Green Gables aloud right now – Mir seems to really like it, though I’m surprised at the difficulty of some of the language.

  5. maybe i should be grateful that MQ is all about the “magic puppy” series and Magic Rainbow, etc. I have managed to get her to delve into The Tale of Desperaeux, and a few other higher quality things. I figure… as long as she’s enjoying reading, we’re doing the right thing. Every book I read isn’t a classic, either.

  6. LOATHE American Girl dolls- but like the books. We’re currently brushing up on our racism with the Laura Ingalls books.

  7. Ah kids. They’re so funny and weird and delightful.

  8. This is a problem I’m very familiar with. A child who can understand it, but just really isn’t mature enough to handle it.

    I’m reading the Percy Jackson series to my girls right now. They love it. We’ve also done all the Harry Potters. Next up is The Lion, the witch and the Wardrobe.

  9. I took an Arthurian Literature course in college and it was one of my favorite literature courses. “Le Morte” was my favorite book read that semester and I still find myself flipping through it every now and then.

  10. You know, a kid who likes little house would probably love some Willa Cather.

    And how about kipling. I bet that’s right up his little professorial alley.

  11. I need to meet your kids (not to mention, you) before they’re too old to think blogging-friends-of-Mommy are uncool…