The serious business of books

Summer brings with it warm weather, sunny skies, gentle breezes, and trees so full of leaves that they become living, breathing shade canopies over our heads. Yesterday, we spent the morning playing and picnic-ing at one of the neighbourhood parks, and it felt like the most perfect of perfect summer days. It was hot, but with a breeze, and with a sky so blue and high and dotted with puffy clouds that never seemed to shade the ground with their shadows, at least not where we were.

The kids played on the climbers and the teeter-totters, in the sand and in the field, and I spread out our vibrantly coloured mexican blanket on the ground in the shade of two sturdy maples and a majestic oak. The trio of trees were mature enough and positioned in such a way that we kept the shade even as the sun moved directly overhead at noon. The girls and I tossed a frisbee ring across the field, close together at first then further and further apart as they got into the spirit of it and started sending the ring flying further and further away, often in unanticipated directions. K wanted nothing to do with this boisterous behaviour, choosing instead to sit on the blanket, his back against a tree and a book in his hands. Apparently turning 9 the day before has transformed him into something altogether more serious-minded than what was before (that and the responsibility of your very first swiss army knife, which came in very handy for cutting apples into shareable pieces at lunch). Yes, 9 is serious business it seems, and all of a sudden our reluctant reader has started seriously devouring books.

It started a couple of weeks ago, when we started reading My Name Is Brain Brian together. We read the first three chapters out loud together, and then came time for chapter four, except K informed me that he had already read it. And five and six, too. And really, he was just as happy reading it to himself rather than reading together, so if I didn’t mind too much, could he just go read chapter 7 in bed by himself instead?

What was a mother to do other than acquiesce as gracefully as possible, beaming with pride and at the same time trying hard not to sulk. You see, I like reading out loud with my kids. It’s a family tradition, after all. We read together a lot (if you haven’t already noticed) and while I am thrilled that he is now tackling chapter books with confidence and — dare I say it? — eagerness, it is hard to realize that you have done your job, transferred the skills and the passion of reading, and are no longer required.

A few days later, Hello My Name is Brain Brian now happily under his belt, he began reading another, larger chapter book all the time. Seriously. All. The. Time. Every time I turned around, there he was, curled up in a ball, the book propped against his knees, his brow furrowed in concentration as he devoured the contents page by page. That was followed by a comfortable re-read of an old favourite: Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot Vs. the Uranium Unicorns From Uranus. And then Captain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space: The Third Epic Novel.

The day before our picnic at the park was K’s 9th birthday, full of friends and family and many precious gifts from the heart. One dear friend of ours gave K a copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid #1, in hardcover, no less, so when the girls and I were running around like lunatics chasing a frisbee that was just as inclined to head left as right, he snuggled in against a tree, book in hand, and read. And read. And read.

When a less than perfectly aimed frisbee toss wobbled and rolled across the ground like a drunken hulahoop and finally came to a gentle stop by bumping up against his knee, he looked up with a start and gave us the most disgusted look. How dare we interrupt his reading with something as mundane as a misplaced frisbee? He threw it back graciously enough, but it was clear that we had interrupted some very serious business.

With so much reading going on, bookmarks are in high demand, and a war of sorts has broken out. Bookmarks mark not only where you are in a book, but also the pages you really, really liked and just might want to read again, so you can imagine how quickly they disappear out of the library book basket. Our store bought bookmarks, few as they are (they are just so crazily expensive!) seem to have found permanent homes in The Dangerous Book for Boys and The Daring Book for Girls, and our homemade paper bookmarks peek out from books all over the place. Just this morning I went looking for a bookmark and had to resort to using a ribbon to keep my page, for the kids had emptied out our entire stash.

Last year I made crocheted and beaded bookmarks as Christmas gifts for teachers and friends alike, and I think it is once again time to break out the hook and thread, this time for our own consumption. Here’s a picture of a few of the bookmarks I made. They sit nicely between the pages and the beads on either end keep them from slipping out.

Crocheted beaded bookmarks

*A note to friends and family: if you would like one (or two or three) for Christmas this year, let me know and I’ll be sure to tuck some in your stocking.

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