Friday, May 31, 2013

Adult Summer Reading Program

I was excited to hear that my local library is offering an Adult Summer Reading Program.  I remember the children’s programs I participated in… elaborate displays in the kids’ section of the library where I’d move my game piece along a path to show how many books I’d read.  And checking out stacks of books and giving brief oral book reports to the librarian to prove that I’d read the books.  And the rewards of pizza coupons and trinkets and silly little things that seemed huge.

This one’s a little different.  When you become an adult, you don’t even have to READ books to participate in the program!  All you have to do is check them out, and for each book you check out you get to fill out a form that gets entered in a drawing for cool stuff.  So, technically, this is a See Who Can Schlep The Most Books To And From Their Car Program.  Come on, people.  At least make people turn their books back in before you let them fill out the form.  Or, better yet, for this stickler-for-punctual-returns library (50 cent fines, seriously???  $5 owed blocks my account, seriously???), only allow patrons to fill out the form if they return their book ON TIME.  I’d never fill out a single form. 

So.  I like reading and I like a fair contest, so I don’t need no stinkin’ Adult Summer Check-Books-Out Program.  But I do like extra motivation to read instead of spending too much time on the facebook-pinterest-google Bermuda Triangle.  So this summer I’m going to blog about what I’m reading – books, kids books, articles, newspapers, websites, whatever strikes my fancy.  This blog has no focus and comes and goes with my attention span and bursts of creativity, but I think this will be a fun way to get a little focus for the summer and hopefully read more.

First up:  Magic Tree House Books One and Two, by Mary Pope Osborne

I started reading the Magic Tree House series to Eden this week.  She’s ready for some longer stories and loves to be read to, and I’d heard that this was a good series to start with.  We tried The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe awhile back but it was just a little too long and we were just irregular enough with reading it that she got lost in the story.  This series seems to be a good middle ground between the Frog And Toad size story and a full length novel. 

~The characters’ names are Annie and Jack, and it really doesn’t get any cuter than that.  Plus, with these kinds of stories you’ll find yourself reading “said Jack” and “Annie said” about a million times, so you want the names to be cute.   
~These books took about 30 minutes to read out loud, so we were able to finish them the same day we started and Eden could remember the whole story. 
~The basic plot of each story involves the characters looking through books in a tree house library and then time traveling to one of the settings in one of the books.  Jack then uses the book and Annie uses her intuition to help make sense of their surroundings and help them find their way through their adventures.  I’m a big reader and a book nerd, so I love that books are central to the plot and the kids aren’t googling with their iphones to figure out what a Pteranodon eats. 
~The siblings’ approach to life and reality is contrasted interestingly.  Annie is intuitive, imaginative, can communicate with animals (not telepathically, but just reading body language, nonverbals, etc.), believes easily in magic, and is trusting.  Jack is scientific, skeptical, grounded in physical proof, and needs evidence to believe.  The differences are obvious and do pigeonhole the personalities of the characters, but it is interesting to see the contrasting approaches and how it affects their adventures.  I think it’s a good introduction for young kids regarding how your perception of the world affects how you interact with it. 
~In the first book in the series, Dinosaurs Before Dark, Jack forgets his notebook and shouts dramatically with bearded face, “I HAVE TO GO BACK!!”  Or maybe that’s LOST.  It felt like a shout out to all those adults out there reading the book. 
~The author’s middle name is Pope.  How cool is that? 

~When Jack is unhappy with something Annie does, he occasionally says, “I’m going to kill her.”  This bothers me.  I realize that Eden might be younger than the intended audience, but it still seems like a bit much to express his mild frustration.  I skipped the line or made up my own. 
~Annie is 7 and Jack is 8 ½.  In the second book in the series, The Knight at Dawn, they sneak out of the house at 5:30am when their parents are sleeping and have an adventure, and then sneak back in without their parents noticing.  Um…
~Sentence fragments.  I’m guessing that the author was trying to use short sentences for the benefit of early readers, but in her attempts, she uses almost more sentence fragments than actual sentences (exaggeration, but there are a lot of them).  I swear I’m not the grammar police, and I firmly believe in breaking grammar rules if you have a good reason and IF YOU KNOW YOU’RE DOING IT.  But I think it’s important for early readers to get a firm handle on the basics. 

So, these books seem to be fun adventure stories that are a good length to read to kids who are ready to transition to chapter books.  They are definitely light reading – you won’t find much meaningful commentary on life or people or Big Ideas, but they capture your imagination and introduce kids to different time periods and ideas that they might not have been exposed to.  Eden was really confused with why the Knight in the second book was nice to the kids and took them back to the tree house, because he looked mean and scary in his armor.  I explained a tiny bit about the code of chivalry and that was fun.  I could see these books being a jumping off point for further exploration of a topic or time period. 

We’ll definitely read more of this series, and I’m also excited to try the Little House series again and the C.S. Lewis series again.  I think with more consistent reading times built into our routine, we’d be able to get through those longer books fast enough that she’d track with the story.  Now that summer’s here, more consistent reading times seems doable! 

Next Up:  How reading a reprint of The Great Gatsby with Leonardo DiCaprio on the cover changes the way the book reads.  

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