Category Archives: Family Traditions

All In The Family

What could go wrong?

Yesterday my brother and his wife welcomed their sixth child and my parents’ 20th grandchild into the world. I’m the mother of four of those 20 grandchildren, which makes me an aunt to 16 smallish people. I love being an aunt! Compared to parenthood, it’s a trip to Disneyland. As the oldest of five children, I feel it’s my sacred duty to recount to my nieces and nephews all the hairy details of their parents’ early years. I might embellish a bit from time to time, but it’s mostly all true.

I’m still learning how to be a teacher, but I’ve been a parent for almost 18 years now (how time does fly when you’re having fun!). In thinking about families and teaching, Super Genius 1it occurs to me that families are a child’s first teachers and home her first school. The instructional methods vary widely; there’s no prior-year CRT or curriculum map for a kindergarten teacher to review. Nevertheless, children learn a great deal from their families, and a smart teacher is mindful of the many ways students’ family backgrounds affect an individual student’s educational outcomes and, in a broader sense, the classroom dynamic.

Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson

The summer is fast winding down to a close, and that means it’s time for family reunions. In fact, I’m scheduled to attend one next week. I’m looking forward to watermelon, green grass, delicious salads, sticky children, and clusters of chatty grownups.

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Thinking about the reunion reminded me of one of my favorite children’s books! I read this book for the first time about five years ago, when it came in a group of Newbery-award-winning books I had purchased through school book orders. It’s called The Relatives Came, and it was written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. 

I don’t think it’s the kind of book I would ever have picked up on my own, but the first time I read it to my children, I knew it meant something special to me. The story, told from the perspective of a first-person omniscient narrator, begins by detailing the narrator’s relatives’ long trip from Virginia to visit. The joy experienced by each member of this extended family as they see and greet and love each other again is plainly evident through the pictures and the words.

I can envision this book used as the anchor text for a first-week-of-school lesson plan for language arts. First, ask students if they have ever attended a family reunion, especially during the previous summer. Invite several students to share their experiences. Next, play this YouTube video for your students–it’s a read-aloud of The Relatives Came. Ask the students how the relatives felt about each other and what words the author used to communicate those feelings.

edoutreach_1Next, have the class participate in a graffiti shared-writing experience; you might have different writing spots where students share what family reunions look like, smell like, and feel like. Then assign the students to write about a family reunion they have attended using as many descriptive details and words as they can. Ask them to include a “family picture” that would have been taken at the reunion.

Once the students have completed the assignment, don’t forget to allow a few students to share their stories and artwork with the class, and while they do, emphasize that everyone’s family is different and special because of its unique ways. This lesson is especially effective at the beginning of the school year because some students experience new-school-year jitters, and thinking about their families can bring feelings of comfort and security. Moreover, our students’ families play a dramatic role in shaping their identities, and when we honor their families, we demonstrate that our classrooms are safe places for our students to learn and grow.

More books for celebrating extended families:

Aunt Claire’s Beehive Hair by Beborah Blumenthal, AuntCLAIREillustrated by Mary GrandPré (2007, Pelican);

What a Family! WhataFAMby Rachel Isadora (2006, Putnam)

Me and My Family Tree me & famTREEby Joan Sweeney, illustrated by Annette Cable (2000, Dragonfly Books)

In My Family/En mi familia by Carmen Loma Garza, In-My-Family-En-Mi-Familia-9780892391639illustrated by Annette Cable (2000, Children’s Book Press)

 

Posted by Karen Rapier, an elementary education major at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT

Summertime! And the readin’ is easy…

Because I wanted to inspire folks for summer reading opportunities all week, I’ve been remembering every book I ever read that had the word “summer” in it. summer-reading(And this was after a few days of brainstorming book titles for “something old,” “something new,” “something borrowed,” and “something blue” for our Twitter and Facebook campaigns!)  Reminiscing about my favorite summer books and finding some new discoveries for every age range of this summer’s readers  has inspired me to create my own “have-to-have” list, and to try to persuade my now grown children into reading down my list with me!   summerBOOKSWhen my kids were younger, we did this every summer… not every kid, but always at least one of them and always with me. We instigated this tradition when my daughter was 13. After meeting Phyllis Reynolds Naylor at a children’s literature conference, and telling her of my daughter’s interest in her “Alice” books (Starting With Alice, The Agony of Alice,  Incredibly Alice,  Alice in Charge, etc., Lovingly Alice, Alice in Rapture, Sort of, etc.) AliceBOOKSPhyllis suggested that an article about mothers and daughters reading the Alice Books as Alice and the daughters “grow up” would be a fun idea.  My daughter and I have been collecting “Alice” books ever since, and beginning with their reissuing in the last 10 years, that collecting has been fun and easy!

Just in case you are not looking for books to share with a preteen or teen daughter, but you are looking for some summer books that will provide a jumping off (or diving in) place for sharing summer dive into booksreads with the children in your life at a variety of ages, here is my new list.  As I said, I’m going to invite my adult kids to read these with me…  and hope to have that experience with grandchildren, someday.

Features #1 through #22 are for readers between the ages of 8 and 12 or 13.  #23 is for young and old — a great picture book. Features from #24 to the end are for teens (and adults!). Enjoy!

1. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall. Whether or not you are familiar with this entire series, you will be delighted by this summer read! The penderwicksPenderwick sisters are on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel, where sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts, provide a delightful holiday. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their summer adventures.

2. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia  In this Newbery Honor novel, three sisters travel from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, oneCRAZYin 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them. When they arrive to spend the summer with her, Cecile is nothing like they imagined. While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer.

3. Flea Circus Summer by Cheryl Ware  Venola Mae Cutright has spent most of the summer writingFleaCIRC letters, and never giving up, whether begging for a job, nitpicking with a friend, or straightening out a flea company:

Ultra Underwater Flea Circus People

P.O. Box 2000

Destin, Florida

 Dear Flea People’s Bosses

Enclosed is a Tupperware bowl of wet black specs. Please have your doctors analyze these in your oratories and see if there is something wrong with my water. I followed your directions to a tee…

Venola Mae Cutright

P.S. I don’t need any more magic rocks, but I never did receive the circus tent full of tiny elephant and bears and giraffes that the underwater fleas are riding in your advertisement.

4. The Summer Camp Mystery (The Boxcar Children Mysteries #82) by Gertrude Chandler Warner  & Hodges Soileau  The Boxcar Children boxcarare going to summer camp and are looking forward to a week of new friends, exciting activities, and, most of all, the annual camp Olympics, but as soon as camp begins, everything begins to go wrong for the Aldens.

5.  A Summer Secret by Kathleen Fuller (Mysteries of Middlefield Series) Mary Bethsummer secret is a thirteen year old Amish girl with three energetic brothers. She has a sweet, loving spirit and wants to be obedient to her parents (“do not go that abandoned barn out in the field!”) but when she makes a discovery in that barn, she knows she as a work to do.

6. The Summer Before Boys by Nora Raleigh Baskin.  Julia and Eliza SummerBEFOREboysare best friends, so when Julia’s mom is sent to serve in Iraq, it makes perfect sense for her to spend the summer with Eliza and her parents. Any other time, Julia would be thrilled to be there. But on top of worrying about her mom, Julia develops her first real crush. The gap between Julia and Eliza keeps widening—until Eliza does something drastic to win back her best friend. In this follow-up to the award-winning Anything But Typical, Raleigh has written a powerful, touching story about friendship, first love, and how the people who are farthest away from us are sometimes the ones we need the most.

7. Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton by Matt Phelan  Award-winning Phelan has visualized a Blufftonbygone era in this graphic novel. In the summer of 1908, in Muskegon, Michigan, a visiting troupe of vaudeville performers is about the most exciting thing since baseball. They’re summering in nearby Bluffton, so Henry has a few months to ogle the elephant and the zebra, the tightrope walkers and — lo and behold — a slapstick actor his own age named Buster Keaton. The show folk say Buster is indestructible; his father throws him around as part of the act and the audience roars, while Buster never cracks a smile. Henry longs to learn to take a fall like Buster, “the human mop,” but Buster just wants to play ball with Henry and his friends.

8. The Summer I Learned to Fly by Dana Reinhardt:  Drew’s a bit of a loner, summerTOflywith a pet rat, her dead dad’s Book of Lists, an encyclopedic knowledge of cheese from working at her mom’s cheese shop, and a crush on Nick, the surf bum who works behind the counter. It’s the summer before eighth grade and Drew’s days seem like business as usual, until one night after closing time, when she meets a strange boy in the alley named Emmett Crane. Who he is, why he’s there, where the cut on his cheek came from, and his bottomless knowledge of rats are all mysteries Drew will untangle as they are drawn closer together, and Drew enters into the first true friendship, and adventure, of her life.

9. Mom Made Us Write This In The Summer (Max and Maggie Journal series) by Ali Maier, illustrated by Joanna Robinson  When Mom comes up with a plan for them to keep a summer momMADEusjournal, Maggie and Max can t believe it. Worse yet, they have to share! Through their writing, Maggie and Max find out they have very different (and hilarious) views about growing up, family and life a conclusion they only discovered because, as Max and Maggie say, “Mom Made Us Write This.”

10. The Summer Experiment by Cathie Pelletier Roberta is convinced she and her best friend Marilee can win the State Science Fair if only they summerEXPERIMENTcan find an amazing project to showcase. And they’ve got the whole summer to work on it. But in order to win they’ll need to defeat their chief competitor, “The Four Hs of the Apocalypse”: Henry Horton Harris Helmsby! When mysterious lights begin to appear over her hometown, Roberta has a brilliant idea: finding aliens in Allagash and proving they exist would win her first place for sure. Four Hs could never top that…or could he?

11. How Tia Lola Saved the Summer (The Tia Lola Stories) by Julia Alvarez  Miguel Guzman isn’t TiaLOLAexactly looking forward to the summer now that his mother has agreed to let the Sword family—a father, his three daughters, and their dog—live with them while they decide whether or not to move to Vermont. Little does Miguel know his aunt has something up her sleeve that just may make this the best summer ever. With her usual flair for creativity and fun, Tía Lola decides to start a summer camp for Miguel, his little sister, and the three Sword girls, complete with magical swords, nighttime treasure hunts, campfires, barbecues, and an end-of-summer surprise!

12. The Summer I Saved the World . . . in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz:  savedWORLDIt’s summertime, and thirteen-year-old Nina Ross is feeling kind of lost. Her beloved grandma died last year; her parents work all the time; her brother’s busy; and her best friend is into clothes, makeup, and boys. While Nina doesn’t know what “her thing” is yet, it’s definitely not shopping and makeup. And it’s not boys, either. Though . . . has Eli, the boy next door, always been so cute?
To survive this summer, Nina decides to change things. She hatches a plan for each of the sixty-five days of summer she’ll anonymously do one small but remarkable good thing for someone in her neighborhood, and find out: does doing good actually make a difference?   

13. Three Bird Summer by Sara St. Antoine For as long as he can remember, Adam and his parents have 3BIRDsummerspent their summers at his grandmother’s rustic cabin on Three Bird Lake. But this year will be different. There will be no rowdy cousins running around tormenting Adam. There will be no Uncle John or Aunt Jean. And there’ll be no Dad to fight with Mom. This year, the lake will belong just to Adam.
But then Adam meets Alice, the girl next door, who looks just like the aloof, popular girls back home—what could he and she possibly have in common? Turns out, Alice isn’t like the girls back home. She’s frank, funny, and eager for adventure. And when Adam’s grandma starts to leave strange notes in his room—notes that hint at a hidden treasure somewhere at the lake and a love from long ago—Alice is the one person he can rely on to help solve the mysteries of Three Bird Lake.

14. Seaglass Summer by Anjali Banerjee: Eleven-year-old Poppy Ray longs to be a veterinarian, but she’s never had a pseaglasset. This summer, she’s going to spend a month with her uncle Sanjay, veterinarian and owner of the Furry Friends Animal Clinic on an island off the Washington coast. With warmth and humor, Anjali Banerjee tells the story of a resourceful, determined girl who can’t wait to grow up, but begins to realize just how much she has left to discover.

15. Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff: Annie Richards knows there are a million things to look out for—bicycle accidents, chicken pox, runaway zoo animals. UmbrellaThat’s why being careful is so important, even if it does mean giving up some of her favorite things, like bike races with her best friend and hot dogs on the Fourth of July. Everyone keeps telling Annie not to worry so much, that she’s just fine. But they thought her brother, Jared, was just fine too, and Jared died. With a lot of help from those around her, Annie just may find a way to close her umbrella of sadness and step back into the sunshine.

16. Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls: The last thing a fourteen-year-old boy expects to find along an old Ozark river bottom is a tree full of monkeys. Jay Berry Lee’s grandpa had ansummerofMONKESY explanation, of course–as he did for most things. The monkeys had escaped from a traveling circus, and there was a handsome reward in store for anyone who could catch them. Grandpa said there wasn’t any animal that couldn’t be caught somehow, and Jay Berry started out believing him . . . This beloved and classic novel, set in rural Oklahoma around the turn of the century, is a heart-warming family story–full of rich detail and delightful characters–about a time and place when miracles were really the simplest of things…

17. Summer Ball by Mike Lupicia: The sequel to the #1 New York Times bestseller Travel Team! Leading your travel team to the national championship summerBALLmay seem like a dream come true, but for Danny, being at the top just means the competition tries that much harder to knock him off. Now Danny’s heading to Right Way basketball camp for the summer, and he knows that with the country’s best players in attendance, he’s going to need to take his game up a notch if he wants to match up. But it won’t be easy. Old rivals and new battles leave Danny wondering if he really does have what it takes to stand tall.

18. Cam Jansen and the Summer Camp Mysteries CamJANSENby David Adler: Cam Jansen and her best friend Eric are spending three weeks at Camp Eagle Lake, and they couldn’t be more excited. But mysteries seem to follow supersleuth Cam everywhere, and it isn’t long before she’s using her photographic memory to “Click, Click” and save the day! 

19. Summer Reading is Killing Me! (Time Warp Trio, No. 7) by Jon Scieszka and Lane SummRDGkillingMESmith: Sam, Fred, and Joe–the Time Warp Trio–find themselves face-to-beak with a giant, 266-pound chicken … who, unfortunately, looks hungry. As the chicken begins to chase them, the boys realize with horror that they are smack-dab in the middle of Daniel Pinkwater’s The Hoboken Chicken Emergency! How did they get there? Fred accidentally stuck the school’s summer reading list between the pages of “The Book”–a time-warping, green-mist-expelling book that triggers time travel in all of Jon Scieszka’s well-loved Time Warp Trio action-adventures.

20. Summer Bucket List for Kids by Michelle summerBUCKETlistSnow: If you have a hard time helping your kids fill the hours in those long summer days, then this invaluable guide is exactly what you need. Full of fun, original, and thoughtful ideas—sure to use up your kids’ excess summertime energy in a positive, healthy way—this book is guaranteed to stop boredom in its tracks.

21. A Kid’s Summer EcoJournal: With Nature Activities for Exploring the Season by Toni Albert & Margaret Brandt: A Kid’s Summer EcoJournal invites kids kidsECOjournalto write about nature on pages exquisitely illustrated by Margaret Brandt. The author has included short entries from her nature journals, which express her irrepressible and unflagging delight in the natural world. Kids love to read about Trickle Creek, where fawns play on the lawn and young raccoons steal plums in the orchard. The Summer EcoJournal is packed with nature activities for exploring summer. Kids can build a turtle loafing platform, collect insect tracks, make a mushroom spore print, attract moths with a shining sheet, grow a giant sunflower, make sun prints, and enjoy dozens of other summer activities that teach them to love the world of nature. Based on solid science. 

22. Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker: From Clementine author Sara Pennypacker, this is a poignant middle-grade novel about two foster Gypsy mothschildren who must find a way to work together in order to survive. Eleven-year-old Stella misses her (unreliable) mom, but she loves it at great-aunt Louise’s house. Louise lives on Cape Cod, where Stella hopes her mom will someday come and settle down. The only problem? Angel, the foster kid Louise has taken in. The two girls live together but there’s no way they’ll ever be friends.Then Louise suddenly passes away one morning—and Stella and Angel decide not to tell anyone. Now they have to depend on each other for survival. Now they are forced to trust each other with the biggest secret ever. With great empathy and humor, Sara Pennypacker tells the story of two very different girls who unexpectedly become each other’s true family.

23. Rules of Summer by Saun Tan: In a series of loosely linked pictures Tan suggest Rules of SUMa fantastical summer shared by two brothers. Each full-page painting is paired with a one-sentence rule related to the accompanying scene. For instance, “Never leave a red sock on the clothesline” appears next to an image of the two boys crouching against a wall while a seriously giant red rabbit glares at the single sock drying in the sun. How the boys arrived in such a situation is unclear, but speculating is half the fun. “Never leave the back door open” precedes a painting of the two brothers overlooking a living room brimming with an otherworldly forest. Though the rules are occasionally confounding and don’t lend themselves to a clear narrative, and the paintings are tinged with a growing sense of menace that might frighten young readers, Tan’s mesmerizing, gorgeous art is as beautiful and entrancing as ever and will likely have wide appeal well outside the usual picture-book audience, especially among imaginative teen artists. 

For Teens (and Adults!) 

Memories of Summer by Ruth White: It is the mid-1950s, and Lyrics family is finally moving from the backwoods of southwest Virginia to Flint, Michigan, where her father hopes to get an memoriesSUMMERassembly-line job for a car manufacturer. Thirteen-year-old Lyric has always been close to and admired her older sister, Summer, who is pretty and popular. But in their new hometown, Summer unexpectedly and drastically changes. She becomes remote, speaks gibberish, stops taking care of her appearance, and wont go to high school. Lyric and her father try to cope with the devastating effects of Summers mental illness. Ruth White has written a heart-wrenching novel which, despite the sad and serious subject matter, offers readers humor and hope and most of all love.

Revolutionary Summer by Joseph J. Ellis: In a brilliant narrative, Ellis meticulously examines the most influential figures in this propitious moment, inclRevolutaionary Sumuding George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Britain’s Admiral Lord Richard and General William Howe. He weaves together the political and military experiences as two sides of a single story, and shows how events on one front influenced outcomes on the other.

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene: German SoldierThe summer that Patty Bergen turns twelve is a summer that will haunt her forever. When her small hometown in Arkansas becomes the site of a camp housing German prisoners during World War II, Patty learns what it means to open her heart. Even though she’s Jewish, she begins to see a prison escapee, Anton, not as a Nazi, but as a lonely, frightened young man with feelings not unlike her own.

Summer of the Swans summerSWANSby Betsy Byars: The Summer of the Swans, by Betsy Byars, is a heartwarming story about the longest day in the life of a fourteen year old . A wonderfull theme emerges from the story that every child should hear.

A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry: Meg isn’t thrilled when she gets stuck sharing a bedroom with her older sister summertoDIEMolly. The two of them couldn’t be more different, and it’s hard for Meg to hide her resentment of Molly’s beauty and easy popularity. But now that the family has moved to a small house in the country, Meg has a lot to accept. Just as the sisters begin to adjust to their new home, Meg feels that Molly is starting up again by being a real nuisance. But Molly’s constant grouchiness, changing appearance, and other complaints are not just part of a new mood. And the day Molly is rushed to the hospital, Meg has to accept that there is something terribly wrong with her sister. That’s the day Meg’s world changes forever.

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han : Belly measures her life in summers.summerPRETTY Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer — they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one wonderful and terrible summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.

Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil FreedomSUMRights in Mississippi by Susan Goldman Rubin: Fifty years after the Freedom Summer murders, this meticulously researched, compellingly told account covers an incredible moment in history. Mickey Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney were three young civil rights workers who decided to work for the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) to confront bigotry in Mississippi and register African Americans to vote. They left for Meridian, accompanied by student volunteers from across the United States, Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney were killed by Klansmen after being arrested. Their deaths deepened the conviction of the others and served to engender incredible strides in the forward momentum of the civil rights movement.

A Summer State of Mind by Jen Calonita: Summer has finally arrived and fifteen-year-old sumSTATEofMINDHarper McCallister intends to spend her days at the mall shopping or by the pool at her country club. But after receiving her latest heart-stopping credit card bill, Harper’s parents makes other plans, and ship her off to camp. Suddenly, the clueless yet ever-popular Harper is the new girl at the bottom of a social ladder she can’t climb in wedge sandals and expensive clothes. She seems to be winning over super-cute camp “Lifer” Ethan, though, and if she can manage to make a few friends–and stay out of trouble–she just might find a whole new summer state of mind. 

Posted by Nancy L. Peterson, Ed.D., Professor of Teacher Education at Utah Valley University, and Co-Chair of UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading

Finding Papa and Mama… (Guest Blogger -Axel Ramirez)

Ever since I was in elementary school I have had a fascination with the Great Brain series of books by John Dennis Fitzgerald. I think it all started in 5th grade when a friend suggested the books to me.  What would compel young boys in East Los Angeles to read a book about Mormon and Catholic kids in Utah during Utah’s Wild West period? I’m still not sure, perhaps it is the love between Mama and Papa; perhaps it is the hilarious and touching issues of religious diversity; perhaps it is the draw of a family that sticks together no matter what. I don’t know. All I know is that I grew up with the Great Brain and his family. His family became my family. They were my companions as I moved to Utah.  The only part of Utah that felt at all like home for the first few months was the one I imagined existed somewhere in Adenville, Utah, home of the Great Brain. Those characters were my Utah companions until I found real Mormon kid companions of my own.

Around the time I moved to Utah I also found out that there was a trilogy of books featuring the grown up characters in the Great Brain series: Papa Married a Mormon, Mama’s Boarding House and Uncle Will and the Fitzgerald Curse.  I couldn’t wait to read them and have read the latter two dozens of times each but I’ve read Papa Married a Mormon over a hundred times. At times in my youth, Mama and Papa were the best examples of love and stability in parents that I had ever personally witnessed.    As a result, I am trying to start my own tradition similar to the Fitzgeralds in the book, the passing down of a middle name to the males in the family. I gave both my biological sons the same middle name as mine and hope they will do the same with their sons.  And, for some strange reason, all my children have taken to calling me Papa instead of Dad.  

Last year my youngest came home during 5th grade beaming about the Great Brain series that her teacher was reading to her; I knew it was time to revisit my old friends in Adenville, Utah. For those of us who love the series of books there is a mystery that has always been somewhat solved, but not to full satisfaction.

The question remains, just where in Utah did the book really take place, because Adenville, Utah has never existed? In other words, what real town did the author use as the basis for all the hijinks and drama?  In the series and in the adult books Adenville is in southern Utah, next to the fictional mining town of Silverlode. The current city of Leeds, Utah sort of fits because it is in southern Utah, named after an early pioneer, and is directly next to a mining town named Silver Reef, which had a Catholic Church in the late 1800s. However, the author has been reported to have grown up, at least part of the time, in Price, Utah.  After searching for more clues the best theory is that the author, ever so wonderfully, combined the 1800s diversity found in the mining camps of southern Utah with the diversity found in the mining city of Price, Utah to create Adenville.

To make this theory come alive to my daughter, she and I drove to Leeds, Utah and the old mining town of Silver Reef and used our reader’s imagination to discuss possible geographical connections to the books. We strolled through the Catholic and
Protestant cemeteries, the old boardwalks, the Wells Fargo building, the site of the old Catholic church, and just imagined ourselves with the characters.  The next weekend we drove to Price, Utah to put the finishing piece on our quest — finding where the real Mama and Papa are buried.  We strolled through the Price cemetery and discussed the diversity in the tombstones, the Masonic symbols, the miners, and the children. Finally, we found them — Mama and Papa resting in peace, side by side.   More alive than ever.

Axel Donizetti Ramirez is Associate Professor of Teacher Education in the School of Education at Utah Valley University.

One really unique tradition keeps us looking forward to February — Our Valentine’s Book Tradition!

Valentine’s Day is one of our family’s favorite holidays.  Certainly we all love the obvious perks of the day – candy, love notes, balloons, and of course, chocolate!  But there is also one really unique tradition that keeps us looking forward to this winter holiday throughout the year.  It is our Valentine’s Book Tradition.     

Valentine’s Day actually begins the night before.  At bedtime, everyone finds a breakfast invitation and menu on his/her pillow.  Each order is taken and left on the kitchen counter.  The next morning, the smell of breakfast deliciousness wakes us.  The kitchen is decorated in balloons and streamers, special dishes and place settings are on the table.  But the most anticipated part of the morning is the gift that is sitting on each plate.   On each plate is a gift card to a local bookstore. A gift card, you say?  Why so special?   That evening we all go to Barnes and Noble to peruse the shelves, looking for the perfect Valentine book to take home.  

When we first enter, we tend to stay together, enjoying whatever catches our eye.  After a while though, we seem to all find our own quiet space throughout the store.  I love looking through the magazines, while my daughter loves the children’s section where the latest picture books are brightly displayed.  My son recently got an e-reader for Christmas and is ever looking for a new book to download.  Interestingly, although he wants to read electronically now, he still makes his selections among the colorful covers and crackling pages of the books on the shelves.  There is always something for everyone at the bookstore!  We even indulge at the in-store café having a light snack as we read. 

We love this tradition and look forward to it every year.  I find my kids even in July, planning which book they will get next Valentine’s Day.    

Posted by Lorilynn Brandt

Just lucky to get an “I Love You” in edgewise…

As a co-chair of the 2013 Forum on Engaged Reading, it’s my privilege to blog “For the Love of Reading.” I’ve been soaking up a wonderful book that makes me stop at just about every-other page and say, “I wish I had written this!” In the
introduction to What to Read When (Penguin, 2009), Pam Allyn tugs at my heart strings with these words:

Everyday as you pack a lunch, wave good-bye to a school bus, tie a shoelace, braid a ponytail, the words you want to say to your child hum inside:

I love you, be safe,
I love you, be free.
I love you, I love you, I love you,
let the world treat you kindly, come back to me.
Here are the values of my life, our family, here is what I hope for you,
here is what I dream for you.

And yet, for most of us, too many moments slip by and we’re lucky to get an “I love you” in edgewise.” The good news, wondrously, is that the world is full of literature written by people who know you are longing to make connections and are striving to put a voice to them. (Pam Allyn in What to Read When, p. 6)

My own grown children recently validated my longing to know if I had done enough. Over the years I have felt various waves of regret for perhaps not having done enough, not having told them enough, nor loved them enough.  But, on December 25th they gave my husband and me the most beautiful gift we could ever have imagined – a “Family Treasure Chest,” they called it.  It was a 12 inch by 12 inch, 2 inch thick, cream colored, bound leather volume, tied with a cream colored ribbon.  After the first golden title page (“Peterson Family Treasure Book 2012”), and a page of “credits” stating that “Mom gave us wings to fly… Dad lit the sky to help us find the way…” they filled the book with a page for each of the books we read to them and the songs we sang to them that had mattered to them in their lives.

Our oldest daughter is completing a master’s degree at Georgetown University while working full time in that busy metropolitan area as a single young woman.  She loved all of the books of Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, and related how she became Anne and lived by her many philosophical gems, such as,

Oh, it’s delightful to have ambitions. I’m so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them – that’s the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.”

My second daughter is one month away from delivering my first grandchild, and the book memory she wrote about was when we all piled on the bed for me to read North to Freedom by Anne Holm (later changed to I Am David). She explained how fascinated she was to listen to a the experience of a 12 year old boy – older than herself – see and smell and taste an orange for the very first time, and how it opened her eyes to discovering beauty in a world that had, for him, been full of suffering.  She has since seen places of suffering first-hand, and been part of healing processes as well. She read North to Freedom to her husband, and they will carry the tradition to their own family.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, and several of the “Alice” books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor were all fond memories of my 25-year-old daughter.  She felt lucky to be growing up while I was teaching a children’s literature course so that she benefited from my needing to stay on top of some of the new looks being published at the time!  What she didn’t remember until I reminded her was that I got some of my reading list from her, such as Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix.  I found her huddled in the corner of her bedroom, having just finished that book, looking up at me and pleading, “Mom, I have to find another book like this one!”  I read it myself that very night.

And the last book page in this treasure chest was from my son, whose read-aloud experience was initiated by him rather than me.  He came to me carrying the Harry Potter books; “Mom, we have to read these.  Every one is, and they are so good.  Can we, please?”  How could I turn that down?  After the first four books, however, he didn’t have the patience to wait for our read-aloud sessions, and forged ahead on his own, and then on into the Eragon books, and the Lightening Thief, and the The Hobbit, and so forth.  He’s writing his own fantasy trilogy now.

So, I’m thinking, it may have been enough after all.  They said I gave them “wings to fly.”  I guess I was one of the lucky ones – to get an “I love you” in edgewise.

Posted by Nancy Peterson