Archive for December, 2010
Having kids can be like a ghostly trip back to your own childhood. Helping a child to learn something inevitably brings memories of when you learned it yourself. This week, I’m teaching my daughter how to tie her shoes. Sometimes I wonder why I am teaching her this. None of her shoes have laces, and even if they did, I would double-knot the laces and let her slip her skinny little feet right in with the laces all done-up. But there’s something traditional about teaching a kindergartener how to tie shoelaces, so here we are.
When it comes to tying shoes, I have always adhered to the one-loop, wrap it with the other lace, pull it through to make the other loop method. I learned it that way from my dad, a great shoe-tying coach and all-around wise man. My little sister also learned to tie shoes from our dad, but because of difficulties she had copying the actions due to her being left-handed and him being right-handed, she successfully utilized the “bunny ears” method. You know, make two bunny ears, cross them over, tuck one ear under the other and pull. Both methods produce the same end result, but I am sure that most people choose one method and use it exclusively.
So, I am analyzing all of this before even beginning the lessons with my daughter. How can I teach her, I wonder, when none of her shoes have laces? So, clever mom that I am, I dig a piece of sturdy cardboard out of the recycling pile, make two holes at either end, and insert some extra shoelaces I found in the craft supplies box in the closet. Now I have a rectangular board with a pair of laces at both ends, the perfect tool for teaching shoelace tying. She works on one pair of laces while I demonstrate on the other pair, sitting across from her.
Of course, I show her the one-loop method because it’s the one I use myself. She watches me excitedly, shaking her laces around impatiently. We practice together several times, and I quickly realize how difficult this is going to be. Her fingers don’t grip the laces as tightly and confidently as mine do. She can’t find “the hole” in which to insert the lace to make the second loop. She begins to get frustrated. So, we take a break for a while, and I think about it some more. Perhaps the “bunny ears” approach would be easier for her. A quick check on Google gives me the following verse, which I find very useful if not particularly inspiring: “Bunny ears, bunny ears, playing by a tree/ Criss-crossed the tree, trying to catch me./ Bunny ears, bunny ears, jumped into the hole,/ Popped out the other side, beautiful and bold.” The “beautiful and bold” part is a bit perplexing, but the rest of the verse works fine to guide her through the tying process. So, we give it a try. Viewing the two loops as bunny ears is delightful to my daughter; her excitement is renewed. And you know, after several tries, she came pretty close to getting it on her own. It’s still hard for her to find “the hole” for the bunny to jump in, but I think this will come with practice.
So, now I have written more than 500 words about learning to tie your shoes. Wow. Back to my original point: I haven’t thought about learning to tie my shoes in years. This afternoon, I am awash in the memory of a childhood summer, a pair of pink tennis shoes with chubby white laces, and my own bruised and scabby knees staring me in the face while I attempted this feat over and over again. I remember feeling just as frustrated as my daughter does now as the laces crumpled in my hands over and over, refusing to take the proper shape of a bow. I remember my dad patiently tying those laces again and again, slowly walking me through the process. And I remember feeling that incredible pride of childhood when I finally triumphed. It was like learning to blow a bubble with gum or losing my first tooth or finally pedaling my bicycle without training wheels: major milestones, in my mind, to growing up. Teaching these things to my kid is absolutely amazing as I feel like I’m living in two realities simultaneously, myself as a mom, struggling for patience and serenity, and as the girl I was years ago, fighting my way out of childhood as fast as I could.
BookTalk: The Power of Reading
Are you a reader? I believe in the power of reading. I don’t claim to be a literary expert. On the contrary, I would describe myself as an everyday person of average intelligence who loves to read. I am not well-versed in all the contemporary best-sellers; in fact, I couldn’t name a single book on the New York Times Bestseller List. I haven’t read all the classics, or even a decent chunk of the classics. I am certainly not an expert on books, but I do read them, every day.
What do I read? Everything that appeals to me. If I pick up a book that proves to be a bore, I put it down again. My personal creed: reading should be enjoyable, and life is too short, and there are too many really good books out there to waste time reading a bad book. I usually give a book one or two chapters to hook me, and if it doesn’t have me by that point, I am done with it. A great way to find reading material is to pick a theme, such as the Civil Rights Movement. Find every book you can on the subject, and then read what you like. When you start getting bored, move on to a new theme. I have spent months reading books about polar exploration, the Tudor monarchs, ancient Egypt, World War II, contemporary royal families, and 19th century England. Sometimes I surprise myself by what I really enjoy. I often read fiction in a similar way, by author. If I like a book, I will probably like another book by the same author, so I tend to exhaust the works of a particular author (at least until I become exhausted by the author, in which case, I quit). Choosing an author who is compulsively readable, like Stephen King, helps.
When do I read? Every second I can. Before I had children, I worked a full-time job and I used to read for a few minutes before work, and often during my lunch break. I would read after dinner, and before falling asleep. Some weekends I would do pretty much nothing but read. Now that my days are full of chasing around small children, I still find time to read. We visit the library once a week, and I usually grab at least four books for myself. I may read them all during the week, or I may not, but at least I have several to choose from. I read in the early morning, before my kids are up, and I keep a book lying around in the kitchen for me to grab whenever there happens to be a quiet moment. I read while dinner is cooking, and after the kids are in bed. A bookmark is definitely my best friend, considering I’m reading only a few pages at a time, but those books get read regardless!
Sometimes I have come across people who can’t believe that I still read every day, even with my busy schedule. I can’t imagine not reading. I think my imagination would shrivel if I didn’t stimulate it with books on a regular basis. I definitely wouldn’t be learning much without books. I once read that we, as adults, are basically the same from year to year, changing very little except for the people we meet and the books we read. I agree with this wholeheartedly. Books have the power to enrich your thinking and change your heart.
In My Opinion: A Book Review of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Candlewick Press ed.
A Beautiful Christmas Indulgence
If watching one of the many movie adaptations of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol is one of your holiday traditions, you should definitely make a new tradition: reading the book. The Candlewick Press edition of the book, lavishly illustrated by P.J. Lynch, has my strong recommendation.
For those who haven’t cracked a Dickens novel since high school English class, I would especially recommend the Lynch illustrated edition. These are first-rate pictures, drawn in a detailed style that is highly suggestive of the most popular Christmas Carol movie versions. Because the novel is quite short, only 159 pages with large typeset and lots of illustrations, this edition is like a child’s storybook with pictures on almost every second page. Reading the book is a comfortable Christmas tradition for me, lingering over every illustration and getting lost in all the minutiae of Lynch’s beautiful work. Since the story is so familiar, the dialogue is easy to follow, even with the mid-1800’s British colloquialisms. This would be a great way to start reading Dickens. For a novice, I would recommend first reading A Christmas Carol, then David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and A Tale of Two Cities, in that particular order. (More on that some other time…)
I love watching the Christmas Carol films, particularly the 1980’s version with George C. Scott. My children love the Muppet Christmas Carol movie, and I have to say, it’s pretty good. But if its wonderful adaptability to the screen has killed the actual novel, then I’d call it a definite tragedy. We all know there are so many elements of books that cannot be translated onto the big screen, and this holds true with A Christmas Carol. It is a masterpiece, a short novel that is nearly perfect in construction, timeless, completely sentimental but in such a satisfying way. P.J. Lynch’s illustrations are the icing on the cake. I love, love, love this book.
Adventures in Reading:
Learning to Read the Dick and Jane Way
When my daughter was born, my sister threw us a bookworm baby shower. The invitations had bookworms on them, and the guests were invited to bring their favorite childhood book to share with the baby. We received lots of great books at that shower, but probably the best gift was a set of vintage “readers” in the style I think of as “Dick and Jane” books. We have an actual Dick, Jane and Sally book called Fun With Our Family, and we have two books about Tip the dog and Mitten the cat, Tip and Tip and Mitten. I don’t have any idea from where these books came; they are stamped with an elementary school name on the inside, but they were clearly never used. Each book is in pristine condition. Well, I should probably amend that statement: they were in pristine condition until a few months ago, when we began to use them as schoolbooks.
I absolutely love these readers. The illustrations are works of art, detailed and colorful, and they provide just the right amount of context to enrich the words on the pages. The text is perfect for a fledgling reader like my daughter, with tons of repetition that has really helped her learn the words. “Tip. Tip. Here, Tip. No. No, Tip. No, no. Here, Tip.” Okay, that’s not exactly stimulating prose, but the pictures help move the story along, and my daughter could read those pages only two months after we started her in kindergarten.
I’ve bought contemporary readers, like the Step into Reading and Ready-to-Read series published by Random House and Simon and Schuster. These feature characters from popular TV shows and movies that appeal to my daughter. But I don’t like them as much as good old Dick and Jane and Tip. The contemporary text and pictures don’t have the same kind of harmony. The characters tend to be a little distracting, not enhancing to the reading experience like Dick, Jane and Tip. And even the most basic of the contemporary readers (i.e., Level One books) is too complicated for a brand-new reader, like my daughter, to handle by herself. She can curl up on the couch with Tip and read it to herself with minimal assistance, but we can’t do that with a Ready-to-Read book, at least not yet. And to me, the 1950’s style illustrations are charming and refreshingly innocent.
It never even occurred to me until I started writing this that our vintage readers, printed in the 1960’s, might be worth something. In their exquisite, unused condition, they might be. But we are definitely keeping these books, and by the time my daughter is done with them, I suspect they won’t be so pristine. She really likes Dick, Jane and Tip, too.
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You might be wondering, what condition do my books have to be in for BookJingle to purchase them? Well, that’s easy, too. BookJingle purchases books in standard good used condition. The cover can show some wear, but it should still look in good condition. All the pages must be intact, and the binding should be tight.
Some info that’s good to know: BookJingle will accept books with writing, highlighting and underlining on less than 25% of the pages. Also, they will purchase former library books (that means books the library has withdrawn from circulation, not books you’ve forgotten to return). Books with missing supplements, such as CDs, may be accepted at a reduced price.
There are a few things to check about your books before sending them in. BookJingle cannot accept books with any of the following:
- Water damage/moisture damage
- Stained pages
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- Paperbacks with torn covers
- Workbooks or manuals with answers written in the blanks
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