Category Archives: Reading Streak

Library Brick – A Permanent Marker of Reading Streak

This picture is from the grand opening celebration of the Christa McAuliffe Branch Library in May 2016. An artist drew these fun henna tattoos on the girls’ hands. I bought this brick nearly a year prior to support the library construction. At the time of the brick installation, we were at 1327 consecutive days of our reading streak. Now, we are a month beyond 2000 Days of Reading Aloud.

These days, I spend a lot of time at the Christa McAuliffe Branch Library. It has great light, tons of windows, and plenty of quiet working space. Each time I enter, I find our brick.

While I’ve read to both girls since birth, Zoe initiated the reading streak, and we have promised to keep it going as long as we can. Mia’s interest and endurance come and go, sometimes it’s “too many words” and other times she joins us. Both girls are capable readers and still love being read to at least once and sometimes twice each day. Sometimes we have two read-aloud books going at the same time, one of each girl’s choice. Car rides got easier once both girls were interested in the same books. This beats the couple of years when our long drives alternated between an hour of quiet (Mia’s frequent choice) and an hour of listening (Zoe’s preference), and all the associated negotiations about who gets to go first and when it’s time to transition, especially if we were mid-chapter.

About ten days ago, in anticipation of the release of The Penderwicks at Last, the fifth and final book in the series by Jeanne Birdsall, Zoe was rereading Harry Potter, and she told me that she planned to finish reading the sixth and seventh Harry Potter books then reread all four Penderwicks books so she’d be ready for the fifth book. She did it. The newest Penderwicks book arrived yesterday and she read it straight through. Some school and household tasks get put off when she’s in a reading burst like this; it’s hard even to convince her to stop to eat or move her body.

2000 Days of Reading Aloud

When Zoe was in Kindergarten, I read The Reading Promise and told her about it and she asked how many days that father read to his daughter. 3218 days. Zoe wanted to beat that. We were already reading aloud most nights, but we started to keep track. Well, we’re nearly 2/3 of the way there! It’s hard to believe. Two thousand consecutive days of reading is more than 5.5 years. In that time, both of my children have grown so much. Zoe will finish elementary school in a couple months. She’s eleven, Mia’s nearly nine.

I started reading chapter books when Zoe was four. Mia was not yet two. Zoe’s appetite for listening grew until she could listen for as long as I was willing to read, sometimes hours per day, in two separate sessions, sometimes two books at once, one for each girl. We read some books many times, some series repeatedly. You can see our complete list of books on our reading streak page.

Zoe graduated to listening to audiobooks which meant that I was not the only source of read aloud pleasure. She could listen to five or six hours in a row, and often refused to get out of the car after a long drive as she wanted to finish the book. “Harriet the Spy” and “The Penderwicks” were early listening favorites on audiobook.

With “The Penderwicks in Spring” which was first published in the spring of Zoe’s second grade year, I started to read it aloud, and my pace was too slow for Zoe, not my reading pace itself, but how many pages or chapters we could read in one sitting. It was finite, and her appetite for words was not. She said, “Sorry Mom, I need to read the whole thing.”

Since then, it’s been a bit more challenging to choose books that have staying power for our reading streak. They need to be meaty enough to hold both girls’ interest, but not so compelling that Zoe wants to grab the book out of my hands to race ahead. We learned about the “Swallows and Amazons” series from a reference in “The Penderwicks” and the first book was really slow. These books are set in the 1930s in the Lake District and Norfok Broads areas of England, a pack of kids on sailing, hiking, and camping adventures without many adults in the action. There are references to “Treasure Island”’ and “Robinson Crusoe.” And, now we’re finishing book 5 “Coot Club” and starting book 6 “Pigeon Post.”

Zoe reads independently, devouring books, and I do not attempt to keep track of her reading. She prefers to read in English, historical fiction or sometimes fantasy, though she can read well in Spanish too. Sometimes I get piles of books for her from the library. More often, she requests them herself from the library and if she’s feeling particularly impatient, she’ll read directly through the Libby app. But, she prefers paper books. We still sometimes say that she’s a “book head” or “lost in a book.” The intensity of her reading is such that it’s comparably hard to get her to pause her reading as to get her off of a screen. In one reading binge over the Thanksgiving holiday, I know that she read more than 24 hours in a week because she was reading the “Warriors” series on an app called Epic, and Epic sent me weekly reports on the girls’ reading.

Mia enjoys listening to the books we’re reading now most of the time, but it’s not her special thing. She still has a sense of it being Zoe’s reading streak. So, when Mia and I have time alone together in the evening, she asks to play games. The hard part about games is that it’s more challenging to keep the timeframe in check and it’s not easy to stop a game in the middle. Books can be stopped at a chapter, page, or paragraph break. So, with games, I have to say, “We’ll play three rounds.”

Mia also has become a capable reader in both English and Spanish. Graphic novels are her favorite genre and she reads on her own every day. The most telling sign that Mia’s listening is that she comes out with vocabulary I might not have predicted. The most recent was when she started to say, “dismantled.” I don’t specifically know where or when she learned the word, but it’s now part of her working vocabulary.

I was away for four days last weekend, and I called each day to read aloud to the girls from “Coot Club” to keep the streak going. It was hard for them to have me away, and it was both nice for me to get a break and hard to be away. The reading for minutes together on each of those days over the phone was like a lifeline pouring connection into them, giving them my voice and a bit more of this long-running story to carry them off into sleep. On the day we hit 2000, and I told them we had, they asked me to blog about it, to mark the occasion. So, here I am.

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Four Years of Reading Aloud

Tomorrow marks the four year mark of our reading streak, that’s 1460 consecutive days of reading aloud to my girls, always Zoe, often both Zoe and Mia. Today, Zoe volunteered to help paint faces of kindergarteners at their picnic. The Scholastic book fair ended on Thursday. When Zoe was in kindergarten, I read “The Reading Promise” after buying it at the book fair, and I told her about it. She decided we needed to start our own reading streak. Here we are four years later, still reading.

The list of books this year is notably shorter than in prior years. In part, it’s because the girls are getting older, the books are more challenging and take longer for me to read. In part, it’s because both girls are independent readers, and have a full schedule of activities and also itch for screen time. Still, we read daily aloud. The characters are part of our lives, so in our current run with the Emily of New Moon trilogy, when the kitchen door closes suddenly due to a gust of wind, Zoe proclaims, “The Wind Woman is out there.”

Zoe asks me to read whenever she needs her cup filled. Last night, she asked to go upstairs early to be sure to have time for more than one chapter because the previous night it was too late for that request. Some nights, if we are out doing something fun, we only fit in a page or two. There have been times when I’ve had two read-aloud books running at the same time, one of Mia’s choosing, and one of Zoe’s choosing. There have been times when I was reading both mornings and evenings, daily. Right now, I am only reading in the evenings as part of bedtime, unless it’s my one night each week when I take the night off from bedtime routine and our au pair puts the girls to bed. Those days, I carve out time to read in the morning, even for only 10 minutes.

Their school is performing “Willy Wonka” this year as a bilingual musical. To prepare, we got the 1971 version of the movie from the library and the “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” book. In one day, we watched the movie and Zoe read the book, in one go, lying on her bed. Zoe calls this style of reading, “being in a book.” Or, we sometimes affectionately talk about her being a book-head. It’s delightful except when she neglects eating and moving for too long and then the reentry can be tough. Zoe now requests her own books from the library on the computer, and finds book references from friends and in books she’s reading to give her ideas of what to read next. If we don’t have a book on hand that Zoe wants to read, we sometimes need to make emergency trips to the library.

Mia often listens, though there have definitely been times when it’s too many words for her. She seems to have caught up in her listening level so I haven’t heard that complaint in a while. She does prefer to use her time in the evenings to play a game with me and Zoe, or to read on her own while these multi month sagas go on and on.

I’ve heard from several parents in the past year who want to encourage their kids to read, and the kids know how to read, but don’t know what to read. This seems to be a common challenge. My first question is, “Are you reading aloud to them?” It’s super common to stop reading aloud when kids seem to outgrow picture books. I still read picture books aloud sometimes in between chapter books. My girls especially enjoy picking up books to read on their own that they’ve already heard me read aloud. The stories are familiar, the choice is a good bet.

My girls have had very different learn-to-read processes. Zoe was not very interested in reading independently until she could read content of interest to her. That clicked in second grade for her and she started to read lots of books quickly. Mia has been more methodical all along, staying the course with some of the easy readers, enjoying the decoding process, and gradually increasing the content as she goes.

There is no end in sight for this reading streak. The Emily series is ending though, so I’ll go get a pile of books from the library after reading some reviews, and see what the girls choose next.

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1067 Days of Reading Aloud

For the third day of school, third grade, Zoe gets to bring in a small paper bag with three special things. She chose, “Little House in the Big Woods,” a small elephant carving from India, and our reading streak log book. Two of her three precious items are connected to the shared experience of reading aloud. “Little House in the Big Woods” is the first book of the first series that we’ve read multiple times. We’ve been reading aloud since she was a baby, and reading chapter books since she was four. We’ve been keeping track of our daily reading streak for nearly three years, tallying more than one thousand days of consecutive read aloud with only a few guest readers at times when I had to be away overnight. Last night and this morning, I captured to a digital log the last several months of reading just in case our little notebook log doesn’t make its way all the way to school and back. Though, Zoe assures me it will, after all she took it for a similar show-and-tell event in first grade too.

Since my last major update about our reading streak at the 800 day mark, we’ve read several more series or parts of series. “Sarah, Plain and Tall” and the four books that follow were hits as were the “All of a Kind Family” books. For those, Zoe was really bothered that the books were not in chronological order and so she wanted me to read them in the order that made the most sense to her. The fourth Penderwicks book came out, we heard the author speak at the Brookline Public Library the day before Zoe was due to make a presentation and perform a puppet show in school all about the author, Jeanne Birdsall. Zoe read “The Penderwicks in Spring” in three days, impatiently but politely informing me that my pace of one or two chapters per day would not cut it. Later, she let me read it aloud. That marked a turning point in our reading streak. Zoe’s reading level has caught up to much of what I read.

I continue to choose books with lots of words, like “Little Women” and the two that follow it, and we’re into the second book of “Anne of Green Gables” now, intent on continuing. Some of these books are “too many words” for Mia who protests by doing headstands during reading time, or being even more provocative when she really has had enough. To  keep her in the mix, we also include books that hold her interest. The Doctor Dolittle books, “Dear Mr. Henshaw” and “Shiloh” have been recent hits with Mia, and the next Shiloh book is on deck after we finish “The Borrowers.” Interestingly, even when it seems like Mia isn’t exactly listening, she is. Out of the blue, she’ll make a comment about one of the characters that is spot on in relevance. The characters of these books become like members of our family, used in conversation to explain how someone might be as evil as Dexter Dupree, for example.

All summer, I read a chapter from each of their chapter books each morning and night. As school begins, we’re struggling to shift to a more workable morning routine which means I may need to start using the timer in the morning to limit our read aloud time. Protests mean that I’m thinking about alternatives, like doing some of my other morning jobs before the girls wake up so we can still fit in the two chapters. Tough choices for a beloved shared time we spend together morning and night.

While we listened to “Mary Poppins” and “Stuart Little” on our trip to Ithaca and the Adirondacks, we didn’t listen to as many audiobooks as in past summers. One reason is that Zoe can satisfy her thirst for words by reading chapter books independently. There were several books that she devoured in one or two days of sustained focus.

Our reading streak continues, and while we started with a modest goal of making it to 100 consecutive days of reading aloud, we just hit 1067 and keep counting.  As always, we welcome suggestions on titles, authors, series, and all genres that might interest two girls, ages 6 and 8.

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800 Days of Reading Aloud

Mia and I like to joke that Zoe is becoming a Penderwick. You’d agree with us if you heard her exclaim things like, “Mama, Jane just said she’s lost count of how many times she has read ‘A Little Princess’!” We are into year three of our Reading Streak, that is reading aloud every day and logging our books.

To get to 800 days, we’ve had to invent some new rules. Guest readers are allowed and make it possible for me, Mara, to take a break from reading and parenting every once in a while. Zoe was recently sick and spent an entire day on the couch listening to “The Penderwicks on Gardam Street.” She fell asleep in the evening before Mara had a chance to read to her. We counted that as part of our streak anyway.

Coming out of her illness, Zoe decided to write to Jeanne Birdsall because she really can’t wait until the fourth Penderwick book is published in 2015. She tells me that we’ll keep on reading the three existing Penderwick books over and over until the fourth book becomes available. I keep introducing other options, and we come back to the Penderwicks again and again. This reading streak has echoes of life and parenting, dramatic tension, resistance, repetition. Here are the letters and art. Jeanne Birdsall has seven pets which is totally fascinating to Zoe since we currently have zero pets, having lost two fish and one hermit crab to the negligence of young children and their busy mother.



We are definitively done with the Little House books after traversing five generations of Little House girls and women over many months of reading aloud together.

Mia has an entirely different relationship to the Penderwicks and to the reading streak in general. There was the phase in which we read “Charlotte’s Web” something like eight times in a row at Mia’s repeated request. But, then there was the series of weeks in which Mia simply asked me for addition problems in lieu of her reading time. Other nights, she’ll want to play Go Fish or Crazy Eights. In the car, on a recent drive to Ithaca, we alternated hours, one hour we’d listen to The Penderwicks at Zoe’s request, the next hour we’d have “quiet” at Mia’s request. We did recently read “Matilda” which Mia chose from a stack I brought home from the library. Much as she sometimes protests “so many words,” I do believe Mia is listening too. She and Zoe were making up sounds and rhymes today about Jeanne Birdsall and Jane Goodall.

Our recent trip to NYC was made more fun by a quest to visit the Met as we’d just read “From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” Zoe was thrilled to find the mummies and see the fountains and Etruscan sculptures. Mia was tired and most interested in the gift shop where we found some novel toys and crafts.

In the summer, Zoe asked me one evening, “Does Einstein really exist?” And later, “How did they take his brain without killing him?” The questions continued so I said I have a book about him, “Einstein, His Life and Universe” by Walter Isaacson. It was my mother’s. I haven’t found time to read it. So, I pull it down off of the dusty shelf, and Zoe starts paging through the 675 page volume, asking if I’ll read it to her after we finish all our “Rose” books, and lands on the epilogue. “This is the chapter that mosts interests me, ‘Einstein’s Brain and Einstein’s Mind’.” She made a plea for me to read it, “Right now!” And, of course, I did. She listened to the whole epilogue, asking more questions. As I read one passage that quotes Einstein’s fundamental creed, “The development of science and of the creative activities of the spirit requires a freedom that consists in the independence of thought from the restrictions of authoritarian and social prejudice.” Zoe remarked, “He’s really smart. I don’t know most of those words.” She lugged it upstairs and continued to study the contents, reporting that there’s a chapter on “Divorce” and “a girl named Elsa” (think Frozen as do many 7 year olds), and asking, “What’s a Red Scare?” So, then I was trying to explain Communism and Democracy. But, later when I brought a close to the usual upstairs bedtime reading before she was ready, because we’d taken time out for Einstein, she lost it and we had a bedtime tantrum. Did I mention that while I was reading the epilogue to Zoe, Mia was blowing a high-pitched whistle loudly in protest?

Our reading streak continues, and while we started with a modest goal of making it to 100 consecutive days of reading aloud, 1000 now seems startlingly within reach. As always, we welcome suggestions on titles, authors, series, and all genres that might interest two girls, ages 5 and 7.

600 Days of Reading Aloud


We reached another milestone today with 600 days in a row of reading aloud together.

In updating our main Reading Streak page, I noticed some patterns of interest. While we’re still in the Little House books, having finished our third reading of the Laura books and now into the Rose books for the third time, and closing in on Zoe’s goal of reading about all five generations of Little House girls and women, we’ve branched out a bit too.

Both girls love American Girl books and we’ve read all the Molly books, both Saige books, both Mia books, and three Josefina books. We also had a nonfiction run with Jane Goodall’s wonderful, “My Life with the Chimpanzees” and “The Chimpanzees I Love” and a couple of her picture books too. I’m including select picture books on our list that are notable. We read lots of picture books that I don’t note. Mia also discovered “The Puppy Place” series at the library, which I don’t love but the kids do.

The book trail pictured here is Mia’s work on a day when she napped for thirty minutes and then entertained herself late into the evening by paving a path of books. I like to imagine her walking through all these books as she was building her path. I only discovered the finished product when I was ready for bed myself.

Mia requested “Charlotte’s Web” again within the past 100 days. It’s her perennial favorite, the one book for which she can sustain attention more than any other chapter book. Often, while I read, Zoe lies or sits next to me and listens intently while Mia plays nearby. But, I know that Mia is listening too as she’ll comment on the characters and plot in surprising ways.

The girls and I are proud to have made it to 600. We manage to fit in reading time twice a day most days and once a day even on the busiest days.


500 Days of Reading Aloud

Today marks 500 consecutive days of reading aloud to my children. We’ve been recording every book we’ve read. If you want the full list, check out our Reading Streak page. Most of the time we have at least two chapter books going in parallel, one chosen by Zoe and one chosen by Mia. I make suggestions too but the girls have veto power.

Right now, we have three books in circulation. We are reading “Saige Paints the Sky” and “Charlotte’s Web,” and we are part way through our third reading of “The Long Winter” expecting to finish it after Saige.

Our reading streak means many things. It means that we make time for 10-20 minutes of reading every morning, even on school days. We alternate whose day it is and so on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Zoe gets to hear her book being read first. On Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, Mia gets to hear her book first. Tuesdays, I choose theoretically, though both girls lobby for me to let them go first on my day.

Our reading streak also means lots of bedtime reading snuggles. We don’t time our reading at night, we finish chapters, and occasionally get to read extra, depending on how late it is.

And, our streak means math. We log what we read each day with the date and the day of the streak. As Zoe pointed out this morning,, “Five hundred is half way to one thousand.” She’s got big goals, and seems to want this streak to go on and on.

Zoe wanted to celebrate the reading streak with an extra big dose of reading this morning, five chapters for each girl. Mia was done after listening to two chapters of “Charlotte’s Web” and Zoe didn’t want me to stop after I read her five chapters of “Saige Paints the Sky” so I read the final two chapters, a reading marathon on a day when we skipped Saturday morning hockey as Zoe was performing in “The Wizard of Oz” as a jitterbug and cyclone. We also celebrated today with twilight sledding and pizza for dinner.

And, uncharacteristically, we skipped bedtime reading to spend time cuddled together on the couch watching the Olympics, “because we read so much this morning.”

Recently, we had to adapt the rules of our streak to allow for a guest reader. Thankfully, the girls’ Uncle Steve was delighted to fill in for four days while I was out of town.

Zoe continues to want to see through our Little House theme. We are on our third reading of book 6 (of 9) of the Laura books. Then, we’ll likely read the Rose books one more time to complete the chronological reading of all five generations of Little House women. It’s been quite a journey through history and geography.

Meanwhile, Mia has continued to return to “Charlotte’s Web” again and again. We may be on our ninth reading. Zoe practically knows it by heart now so if I misread some sentence about a “fish getting a friend,” Zoe is quick to tell me, “It’s fried, Mommy, not friend!”

But, we have branched out too. Mia found the “Freddy” series at the library, and we enjoyed the first three books of the golden hamster saga. The fourth got scary and so we stopped reading that.

Both girls have recently discovered American Girl dolls and associated books. So, we’re working our way through the two Saige books and have read the first Molly book. We currently have all the other Molly books out from the library. Molly books are set during World War Two, so we’ll be delving into some new themes and questions with that series.

I also keep a list of suggestions from others and books I want to introduce to the girls. And, I make extensive use of our library through online requests that get delivered to our local library.

All three of us are proud of our reading streak. I love that the best celebration for its longevity is to read more!

365 Days of Reading Aloud

Tonight, I gave each of my girls a gift certificate to get a book of their choice at Barnes & Noble this weekend.

A year ago, Zoe and I made a reading promise after I read Alice Ozma’s “The Reading Promise” which I had picked up at the Scholastic book fair on Zoe’s curriculum night for kindergarten. Zoe and I agreed that I would read aloud to her every night for one-hundred nights. Like Alice and her father, we couldn’t stop. We’ve read aloud every day, most mornings and most nights, sometimes only one or the other but more often both for the past 365 days and there is no plan to stop. We’ve read forty-seven chapter books this year and countless picture books. I love reading high quality literature to my girls and love that they seem to have an almost insatiable appetite for listening. It’s usually the first thing we do together in the morning and the last thing we do together before they go to bed. Occasionally, busy schedules mean we skip one or the other on any particular day, but never both. We have made sure of that!

For our full reading list over the past year (and even the year before that before our reading streak was official), check out our Reading Streak page.

Their reading endurance has increased tremendously so I get frequent requests for “one more chapter” which I only am able to honor sometimes.

This summer, we listened to several chapter books either on CD in the car or on my iPhone via Overdrive (digital audio loaned through public library).

  • “Harriet the Spy” by Louise Fitzhugh
  • “Matilda” by Roald Dahl
  • “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’Dell
  • “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” by Richard and Florence Atwater
  • “Because of Winn-Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo
  • “All of a Kind Family” by Sydney Taylor
  • “A Little Princess” by Frances Hodgsen Burnett
  • “The Boxcar Children Collection” (all 3 books)

Here are some others we also enjoyed on the car rides that were more accessible to Mia and still enjoyable for Zoe:

  • “The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories” by Dr. Seuss
  • “Horton Hears a Who! and Other Sounds” by Dr. Seuss
  • “Frog and Toad” by Arnold Lobel
  • “Tikki Tikki Tembo” retold by Arlene Mosel
  • “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams

Mia has joined in the reading streak, requesting Charlotte’s Web repeatedly and snuggling with us to enjoy part of whatever we are reading.

Our mainstay continues to be the Little House books and we have now covered all five generations of Little House women (Martha, Charlotte, Caroline, Laura, Rose). Just tonight, we finished reading, “Little Clearing in the Woods” by Maria D. Wilkes, which is the third of seven Caroline books. Once we finish the final four books of the Caroline series, Zoe says she wants to read the Laura and Rose books for the third time.

Despite this devotion to the Little House books, we have gradually introduced other books.

We borrow extensively from our local library which conveniently has a branch across the street from Mia’s daycare. And, since many of the titles are out of print or less readily available, I have developed a routine of making requests through interlibrary loan. We also used interlibrary loan and weekly library visits over the summer to read more than fifty of the picture books on the list of suggested reading options for kids entering first grade.

I get inspiration from friends and family who make suggestions and from some lists of books including those from A Mighty Girl and this list of Teachers’ Top 100. We are even using these lists and our emerging favorites to choose books as gifts for the many birthday parties the girls get invited to attend.

We welcome new reading suggestions and look forward to many more days and years of reading aloud together.