Category Archives: Reading Streak

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.

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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

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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.