Tag Archives: reading streak

3000 Days of Reading Aloud

“I like how this book has stories. It works well for how we read now.”

Zoe shared this as we finished up a chapter about Witch Hazel in Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, our current book. We just completed three thousand days of reading aloud on December 12, 2020. When we began keeping track of our Reading Streak, Zoe was in kindergarten. We started reading chapter books before that, but that’s as far back as our logs go.

We read for minutes now each day, not the hours we read when her appetite for listening could outlast my voice. These moments of connection tie me to my nearly fourteen-year-old daughter in a way that remains sacred to us both. She invites me in for this time each day to share a story or part of one, sometimes only a paragraph.

We negotiate which books to read. Nonfiction seems in favor. The National Team then Hidden Figures. We tried Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and after a week, Zoe asked for something else, something she didn’t want to take from me and read on her own. I proposed a few. She agreed to Braiding Sweetgrass as it had piqued her interest at her nature camp this past summer when a counselor read a passage. It fits with her environmental and social justice passions.

I had listened to enough of it as an audiobook to know that there are sweet passages about relationships between a mother and her daughters, that it weaves science, poetry, history, politics with phenomenal stories and poetic language.

Three thousand days is worth marking. I don’t trust the user error in marking our daily logs so I relied on the computer to tell me when it would be two-thousand-nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine days since September 26, 2012. It is Hannukah this week, so on Sunday, our three thousandth day, I decided to give each of my girls three thousand pennies worth of books, that is gift cards to a local bookstore for 30 dollars. They may each choose two or three books.

This reminds me of one childhood birthday when my two aunts gave me some seemingly large amount of money to spend at a bookstore. I came away with a pile of books, and still remember the freedom and joy from choosing them.

I also gave them each two books. I gifted Zoe our current read-aloud, Braiding Sweetgrass, because Hoopla kept losing our place on the library-borrowed e-book. I chose Megan Rapinoe’s new book because we read about the US Women’s National Team for soccer and I knew Zoe would enjoy another perspective on those events. She read it yesterday in one sitting. This is why we mostly get books from the library.

For Mia, I chose A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein and a beautifully illustrated book about the periodic table. But, first, we need to finish Ogden Nash’s Zoo. Mia and I don’t keep track and we sometimes skip days. She favors poetry currently.

In a time when we have been mostly housebound for nine months, having this small daily ritual with each of my daughters has kept us connected. Reading together is a doorway into other conversations about the books, characters, events, and life.

For me, looking back on all the books we have read in three thousand days, or eight years and a few months, I see growth and possibility. Using the braiding metaphor, we have woven together a love for words, appreciation of books, literature, a quest for knowledge, and time together. I had no idea it would last this long, even though five-year-old Zoe said she wanted to read like this for more than three thousand days. It may shift forms still, but I am now certain that this reading streak of ours will endure in our hearts and minds. Consistently showing up breeds that sort of knowing.

7.5 Years of Reading Aloud

Everyone is home for weeks now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And, still we read. It’s been quite a while since I updated our reading streak log. The last time was when we were at 2222 Days of Reading Aloud. Here we are, 7.5 years into our reading streak. We started when Zoe was in kindergarten and Mia was 3 years old. Now, they are 13 and 10.

Reading aloud to older kids is pretty different and much the same as reading to little ones. It’s different because they can read well on their own, and often prefer to do that, especially for stories that they want to enjoy more quickly than our late evening schedule often allows. In usual weeks, we get home from sports or other activities, juggle dinner and homework, and fit in a quick page or two of reading aloud. Some books take months at this pace. Reading aloud to older kids is the same in that we all still look forward to this connecting time, to the shared unfolding of story, narrative, facts, and characters.

So, what have we been reading? Since the last time I updated the log, we read several more books in the “Swallows and Amazons” series of sailing adventures by Arthur Ransome, that is up until “Missee Lee” a pirate story that takes place off the coast of China. We tried to get through it a couple of times, and it was too scary and too racist, written in a different time. Fortunately, Mia and i were reading the Penderwicks series, so Zoe joined us as we made our way through books 2-5.

Now, we’re onto nonfiction. Zoe listened for six months as I read “The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Changed Soccer” by Caitlin Murray. Zoe had done a school project two years ago about inequities in women’s ice hockey, and so the topic felt relevant to her, and she remained interested throughout, even though we sometimes only managed a paragraph on particularly late nights.

We just started reading “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race” by Margo Lee Shetterly. The girls and I saw the film when it first came out in the theaters, and I’ve listened to the audiobook. Reading it is bringing alive history, with Zoe interrupting frequently still to ask questions and place events in the emerging historical timeline in her head. It feels like we may get through it faster than “The National Team,” but then again, we have more time to read late into the night now, and sleep in if needed.

After finishing the Penderwicks series, Mia and I have enjoyed a poetry anthology, and now are working through Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” Note that I don’t log the books I read aloud to Mia, though I do write about them when I write these occasional updates. Mia likes to read and be read to, and she likes to do other things too. When she was younger, she’d often ask for a game instead of reading, because it was too many words to listen to the books that Zoe liked. Last night, we worked late into the night on a jigsaw puzzle together. These days, Mia wants a poem or several before bed.

As most families and schools sort out what schooling looks like in this unusual moment in history with kids unexpectedly home instead of at school, I feel grateful to have this anchor in our lives, time to read aloud daily with each of my girls. And, I love hearing about the books they have chosen to read on their own. Zoe and I made it to the public library on the last day it was open so she is still working through her pile of books. Otherwise, we’re relying on what we have in the house, what we can borrow digitally via Libby and Hoopla, and occasionally ordering Kindle books when the wait would be too long for digital loans. Happy reading!

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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.

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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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.



It’s Sometimes Tough to Be the Big Sister

Continuing my writing and fundraising Streak for Mia, I am going to attempt to share something that’s tougher for us right now.

Zoe was nearly two-and-a-half when her world was changed by the birth of Mia. She had my full attention for all that time. It can be hard for older kids to adjust to a new member of the family under ordinary circumstances. But, the days, weeks, months, and years since Mia’s birth have been a little out of the ordinary, with a crisis time around when Mia was diagnosed and then a lot of ongoing extra needs that have consumed my time and energy. Zoe notices. It’d be hard for her not to notice.

Zoe is 6 now. Here she is this morning at our CSA farm where we spent the morning working and playing. Zoe and Mia got to spend a couple hours in the Children’s Garden while I helped plant and weed in the flower beds.


Zoe is delightful, smart, funny, very intense, and rather competitive. She is quite agile, loves art, is comfortably speaking Spanish at school and with our au pair, and has a phenomenal attention span for chapter books. The reading streak that Zoe and I have going is now on day 234! Mia sometimes joins us but it’s Zoe who is the one asking for and choosing book after book, requesting chapter after chapter. It’s the one sustained thing that she and I have together that feels very connecting for her.

She’s had a challenging time at school for the past 5 months of Kindergarten and just got a new teacher two weeks ago so we’re in a stressful transition time, working toward a positive end to the school year.  I’ve been struggling since January to make sense of her difficulties at school. I have had many theories and done many experiments to try to help. The latest one seems like it may be closer to the root. Clearly, there have been classroom issues or they wouldn’t have abruptly changed the teacher with just seven weeks left in the school year. But, now that I know the kind of behavioral challenges Zoe is having at school, I see many of them seem to be related to the world not being fair. It’s not.

Last night, I started to talk with Zoe in more detail about what happened when Mia was born and in the NICU and how that might have felt to Zoe. We talked about all of Mia’s appointments and all the extra time she gets with me because of her stroke. Zoe was engaged, attentive, and at times upset and angry. She also had new insight when she told me, “I’m lucky.” I asked her why and she explained that she only has one thing wrong with her, big tonsils. She doesn’t like it when the doctors say she has big tonsils, she feels self-conscious about it. She asked me just last Saturday on the way to the doctor how many doctors she has compared to Mia, and she told me that Mia has had two problems – her ears and her right hand. I helped her reframe to focus on Mia’s stroke. Mia was in the car.

After our talk last night, I glanced at Facebook and Zoe was still with me. She saw a picture of a boy with some kind of bandage or cap covering his head and asked about it. I explained that boy had just had a hemispherectomy, a procedure to take out part of his brain so he wouldn’t have seizures any more. She had lots of questions and more empathy than usual. We talked about how that boy may have a sister or brother who might have feelings too. She got it. I hope we’re making progress. It’s true, life is not fair.

At every age and stage, Zoe is a bit older, a bit ahead on her ability to ask questions and that’s pushing me to figure out the language to use in front of Mia and Zoe to help them both feel whole, well, and fully part of our little family.

Here they are, in the Children’s Garden sandbox, playing nicely together.