Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Crooked Truth

Jamie's Crooked Truth: Lies, Whizzpoppers, and Bedtime Reading

So you know those reading logs that your kids take home from school? The ones for recording how many minutes they’ve read? Confession: On occasion, I’ve fudged those minutes. Or (cough) lied.

This is BAD.

So VERY bad.

Because a.) I’m a children’s book author, and b.) there’s nothing more energizing to a child’s imagination than reading books, and c.) hello, I lied to a teacher!

Here’s the truth. My boys are nine and seven. When they were younger, we read before bed every night. Their favorite bedtime picks evolved from Goodnight Moon to Taking Care of My Ears (at age three, my oldest was obsessed with books about the human body) to SkippyJon Jones. Then came longer stories, like Frog and Toad, Judy Moody, and Charlotte’s Web. The boys stacked up their favorites, and snuggling under the covers, we often read several books a night.

So what happened?

For one, our schedules became busier. Now we had soccer and Scouts and swimming lessons, homework and more homework, playing with friends, eating dinner, taking baths, and crashing to bed. Somewhere along the way, our bedtime reading become sporadic.

Of course, the boys read independently. But on those especially hectic days, the books never left their backpacks.

Then one evening, we began to read The BFG by Roald Dahl. The Big Friendly Giant quickly charmed the boys with his twitch-tickling manner of speaking and funny way of seeing the world. They hung on his every word.

And the chapter about Sophie and the BFG whizzpopping? Well, you simply haven’t lived until you’ve read the “Frobscottle and Whizzpoppers” chapter to kids! Were finer words ever written? It’s the single best chapter in children’s literature!

That one golden phizzwizard of a book resurrected our consistent, nightly bedtime reading. Because the boys looked forward to it, we made the time. I stopped fudging the minutes in the reading log. Now the boys read more and longer than ever before.

It’s true. Just like the BFG’s bottles of dreams, books contain magic. And who wouldn’t want a little of that before bed every night?



1. Kid’s choice. Let your child choose the book (or at least approve it). Reading should be a treat, not a chore. 

2. You read to me, I read to you. Alternate reading pages or chapters with your child. If your children mispronounce a word, don’t correct them immediately. After reading the entire sentence, kids will often figure out the word on their own.

3. The more, the merrier. Bedtime reading is a bonding experience for the whole family. Short mysteries like The Hardy Boys or Encyclopedia Brown are fun to solve together. 

4. The three strikes, you’re out rule. My boys are, erm, energetic. So we came up with a rule. If I have to stop reading three times because the monkeys are jumping on the bed or talking through the story, I put the book away for the night. This has only happened once. Usually at strike two, they settle down.

5. Make bedtime reading an Event. Reading is theater. Change your voice for different characters, whisper at the quiet parts, ask questions, and close the book at cliff-hangers. You’ll leave your children begging for more.

~ Jamie

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