Bookish Thursdays: Reading With Your Child

bookish thurs 3

My son has been looking at books since he was four months old (read more about that here). My daughter is now doing the same. It is the most special time of the day to have my baby on my lap as we read the alphabet, count to ten, or flip through a cute and cuddly touch and feel board book. Or to laugh out loud at the antics of Captain Underpants as my son now proudly takes on some of the reading himself.

It is the book-lover in me and the English teacher in me that drove me to instil a love and respect for books in my son and I hope to continue that with my daughter.

There is something about reading that teaches us to slow down, to appreciate the written word and to use our imaginations in ways that modern society does not challenge us to do in our every day lives.

The importance of reading to children and babies is firmly supported by a plethora of journals, researchers, parenting websites etc etc etc.

I do not pretend to be well versed in this research – but, I do know that as a mother of two my heart is warmed by my son’s excitement when we discuss our favourite parts of a book and  my 7 month old’s little fingers grasping at her book when I say “turn the page”.

I admit that as an English teacher, I am aware of the connection between being a good reader and being able to inquire, research, deduce, create and write well. So instilling a love of books is as much about their education as it is about loving the written word. This is easy for me because I love reading. But what about those adults who don’t? If you’re at a loss for how to give your child something that you may lack, but you know is important, here are a few tips that might help:

watermarked children and books

They deprive me of sleep, push me to the borders of irrational rage, squeeze every last bit of patience out of me – but when we sit to read everything dissolves around us. My children and I willingly lose ourselves in the magic of the words and pictures.

Love for reading is a gift that will last forever. Teach it with passion. Give it with abandon. Your children will thank you.

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Bookish Thursdays: Gabriel Garcia Marquez

bookish thurs 3

I am a first generation Canadian born to Colombian parents with a long Colombian ancestry. I grew up eating arepas, sancocho, frijoles, chicharron and aguacate. My favourite fruits were mango, papaya and pineapple. I went to my junior kindergarten class speaking Spanish because that’s all we spoke at home. I knew that being Colombian in Toronto years and years ago was strange. Most of my friends were of European descent and when I spoke Spanish with my parents they all assumed we were from Spain. Colombia was foreign and different and let’s face it, it did not have the best reputation.

(Nearly) every person we came across would mention the word cocaine as soon as they heard we were Colombian, followed closely by drug cartels and Pablo Escobar. My culture and people were smeared by the actions of world-class criminals and the world media that focused on and sensationalised them. My parents, and their cohorts, would retaliate with Colombia is also the land of coffee, emeralds, fruit and a rich history of music and folklore. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is Colombian. Colombians are a loving, friendly people. Resourceful, determined and above all, passionate. To which people would nod and say “Really?” but in their eyes you could tell they were still thinking, cocaine. Sometimes, however, it worked and we would feel vindicated that at least one more person saw Colombia and Colombians in a different light.

from elmundo.es

I grew up amidst people who are very proud of their heritage and defiantly challenge the world with many proofs as to why our Colombia is so much more than the illegal drug trade. And, always, those proofs included the great Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I heard his name bandied about in my home or amidst my family when we visited Colombia. As a child he was beyond my reach. I was always interested in the writings of the literary giant but didn’t begin my journey into his worlds until I became an IB teacher.

I quickly learned why Garcia Marquez was one of literature’s greats. I’ve only read three of his novels, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. Each one gripped me and I was fooled into believing that writing is so very easy because his stories are seamless. His narration appears effortless. And, that is how you know that he was genius at his craft.

He learned his narrative style from his grandmother who told him fantastical tales with a deadpan expression and that is how he wrote. One has no choice but to simply be swept into his narratives, be immersed in his descriptive, yet succinct, attention to detail, and allow him to take you on a splendid trip.

Fortunately, I live in a Toronto that is vastly different from the one in which I grew up. Our city (and surrounding suburbs) is home to people from all over the world. Being Colombian is no longer strange or weird. Our language, food and music has become more mainstream. Other famous Colombians are showing the world that Colombia is beautiful and so much more than it’s difficult past. We no longer have to defend our pride in our country.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is fundamental to that pride. I am saddened that he is gone – that no more of Gabo’s stories will be published. His legacy is a beautiful and inspirational one – for Colombians and all people. A boy from the northernmost tip of his country, a remote and hot area of Colombia became a Nobel Prize Author by giving shape to a new literary genre. He did much for Colombia’s image when it was at its lowest. He did much for me as a teacher, reader and writer. Thank you Gabo and rest in peace.

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Summer Reflections

(En español abajo)

Today begins the last week of FREEDOM.  You see, in Southern Ontario, most schools start the Tuesday after Labour Day. This is the last week of living my life without being hounded by the whiny “M-iii-s” when students are trying to get my attention.  The last week of puttering around my house, reading to my son, writing and enjoying time with my family without routines, structure or deadlines.

This school year brings even more anxiety since it marks my son’s first official year of school.  He begins kindergarten – that is wrought with its own set of nerves that I will delve into later this week.

Before I get all anxious about going back into teacher mode or thinking about leaving my little boy in a gigantic building with one teacher and one E.C.E. in a classroom of 29, 4-5 year-olds  (so much for a cap of 24 – what happened there Ontario Government?), I want to fill my soul with all of the wonderful things that this summer has brought me.  I want to envelope myself in summer memories so that the carefree summer loveliness inspires me to carry excitement into next week.  I want to be able to inspire my students to see the new school year as a chance to keep creating themselves.  I want to be able to inspire myself to do the same.

Things I loved this summer that will carry me through the school year:

  1. Watching my son vastly improve his swimming skills through daily swimming lessons
  2. Our family vacation to Punta Cana – read about it here
  3. Watching my belly grow and feeling my baby move and kick all summer long – we are in for one active child!
  4. Sitting under the shade of our huge tree in the back yard with my son as we read Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets – read how this began here (We are now onto the Prisoner of Azkaban)
  5. Watching my husband work diligently on his portfolio as he works toward achieving his goals
  6. 7 years of marriage!!! (13 years together) – I feel like I’ve “grown up” next to my husband in a way…
  7. Watching my brother coach my son’s soccer team and pass along his love for the game – I just KNOW our dad’s spirit was with us at every single game smiling on our family
  8. Feeling my mother’s love for her family, identifying with her and gaining even more admiration and respect for her ability to give, to love and foster such a beautiful family atmosphere
  9. A family trip to Grand Bend, Ontario with tio and dear friends – we picked the coldest week of the summer and ended up having a great time!
  10. Visiting friends at the cottage – watching my boy (who is now “the BIG-4 mommy” because he is 4 and a half) develop friendships, roast marshmallows and make S’mores – sharing time with friends
  11. The Power Puffs!!! My friend’s husband mocks our network of friends because we are constantly talking, emailing, texting and inventing some kind of excuse to get together.  He claims we are too emotionally charged with each other’s lives.  We claim that our friendship is what keeps us sane.  Anyways, I love being a Power Puff.

No shots of husband…he’s a little blog-shy.

These are but a few snippets of what summer has brought me.  I am blessed and (reluctantly) looking forward to the beginning of a new school year, because that means I get to do this all over again, with an addition to the family, next year.

What has summer left you with this year?

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En español

Hoy comienza la última semana de la libertad. Usted ve, en el sur de Ontario, la mayoría de las escuelas comienzan el martes después del Día del Trabajo. Esta es la última semana de vivir mi vida sin ser acosado por el quejoso “M-iii-s” cuando los estudiantes están tratando de llamar mi atención. La última semana de estar tranquila en mi casa, leyendo a mi hijo, escribiendo y disfrutando del tiempo con mi familia sin rutinas, estructura y plazos.

Este año escolar trae aún más ansiedad, ya que marca el primer año de mi hijo de la escuela. Comienza en jardín- pero esto mis sentimientos sobre esto los voy a profundizar en esta semana.

Antes de ponerme ansiosa por volver al modo maestro o pensar en dejar a mi niño en un edificio gigante con un maestro y una ayudante escolar en una clase de 29 niños, de 4-5 años de edad (tanto por un tope de 24 – que pasó allí Goberino de Ontario?, quiero llenar mi alma con todas las cosas maravillosas que este verano me ha traído. Quiero rodearme de recuerdos de verano, para que la belleza del verano sin preocupaciones me inspira a llevar la emoción hasta la próxima semana. Quiero ser capaz de inspirar a mis estudiantes a ver el nuevo año escolar como una oportunidad para seguir creando ellos mismos. Quiero ser capaz de inspirar a mí mismo a hacer lo mismo.

Cosas que me encantaron este verano que me van a llevar a lo largo del año escolar:

  1. Ver a mi hijo mejorar en gran medida sus habilidades de natación a través de las clases de natación diarias
  2. Nuestra familia de vacaciones en Punta Cana – leer sobre ello aquí
  3. Ver crecer mi vientre y sentir a mi bebé moverse y patear todo el verano – nos espera un niño activo!
  4. Sentarme a la sombra de nuestra enorme árbol en el patio trasero con mi hijo para leer Harry Potter y la Cámara Secreta – (Ahora estamos en el prisionero de Azkaban)
  5. Ver a mi esposo trabajar diligentemente en su portofolio para el logro de sus metas
  6. 7 años de matrimonio! (13 años juntos) – Me siento como que he “crecido” junto a mi esposo de una manera …
  7. Ver a mi hermano como entrenador del equipo de fútbol de mi hijo y pasar su amor por el juego – Sé que el espíritu de nuestro padre estaba con nosotros en cada partido sonriendo sobre nuestra familia
  8. Sentir el amor de mi madre por su familia, identificándome con ella y aumentar aún más mi admiración y respeto por su capacidad de dar, amar y promover un ambiente familiar tan hermoso
  9. Un viaje familiar a Grand Bend, Ontario con tio y amigos queridos – aunque fue la semana más fría del verano, disfrutamos y tuvimos un gran tiempo!
  10. Visitar a los amigos en la casa de campo – viendo a mi hijo desarrollar amistades, asar malvaviscos y hacer S’mores – compartir tiempo con los amigos
  11. Los “Power Puffs”.  El esposo de mi amiga se burla de nuestra red de amigas porque estamos constantemente hablando, mandando correo electrónico, mensajes de texto e inventando algún tipo de excusa para reunirnos. Esta amistad nos ayuda a mantenernos sanas.

No hay fotos de marido … es un poco tímido para aparecer en el blog.

Estos son sólo algunos fragmentos de lo que el verano me ha traído. Estoy bendecido y (a regañadientes) esperando el comienzo de un nuevo año escolar, porque eso significa que tengo la oportunidad de hacerlo todo de nuevo, con una adición a la familia, el próximo año.

¿Qué te ha dejado el verano este año?

Old Homes, Gardens and Women

courtesy: kjmcountrygardens.com

What is it about gardens and broken down homes that they are so readily included in women’s literature….chick-lit….chick-flicks?

When I read Alice Walker’s book of essays In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, I was struck by the number of books I’ve read or movies I’ve seen around this theme:  Wildflower Hill, The Forgotten GardenThe Physick Book of Deliverance Dane Under the Tuscan Sun (which I love) – to name a few.

Why is it that artists love to envision women bringing a barren piece of land to fruition?  So many stories involve bringing a garden or an old home to life, and in doing so, a woman finds herself, or is healed and becomes whole. The female protagonist will hammer and dig her way to a new life.

I wonder why we love to associate these ideas with womanhood and with a woman who is lost?

Maybe it’s the romantic notion that women nurture life.  Women give life.  We take care of something fragile, meet its needs and allow it to flourish. 

Maybe we’re so bad at taking care of ourselves, that the only way we can do it is when we trick our minds into believing that we’re taking care of something else and inadvertently, we end up taking care of ourselves (but, don’t tell us that – we’ll stop all the crazy refurbishing and planting immediately).

I wonder if our voices get so lost as we grow that we have to bang them out when we are adults?  Regardless, it does seem to be a beautiful process of rebuilding oneself.

Do you love the imagery of a woman restoring herself by restoring a garden or an old home?  What books have you read around this theme that you recommend?

 

Where Did September Go?

What a whirl!  Feels like just moments ago I posted on my dread of returning to work full time and losing all my summer freedom…my thoughts and anticipation for fall…and now it’s the last week of September.  Wtf??

I have been absorbed in preparing lessons and marking assignments – all the free time I had for my blog has evaporated.  I am still trying to read though!

Currently re-reading The Awakening for teaching purposes and reading Room by Emma Donoghue (fantastic! can’t wait to write about it).

For those of you still visiting Book Marks…Thanks!  I hope to find more time (dunno where or how) in October as I settle into a routine…I miss being here and chatting with all the wonderful people that visit – and, visiting your sites as well!

Hope to find my groove soon 🙂

How was your “back-to-school” transition?