How To Change Your Children’s Mind About the Classics

I LOVE to read. Like, “This book is too good to put down and I don’t care if I have to stay up all night to finish it”, love to read.

My Grandparents used to own a used bookstore. When they shuttered its doors, they brought a lot of the books to their home. I remember visiting their home as a young child and almost every wall in their home was covered in books. A bibliophile’s wonderland.

When they would come to visit they would bring boxes of books for my siblings and I. (But really I viewed them as MY books!) It was my Grandmother who introduced me to the world of Nancy Drew, from Nancy Drew I went to Agatha Christie and once I found those books I was a voracious reader ever after in many different genres. I still enjoy a good mystery though. At the age of 12, I was reading classics- Like most of the works of Charles Dickens. I lived in the worlds created for me by amazing and talented authors.

I firmly believe this quote attributed to Emilie Buchwald, “Children are made readers in the laps of their parents.” Many were the nights my parents would read books to us as we crowded around listening eagerly. To this day, in order to go to sleep at night, I put an audiobook on my phone, put in my earbuds and listen to a story as I fall asleep. This brings back so many fond memories of books I shared with my parents as they read to our family. Most of us left home as bibliophiles.

As I matured, I saved all those favorite books to one day share with my future children I hoped to one day have. (When I got married, I moved in with 11 boxes of books…) Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess, Little House on the Prairie and SO many more sat on my shelves for many years waiting to share them with those hoped for children. Every few years I’d pull them down and get lost in the adventures spilling out of their pages again.

Fast forward many years and I have two beautiful children.  Both of them have had issues with learning to read. They are finally reading and reading well after many difficult years and lots of tears as we went through the long adventure of learning to read with both of them.

I have never been a great fan of poetry, but I wanted to expose my kids to it and let them make their own decisions. When they were tiny, I purchased children’s poetry books and read the poems to them. They couldn’t get enough. They kept asking for more. A.A. Milne became a favorite and my own regard for poetry started to grow.

But… any book I recommend now that they can read on their own, they are adamant, cannot be any good. Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Captain Underpants wins hands down every time over my classic literature. They refuse any of the books on my bookcases, that my husband lovingly made for me. The books I had so carefully curated, and passionately held on to.

I was devastated. How could MY children not like these books?

Remember what your Librarian used to say. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

I was not about to be outwitted, however. For every book, they refused and said looked awful, I would wait a month or two and then find it on an audiobook. Then as we drive around we listen to my treasured memories. We have gone through many adventures in this way.

Both, with the “Sarah Plain and Tall” series by Patricia McLaughlin and the “My Side of the Mountain” series by Gene Craighead George, my daughter gobbled them up. When we finished the first book, she looked up the sequels and read them. After finishing My Side of The Mountain, she adamantly declared, “No! It can’t end there!”

This year my son connected with The Giver by Lois Lowry, and Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson. There were some silent moments after those stories ended and then deep conversations as we discussed the very visceral developments in the books.

Especially in the case of my son, the public library has now become one of his all-time favorite places. Every week we go there and find new adventures to go on. When he was 3, there was a trip to the library that will forever go down in infamy. He didn’t want to leave his favorite place and he was going to do everything he could to stay. And I mean everything. It took the librarian, the security guard, and myself to catch his energetic body. The library is his kingdom. His second home.

“Knowledge about and love of literacy can develop only through experience. Children should own books, should have access to books in their preschool and primary classrooms, should read often, and should see others reading and writing.”

-Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success

My children still steadfastly refuse to read anything from my bookcases. You would think they would have learned by now after loving the books I pick on audiobooks, that Mom knows best… But I’m getting the upper hand by sharing my favorite books with them through audiobooks and because- I get to enjoy them all over again.

The National Research Council states, “If we as a society are to prevent reading difficulties among the current generation of children in America, we must provide them with opportunities to:

  • explore the many uses and functions of written language and develop mastery of them,
  • understand, learn, and use the relationships between the spelling of words and the sounds of speech to recognize and spell written words,
  • practice and enhance vocabulary, language and comprehension skills,
  • have adults read to them and discuss and react to literature,
  • experience enthusiasm, joy, and success in learning to read and write,
  • use reading and writing as tools for learning,
  • receive effective intervention programs as early as possible if they are at risk for potential reading difficulties, and
  • receive effective intervention and remediation programs, well integrated with their everyday classroom activities, as soon as they have difficulty.”

-Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success

There are all kinds of ways to expose our children to literature. There isn’t really a wrong way. Just do it. Don’t forget the importance of writing either. Writing is an important part of the process as well as children learn the creative process of forming the letter, and then the letters into words, and then the words into thoughts. That is a true gift, to be able to express oneself in the written word for all to read and comprehend.

I’m going to give them a couple more years before I introduce them to Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. And I can’t wait to introduce them to my favorite- Gene Stratton-Porter. I think they are finally old enough for one of my favorite books of hers, I just need to find it on audiobook so they will actually listen to it.

Take a minute and remember what books you loved as a child. Which ones made your imagination soar? The ones you couldn’t put down? These are the ones you will want to target first. Out of that list, and knowing your child’s personality, which ones do you think they would enjoy best? Make a plan to either get a hard copy or audio copy and spend time with your child re-exploring the magic of the chosen book.

Make sure your children have ready access to all kind of books. Yes, even those you despise because developing a love of reading is more important in the early years. When they are little, read those books over and over that they request. This helps with word acquisition, recognition, and comprehension.

Spend time together discussing the books that you have read together, or their favorite or most recent read. This teaches them that reading is important and valuable. You are giving them your whole attention which makes them feel loved which in turn makes them feel that reading is something they should do more often and is enjoyable.

Find books you love to read and let your children see you reading. Your example speaks volumes to them. Share age appropriate insights with them, this peaks their interest to learn more about the books you like, and the world in general.

My children will keep resisting, but good books will win out. So I’ll keep reading to them, playing audiobooks, and offering the best that literature can offer until one day they pick up a book off my bookshelves and say, “What’s this book about Mom?”

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6 Days Surviving in the Emergency Department

Our child was too unsafe to transport ourselves to Seattle Children’s Hospital so we decided to take him to the local Emergency Department where they could arrange for transport. This was part of his emergency plan developed by the doctors and therapists 3 weeks prior when he had previously been admitted to Seattle Children’s PBM (Pediatric Behavioral Medicine Unit) – Take him to the nearest ED if he is stable enough for us to do so, or Call 911 or the King County Crisis Line if he is not.

We arrived at our local ED on a Saturday afternoon. When they talk about Emergency Departments in this country being overcrowded they aren’t kidding. The ED was overcrowded to the point where beds line the hallways within the ED and recliners line the halls outside of the ED. We spent the first 24 hours in a hallway surrounded by adult psych patients.

I have a lot of compassion for people who experience mental illness, I experience mental illness myself, but this was an inappropriate setting for a child of 11. Patients were screaming about wanting to have bombs removed from their body, devils attacking them and much more. There was no sheltering our child from this.

We were told that the PBMU doesn’t release patients on the weekends but they should have a bed on Monday. Unfortunate but understandable. So we prepared to endure the weekend at our local ED. We were finally placed in a room which helped muffle the sounds of the other patients. Monday dawned and the PBMU said they didn’t have any beds and it was unlikely they would have any on Tuesday but Wednesday they should. Tuesday came and they said that they had a lot of releases that day and he was #1 on the admissions list and that they should definitely have a bed for him the next day (Wednesday). 6:30am the social worker came into our child’s room to tell us that no, they don’t currently have a bed but to call after 3pm. They had a couple releases today and *maybe* they might have a bed.

At this point, I’ve had it. We’ve been stuck in this ER since Saturday and it is now Wednesday. I called the PBMU myself and spoke with the admissions director. He said they had a duty of care to accept patients from their ED first. (Our local hospital had been begging them to at least transfer him to their ED which would be far more appropriate for him.) We would have to continue to wait until there was a bed available if there weren’t admissions from their own ED first. I asked how long we could be looking at. The admissions director avoided my question. I called him out on that and asked if it could be weeks. He admitted that it could be and said that we were not the only ones in this situation, that there were many others across the state that were in a similar situation.

What we didn’t know at that time and had we, we would have made different decisions, is that once in a neighborhood ED, Seattle Children’s PBMU will not accept your child until they have a bed available. Finding a bed available is problematic as they frequently fill the PBMU completely from their own ED. You are forced then, to stay at the local ED until such a time as a bed opens up and Seattle Children’s ED doesn’t have another child waiting to take it.

Because my child is under the age of 13 Seattle Children’s Hospital is the only place in the state of Washington that will admit him. There are other options once your child is 13, but until that time it’s only Seattle Children’s Hospital for us.

Our local ED, even though I’m not usually a fan, really did everything they could for our child. Their own Psychiatrist wasn’t allowed to see and treat our child because he wasn’t Pediatric Board Certified. They contacted other Child Psychiatrists, offering hospital privileges to see if they would come and see our child so we could go on to the next stage of care. Everyone turned them down.

If we had called 911 and had an ambulance come and take him to the hospital, we would have still ended up at our local ED as regulations state that they have to take the patient to the nearest ED. If we have called the King County Crisis Line to come do an assessment, their response time is two hours minimum before they can get to you. By that time my child would have broken down the door to our bedroom where his sister and I were locked in for safety, and done some real damage.

Once we had my child calmed down from his meltdown and into our own room he was pretty good. His good behavior was due to our being stuck in an ED, where in order to survive he was able to watch TV to his heart’s content. Any time he was hungry the nurses would bring him whatever he wanted to eat and as much as he wanted to eat. (They didn’t want to live with him screaming about how hungry he was.) These are the two biggest things he has meltdowns about. It really got out of hand. (When we did finally get him to the PBMU and they drew blood, they were alarmed at just how high his cholesterol had become and thought they were going to have to take him off some of his medicines. I told them to just give it a few days. It was diet-induced from him getting to eat only what he wanted and as much as he wanted, and I was right.)

On Thursday we discharged him against medical advice from the local ED and drove him to Seattle Children’s ED ourselves where he was admitted.

Why should you care about what is happening to children like mine in Washington State? Because ours is just one of many stories that are happening not just in our state, but across the country both with children and adults. We need a better system. ED’s are not equipped to deal with and service the needs of these people on an ongoing basis. We spent 6 days not getting our child the help needed because we couldn’t get to where he needed to be.

How To Make A Solid Safety Plan for School

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When I was a child, I remember the fire drills and earthquake drills we practiced faithfully throughout the year. We never had cause to have need of the skills we used in the drills in real scenarios, but we were prepared. We knew where to meet outside the school for a fire and that under our desks was the best place for an earthquake.

A couple years ago while living in Alaska, my children had need of their earthquake drill training when an earthquake hit during their school day. It was fairly minor but it did do a little damage to the school.

I’m grateful that my children had this experience because it showed me some holes in the planning for these situations both for kids with disabilities and those without.

We usually conduct these drills with the idea in mind that our children will be in their classroom when disaster strikes. However, if you enter a school on any given day, at any given time you will find children everywhere in the building. What do our children do if they are in the hallway? The bathroom? In music?

During the earthquake my children went through at school, one of my children was in the music room. There are no desks in the music room. Our kids had no idea what to do because they couldn’t hide under desks and this caused a lot of anxiety for them.

My other child was in the bathroom. He has special needs. Many of the kids with special needs are more likely to not be in their classrooms than their peers when something happens. This is because they go back and forth to the Special Ed room, Speech, and other places within the school all day long. Likely they will be in a hallway somewhere in the school if something happens.

Does your child know what to do if they aren’t in class and a fire, earthquake, or someone intent on harming them is in the school? Whether they have disabilities or not, I’m betting you are going to answer no. Add to that, having special needs and the picture gets grimmer. Schools need to figure out what that alternative plan is, and all of our children need to know what the alternative plan is.

Maybe your special needs child is routine driven, and that child’s routine is broken due to the drill or a real-life event. They need to be as quiet as they can due to an active shooter, but that goes against everything their body is telling them to do. Suggestion- Keep lollipops in the classroom just in case. This will help fight off meltdowns due to a change in routine and keep them quiet. Yes, it’s a little bit of sugar but it just might save their life because many of our kids will stop a meltdown in a heartbeat at the offer of sugar. And those kids who can’t stop talking? A lollipop helps that too.

Develop a plan for all students to know what to do should the drill or a real event overtake them and they aren’t in class. You are in the hallway? Duck into the nearest classroom. Active Shooter and you are in the bathroom? Climb up on top of the toilet and be as quiet as can be, then they will be less likely to know you are there. Many schools are now having their kids bring in disaster kits in case they were to get stuck inside the school for an extended period of time or overnight. Some basic easy to eat food, a letter from a loved one, a flashlight, depending on your child a change of clothes or medication would also be in order just in case something should happen.

These are just some suggestions off the top of my head. We want our kids to stay safe in every situation. Bring these holes in your school safety plan up at your next PTA meeting and ask your school officials to help find solutions to these areas that are often overlooked. Together we can make a school safer.