In this addition to Raising Star Readers, we check in again on Anita Dualeh and her Reading Team. Along with many of us, they’re using books as a distraction and a consolation while living with the massive changes brought about by the threat of COVID-19. Here’s how Anita describes this shared moment of history-in-the-making:
In the past month, my kids haven’t had much formal schooling. First, we had four days off due to a teachers’ strike, and then every day after that because the governor ordered all schools in Minnesota closed to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. We haven’t done the morning get-ready-for-the bus routine since March 9th. Whatever else seems to be in flux during this time, I’m holding fast to at least a few routines in our home, including reading aloud.
With two kids on two very different schedules this school year, our recent reading routine had only involved about two or three chapters a week. But since no one is leaving for school anymore, our reading rate has gone up to one or two chapters per day. I consider it a silver lining that we have more time than ever, and reading together more often has helped create a deeper sense of connection between me and my kids. At times, picking up a book and beginning to read has helped de-escalate some tense moments or strong emotions. We have found that sitting down together to be transported into a story about another time and another place has helped to console and uplift us. The stories have made us laugh and made us wonder. They’ve provided a welcome distraction − no, a necessary distraction.
Our favorite so far from this period of more intensive reading has been Katherine Applegate’s novel Home of the Brave. My 12-year-old has given the story particularly high marks. He appreciated the humor and the realistic portrayal of the child refugee experience. He also noted, “I thought there wasn’t going to be a happy ending, but there was.” My nine-year-old thought it was a good story as well. He enjoys a good laugh, and this book had plenty.
I appreciated the way Applegate develops a relatable protagonist and evokes empathy as she describes the challenges of being a new immigrant in the United States. Perhaps part of the reason the story resonated so well with my sons is that we have family and friends who have immigrated to this country – and some of the anecdotes in the books sound not that different from oral stories my children have heard over the years. But I believe even kids who can’t say the same would find this to be a rewarding, empathy-building read.
We are in the thick of the joys and challenges of being together all the time, every day. The days and weeks are starting to blur together and there’s nothing much to look forward to from one day to the next, as my older son has pointed out. Even during spring break. This is where books have come to the rescue. As I complete a chapter, we find ourselves looking forward to the next one to see how the story unfolds. We talk about the characters, even some days later. We pick the books up again and reread the best parts.
Bookology is always looking for new Reading Teams to help us celebrate the joys of reading aloud together. Contact Lisa Bullard for further information if you’re interested in participating.