It all started when I woke up in bed with a stranger. Late at night I felt her crawl in bed beside me in the hotel room, and I assumed it was my roommate Tammy. I pretended to be asleep, thinking that if I didn’t move or talk, I’d fall back asleep faster, and I was too tired to socialize. The next morning I rolled over to ask about her night and found myself face to face with a sleeping stranger. She looked young, young enough not to mind crawling in bed with a random middle-aged woman in the middle of the night in a strange city. I liked her already, as she slept like a rock and didn’t snore.
It was my first time at the Festival of Faith and Writing and I was happy to have people with whom to split the hotel fee. As I got to know my new bedmate over the days of the conference, I discovered that she was a writer for one of my favorite newspapers, which I read online. I gushed how I’d rather read her paper online than my city’s paper at the end of my driveway.
“You should absolutely get a subscription to your local paper,” she challenged, surprising me. She talked about having the newspaper spread out on the table growing up, how it got her excited about reading and led her to want to write, taught her about the world.
Huh. It reminded me of my own childhood. I remembered our local paper spread all over the breakfast table every morning, how I loved to read my favorite comic strips and the stories from our city. How I learned to hate the football players and wrestlers who always seemed to beat out our drama club’s productions of Mother Courage and Man of La Mancha for front page news. And then on Sundays the Cleveland Plain Dealer would arrive with a heavy thump and I’d claw through to find the funnies – in color – and playfully fight my dad for access to the crossword puzzle.
I loved the paper. How did I forget, in this digital world of access at my fingertips? So, a few weeks after the conference, I ordered the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the “AJC,” and told my kids excitedly, “Hey kids, we’re getting…The Paper!” They were mildly intrigued about this so-called “paper,” the way you’d feel about a presidential primary debate. You know you should be interested, because America says so, but you’d really rather watch Netflix.
The first Sunday that The Paper arrived, I grabbed it from the end of the driveway and unfurled it on the table. Elliott went straight for the funnies and Ana started scooping up all the ads. My shopper was dying over the coupons.
Ana: Mom! This is the best mail ever! Oh my gosh this is so exciting! I want to buy everything! Here’s a pool! I want a pool! We need a pool! Oooh! Bikinis!
Me: Try reading the product descriptions. Tell me about the bikinis. (I will do absolutely anything to get my kids to read.)
They haven’t graduated to World News or Metro yet, but over the last few weeks, I casually turn up stories I think they might find interesting and leave them where their eyes might skim a headline over their morning bowls of Honey Nut Cheerios.
I’m completely in love with my kids reading and discovering the world. That’s why I’m so excited about my friend Jamie Martin’s new book Give Your Child the World. Jamie offers tons of practical ideas for getting your kids interested in reading and has put together this amazing list of books highlighting cultures and stories from around the world. It’s like she’s your guide through the library, leading you to these carefully vetted books that will enrich your family. I got to read an early copy and endorse the book, and one takeaway that I’ve already employed is reading to my kids at the dinner table. I hate reading to my kids at bedtime. I’m just so done by that part of the day, and Jamie’s idea to read at the dinner table has taken away my guilt and given us fantastic conversations. Her book is crazy practical and equips me with everything I need to engage my kids in reading, and Jamie’s voice throughout is inspirational without a hint of judgment. She gets me excited about the possibilities rather than bogged down with more stuff to do.
As always, if I post an Amazon link and you click and buy something, I make several whole cents. Keeps the lights on around here. Well, keeps about one-quarter of one pixel on. Thanks in advance.