Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bedtime Stories

When my daughter was little, I read to her every night.

We read Junie B. Jones, Charlotte’s Web, Lemony Snickett, The Chronicles of Narnia. I loved the stories. They made us laugh and wonder and sigh and sometimes shed a tear. But as much as I loved these books - I loved the time with my daughter the best.

Some nights I was almost too tired to do it. But it became a tradition, so I’d squish onto her bed – she’d snuggle in – and we’d read and read and read.

Now she reads on her own – sigh. Sometimes we read the same books – but not as a nightly ritual. We enjoyed the Harry Potter series together –but she sped by me and was rereading while I was still finishing the first go round.

So it is particularly sweet that I am reading a story with her now: The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo. I heard Kate speak at a recent writer’s conference and found her completely charming. I decided to buy this book and try for one last reading ritual with Sabrina.

Last night, as she leaned in on me in her flannel pjs, I smelt the top of her head and hugged her close. Reading words aloud has a certain magic, almost like the wonder of a 12-year-old who is almost too grown up to read a bedtime story with her mom.

Almost, but not quite…

Friday, April 23, 2010


I was walking in downtown Chicago. There are these little plots of grass that help soften the cement world that is the city. In one of these plots there were tiny sprouting bits of grass seed - trying valiently to make their spring appearance. On top of the seeds were crumpled pieces of paper, an empty water bottle, a discarded cigarette.

A man was working with a pointed stick - clearing the litter off of the struggling grass. There was a trash can just four feet away. Why do people throw litter on this little bit of growing grass when they could so easily discard it in the right place? Don't they know that they will kill it?

I was thankful for the litter clean-up man.

Because I have kids and media on my mind, I couldn't help but compare. Aren't our kids a little like those struggling grass seeds? They are trying to grow and flourish, trying to establish who they are and what they will become.

The media can bring messages that are good and challenging and nourishing, but it can also bring trash. It can weigh them down needlessly with too much information, with really bad examples, with pressures to be people they aren't ready to be. Some try to make our kids grow up too fast or learn too much, too quickly.

I guess it is my job to be help sort out the bad stuff. My daughter might not realize that the latest hottest movie or web-site might hurt her. I know parents can't prevent it altogether - but it's our job to watch.

We are the clean-up people...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cool Girls Books

I was just at the Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing. I had the chance to hear a lot of writers talk about their work - why they got into writing - what motivates them and challenges them - what they are afraid of and why they do it even when it's hard.

One of the writers I heard was a young woman named Jenny Han. She writes young adult fiction. I bought a copy of her book Shug for my daughter. Jenny is much younger than I am and already has three published books with more on the way (I must admit I am a bit jealous).

At this session, I learned (from an author's perspective some of the challenges these authors face when writing for our kids.

1) The vampire, dragon, fairy trend is all-consuming. Not all of the authors want to write about vampires or dragons, but they feel the pressure.
2) They are often reluctant to write about faith - not because they don't have personal views about God and religion, but because publishers or booksellers are afraid it won't sell.
3) They care about their readers. They try to set good examples. These girls were worried about the language they were using in their books and the situations they placed their characters in.
4) They were funny and real and charming. I loved Jenny's book. As she read a passage - I heard a real voice that sounds like real girls that I have met. I laughed out loud at some of her quirky humor. I wish I had books like that when I was young.

Thanks Jenny and friends for writing great books like these! I hope you keep at almost makes me want to be thirteen all over again.

To see Jenny's book go to this link: