Be Their Book

“Raising kids is part joy and part guerrilla warfare.” – Ed Asner

Be Their Book

There are two books that my three daughters are reading.  One, let’s call this first book Dad, is about the man named Dad and the life he is living in front of them.  The other, let’s call this second book Culture, is about everyone named Culture and the life they are living in front of them.  Here’s a synopsis of each…

Book OneDad, who says, “I’m a dad.  I have three daughters.  We read books.  We laugh with each other.  We talk to each other.  We eat meals together.  We watch movies together.  We do homework together.  We listen to music together.  We shop and argue and vacation and work and dream together.  I love them and I try to teach them that what they do and say and think matters.”

Book TwoCulture, who says,I’m everyone.  I have countless daughters.  We read books.  We laugh with each other.  We talk to each other.  We eat meals together.  We watch movies together.  We do homework together.  We listen to music together.  We shop and argue and vacation and work and dream together.  I love them and I try to teach them that what they do and say and think makes no difference at all.”

As a dad, I am not interested in giving culture the top teaching position within my daughters’ lives, nor am I interested in teaching my daughters to be perfect people (there is no such thing and teaching such a thing is ridiculous and futile).  What I am interested in teaching them is that they are human beings worthy of being respected and being respectful, of being intelligent and acting with intelligence, of being listened to and listening to others, of thinking well and being thought of well, with living and loving and working and caring about more than just themselves.

Here are two interesting columns on the topic:

1.  According to a new study by the Parents Television Council, underage girls are more likely to act in “exploitative” scenes on television than adult women. For the study, the PTC viewed 238 episodes of prime time television and found that about two-thirds of them had some sort of sexual content. A third were deemed to be exploitative. Underage characters were more likely to be involved in those scenes than adults, and about a third of the scenes were designed to be humorous. But PTC President Tim Winter is not amused. “Today the Parents Television Council publicly asks, ‘When is it appropriate to laugh at the sexual exploitation of a child?'” he said in a statement. “How are our children and our society being impacted by entertainment content that utilizes sexual exploitation as humor?” [,, 7/12/13]

2.  In our culture, instead of just focusing on the Miley Cyruses, we should recognize and applaud the many young adults who are making the right decisions. Teen pregnancy declined by 42% from 1990 to 2008, owing in part to the fact that teens are waiting longer to start having sex. In the period from 2006 to 2008, among unmarried girls ages 15 to 19, only 11% had had sex before age 15, compared with 19% in 1995. Making sure that people—particularly young people—know these facts and figures can play an important role in encouraging better behavior. Too much of our culture—from headlines in Cosmopolitan magazine to TV shows like The Secret Life of the American Teenager—sends the message that promiscuity is ubiquitous and a rite of passage toward adulthood. But it’s not. Those who do take sex seriously are in good company.”  — National Review contributor Hadley Heath [, 9/19/13 stats]

In other words dad, be their book.  It won’t be the only one that gets read, but it will be among the only ones that matter.

Father Knows Five 9-27-13

*Every Friday we serve you an “a la carte” style list of 5 unique videos, articles, ideas, etc. from all kinds of locations. (If you are viewing this blog through your email subscription, please follow the link to our website to view all videos.)  See you next week…

Because today is my birthday, I want to dedicate this day’s page to a favorite book and author.  There was a time in my childhood when all I wanted to be was the boy in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. He created a book that made me think I could be the boy in the story.  I love books like that and its magic has stayed with me throughout my life.  I’m grateful for it.

1. “Children do live in fantasy and reality; they move back and forth very easily in a way we no longer remember how to do.” – Maurice Sendak


2.  “I do not believe that I have written a children’s book.  I don’t know how to write a children’s book.  How do you write about it?  How do you set out to write a children’s book?”  – Maurice Sendak

3.  “Reading is sitting on your parent’s lap.  Reading is a physical act.  A book should be beautiful.  Every book that’s manufactured should have textures and qualities and smells as though it were a toy, as though were it something precious.  And then when you’re read to by a parent, mom or pop, and your sitting on the lap…then you have the whole thing.  You have the total organization of parent, child, and book – fusion.  That’s something television or any other form cannot give a human being.” – Maurice Sendak

4.  In an interview with Martha Stewart, Maurice Sendak shared his favorite childhood books.  They included Mickey Mouse in Pygmy Land, The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain, and Alice in Wonderland.  He was also asked to share the favorite book he had written, Outside Over There, a story about he and his sister.  He described this book as his most personal story.


5.  Now that I’m a dad, my favorite Maurice Sendak book is the gem titled Pierre.  This is also the favorite book to read to my college students and education majors each semester.  Just click on the book cover to go straight to the video reading of it:


Part 2 of ‘ You Could Be Your Own Twin’ Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story about our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. His backstory can be found here. Part 1 of today’s story can be found here.  Enjoy!

 Bus BF

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn…and independent bookstores; but he did not like being made fun of…….. Here is his story:

Baby Frederico could barely move.  He felt so embarrassed and angry at Billy the Groundhog.  How could he be so mean, especially to Baby Frederico, who always tried to be as kind as he could to him.  Once when they were in Kindergarten, he even shared his blocks with Billy when the other children wouldn’t let him explore with their group at the science center.  What had happened to him?  And why was Baby Frederico the lucky one to be his target this week?

But then, something that was nothing short of miraculous happened as Baby Frederico stepped on the bus.  Their driver, Gustav, welcomed him as he had never welcomed him before.  Grenelda sat near the front and smiled as the jolly bus driver began to speak.

“Hey there Baby Frederico.  Welcome to my bus,” he said as he broke into the happiest laugh anyone on the bus ever heard before or since.

“You may not know it my friend, but anyone who rides my bus and has an imaginary friend gets special treatment.  I had one of my own when I was a boy and I miss him now that I’m tall and old!  I wish you would have told me about him sooner Baby Frederico.”  He laughed again as he pulled the door closed and merged the big yellow bus back onto the road.

“Mine’s name was Charlie Chupa.  What’s your’s?”

Baby Frederico was nearly speechless.  How could he be having such a conversation about something that only moments ago was a secret between only himself and Grenelda?

“B.F.  His name is BF.  He’s green and looks kind of like…me.”  Baby Frederico could feel his strength coming back.

Gustav just smiled as he drove along toward the school.  It was good to remember the old days and his old friend, and Baby Frederico was to be thanked for that.  He also noticed the other kids on the bus, even grumpy little Billy the Groundhog.  They were laughing and smiling and telling stories about their imaginary friends.  Grenelda and Baby Frederico noticed it, too.  It seems that nearly everyone on the bus had an imaginary friend…even Billy.  He mentioned it as though it was the greatest thing in the world to have an imaginary friend.  He even told Gustav, right in front of Baby Frederico, that everyone should have at least one imaginary friend, no matter how tall or old he becomes!

But the greatest surprise for Gustav’s bus kids occurred the very next morning when they each stepped onto the bus for school.  Near the very front of the bus, just behind Gustav’s big driving chair, was a sight they could have never imagined only the day before.  Right there in Seat 1 was the grandest decorated bench you have ever seen – it had streamers of every color and little twinkling lights draped across its back, and a large hand-painted sign that read ‘Reserved for Imaginary Friends Only.”

As Baby Frederico and Grenelda the Grasshopper took their seats, they listened in amazement as every rider – from the tiniest cricket and the tallest scissor-tailed flycatcher to one “former” bully groundhog and an old bus driver – talked about whose imaginary friend was the hippest, funniest, and smartest one among them.

And Baby Frederico knew his favorite – very well indeed.

Swinging in the Rain

Julia Reading in Rain

In our part of the country, it doesn’t rain as often as I’d like.  Early in our marriage my wife and I would travel to the southern coast of Georgia once a year to spend a week with her wonderful grandparents.  It was a pristine world in which they lived, a coastal island protected by federal mandate and it seemed like another world to me.  My favorite part of those weeks revolved around the weather.  It could be hot and sunny in the morning and then rain for an hour in the afternoon and then humid straight through to twilight, when it would all dissolve into a cool, breezy evening of solitude in and around their little home.  The weather there nearly always followed that plan throughout each day – sunny and hot, rain, humid, and finally cool and breezy.

It was that afternoon rain that has held a trance over me for more than twenty years now.  As it would begin to fall, we would come inside for a late lunch and always a nap that would linger through the afternoon.  At that point in my life I had not taken a nap since I was a child, but grandparents are so good at taking naps and they would insist on it – so we did.

Last Tuesday night it finally rained for a bit here at home.  Dinner was over and the kitchen clean and everyone was busy with end-of-the-day kinds of things when our youngest realized that she had not yet completed her twenty-minute-every-night required book reading for school.  She was disappointed because she really just wanted to swing in the rain.

“Wouldn’t that be fun?” she said.

But the dilemma remained – she had to read for 20 minutes and the evening was quickly fading.

“How about you read while you swing?” I suggested.

It worked.  We were outside in a minute, each with our own books, and our youngest in her own personal paradise.  And then it happened, a roll of thunder and the rain began.  The swing is under a large tree so it worked something like an umbrella as she read.  When the drops grew large enough to penetrate the leafy canopy above her, she simply looped her zebra umbrella around the ropes above the swing and kept right on reading.

Great teachers of young children will tell you that when they encounter a student who does not like to read, it is often more a matter of what they are reading and where they are reading rather than that they don’t actually like to read.  Talking with them about their interests and giving them freedom to find an adventurous place to read can really help them become readers.

Whether in a special corner in the playroom, on the porch, under the kitchen table, in bed, under the bed, or a million other places – reading somewhere you wouldn’t normally think to read can be a lot of fun…and sitting on a swing under a big old tree in the rain is not a bad place to give it a try.

Look at this Book! Ghost Horse

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique “recipe for fun” this week over on our Book Cook page…

Ghost Horse Cover

Today’s great book: Ghost Horse by George Edward Stanley with illustrations by Ann Barrow (2000, Random House).

Time to Read: a chapter book; 69 pages; 2-3 evenings.

Summary:  from the back cover…”Emily Clark just moved.  She doesn’t like her new  house.  She doesn’t like her new town.  Then one night she wakes up to find a horse in her backyard – a ghost horse!    Where did he come from?  And why is he haunting Emily’s backyard?  Only by solving the mystery can Emily set the ghost horse free.

Best Quote: “Emily wished the ghost horse could talk.  Why had he come to her?  The ghost horse knelt down on his front legs.”

Our View: First, the illustrations in this book are so life-like.  They are drawn in pencil and really jump off the page as you encounter each one among the chapters.   The story itself is great.  We love mysteries and this book keeps you guessing from start to finish.  It isn’t really scary, but there is a descriptive walk as Emily is led through a cemetery by the ghost horse.  The horse is indeed a ghost and has a good reason for seeking out Emily, who has always wanted a horse.

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe – “Haystacks” – created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

A Romance Among Books

Nearly every time I am at my wife’s childhood home, I look for something to read – and that is because my in-laws are magnificent reading people.  I was extremely lucky to have found my wife and her family, and one of the best things about them is their home.

Connie and Mike 2013

Whether it is the latest magazine and the most interesting book (new or old) or the latest column on the web – my wife’s parents know about it and love to share it.  They subscribe to everything with a word or sentence in it and will entertain a new book at the drop of a hat.  Who do you know that reads Sound & VisionArchitectural DigestFamily Handyman, AND Oxford American?  I know someone and it is them (and why they are this week’s special photo above)!

I remember early in our dating life together when I would be invited over for dinner or to watch a college football game or assist in moving a piece of furniture or just stopping by to pick up their daughter for a date – and the books!  You wouldn’t believe it.  Every topic of every kind hidden within the pages of old, new, tattered, classic, big, little, hardback and softback books; beautiful works with spines covered in colors and titles and drawings that practically asked me to pull every single one of them from the shelves (and made me nearly late for romantic dates and exciting football games and abundant family dinners).

And the way in which their books are used – it is as though this family believes that books are much more than books – they are for display and decoration and art as much as they are for reading.  The built-in bookshelves surround the fireplace and the walls and provide the backdrop for the sofas and recliners, while other rooms include desks and end tables with just the right amount of space for special books that have lived with the family for generations.  The books themselves might be standing up straight with their spines facing outward, while others are casually leaning up against an antique clock or stacked diagonally over and under one another.  There are always new and interesting books on the coffee table and even a variety of magazines pouring out of a big woven basket near the recliners.  More than 20 years later, it never fails to amaze me that I can enter this great home a hundred times throughout the year and find something new to read every single time.

It is no secret that I fell in love with my wife and her family in those early days of our life together, and that marvelous house full of books and words and columns and conversation remains the icing on the cake.

Decorate Books

Father Knows Five 9-20-13

*Every Friday we serve you an “a la carte” style list of 5 unique videos, articles, ideas, etc. from all kinds of locations. (If you are viewing this blog through your email subscription, please follow the link to our website to view all videos.) See you next week…

1.  I am a fan of movie previews.  I don’t like to be late to a movie, just so I can see the previews!  They are mini-blockbusters in themselves and there have been many that have been much better than the actual movie they were clipped from.  So why not book previews?!  Here’s one to watch for a book that my older daughter has been reading and telling me about – very cool and very creepy.

2.  A Mirror Spider – Speaking of cool and creepy…wow!  This should make every kid want to study biology in the real world.  Who knew there were so many interesting things waiting out there:  


3.  A post on Twitter (@ofabookworm) this week that is worth repeating – “I’d just like to fast-forward through the rest of my day and get to the part where I am at the bookstore.”

4.  ABC’s – Take a look at this fun ABC photo gallery with your kids.


5.  Play-Doh – We love this stuff and here are more reasons to make sure you have it in your home!