Allow me to start this post with a story. There was a time when the family sat on a (not-so) fancy restaurant downtown. We were ordering a huge meal (don’t you just hate it when you order a lot when you’re hungry?). The staff told us that it was going to take twenty minutes of waiting but we were given free garlic (!) bread for starters as well as free use of Internet. So, we were in the middle of the restaurant, nibbling halfway into the bread basket when I (sort of) eavesdropped on a conversation from the table nearby. The kids were delightfully asleep on their high chairs and my hubby was too hungry to start a conversation (with the garlic bread between his teeth and all). The conversation went on like this:
She: Eat now, Andrew. Before your steak gets cold
He: …(mumble, mumble)
She: You have to talk louder, Andrew. It’s not polite.
He: Yes, Ma. (with a loud sigh)
She: Would you please talk to me?
He: Not now, ma. I am levelling up in this game I’m playing.
Curious, I turned my head and saw this eleven year old boy playing with a huge tablet in his arms, with another boy sitting beside him, looking on. I was not even aware from listening that there was another boy. There were an occasional awwww shucks and cartoon sounds. The mother tried to stare them down but to no avail. Our eyes meet. She smiled, as if saying, teenagers, right? Then probably from embarrassment, she took out her mobile phone from her bag and started playing as well. This went on for the whole duration of the time they were on the restaurant. It got me thinking how sad it must be for our generation. All these tablets and cell phones and no time to chat. Almost everywhere I go, people don’t seem to be doing except check social media or play games. It has even happened on my brother’s family. He goes home to see his wife on the phone, doing Facebook and his kids on the laptop playing Minecraft. The house is quiet and they don’t even talk on the dinner table at all.
Experience-wise, I can’t even see people reading books anymore. Textbooks are even available on digital formats. In all due respect, I am not lambasting technology. It’s wonderful. I have a classroom of children who sometimes need a small video or two when there is a topic I cannot explain in terms they can understand. I am happy with email (free mail, as my Mom used to say), Viber and FaceTime.
But what is happening? Too much use of these gadgets is teaching us poor social skills. A parent from school bemoaned her kids getting impatient, tantrum-ish and aggressive. In a fit of divine insight, she took away the right to play with tablets and cell phones from dinner to bedtime and discovered they were more patient and less rough. What did she do with all the free time? “I got them started on books,” she said.
It feels right about starting this little project, Operation Reading! I have already started on a book list for toddlers. Here is another for the older kids. I hope you may be able to influence them to read instead of playing online.
From the mixed-up files of Basil E. Frankweiler (E.L. Konigburg)
I have yet to know where Frankweiler fits with this book, but it is certainly a read for school-age kids. The heroine Claudia decides to run away because she feels she’s not getting enough recognition at home. She invited Jamie, her brother who hoards money like a dragon hoards treasure along. They stayed on a museum and the adventure starts. The story is fast, interesting and will be a good head start.
Everything on a Waffle (Polly Horvath)
For older children who have experienced the loss of one or both parents, they can certainly relate with the character Primrose. She lost both parents at sea, yet all through the story, she has never given up on the hope they would be back. In the meantime, while waiting, she regularly goes to a restaurant that serves (you got it right), everything on a waffle. She helps out and busies herself with cooking. To the author’s credit, there are even recipes in between chapters. Maybe a great way to encourage helping out in the kitchen? (wink, wink)
The Wanderer (Sharon Creech)
The book tackles on some fine points about family, cooperation and self-actualization (what a big word). Amazingly, the young female protagonist (that’s main character for you), Sophie embarks on a sea trip along with her quirky uncle and cousins. Trouble ensures because of different personalities, priorities and secrets (hint: Sophie has one). But there’s a happy ending in the end, I promise. The bonus here is that your teen may be interested to learn about nautical terms like helm, starboard, and the seaman’s alphabet (A is for Alpha, B is for Bravo and C is for Charlie).
Found (Margaret Haddix)
This mystery book is the first instalment of the Found series, and one for the detective wannabes in the family. Jonah is a kid who knows he’s adopted and never thought it was a big deal, until he finds a mysterious letter saying: “you are one of the missing” and “beware! They’re coming back to get you.” Creepy, huh? Have your kid read this and find out what happens next!
My name is America: The Journal of Ben Uchida (Ben Denenberg)
This book may have some serious undertones here. It was inspired by true events in the American past when some citizens living in the country were treated inhumanely simply by just being Japanese. The setting was around the time when Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japanese forces. Paranoia ensured and a lot of them were taken into camps under harsh conditions. All’s not gloom and doom, though, as Ben tries to understand what was going on.
There are some more books I can post later. Do leave a comment and I can give you a more extensive list. Good day and God bless your undertakings!