I Have Too Many Tabs Open

June 13, 2009 @ 11:57 am | Filed under:

I’m kind of quarantined at the moment. The baby and Rilla seem to be more or less over the nasty little bug we’ve been passing around, but it appears to find my company irresistible and invited its nasty little friends over for a keg party in my immune system last night. I woke up at 4 a.m. with a fever and honest-to-goodness chills, the kind that make your teeth chatter. Fun!

So Scott’s doing Saturday morning cartoons with the rest of the gang, and the baby just crashed on my lap (he’s the one who gave me this blasted virus, so no quarantining needed), and my book is way on the other side of the room, and my foot is falling asleep. Hang on, now my other foot is falling asleep. This is a serious situation. Must take mind off physical misery. Twitter, what have you got for me?

Ahh, sweet distraction. First there’s Liz B tweeting a teaser about her latest post, a link-rich discussion of her frustration with parents who “treat reading like a race,” pushing their kids to read too early, or to read “more challenging” books. Hear hear! Couldn’t agree more. I recall, long ago, when Jane was a baby, watching a visiting 4-year-old explore our bookshelves, which were even then loaded with picture book treasures. I’d worked at a children’s bookstore during grad school and pretty much converted my paycheck into books every two weeks. The little girl was a precocious reader, already gulping down chapter books on her own, but she was having a fine old time with our picture-book stash when her mother noticed and steered her away from the picture books toward, and I quote, “something more challenging.” The little girl was crestfallen, and I found myself quickly jumping in to point out to her mom that actually the reading level in picture books is often more sophisticated than in young chapter books, since, after all, picture books are meant to be read by an adult to a child. This satisfied the mother’s concerns and she allowed her daughter to finish the book she’d begun, but I felt intensely dissatisfied by the exchange. “Sophisticated reading level” wasn’t the point at all. The point was that a four-year-old child wanted to read a picture book—four! she was only four!—and she was being given a message that reading purely for pleasure was beneath her. Why must she only read things that “challenge” her? What’s wrong with reading for fun? Well, I was very new to mothering myself at that point, and I didn’t know how to carry the conversation further without offending the mother. I’m much mouthier now, I suppose.

Liz also led me to a Roger Sutton post on a topic much discussed of late, the difference between professional film and literary criticism and the kind of reviews, responses, and recommendations now so abundant on blogs. Roger quotes a New York Times article about online movie-review aggregators and the shrinking numbers of in-print film reviews, and he wonders whether “Internet 2.0 is turning us all into better talkers than listeners—that’s what will kill criticism from wherever its source.” Looks like a good discussion (among folks who both talk and listen) is shaping up in the comments there.

The Times piece led me to a Roger Ebert post about a YouTube poetry clip that was pulled because of nudity in an accompanying image. (The clip was later restored to the site, image intact.) I clicked through to listen to the poem, “The Cinnamon Peeler” by Sri Lankan poet Michael Ondaatje, and was fairly blown away both by the poem (beautiful in a kind of Song of Solomon way—please vet this before sharing with kids) and the voice of the reader, who calls himself (on YouTube) Tom O’Bedlam. I’ll be revisiting the SpokenVerse channel for sure.

Somewhere along the line the Times article led me, with a stop or two in between, to the Magazine Death Pool. Anyone feeling depressed about the disappearance of print media should probably avoid this link. (You know who you are.) “More than 525 US magazines ceased publication in 2008, and 40 have already folded in 2009 as the downturn in the economy continues to heavily impact most forms of print media, according to MediaFinder.com.” That quote is from February, and the site chronicles the demise of several more magazines since then. Yow.

Then again, I’ve let almost all of my own magazine subscriptions lapse in the past couple of years. The girls still get a bunch of good ones, gifts from Scott’s parents—Muse, Odyssey, Ask, Ranger Rick, My Big Backyard.

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7 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. MelanieB says:

    17 tabs open here. Oh no now there are more links I need to follow! Where is the end to all this surfing? And I don’t even have the excuse of a cuddly baby or an illness. I’m just enjoying the rare quiet of two girls who are somehow entertaining themselves quietly in the other room.

  2. Rebecca says:

    That virus sounds very nasty, Melissa. I hope that it’s a quick one and that you start to feel better very very soon.

    Thanks so much for pointing out the Roger Ebert article. We are huge Michael Ondaatje fans (as he was born in Sri Lanka but is now a Canadian citizen… and is the author of The English Patient, which I prefer to the movie version) and I’m so pleased to have access to this reading. Lovely.

  3. Book Chook says:

    I am now old enough to be a Grandma and frequently find myself expostulating internally, or being mouthy, with parents who push their kids up. Up to a different level, up to a different class, always up, with a parental view down at the lesser beings.

    Gifted kids, I am told, must be pushed. Okay, push them sideways. Well, actually, don’t push them at all, but let them explore sideways. Let them explore the wonderful world of books without even acknowledging some number or reading level tacked onto a book to make it competitive. Learning is about collaboration rather than competition, in my eyes.

    Guess I’m mouthy too!

  4. Jamie says:

    Hope you are better very soon, Lissa! Opening a tab in my own browser to say thanks for mentioning Muse in a long-ago post. I subscribed based on that post and my boys love it. My 9yo has read each issue at least a dozen times.

  5. Hannah says:

    I would be willing to bet money that that mom’s comment to her daughter was really meant for your benefit. We moms sometimes can’t help our competitive nature, and comments like that can be read as “Look at how well my genius of a daughter is reading!” How I wish it weren’t that way, that we’d never be tempted to make our children into our trophies …

  6. Mary says:

    I agree with you about reading for fun. I do it all the time, and I encourage my kids to do the same. However, I do offer, not require or push, some really great and yes, “more challenging” books. I guess there is a fine line between offering something and pushing. I find my children will read what is comfortable, my daughter has read every fairy book available and my son has read every Boxcar Children book, but they seem intimidated by new books. I have some great ones around and then wait for my kids to pick them up. For Christmas, I bought my son a collection of baseball books, yes a little harder than the Boxcar Children books, and he started reading them recently and tolk me that he loves them. I felt gratified. I have to admit htat I love to see them reading, whether it be Richard Scarey or E.B. White. I hope I’m not a pushy mom. I had no one to steer my reading as an older child, and I wish I had.

  7. Melissa Wiley says:

    Oh I absolutely hear you on the offering challenging stuff—I just don’t want to see parents disallowing “easy” books or lower-reading-level choices that the kids are interested in.

    One of the most frequent sentences to come out of my mouth is, “Here, why don’t you try a chapter of this and see if you like it?” (Or sometimes 2 chaps, or 3, if I know the story takes a while to get off the ground.) It makes me really happy that my kids trust my taste enough to give a book a try! I think knowing they have the freedom to pass on it if it really doesn’t grab them helps them give a “harder” book a chance. And of course reading aloud is the best way into challenging books—often I’ll read the first couple of chapters and Bean or Rose will take it over for there (because once they’re hooked, they’d rather read it more quickly than I can manage with little chunks of readaloud time).

    As I was writing this comment, Rose happened to come to me with The Children’s Homer and asked if it would be okay if she read it! LOL LOL LOL. Her favorite book is Peter Pan. But she’ll spend many days happily reading nothing but Calvin & Hobbes.