Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Did you know it's National Reading Month?

I started an ill-conceived journey to document how many books I'm reading this year.  It's like when people with other, more adventurous hobbies chronicle how many countries they're visiting, miles they're running, or meals they're prepping.  It's like that movie "Julie and Julia," where the aforementioned Julie decides to work her whole way through Julia Child's cookbook.  Except I can't eat anything when I'm done.  I don't need to know how to make a roux.  And I'm not working my way through an entire anything.  Or am I?

"How many books will I read in 2017?"  I wondered late 2016 as I finished Jodi Picoult's "Small Great Things" with a satisfied slam of cover.  I tried to do the math in my head.  Maybe two books a month?  Three?  Somewhere between 24 and 36?  Who knows!  But what better way to find out than to snap a picture of each book I finish in the year.  And of course place it on social media for posterity.

I'm getting the distinct impression that I'll be closer to 50 books.  Which is much more than I thought. But we shall see.

I did a version of this when I was a kid.  I had a notebook, and I wrote down the titles I finished, and by the time 1989 or whenever was done, I'd read something insane, like 250 books.  Some weekends, I would crank through 3 or 4.  Perhaps I have given you an unasked for, distasteful peek into young Jaclyn's social life.  Perhaps you feel sorry for such a shy bookworm in red plastic glasses.  Or perhaps you envy me.  "If only I'd read 250 books in 1989," you might be thinking, "My life wouldn't have turned into such a goddamn disaster."

Because 36 year old Jackie has it all.  Including free afternoons with a napping toddler and a self-entertaining, Wii-loving four year old in which she can plow through a couple chapters.  Including quiet evenings tucked into her bed with her lamp glowing late into the night so she can find out what the hell's wrong with The Couple Next Door.  Is my reading a product of being a stay at home mom with heavily routined children and a nighttime social life that rivals 1989?  I don't know.  I think if I were working and/or busier, though, I'd probably read close to the same amount.  Possibly a little less.  I carve out time for it.  Nothing is better and more relaxing than a really good book.  With the Super Mario theme song playing softly in the background, punctuated by the sound of Mario falling off the same simple cliff 27 times in a row.

The only problem is that now that I'm documenting it, I'm starting to think, "Oh crap.  I finished another one," every time I snap that picture.  "This is getting embarrassing."

I care about reading, though, and reading to my children.  I'm pushing Andy to read independently more, and I thoughtfully pick out all sorts of levels of books for the three of them to get into.  My book bag's getting heavy.

Novels for me.

Board books about princesses and grandparents for Emily.  (She really loves books about old people.)

Picture books for Alex.

Easy Readers for Andy.

Beginning chapter books for Andy and/or Alex.

Nothing for Chris.

(That last part is pretty light, at least physically.)

Some of the books I read with the kids, I really get into and appreciate.  Yes, I did like Captain Underpants.  I think Robert Munsch is pretty cool.  Old school Curious George is great.  Unfortunately, most of the books Alex in particular picks out- well, they're awful.  We've gone through every superhero book in the superhero book at the basket, and I know none of these tomes are NYT best-sellers, but seriously, these are the worst written books I've ever read.  Terrible writing.  Ridiculous plots.  Asinine pun-based dialogue.  Abrupt scene changes.  Actually, that last part may be due to the fact that all of these books at the library are missing pages (because they're all checked out by rambunctious boys.  The books in the Barbie and My Little Pony box look a lot more pristine,)  It almost insults my own parental intelligence and integrity to read these aloud to Alex.  But I know this is how readers are raised.  If he's drawn to the insufferable, then that's what I will read to him, and that is true love.

The book I was most embarrassed to take a picture with.
So far.  It's only March!
I love to know what everybody else's kids are reading.  Sometimes I'm blown away by other children's choices.  I found out a friend's daughter, also in first grade, is reading "The Boxcar Children" by herself.  The Boxcar Children!  My first thought, upon hearing this, was flashing back to Andy reading his Level 2 book the night before about Tiny the Big Dog, thinking "Why is Andy so damn dumb??"  My second thought was a much more tempered, "Hmm.  Why is my friend's daughter such a damn genius?"  I then surreptitiously asked my friend for a list of nutrients and vitamins she was slipping into her daughter's diet so that I could mimic the formula in an attempt to boost Andy's own brain power.  She said something about hard-boiled eggs.  It takes like twenty minutes to hard boil an egg, peel it, etc.  Forget it.  Tiny the Big Dog it is!

Which brings me to my final point.  Tiny the Big Dog.  Superhero books with atrocious storylines.  I could write this stuff.  Anybody could.  I just need an illustrator, a couple semi-original ideas, and some more free time.  Children's author could totally be my next career!  But not in 2017.  My afternoon time is already taken up with novel reading for Instagram.