Reading and traveling are two passions that I share with my seven-year-old daughter. Books, pamphlets, maps, magazines, newspapers, menus. Traveling a half-hour to the museum or across the ocean with our backpacks. My work as an elementary school Reading Specialist has naturally evolved into how I travel and read as a parent. Book recommendations will be given. Dialogue about learning to read and how to encourage the habits of lifelong readers is welcome.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Making Peace With The Book Chains: A Reading Room For Two

Jeremy got me hooked on trolling the aisles of book stores when we travel. Indeed, when we were heading home from Guangzhou after our adoption paperwork was complete, and spent an overnight at the YMCA in Hong Kong, Sylvia had her first book buying experience in the lobby bookstore: a board book of transit sounds that could fit in your palm called, “brrrrm!”. The digger goes crunch. The aeroplane, which we were about to spend many many hours on, goes whoosssh! We still have the book, with its $34.00 (1.99 pounds) price tag. We have our share of book keepsakes: a list to follow.

But for the last couple of years, when we jump the Hudson to Manhattan, we have also become regulars at Borders Bookstore on Second Avenue between 31st and 32nd Streets. It’s the only place I’ve found in mid-town where you can always find a two hour meter. At least once a week, usually twice, you’ll find Sylvia and I at a table in the coffee shop. The books that I yearn for when I read a review in the Times or hear an interview on NPR, with their shiny new covers beckoning me, are at my fingertips. Sylvia is learning the fine art of picking books that are fun to read but that are not essential to have forever.

For instance. Here’s the pile she brought to the table last week:

  • Junie B First Grader and Personal Beeswax
  • Junie B Jones and Some Sneaky Peaky Spying
  • Junie B First Grader One Man Band
  • Jack and Annie Research Guide: Rain forests
  • Two big books about shih tzus and pugs and other breeds.

I read, spread out over two weeks actually, “Matrimony: A Novel,” by Joshua Henkin, following an interview I heard on NPR. My interest was piqued hearing that the setting was a writing workshop at a college like Hampshire with a charismatic writing teacher. The story follows four people through college and adulthood. It’s a fast read, a good read, and I won’t read it again – not a keepsake book. I buy my overpriced Dean and Deluca coffee and a pricey Martinsen’s apple juice for Sylvia and we lay in. There aren’t many rules in this coffee shop within the bookstore. For instance, buying something at the counter is not mandatory. Talking on cell phones is de rigueur. Lately, however, there’s a guy watching a tiny portable TV. So, I’ve taken to plugging my ears with my IPOD. I already have my next book lined up: “Always” by Amy Bloom. Does Sylvia need more of an explanation of why “Junie Be First Grader and Personal Beeswax” might not be a Hanukkah wish list book while the encyclopedia like book on dogs that includes rare breeds - not the Eyewitness Series Dog book because that one doesn’t even have Shih Tzus, she informs me - is a better choice? Yes, just as I need some reminding as to why I don’t need to buy “Clapton: The Autobiography.”

Recommended Book Store Reading:

Series books, such as "Junie B. Jones," are great book store reads. Leveled books (marked Step 1, Step 2, etc.) that are often displayed on revolving stands are also good choices for quick reads. Think of them as introductions to a variety of subjects that children may be curious about. These will lead to more in-depth reading on the subjects that really interest them.


Painterofblue said...

Oh, but you do need the Clapton biography....

Ellen Kahaner said...

Well, apparently, yes, I needed to read it a couple of Wednesdays ago. And then I read the Patti Boyd autobiography. And then Fame Detox. And then Inside Inside The Actor's Studio. Oh it was a hard week, and nice to indulge without racking up a bill.