Yes, it already feels like summer, and I am filled with the familiar sense of desperate excitement and dread that this season brings me.
Here, summertime concerns (yes, it's terrible to put those words next to each other, I apologize):
1) WILL THIS BE A GOOD SUMMER? I don't know when this question emblazoned itself on my heart and mind, but it seems to have happened, and now from March through July I am devoured: Is this going to be a good summer? Is it a good summer right now? Is everyone happy? Is everyone happy enough? Did I find the right camps? Are we swimming enough? Etc.
2) Summer reading
I can see you all wondering (yes, I can see through the computer! I didn't tell you before because I didn't want to freak you out): "How is this in any way, shape, or form a concern? Summer reading is the most fun, unyoked from assignments and due dates fun kind of reading in the world!" I'll tell you how. Because of all the things that have twined around reading like a parasitic vine: reading levels. Grade level. Dyslexia. School. Catching up. Falling behind.
Here's the thing: as much as I want the two to be torn asunder, I am well aware that reading huge amounts will help educate a child, prepare him or her for school, set this hypothetical child firmly on the road to success. But. I feel, deep in my addled heart and mind, that trying to pour books into a kid in the hopes of edifying and educating said kid is as problematic as eating with an eye on the calorie counter/nutritional chart. My (not scientifically backed up yet deeply held) belief? That reading (and eating) are only beneficial if they are done with joy. Even more, are only worthwhile if they are done with joy.
The problem with this? Not all people can bring themselves to the joy, whether it's from bad experiences in the past, a lack of self-confidence, bad examples all around them. They only remember being unable to read a book in school, or that time they tried okra and it sliiiid across the back of their tongue.
This can (in some ways) be helped by books (or food) that are irresistible to kids, that meet them wherever those kids may be. All hail, Captain Underpants! Wimpy Kid! Bone! You have brought many a reluctant child into reading with great joy.
But what of the kid who has struggled so hard, whose tracking issues are so intense, whose focus is so diffuse, that it feels like there's no way he or she can ever catch up with peers? What of this kid's parent, who knows the thrill of reading, but feels hanging over him or her the specter of Not Up to Grade Level and Must Be Level F by September?
Truly, I don't know. All I know is that when we were having troubles like this, the greatest things anyone did for me/said to me were thus:
1) the pediatrician to the struggling child: "Oh, is reading hard for you? I bet you're the kind of kid who's really good at building with blocks, right? A lot of my patients who are good with blocks didn't read comfortably until third grade, when things just got a lot easier for them."
2) the reading specialist to me: "Reading is what you say it is. If she doesn't want to read it herself, read it to her! It's still reading. It will do as much good. Plus you'll both have fun."
And she was right.
In that spirit, the books of joy lead to the healthy food of joy. With apologies and thanks to Mark Bittman, from whose How to Cook Everything this is adapted. Just in case you're doing great with the books but struggling with the things-grown-on-plants.
2 cans chickpeas (yeah you can soak and cook your own, go ahead, knock yourself out)
1 Tablespoon (or so) olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
salt & pepper
Drain chickpeas, then mix with the olive oil and the crushed garlic cloves in a bowl. Forget about it while you do other things around the house. Eventually remember it. Heat your grill (gas or charcoal, we won't judge). Use a slotted spoon and scoop all the chickpeas into a vegetable wok, sprinkle with a lot of salt and a grind or two of pepper. Put the wok on the grill where it won't catch on fire. Cover the grill. Shake the wok every 10 minutes or so, until all the chickpeas are a deep golden color, shrunken and crispy. Remove from grill, try to wait until you won't burn your fingers off, and share with all the people you love who won't eat vegetables. Experience joy. Repeat.
And does anyone know of any excellent advice for the summer for a kid who's struggling with reading, and needs to not have a crappy summer?