Like many parents, I love everything about storytime. Cuddling with my children and reading books to and with them is a treasured part of parenting. As they grew older, my reading to them became reading with them, and then, in the blink of an eye, my oldest couldn’t wait for me to read the next chapter and began taking the books and reading ahead. As interests have grown, so have discussions about our books. With the older kids, I now look forward to reading books next to each other and sharing our thoughts.
My older son is an over-achreader. Yes, we created the term because it suits him. He picks up a book, no matter the level, and reads and reads until he’s finished. Immediately, he’ll order a new book, or he’ll re-read a book again. When he was a third-grader, he was reading on a 7th-grade level. Our middle child has proven to be no different. He has a little more trouble finding his own books, but once he’s swept in, it’s hard to break his book bond.
I’m incredibly proud of the boys’ skills and interests, but I also worry. It’s not easy to find appropriate books for a child reading so far above his level. It’s also not cheap to continue to buy books for them.
Both boys have loved Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, which focuses on Greek, and later, Roman and Egyptian, mythology. Big read the 7-book series at least two times and then proceeded to teach others what he was learning and to discuss mythology with my friend who majored in it in college. He began visiting the library to view every mythological video and book. He collected mythology coffee table books. You might say he was obsessed. He’s now read the series countless times.
Middle has followed in his footsteps.
I knew so little about the ancient Greek and Roman cultures beyond my college sorority letters and themes. Big used to try to quiz me on gods and their powers, and I’d just shrug and smile. “I’m trying,” I’d tell him. Now, at least, they can quiz each other.
How we started book clubbing
While talking about Big’s interests and his habits with our school principal, the principal asked how I could be sure he was truly comprehending? It was a good question. He was reading books so quickly about topics I was unfamiliar about; was he missing anything? The question also made me take pause. I was missing something. I was missing sharing the excitement and drama of reading a book with him.
Following that conversation, I proposed that Big start the series over and read it with me. We didn’t have to read aloud, but we’d read the books at the same time, discussing as we learned: asking each other questions, predicting outcomes… Of course, he’d already read all of the books, but he jumped at the opportunity to read with me.
We started a 7-book book club. We were able to, once again, share the joy of pivots and plots and fall in love and hate with characters together. We had long discussions about what the characters should have done and what might happen next in the next book.
I also learned that he’s a faster reader than I. Growing up, I was that kid—that kid who read and read and never stopped. But now, now I have to stop and care for his siblings. Read with them. Play with them. I can’t devote my free time just to a favorite book.
He also has phenomenal comprehension. I found myself going back to previous chapters or volumes to confirm something he was quoting. I truly believe he has stronger comprehension skills than I ever had.
When the eighth book in the series, Mark of Athena, was released, Big dove right in. The book had been a pre-order best seller for weeks, and you can be certain that when Big came home from school, he did his homework faster than we’ve ever seen. He barely put his Kindle down for two days.
When he was done reading, Big shared with me that we’d have to wait a year for the ninth book in the series. He wanted to discuss all that happened in the book with me. His eyes lit with excitement over the twists and turns.
I’ve fallen behind, I explained to him. I’m starting the book tonight, I promised. I couldn’t wait to read the adventure that he’d read and learn all that he learned. But I just couldn’t keep up with his reading skills. It was amazing to me that my then third grader had such strong skills.
Middle caught on to the excitement and started to catch up, as well. By the time the ninth book in the series had debuted, we had to order three copies and, together, well, as together as possible, we read the book and shared the excitement. We also talked a lot about spoilers and comprehension — not everyone will remember the same details. Not everyone will make the same inferences and take the same emphasis from the same story.
Last summer, Big and I also read Wonder. “It’s required reading for before 5th grade,” I lied. I needed him to read this story with me. I needed him to discuss and understand the characters. Middle and I will read it together this summer. Big is welcome to join us. I’m certain he will (it will be his 4th time reading the book and its supplements.)
Book clubbing with my kids has enriched our relationship and given us something that I hope we’ll value doing for years to come. This summer’s Mother-Son book club list includes The Outsiders and Lord of the Flies with Big and Wonder with Middle.
Little and I are still loving Fancy Nancy… and, while I look forward to finding new reads to read with her, I’m already working on a list to include Little Women and The Great Gilly Hopkins, and, of course, Wonder.