Late afternoon on Sunday, as I sat down with my calendar to go through the plans for our week, I suddenly realized something: The kids' book clubs were meeting this week Tuesday, not in a couple of weeks (which is what I'd been thinking somewhere in the back of my head). This wouldn't have been a problem except for one small thing: We hadn't read the books. We didn't even have Matthew's book in our possession and it was 4:10 on Sunday afternoon...when everything was closed, or closing soon.
I immediately phoned the bookstore nearest to us and asked if they carried the book Matthew was to read (or have read to him): Hamish X, by Sean Cullen. The bookstore was out of stock. I went online next and dove into the city's library system; the only library that had it and which was open for another 44 minutes was our downtown library 20-25 minutes away.
Geoff and Matthew threw on their jackets and boots and took off for the library. Less than an hour later, they were back, book in hand.
I gathered Seth and Lizzie together and told them about our predicament. The book they were to read was The Penderwicks, a lovely (long) novel by Jeanne Birdsall. We have it on audio book, and Seth had actually begun it a few weeks ago, but he claimed he remembered nothing about it, and Lizzie claimed she'd never heard of it (though I'm pretty sure she and Seth were listening to it together weeks back...but whatever...). The audio book was 6.75 hours long...gulp!
The kids were all excited by the idea of having a goal to finish the book before Tuesday book club, and so we decided to give it a shot.
After dinner on Sunday, I sat the little kids down at the kitchen table with their markers and animal colouring books and started their book on my iphone/docking station. They listened to just over an hour before bedtime...only 5.75 hours to go!
During that time, Matthew and I headed for our home library so that I could begin to read his book out loud.
I quickly realized that his 296 page novel was going to take more than a couple of hours. So I re-jigged our Monday plans a bit. We still had piano lessons in the afternoon, but basically we spent today immersed in our books.
After breakfast, Seth and Lizzie set up a blanket fort in the kitchen, complete with lights, markers and colouring books inside, and proceeded to spend the better part of their day hunkered down inside listening to their audio book. In the end, they completed all 6.75 hours! There was some restlessness, and they did need breaks more often than Matthew did, but that was ok - they spent their extra breaks wrestling and racing around the house...anything to burn off a little energy.
Matthew and I spent the bulk of the day in the chairs of our library or stretched out on the floor. Towards the beginning of the day, I was interested to estimate how many hours it would take me to read his 296-page book out loud and so, for a while, I tracked how much time it took to read blocks of pages. I figured out that, pretty consistently, and accounting for an occasional stop to explain a word, every twenty pages took me approximately thirty minutes to read aloud...that worked out to a total required reading time of 7.4 hours. Yikes.
And we all did it! Seth and Lizzie finished about thirty minutes before Matthew and I did, and we all had rumbly tummies by the time we finished the books and scrabbled a late supper together, but we did it! I sipped on tea and water all day to keep my voice alive and, even though I have a bit of a cough this evening, my voice held out really well...I guess it's the hours of reading that I usually do which enabled it to hold up during today's marathon.
I've been reading a lot lately - starting and finishing a lot of chapter books with the kids. But there's nothing quite like an impending deadline to foster concentration and motivation and a whole lot of reading. It'll be interesting to see how much they retain for tomorrow's discussion - this felt a whole like the cramming I used to do in high school, when I'd forget everything I'd learned after taking the test. :) On the other hand, there's also something to be said for immersing oneself in a book and reading it through from start to finish in one sitting - it's easy to get lost in a book that way...or maybe it's just me.
The best news was that we all enjoyed the books we read. Honestly, I'm not sure the books would have been finished had we not enjoyed them. Matthew said that he wished we could have more days spent like today - he loved the day. Hamish X is mostly a delightful and well-written read - I'm not a fan of the orphanage situation outlined in the book, or of the child labour involved; however, the author employed a great sense of humour throughout, the characters were creatively devised, the plot captivated us from the first page to the last, and the ending was a good one...besides, what's not to like about a book that has a bunch of nasty pirates in it?? And The Penderwicks - well, that book was a hit with Matthew and me a few years back already, and it remained a delightful read for Seth and Lizzie today.
And so tonight I go to bed feeling good that the kids are prepared for tomorrow - I would have felt terrible if I'd been the cause of them missing out on a book discussion that they look forward to. Being an avid reader myself and wanting to encourage that in my kids, it's thrilling to see my kids engaging in book clubs at their tender ages and loving them. I admire their persistence of today, and hope that this is a good indicator of their future interest in books. There's just nothing quite like losing oneself in the plot of a really great read...and today, we all did just that!