December: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

My twin sons are turning 18 at the end of this month. At the dinner table the other night Twin A informed us that he had penned a picture book for his philosophy class. Twin B looked at me and said, “Mom, you better watch out. We may have another author in the family.” That announcement made my heart sing! In fact, both boys have always been strong writers, and I credit it to the large amount of reading we did together when they were young.

Like many parents, I used to read aloud to my children. Each twin had their favorite picture books. When they were toddlers, they took turns with who got to sit in my lap. ROOM ON A BROOM by Julia Scheffler comes to mind as does DIRT ON MY SHIRT by Jeff Foxworthy. Then when the kids got too big and heavy, we made a cuddle sandwich with each boy on either side of me. THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE by Kate DiCamillo brings back fond memories as well as many of the MAGIC TREE HOUSE books by Mary Pope Osborne. After reading MTH’S UNDER THE VOLCANO we visited a local museum that had a traveling exhibit on the lost world of Pompeii and connected the story to real world events.

In first grade, Twin B brought home a book about giant squid from his school’s library. Every week for an entire year we read that same story. I would groan and beg that he choose something else. Maybe he wanted to be a marine biologist someday. Maybe he just liked seeing my reaction when he pulled it out of his backpack. AGAIN. I went from liking to hating to tolerating to embracing that bland story. After all, 1) it was a book with words 2) he showed interest in reading it 3) I love him. In prepping for this blog post, I Googled: giant squid book and low and behold, there it was. The official title is called TENTACLES! TALES OF THE GIANT SQUID by Shirley Raye Redmond. I can’t help but smile. I just showed the book to Twin B. He laughed and said, “I remember that book!” It was a brief but wonderful trip down memory lane.

As my twins got older, their routines and our nighttime reading ritual adjusted as well. The boys, safely tucked into their own beds, listened to me as I read from my little stool in the hallway. If they drifted off to sleep, that was fine, but usually they stayed awake to plead for 5 more pages. The best part about our nightly reading was that we didn’t quit once they learned how to read on their own. They read independently for school assignments, and then I read to them after all their homework was done. I kept reading aloud because they let me, and it meant that they could stay up past their usual bedtime. In fact, we continued with the routine all the way until 8th grade. The last three books we read together were LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding, FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury, and LEAVING TIME by Jodi Picoult.

Reading does more than just improve children’s comprehension and creativity. It increases their vocabulary, sparks discussions on world issues, and empowers them to empathize with others. Reading together is a shared experience that truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

All that’s left is your commitment to make reading together a priority. To get you started this holiday season, I highly suggest the early chapter book: THE TRUE GIFT by Patricia MacLachlan. It’s a timeless Christmas story with a universal message about family, community, and true giving.

Laps optional.


Twin A’s Top MG books:

 

HOLES
by Louis Sachar


GHOSTHAWK
by Susan Cooper


FRINDLE
by Andrew Clements


 

AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS
by Gennifer Choldenko


WONDERSTRUCK
by Brian Selznick


EVERY SOUL A STAR
by Wendy Mass



Twin B’s Top picks:

 

WARRIORS Series
by Erin Hunter


TANGERINE
by Edward Bloor


BECAUSE OF MR. TERUPT
by Rob Buyea


 

OUT OF MY MIND
by Sharon M. Draper


MOCKINGBIRD
by Katherine Erskine


THE FALSE PRINCE series
by Jennifer A. Nielsen



Enough about my kids. Here are several middle grade recommendations that have twins/siblings as the main characters.

 

THE EYE OF RA
by Ben Gartner
Siblings explore a mysterious cave and find
themselves stuck in ancient Egypt


THE TEMPLETON TWINS HAVE AN IDEA
by Ellis Weiner
Gifted twins and inventor father get into a whole host of trouble


 

THE TREASURE CHEST series
by Ann Hood
Time traveling adventures
of the Robbins twins


ALMOST IDENTICAL
by Lin Oliver
Twin girls are growing up and growing apart.
Who are they without each other?


 

JAGGER JONES & THE MUMMY’S ANKH
by Malaynia Evans
Siblings time travel back to ancient
Egypt to save the royal family


THE HIDDEN FOREST
by Daintry Jensen
Early MG, sister, and brother visit grandparents on Nantucket Island
and discover magical place called The Hidden Forest