Old-Fashioned Summer – The Spin Cycle and Reading


One of my favorite bloggers out there is guest posting today about one of my favorite subjects – reading!  Read on . . . 

Sue of The Spin Cycle is an elementary school teacher turned full-time mom.  She has a dreamy groom, boy/girl twins (age eleven), an eight year-old son, a geriatric Weimaraner, and a 55 gallon tank full of assorted schooling tropical fish.  She moonlights as a professional volunteer and unpaid chauffeur.  She’s an avid runner, an enthusiastic gardener, a voracious reader, and a prodigious karaoke singer.  She don’t iron or fold fitted sheets, but she does know how to appreciate the funny in life.

And she's on Facebook and Twitter.  Follow this woman.  




What a fabulous invention.  I salute its creator.  Yaaaay, God!  *split jump; spirit fingers*

Swimming.  Bike rides.  Camp.  Lemonade stands.  Time with friends.

And books. Gobs and gobs of books.

Ever since I was a kid, I have found something delicious about becoming totally immersed in a story.  Of losing all sense of time and my childhood surroundings as I intently turned pages, savoring the illustrations, reading favorite snippets aloud on occasion, playing with pronunciation and inflection.  Of being somewhere else entirely while perched upon the family room couch.

The Twins, at age eleven, are this way as well.

But The Small One?

Meh.  Not so much.

And, though I know it shouldn't…though I take care not to let it be known to him…it irks me to no end.

He is a voracious and strong reader.  But he has serious tunnel vision when it comes to book selection.  He is a non-fiction boy to the core.  If it contains instructions, diagrams, and an index for handy, at-your-fingertips reference?  If he can consult it to become a better Lego builder, more knowledgable Star Wars enthusiast, or more proficient Pokemon trainer?  He's all over it. Seize book.  Extract information on a need-to-know basis.  Discard book.

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My need to know reader in action.

But fiction?

No way.  

No how.  

Fiction-schmiction, Mom.

And to this former teacher, that is a dreadful injustice that rivals mediocre instructors' pay and gag-worthy school lunches.

I guess I'm just a bit old-fashioned that way.

I so want The Small One to appreciate a good story.

I can't just tell him to do it.  Or plop him down next to me, saying, "Today?  I choose this book to share with you."

Ooooh, no.

Trail-blazing, strong-willed thing that he is, he'd run for the hills at the thought of taking Mom's advice or following in the footsteps of The Twins.

So this summer, I've been on a covert mission to introduce The Small One to the wonderful world of make-believe. *Cue Mr. Rogers Theme Song*

One afternoon just before school let out for the year, I attacked the bookcase in his bedroom, pulling titles off of the shelves and throwing them into a basket.  Books that have been there for years but were gathering a layer of dust as they sat, forlorn and neglected, as he favored his manuals and how-to books.

Caldecott finalists.  Newberry winners.  Picture books.  Chapter books.  Selections of varying length, difficulty, and thematic matter.  Pieces of my childhood and teacherhood in print. Yellowing, earmarked pages, chunks missing from the front covers, warts and all.  There was no rhyme or reason to what I picked.  If I liked it?  If it tugged at my heartstrings for one reason or another?  Into the basket it went.

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 I put the collection underneath the green side table that sits in our kitchen.  A spot that is at once unobtrusive and easy to access.

I stealthily affixed the telescopic lens to my camera.

And I waited.

And waited.

About a week later, giddy with the newness of summer vacation, The Small One literally ran into the bait basket whilst doing post-breakfast laps around the kitchen table.  He yelped and stopped in his tracks, sizing up the unfamiliar barricade that protruded from underneath the table.

The child plopped down, cross-legged, right where he had stopped to have a closer look-see.

Around the corner, I held my breath, camera trained upon my prey son.

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After rooting around a bit, he made a selection.

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Where the Wild Things Are.  Be still, my fantasy-loving, rapidly beating heart.

And since that day?  He has returned to that basket.  On his terms.  When the mood strikes him.

Sometimes we read together.  We have been working our way through Matilda…

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…although sometimes he'll pick it up and zip through a chapter or two on his own.

He is way into telekinesis now, by the by.

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 He has acquainted himself with Encyclopedia Brown.  Turns out that mystery-solving comes as second nature to inquisitive creatures such as The Small One.

And just look at what I found in the mud room, poking out of the front pocket of his swim team backpack.

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Mmm hmmmm. The legendary Mr. Little himself. *insert itty bitty happy dance*

Mission accomplished.



  1. I love that the bait grabbed the attention of your prey! Too funny how you wrote this but so genius how you inspired his love for reading. My girls are 10 & 8 and are rarely seen without a book. We can make a 5 min drive to a friend’s and they bring a book in the car. I love that they enjoy reading and I love to hang out on the couch and read together. This is where I insert my happy dance…:-)

  2. Ah! I need to try the old “book basket in the kitchen” trick. Sadly, I think I could offer my 8 year old $50k and he would refuse to read. He thinks there are too many words in the books I suggest. Perhaps we should look into endurance training.

  3. WONDERFUL ambush! AND I have that same Encyclopedia Brown book from when I was little! Too funny! Great job, Missy!

  4. You might be surprised, Mindy…give it a whirl. Fill a basket or flea market wash basin or whatever floats your boat. Include lots of picture books. Few words. Powerful literary punch. xo

  5. Pamela – Those little mysteries are so easy to gobble up at one sitting! Like book candy, no?

  6. The kid’s always been on decent terms with books…it’s the lack of variety that was getting to me. And reading together? Nothing better. *double-time happy dance*

  7. “So this summer, I’ve been on a covert mission to introduce The Small One to the wonderful world of make-believe”
    Looks like ‘Mission accomplished’ Well done Sue!

  8. So interesting that he prefers Non-fiction to fiction. Typically it’s the other way around.

  9. Yep…pretty much, Carolyn. Now I’m assembling a basket full of stuff that will make him stop quarreling with his older brother. I am taking any and all suggestions.

  10. Erin – I know, right? For me, reading nonfiction is like getting a bikini wax. Only slightly more enjoyable.

  11. My seven year old does not like to read and it is KILLING me. The other day she said, “Mom, reading’s boring.” {gasp, stutter, gasp} What?! Reading is one of the most exciting things you can do all by yourself. I’m holding out hope that it will eventually click for her, but I’m pretty worried about it.

  12. It’ll click, Jennifer. Keep setting the bait. She’ll come around when she’s ready. Have you tried the old “We’ll see the movie as soon as we’ve finished the book” routine? That’s a favorite of mine.

  13. It always makes me happy to see kids reading. 🙂
    My son had trouble finding something he liked too, so I asked other mothers what their children are reading these days.
    That’s how I found the Magic Tree House series, his first love. These days he reads the Warrior Cats series.

  14. Cathy, my Twin B’s first love was the Magic Tree House series, too. Now he’s a Nicholas Flamel/Percy Jackson dude. 🙂

  15. Yay! There are so many good stories out there for him to devour. I get bummed when one of my kiddos (usually my 9-y.o. son) declares a book “boring” when the intro doesn’t pique his interest. I try to find a way to get him past that part and into the interesting bits of the book. 🙂

  16. CH-CHING — and that is even more brilliant than throwing them down in the middle of the room and saying, “these are off limits”. PERFECT. He might just love harry potter.

  17. My 11 year-old Twin B still asks me to “hook” him on a new book if he feels that he *should* like it but is struggling to stick with it through the beginning. So I’ll read the first few chapters aloud to him until he’s thoroughly hooked. Then he carries on. 🙂

  18. I like your idea every bit as well. Must try that sometime. And I think you are spot-on with the Harry Potter call. I do believe he’s somewhere in that wicker basket…

  19. I caught my eldest ‘reading’ Cinderella to her younger sister yesterday. I had tears in my eyes. I know they are only 3 and 2 but still.. bookworms in the bud I hope.

  20. Oooooh…those are the best of times. Enjoy them!

  21. Yahooo, Mom! Sometimes the best approach is the gentlest, right {well, he did stub his toe, but you hadn’t planned on that!} I love this.
    And I’m just like you. I can’t wait until The Boy learns to read {we’re almost there! It’s starting to click!}. I have such rich memories of being nose-deep in books every summer. My favorite: “Tom Sawyer.”

  22. Michellle – Would you believe that he inquired about Tom Sawyer a couple of days ago? I’ll need to throw that in the basket, too.

  23. Great work! My kids are still not great readers and my three boys always opt for factual stuff. Think they are so missing out. I spent my young sprawled out in the grass reading my way through the library.

  24. Hmmm…maybe it’s time for the old Basket Under the Green Table in the Kitchen routine…you never know!

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