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The 100 Book Challenge

Seven year old has never been much of a reader. Sure, he can read, pretty well, or so his teachers tell me. He just hasn't had the desire to pick up books for enjoyment. And with school about to end, wonderful husband and I didn't want to face a summer struggling to get him to read. What we really want is to encourage him to enjoy the world books open up to him.

And so, we created the 100 Book Challenge. Here are the rules: From June through September, everyone in the family reads books at their reading level (no repeats allowed). After 25 books, there's a small prize. For us, the boys get to choose a movie. After the second and third 25 books, more small prizes -- maybe a day trip to a lake to go fishing, or to the beach with shark's teeth in Calvert County, which they love. Adjust the rules for your family as needed for younger readers. For instance, my younger son is at the "Frog and Toad" reading level, so for him, two chapters of a book at that level counts as a full book on our chart.

Meeting the full challenge of 100 books gets the family a grand prize. In our case, it's a weekend trip the boys really want. In yours it could be anything. Join us in the challenge and meet it, and I'm working on getting a small prize from to send your way. I'll update you on exactly what that prize will be as soon as I've secured it.

Along the way, I'll post a weekly progress report of books read and loved as well as books read and disliked. Join in and it'll be like having a weekly family book club for the summer.

As it turns out, we've already started. Seven year old was so excited that he asked to make a chart and begin RIGHT AWAY. So, of course, we couldn't turn him down. Books read thus far: 8. Seven year old found "Come Back, Amelia Bedelia" hysterical and gave good reviews to his two Magic School Bus Books: "Weathers the Storm" and "Plants Seeds." His brother could not stop laughing at his "Frog and Toad" stories, in particular, "The Kite." The one dud may have been "The Class Trip from the Black Lagoon." While 7 year old found parts of it amusing, the jokes required parental explanation and the story was hard to follow. Definitely not great for a kid struggling with comprehension. Husband and I have started our books, but we're nowhere close to finishing them. (I'm on page 77 of "The Courage to Start" at the moment and definitely need ideas for good, light adult reading for the summer.) Suggestions anyone?

For some previous ideas of books to engage boys, see what author Jon Scieszka had to say.

What are you and your kids reading these days? Who's in for the challenge?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  June 1, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Entertainment
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Our local library has a summer reading program, the kids go on-line and fill out their lists. There is a small prize at the end of the summer (coupon for a free meal at a local restaurant), but we don't give them anything at home.

We all are in the habit of reading before we go to bed, even in the summer, so nothing changes for us after the school year ends.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | June 1, 2009 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Great blog today, I love counting things. So ontopic, here are the most recent tallies:
170 registered users contributed a tototal of 763 comments to OnParenting during May 2009.

Top 10 posters listed below:
18 FairlingtonBlade
19 newsahm
21 SueMc
24 WhackyWeasel
28 laura33
31 ArmyBrat1
38 interestingidea1234
47 jezebel3
50 cheekymonkey
51 atlmom1234

Posted by: BlogStats | June 1, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Last year, I would have leaped on this one. We could have made it easily.

But, with a preschooler and an infant, I no longer get to read much at all. It's a feat if I finish one book a week. And DD loves to "read," but she likes the same 2-3 books/stories over and over again. I'll probably read her Cinderella/Little Mermaid/101 dalmations 100 times this summer, but does it count if it's just repetition?

(by the way, can someone with two kids tell me if free time ever returns? I love having two kids and wouldn't classify it as difficult, but it has definitely spelled the death of free time right now).

Posted by: newsahm | June 1, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse

We're in! I think the girls will love this. They also will participate in Summer Reading at the library, but the two can go together. I am always looking for more ways to motivate my kids to read. We will have to discuss the rules/plan at dinner tonight. Thanks for the idea!

newsahm- you will have free time again. My kids are now 10, 7, 5, 5, 2 1/2 and I just recently began to have some. I hadn't finished a book until probably this fall, but my old self is returning. Honestly, with a preschooler and an infant, one book a week is still impressive.

Posted by: thosewilsongirls | June 1, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and suggestions for summer books (my taste runs towards mysteries and fluffy fare):

Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books (new one comes out the month),

MaryJanice Davidson's Undead And... books (about Betsey, queen of the vampires. 'Nuff said.),

Laurie R. King's Mary Russel novels,

Anything by Jasper Fforde, even though he hasn't written a new one in ages,

Margaret Frazer's Dame Frevisse mysteries;

The Elm Creek Quilts novels by Jennifer Chiaverini;

Anything by Sarah Strohmeyer or Jennifer Weiner;

For local(ish) flavor, anything by Laura Lippman;

If you like historical fiction, anything by Sharon K Penman or Robin Maxwell.

Hope this helps!

Posted by: newsahm | June 1, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

I keep thinking of more things to add.

Your seven year old may be ready for you to read him some Tamora Pierce. I'm thinking of her Protector of the Small books in particular; about a young girl training for knighthood in the fictional kingdom of Tortall.

Posted by: newsahm | June 1, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Why don't you allow repeats? At that age and reading level, repeat reading is a great way to increase reading skills. While you and your husband may not enjoy a book the second time around, I'd be surprised if the boys didn't want to read a book a second (or third or even fourth) in a summer. And if your child typically is not motivated to read much, but finds a book he wants to read again, seems like it would be counterproductive to say no.

Posted by: janedoe5 | June 1, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

"(by the way, can someone with two kids tell me if free time ever returns? I love having two kids and wouldn't classify it as difficult, but it has definitely spelled the death of free time right now).

Posted by: newsahm | June 1, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse"

newsahm -- hah! This is NOT the time to be asking me that question, as my husband has been working around the clock for the past two+ weeks on a major deadline (every night, all day Sat. and Sun.). I've been doing everything I can to support him; after all, he's the one stuck at the office. But it's been grinding me down, too, to go from my job to home chores and childcare, with no time off for just me. And when he gets done, he gets to take off a few days in comp time; I get to go back to my day job! So yesterday, when the playdate and babysitter both fell through, I had a mini-meltdown of the pity-party variety (who knew I was so looking forward to just two hours by myself to shop for a new bathing suit?). :-)

But, seriously, it does get better. My youngest is 3 1/2 and in the middle of delayed terrible twos, so he's still a pain to take normal places. But still, yesterday AM I got in 3 hrs of yardwork while the kids traded off watching cartoons and playing ball/frisbee in yard. Then another hour reading in the afternoon while they played together, until the sniping reached the level that indicated it was time to go outside again. Even the trip to the playground wasn't exactly horrible -- I went horizontal (back hurt like an SOB after all the weeding) and caught up on e-mail while they played happily (if anyone took my picture I'll be PO'd!).

Posted by: laura33 | June 1, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Maybe you should just trust that your son will come to love books in his own time? I am thrilled that my eldest doesn't spend all his time with his nose in a book.

I think it's great that you will be posting about books you and the kids enjoy, but the manipulative manner of getting the kids to read seems risky to me. Could backfire. I know it would with my stubborn family!

Posted by: captiolhillmom | June 1, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

JaneDoe: I agree that kids often like to read the same books over and over and we are happy if our boys do that. But what we don't want is the same comic book counting as 10 books, which was a likely scenario without that rule. In many ways it defeats the purpose of what we are trying to accomplish with my 7-year-old. I have found thus far that he's excited about finding new books. Since he started, he's been asking his teacher if he can bring books home from the classroom, reading them even before doing the rest of his homework and returning them the next day. If he picked harder chapter books and wanted to read it more than once, I'd probably be tempted to count it twice. So far, I'm taking the leads of the kids and these rules seem to be working and have generated a lot of excitement and enjoyment.

newsahm: Yes, it does get better. REALLY! (And I think you've given me another blog topic to write about. Tx.)

Posted by: StaceyGarfinkle | June 1, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

For early elementary age, I think you can't beat the "Hank the Cowdog" series. They're great to read together. Parents will get some of the humor that kids might not, but there's plenty the kids will get.

Posted by: susandhall | June 1, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

For light summer ADULT reading, I prefer Christopher Moore, though he is quite profane and irreverent, so be be warned!

My 6 1/2 year old daughter is currently into the Fairy book series by Daisy Meadows, which I cannot stand. I am trying to get her into Beverly Cleary, but no luck so far.

Our latest favorite books are the Skippy John Jones picture books by Judy Schachner.

Posted by: JellyBean3 | June 1, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

JellyBean, ditto on the Fairy books -- DD loves them, I can't stand them. We've had some success with Judy Blume; since DD is stuck with a little brother (a/k/a "bane of her existence"), "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing" went over well. She also loved "Captain Underpants."

Posted by: laura33 | June 1, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I love this idea! Our daughter is only two so I'm not sure she'd comprehend the idea of the "100 book challenge," but doesn't mean my husband and I can't participate and challenge ourselves to read more books with her. That has been the challenge lately - getting her to join us on the couch in the evenings to read a few stories. Anyone have suggestions? Once she's sitting down and focused, she loves to have us read her stories, it's the "sitting down and getting focused" part that is tricky. Sometimes we'll start off by reading a book to her dolly or teddy bear and once she catches on that a story is being read and she's missing out, she'll join "us." But - that only works some of the time.

Or - maybe it's just the age of being two and we just need to be patient?

I'm also thinking more trips to the library might help (to freshen up reading material available).

As for good adult reads, I just finished Jodi Picoult's Change of Heart. That was a very good read but my favorites by her so far are still Vanishing Acts, followed by Nineteen Minutes.

I also recommend Interpreter of Maladies, one of my all time favorite collections of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. Her other books (Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth) are pretty good, too, but not as powerful as Interpreter (in my opinion).

I am also a fan of Jennifer Weiner - she has a new book coming out in July. And Emily Giffin is always a good light read.

Last book I'll mention that I'm excited about - Pat Conroy has a new novel coming out in August! South of Broad.

Posted by: stephs98 | June 1, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

stephs98, kids like choices. I've found the question, "Would you like to get a book to read, or are you too tired and want to go to bed right now?" to be an effective motivater for reading time.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | June 1, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Ha, that's a good suggestion - we have tried it, though, and the resulting answer is often her simply her telling us "no."

Of course, we then suggest to her that "no" means "ok, it's time to start the bedtime routine." At which point she'll usually say "no" again and continue playing with her toys.

We then usually just say "ok, time for milk" which actually is starting the bedtime routine. It's fine, I guess, she almost always goes along with that, but it kinda bums me out not to enjoy a story or two with her before she goes down...ah, well.

Posted by: stephs98 | June 1, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

For your seven-year-old, I recommend Bruce Coville's Moongobble books, starting with MOONGOBBLE AND ME, about a smart young apprentice, his daffy wizard master, and their weird assortment of friends. There are also his SPACE BRAT books, which are also great fun! He might also enjoy David Lubar's Lawn Weenie books, and James Howe's Bunnicula series. And I don't remember the author's name offhand, but WALTER THE FARTING DOG is a big hit with kids.

I'm not as great with light adult books, though I second the Stephanie Plum recommendation and raise it a Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse. (Sharon K. Penman, while one of my favorite historical novelists, is NOT what I call "light" reading.) Have you tried the Ellis Peters Brother Cadfael mysteries, or Georgette Heyer's Regency romances (my favorites include ARABELLA, VENETIA, COTILLION, SPRIG MUSLIN, BLACK SHEEP, THESE OLD SHADES)? My husband loves the Heyer books, too!

Posted by: tamorapierce | June 1, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Tamorapierce, I gotta ask: are you a fan or actually the writer?

Posted by: newsahm | June 1, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

stephs98, we incorporated reading books into our bedtime routine as the last thing before bed, after bath, teeth, PJs etc. Therefore, when my nearly 2 year old gets distracted the choice is book or bed. Nearly always he chooses book and if he doesn't he is into bed even if he is unhappy about it (have to stay consistent so if he chooses no book we stick with bed). It only took a couple of times before he knew we were serious with our options. Now he knows the routine and asks for a book after his bath.

As for newsahm and the question of time after two, good question! I am wondering the same thing myself as I have two under 2 until next week. Any tips on juggling bedtimes when your spouse works those hours?

Posted by: firemom35 | June 1, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

My DH hasn't been working nearly as much as Laura's has, but I have dealt with bedtime on my own several times now when DH is working.

I'll generally wear the baby in the sling or hold her while the 3.5 yo is in the bath, then either put her in her swing or let her roll around on her sister's floor while I do the story/song/snuggle routine. Once the big one's in bed, I'll bathe the baby and nurse her down. Thankfully, the baby's easygoing, so she puts up with being largely ignored while I take care of her sister. And sometimes I'm very, very lucky and she falls asleep while we're eating dinner and naps right through my older one's bedtime routine.

How old is your smaller one? Any chance (s)he will tolerate being put in a pack-and-play or on the floor while you do the older one's bath and bed routine?

Posted by: newsahm | June 1, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the suggestions newsahm. My son will be two next week and my daughter is 5 months. We have been very lucky in that she is easy going also. Sounds like we do something similar, let her play or swing nearby sometimes put her down to bed first, but I worry that she doesn't get to bed early enough (we get her up by about 7 am to get to daycare) as my son had a very early bedtime at that age. If we let her sleep she usually doesn't wake till about 8 which makes me think we need to try and push her bedtime forward but that runs into big brothers dinner. With one parent it makes things much more tricky. I usually end up alternating back and forth between them the whole time to get them down about the same time.

Posted by: firemom35 | June 2, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

We are accepting your challenge - in fact, I've blogged about it. However, as we have a family of 9, our personal challenge will be 200 books. Here's to happy reading!

Posted by: anniepooh1 | June 2, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Around the same level as the fairies but more interesting--go with these series

Cam Jansen mysteries
A to Z mysteries
Capital Mysteries
Geronimo Stilton
Ready, Freddy
Horrible Harry

Many of them come as books on CD for listening in the car or while doing another activity.

Posted by: di89 | June 3, 2009 10:30 PM | Report abuse

For your younger reader, the "Henry and Mudge" books, featuring a boy and his very large dog. They are on a level similar to "Frog and Toad." The older one may like the "Strega Nona" books, especially the ones featuring Big Anthony.

For you to read aloud to both of them, "Bunnicula," about a vampire bunny who sneaks into the kitchen at night and sucks the juices out of vegetables, leaving ghostly white carrots and tomatoes for the baffled family to find. It's narrated by the family dog, and is quite funny.

Posted by: chantooz | June 5, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

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