Holiday Gifts... BOOKS!

Thad Reichley, Head of Lower School

The holidays are upon us, and it's nearly impossible to check your email, listen to the radio, or watch TV without being bombarded with ads for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or some other sale. If you are looking for a great gift, I have a couple of book suggestions!

One of my favorite things to do with my two girls is to read to them. Since they were little, we have taken time most nights to snuggle in bed and read stories. It is a time that I cherish, and I hope that it will continue for at least a little while longer. Hannah is now 10, and Gabby is 12, and I have recently switched from me reading to them to listening to books on tape together. I highly recommend this!

We recently finished listening to Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. This story is about a young girl named Ally. Ally struggles in school, and chooses to avoid the embarrassment of not being able to read and write by acting out in class. That is, until she meets Mr. Daniels. Mr. Daniels is a tenaciously caring teacher who refuses to give up on Ally. Reluctant at first, but with support from Mr. Daniels, Ally learns to accept who she is, and even feel proud of the things that make her different. The main thing being the fact that Ally is dyslexic.

This story is a perfect catalyst for talking about friendships and empathy. It is also a wonderful reminder that great minds do not always think (or work) alike, and that just because someone learns differently, it does not mean that they are any less intelligent or capable. And, this story helps break down the stigma commonly attached to dyslexia. Common Sense Media rates this book ages 10 and up, but I think that read with a parent, 2nd and 3rd graders would really enjoy it.

For kindergarten and 1st grade students, my new favorite book is Red: A Crayon's Story, by Michael Hall. It is a simple story with a beautiful message about diversity, self-discovery, and acceptance. If you enjoyed The Day the Crayons Quit, you will appreciate this book as well. My girls are a little old for this one, but this is the kind of book I can imagine reading with them dozens of times when they were younger! It would be a great read together, or an independent choice for emerging readers.

For parents, the best book I have read in quite some time is He's Always Been my Son by Janna Barkin. Janna is a local author, and this labor of love is an open and honest expression of what it means to raise a transgender child, Amaya. No matter what your own personal experience is with this subject, this book is relatable to all parents who struggle with guiding their children through the turbulence of adolescence. It is told from multiple perspectives and provides very real accounts from family and friends as they evolve in their understanding and support of Amaya. This book is hard to put down and difficult to stop thinking about. It challenged me to think about how I would handle certain situations, and forced me to realize some of my own personal blind-spots.

This book also dovetails with work we have been doing as a community around gender, and is a great pre-read for anyone thinking about coming to the parent education moment on "Dimensions of Gender" in the new year. The presentation will be facilitated by school administrators, and it outlines the model that we use as a school when talking with students about gender. It is very informative for parents and guardians of K-8 students.

Inspiring a love of reading starts with surrounding kids with great books, and modeling for them that reading is a great thing to do! Let's spread the love this holiday season with books. Happy reading!