Reading With: Amy

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

We are so excited for another installment of our Reading With Series!

This month we are featuring Amy from Sunlit Pages who has always loved reading but fell out of the habit as a music major in college because a lot of her time was spent practicing music instead of reading. Once she had her first son she picked the reading habit back up and has not looked back. Besides reading and blogging, Amy also loves knitting, dating her husband, going on neighborhood walks and eating yummy food she doesn't have to make herself!

One of our favorite thoughts that Amy shared with us is that the books she reads with her family mark the milestones of their lives as much as their activities and achievements.

Read on for more of Amy's lovely thoughts.

How many kids do you have and what are their ages? 
I have four boys who are 7, 6, 4, and 2. As you might imagine, our home is wild and crazy and so loud, but I love being a mom to boys.

Where do you live? How did you end up there? 
I currently live in Salt Lake City, Utah. I grew up in a tiny town in Colorado but moved to Utah to attend BYU. I met my husband there, and after we both graduated, we moved to Salt Lake so he could continue school at the University of Utah (we are both still loyal Cougars though!). We've been here ever since!

What are 3 ways you foster reading in your home?
I think the number one way I've fostered a love of reading in our home is by reading aloud to my kids--not just here or there at sporadic times but every day. It's something my kids can count on, and it provides a solid anchor in our otherwise busy life. Reading to my kids has made me a better mother in so many ways: it gives me a reason to spend time with my children, to be physically close to them, to create a shared bank of fun memories, to discuss big important questions, and to laugh and giggle. It's one of the ways I show them I love them. Because reading has always been such a positive part of our life, as they've started to read on their own, they already have a strong foundation of vocabulary, plot lines, and character development to pull from, and that has set them up for success. Plus, I think they realize that I'm not planning on stopping my reading to them anytime soon, so solo reading just adds another dimension to their reading life rather than taking something away from them.

When my second son was about three years old, he had a difficult time staying in his bed when he was supposed to be going to sleep (sound familiar to anyone?). We started letting him listen to audiobooks so he would have something to focus his attention on, rather than the fact that he couldn't get out of his bed. Now, three years later, he is still a big audiobook enthusiast (although now, I sometimes have to take the books away from him because an exciting story is keeping him awake rather than helping him fall asleep). At any rate, audiobooks have helped cultivate that love of story and language and made it so that even when I can't read to them (and they're too young to read to themselves), they can still enjoy a good book.

And finally, if we're going to be in the car for any length of time, we each bring a book. Travel time is prime reading time (and luckily, none of us are prone to carsickness). It keeps boredom at bay and helps the time pass quickly and also devotes a good chunk of time to one activity (something I think is so important in this fast-paced, constantly changing world). Sometimes we listen to audiobooks, sometimes I read aloud, but most of the time, we just each bring our own book and read it to ourselves.

What do you hope your children gain from reading? 
I hope reading gives them the same types of things it has given me: I hope it's a way for them to relax and decompress at the end of a long day. I hope they read to learn new things and expand their world view. I hope it provides an opportunity to walk in someone else's shoes and develop greater sympathy and tolerance for other people. I hope books make them laugh and cry and just feel things they might not otherwise. I hope it gives them new ideas and sparks their creativity. Reading has done all that for me and more.

What are 10 picture books you think every home library should have?
This was an incredibly hard questions! I have so many books I love, and I don't like paring them down because it hurts to cut out some of my favorites. So just know, this list is not necessarily my top ten books of all time because I can't make that list. It's impossible. These are, however, all books I love very much and would recommend adding to your home library.

The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman, (illustrated by Marla Frazee) - If I was pressed to choose only one picture book to keep for the rest of my life, I think it would be this one. It is perfect in every way.

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey-- A classic for a reason, I can't resist the sweet story of Sal picking blueberries with her mother and the maternal mix-up that occurs on Blueberry Hill.

The Circus Ship by Chris van Dusen -- Told in lively verse, this story is based on a real event. My kids' favorite part is trying to find all of the camouflaged animals at the end.

Chalk by Bill Thomson -- I couldn't make this list without including a wordless book on it. The story, about what happens when three kids draw with some magical chalk, is one of our favorites.

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood -- I love the way the narrator plays a part in helping Little Mouse save his strawberry from the big hungry bear…or maybe I should say, conning him out of it.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Paul Galdone -- For classic fairy tales told in a classic way, my go-to is Paul Galdone.

Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard (illustrated by James Marshall) -- It's clever and mysterious and has one of the most satisfying endings of any book I know.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback -- The use of cutouts to tell this story is so creative.

We are in a Book by Mo Willems -- We are devoted fans of Mo Willems and especially love the Elephant and Piggie series.

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick (illustrated by Sophie Blackall) -- I love true stories told in picture book form, and after reading this one for the first time, I immediately went and bought our own copy.

If you had to pick your top 5 illustrators, who would they be?
Another hard questions, but I'm going to go with:

Marla Frazee, because her attention to realistic, everyday details blows me away.

Kevin Henkes, because his illustrations are so sweet and gentle.

Robert McCloskey, because I love the sharp definition of his line drawings.

Chris van Dusen, because his illustrations are so full of light and personality.

Greg Pizzoli, because I love the retro and limited color palettes he uses.

What did your parents do to promote reading in your childhood home?
I think I inherited my passion for reading aloud from my parents. My mom and dad took turns reading to my siblings and me, and between the two of them, a day rarely passed without a book in it. Because I'm the oldest in my family, I continued to listen to these read-alouds even as I entered my teen years. In fact, I never considered not listening. It was just something we did to enjoy time together as a family. My mom has also always been one of those people who turns to books when she wants to learn something, and I find myself doing the same thing now.

What are you reading with your children right now?
With my three older boys, we are currently in the middle of, By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleischman, which is an exciting adventure story that takes place during the California Gold Rush. We're also reading, Mathematicians are People, Too, which contains short biographies of famous mathematicians. The books I'm currently reading on repeat to my two-year old are Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Barnyard Dance, Mice Squeak We Speak, Pete the Cat and It's a Tiger. And of course, we're always reading a variety of picture books. I will never give up reading picture books.

What are you reading right now for yourself?
I love middle grade fiction, and right now I'm reading (and, I have to say, thoroughly enjoying), Peter and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier. I'm also listening to The Momuments Men by Robert M. Edsel, which is the true and fascinating story of the small group of men and women who worked behind the scenes to save the art during World War II. And finally, my hold for When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi just came in at the library, and I'm looking forward to starting it.

What are your favorite places to shop for books?
Locally, I love to shop at a cute little bookstore called The King's English. It is located in an old house, and it's so much fun to walk from room to room and browse. Plus, they have great semi-annual sales and host book signing events with some of my favorite authors. On the flip side, I wouldn't be telling the whole truth if I didn't admit that I do a lot of book shopping on Amazon. I keep a bunch of books reserved in my cart, and if the price drops, I snag them. I've also used on occasion; I love that you get free shipping on any order over $10, but unfortunately, you can't see which edition you're buying, and I can be fairly picky about that, so it limits what I'm willing to buy.

Do you have a favorite children's Christmas book? If so, what is it?
Oh yes, so many! Every year, we do a book advent where my kids unwrap on Christmas book each day. Two of my favorite books to see unwrapped are Santa Claus, the World's Number One Toy Expert by no surprise, Marla Frazee and The Christmas Train by Thomas S. Monson. The Santa Claus book is just a fun, lighthearted look at Santa's workshop and how he keeps everything organized before the big night (I especially love all the mugs of hot chocolate and candy canes you see sitting around -- Santa has to keep well fueled!). In contrast, The Christmas Train is based on a a true story about a little boy who selfishly wants to keep part of a windup train his mother purchased for the neighbor boy but then discovers the sweet happiness that comes from giving. It's a beautiful story that helps  my kids focus on giving rather than getting.

Do you do anything special to promote summer reading?
Yes, actually! In the past, we always participated in our library's summer reading program, but I found myself growing gradually dissatisfied with it. Although it encouraged my kids to read, it didn't really motivated them to read more (in other words, once they'd read their twenty minutes, they were done for the day). So this year, I created our own summer reading program (based on the one from my own childhood). For every two hours they read, they earn a small prize, and when they hit twenty accumulated hours, they earn a book. There isn't any limit to how much they can read in a day (if they read six hours, that translates to three prizes). I really do believe reading is its own reward, but so far, this has been so much fun for my kids, and my six-year-old especially has been reading more than he ever has before.

Can we see a "shelfie" of your home library?
Yes, definitely! When I was a teenager, I dreamed of having a library in my home. I had grand visions of what it would look like, but when we bought our first home a couple of years ago, the only available space for a library was a little room in the basement. The lighting is not ideal, but it is cozy and comfortable and, most importantly, it is filled with good books!

For a daily dose of Amy, checkout her Instagram account!

If you love reading and would like to be featured in our Reading With Series please let us know!



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