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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, April 17, 2014

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MPS Superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton reads with a student.
MPS Superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton reads with a student.

Keep the kids reading, writing over break

Today is the last day of school at MPS before the winter break and schools superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton has issued some suggestions for family fun.

After suggesting some fairly pedestrian winter ideas (he's from eastern Pennsylvania, so cut him some slack!) -- sledding, ice skating, building snowmen -- Thornton circles back, as he should, to reading.

"Why not read together? There is time to start a chapter book and take turns reading it aloud," he writes in the letter posted on the MPS Web site. "The Milwaukee Public Library system has great options."

Thornton has some suggestions:

  • "The Watsons Go to Birmingham" by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • "Grandma's Gift" by Eric Velázquez
  • "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" by Jeff Kinney
  • "Sounder" by William Armstrong
  • "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros
  • "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson

Those are great ideas, and I'm going to add some of my own, based on what we've been reading at home. Thanks to our child's MPS teacher, who reads chapter books with the kids at school each afternoon, we've left behind picture books for bigger, longer, wordier tomes.

  • "The Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum (we've learned there were many Oz books by Baum, and we're currently on our fourth)
  • "Charlotte's Web" by E. B White
  • "Because of Winn-Dixie" by Kate DiCamillo

Like Dr. Thornton, we suggest a reading routine. My wife and I take turns reading a chapter each before bedtime. It means we both get quality reading time with our child and it mellows out the household vibe for the transition to bed.

"Kids like routines, and they will love that you schedule time with them," suggests Thornton. "Turn off the TV, ignore the phone and cuddle close on the sofa with a blanket."

He also suggests writing. Ironically, in a household led by two professional writers, this is something we could definitely do better on. And I'm adding it to my mental list of resolutions right now.

"Encourage your child to write holiday thank you notes, or a letter to the Superintendent. I love getting letters from students. Children as young as 5 or 6 can compose a letter," says Thornton.

"I will be reading and writing with my granddaughter this holiday break. I will think of you doing the same with your children. Have fun, everyone."

Talkbacks

Eggie | Dec. 21, 2010 at 8:12 p.m. (report)

35703 I would really like to see some parents or guardians actually join this challenge. Not only the reading part, but the writing idea. Make it into a creative writing of some sort - look online for "writing prompts" or "Holiday writing prompts" for ideas. Then have your child read them aloud; you would kill two birds by doing that (I admit, this is a teacher trick!).

Maybe parents could also use this free time to get reacquainted or have a first-time visit to the neighborhood library. It may become a habit. Or a new and improved afterschool hangout... I have never heard the words "library" and "bad influences" together in the same thought.

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