By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Dec 21, 2010 at 1:45 PM

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."

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.