The January slump: three ways to get past it + how to raise a reader from author Julie Falatko
Yesterday, at 4:01 a.m., my oldest son woke me. Sam's 11 and it's rare he finds his way to our room in the dark anymore.
"Mom, I missed the bus! It's 4:01 and I am really sorry. The bus just went by and I don't know why my alarm didn't ring but it didn't and I'm sorry and I need you to take me to school right now!" he screamed over our bed.
I blinked in the darkness.
A passing truck had apparently woken Sam and he somehow thought that 4:01 was 7:01, despite the fact that he kept repeating the time. Details slip by when you're panicked and not totally awake. We clicked on the lamp, figured out what was going on and sent him back to bed fully-dressed in street clothes.
I thought Sam really might miss the bus because of the early wake-up but he didn't. That odd start to the day seems typical of this week.
I feel like we've had very few sunny days lately. This past fall was unusually rainy and it led right into what has been a gray winter. The government shutdown sparks some uncertainty as well and even in the microcosm that is our own household, I've been sick and my children are struggling to get back into the routine.
January always feels like an uphill climb after the holidays. Moving everyone forward in their routines, wrangling homework and dinner plans all feel like a chore sometimes. I think everyone's focused on #mariekondo-ing their house and making New Year's resolutions fit or not into daily life. Hot Wheels do not bring me joy but how would we live without them?
We need a change, which feels like a huge contrast as we're trying to remind kids what it is to get up. My weekend has a birthday party and plans to visit America's Incredible Pizza. The forecast alternates between clouds and snow but I'm hoping for sun.
Here are three ideas to make your weekend different that don't involve cleaning or lifestyle changes.
Find a weekend activity: Our calendar editor, Lindsay Cuomo, works to find 10+ events every week that are the best in and around Oklahoma City. This weekend's selection looks outstanding, with possibilities to see acrobats, ride the new OKC Streetcar without charge, find out about helicopter missions and celebrate Martin Luther King Day.
Go to a museum: See what's new and discover a museum you haven't seen before. Myriad Botanical Gardens has an exhibition titled "Nature" that's going away Jan. 31. Sculpture is also at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art right now. Make a day of it and get out of the house. Find our Guide to Current Museum Exhibits here.
Get different books: We read the usual "Corduroy" and "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus" over and over again but it takes a conscious effort to read new stories sometimes that can be engaging in a different way than the same storybooks. One title I've found that's just really different than anything else is "No Boring Stories" by Julie Falatko. It's somewhat like a comic book but focuses on inclusion and creative details that can make kids feel different but really make them leaders. That's important for kids of all ages but especially the age group it's meant for, 4 to 8; my first-grader, Isaac, asks me to read this one and we notice something new in the illustrations each time.
I had the opportunity recently to ask author Julie Falatko some questions about raising readers and what's new lately. She shared her answers in this quick interview:
Q.What inspires you to write story books for families?
A. Bonding over books gives families shared experiences to talk about. At this point, the lexicon of my home seems to be 80 percent book references, which is fun.
Q. I parent four young sons. One of the challenges I'm facing is how to captivate young readers in the golden age of silver screens.
Do you have any advice for doing that?
A. Well, considering how I just became momentarily dazzled by the wonder of the phrase “the golden age of silver screens” (such magical imagery!), I might not be the best person to answer this question.
But I will say this. All of us (not just kids) have so many distractions flying at our faces every second of the day, that it takes real effort to resist that. It annoys me sometimes – parenting is hard enough (I also have four kids) without having this whole extra parenting task that my parents didn't have to deal with.
One thing I do is get very involved in what books my kids are interested in. I play librarian at them all the time. Luckily, it’s part of my job to be aware of current children’s books, and when I hear about one that I know one of my kids will probably like, I get it from the library and strategically leave it somewhere. On the couch. On their desk. Sometimes I casually toss it at them. There are a lot of great books that are more captivating than screens if you let yourself fall into them.
The other thing we do is force our kids to get out of the house a bit. Sometimes we go hiking, sometimes we go bowling or rake leaves or play ping pong at the Y. They might grumble. But I think it’s really important to remember how your brain works without any digital input. And to remember how incredibly fun your parents are.
Q. This title is obviously new and it's so much fun. What's next on the horizon for you? What should parents look out for in this same style that's coming from your desk?
A. I have three books coming in 2019: the second and third books in the "Two Dogs in a Trench Coat" chapter book series, and a picture book called "The Great Indoors." I think if you like the humor in "No Boring Stories," you’ll like it in my other books too.
January is a fresh start but like all changes, it's okay to take some time to get used to the idea of what you want to change and how. Give yourself grace as you sort through transitions together; if you feel like it's not happening the way you want it to, that's okay.
Everything has a way of settling, even us. Keep having fun in your city through it and your little ones will feel happier too.