Summer reading feels like it’s at a fever pitch this time of year, along with preparations for the new school year.
July 31 marks the end of the Metropolitan Library System’s Summer Reading Program. Now is the time to go claim book and fine waiver prizes, finish your reading stack with little ones or novels with older kids and gear up for the new school year. Time is steadily marching onward and we’re over here trying to still make the most out of these summer afternoons, with their icepops and swim lessons.
Bare feet still factor heavily even as our attention turns to shoe sales and restocking socks in various sizes because we all know no one has time to deal with those purchases during the school year.
Amazon’s Prime Days this past week prompted me to purchase the novels my oldest son will need next year for seventh grade English and literature classes, some of which I’ll read separately so we can discuss them. New copies of “The Outsiders” and “The Giver” join a stack of backpacks and binder paper in my kitchen cubby. The idea that it’s the season to make purchases like that and start the school supply/new clothes purchase cycle all over again feels too soon most days. Bedtime, that contentious issue, seems impossible to enforce with the sun out at 9 p.m. and firecrackers still popping after dark. It’s up to me to help everyone simmer down and shift gears into a new routine but some of us parents still wants to read with a flashlight circa 1995 too because this familiar part of the year always feels the same somehow. There’s some part of me that wants to stay up late reading then sneak out my bedroom window and sit on the roof to watch the sun rise even though it’s my own house now. Some things never change but I think the value of time stands out to me more each year, even just a few quality minutes that make all the difference sometimes.
One of the best new picture books I’ve read this year with my younger kids as we make the transition into all-things earlier is “Five Minutes (That’s a Lot of Time) (No, It’s Not) (Yes, It Is)” by Audrey Vernick and Liz Garton Scanlon, with illustrations by Olivier Tallec. We read it almost every night followed by a conversation about how school is starting soon. I had the opportunity to submit some questions to the book’s authors that feel fitting as we turn to fall, even if that title hasn’t found its way to your house yet. Find it here for pre-order.
Q: What inspired you to write the book?
Audrey Vernick: “It was pretty much placed in my lap. I was doing a book signing at a local bookstore and a woman I rarely see told me she knew I’d be there, so even though she only had 10 minutes, she came out because she’d rather see me for a short time than not at all. I responded that 10 minutes is a lot of time. And we added no, it’s not. And then yes, it is. I knew there was a story to be written, and it felt like exactly the kind of thing I’d want to work on with Liz. (It was at the wise suggestion of our editor that 10 minutes was changed to five.)”
Liz Garton Scanlon: “And then once we started working on it, it just took like five minutes. Well, ok, 10.”
Q: I love how the parents’ expressions are captured in the illustrations, especially on the page that shows the little boy happily entertained at the fish-a-rubber-duck fair pond while the parents are so obviously ready to leave. The universality of experiences like that is familiar to parents everywhere but was there a particular incident where five minutes felt eternal to you or your child?
Liz Garton Scanlon: “There is nothing like having a small child contained in an airplane seat on a transatlantic flight. It is eight hours doled out in five minute chunks. Five minutes for a snack, five minutes for finger puppets, five minutes for sleep. Repeat. At one point, mid-ocean, our youngest cried out, “I’m done with this!” Our long-suffering neighbors chuckled in agreement.”
Audrey Vernick: “My children are now in their twenties. I still feel, very palpably, the five minute before they received shots at the pediatrician.What’s longer than eternal? Because that’s how long it felt. There was also the time we were, no lie, trapped inside It’s A Small World at DisneyWorld. (The ride stopped. The singing did not.)”
Q: As children prepare to go back to school, a challenge families face is getting back into a
routine and helping kids remember there’s a time limit on almost every activity. The little boy in the book gets extra time at the end of the story to read to his stuffed animals. I see the balance there. Do you have any other tips to share with families to make the transition easier and more balanced
Audrey Vernick: “One of the deep joys of summer for many of us is the way it erases, or at least loosens, the role of time in our children’s daily lives. One thought about easing the adjustment to the more rigid schedules of fall is to start putting a little time awareness back into their lives in the weeks before school begins. Instead of saying ‘please clean up your art supplies when you’re done,’ you might say ‘let’s have that all cleaned up by 3 so we can get to the park by
3:30.’ A gentle insertion of time at the start, with more in the days ahead, can help everyone be better prepared for the transition ahead.”
Liz Garton Scanlon: “Oh, fall always arrives a little too quickly, doesn’t it? Kind of like bedtime – at least for the kids. But creating an August calendar or bucket list is a great way to stay present to the joy (“making s’mores in the backyard,” “jumping off the diving board,” “picking out new school shoes”) while also serving as a countdown to the more regimented days to come.”
If you’re looking for a bucket list for summer’s end to experience with your kids, start your own with our calendar section here. You can see a couple of events from mine in last week’s post. I hope the rest of your summer is filled with memorable books and experiences that make for your family’s best summer memories.