Time to Tackle Your Tsundoku

Winter break…Ahhh…breathe!  As the winter solstice finally rewards us with the shift into the lengthening of days, the school schedule also bestows upon us a well-deserved and timely break from the routine, expectations, and exhaustion that the rigor of challenging education produces. That said, what it means to me is tackling my tsundoku! I just learned this word. Yes, there is a word for that pile of unread books—literally, the reading pile! Winter break has always been a chance to slow down and read for myself, to tackle the pile. Don’t get me wrong, as a librarian and a longtime middle school English teacher, my superpower is being well-read and knowledgeable about middle grades and young adult books; but during breaks like this, I treasure reading a current bestseller or re-reading a classic, or even exploring some of the wonderful new picture books. On my tsundoku this winter, I also have well-worn old copies of such books as Goodnight Moon,The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Corduroy. Yes, I have the joy of spending time reading to my young granddaughter from some of the same books I read to my daughters.

Four reasons to relax with a good book over a school break:
  1. Nurture and explore interests.
When a book or reading is non-required, I tend to explore genres that may not be my usual go-to reads. During one break, I found myself reading vampire books! I know, that’s out of my wheelhouse! Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith was my favorite during that break. I also make time to read books written about places I would soon be visiting. The Norwegian mysteries of Karin Fossum and Jo Nesbo graced my shelves—my tsundoku—before traveling to Oslo with my daughter’s soccer team.

  1. Reading helps you be a better writer.
For years, many studies have shown the correlation between reading and improved writing; that even without direct instruction, reading improves vocabulary, language and spelling structures, narrative style, and literary devices. I love when I hear students use, but mispronounce, a delightful word; it often means they have encountered it in their reading!

  1. Fight the winter brain drain.
The corollary, of course, is summer brain drain, but the idea is similar. You want to take advantage of the time to reflect and take time to just…be. But find the balance between quiet moments of emptying your brain and recharging your brain with engaging stories and interesting new information.

  1. It’s fun!
Reading WHAT you want, WHEN you want, and even reading aloud with family or youngsters can bring joy to yourself and others. Being able to choose and explore your interests, or even putting aside a book that isn’t working for you, is a luxury you have during school breaks. Of course one of the fun reading experiences for me is reading aloud to my granddaughter; I even have fun using different voices and practicing my Spanish when I read books like Jorge el curioso (Curious George) or Donde Viven Los Monstruos(Wherethe Wild Things Are).

Bobcats’ Winter Reading
In thinking about what people read over winter break, I asked some students and faculty about their reading memories. Several people talked about shared reading, like Aviva (’22), Evan (’22), and Finn (’22) who all had fond memories of reading together with their families The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. Many also told what they are looking forward to reading. Aiden (’22), is looking forward to reading a book with his father; they do this—they both read the same book! Now they are finishing The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, and getting ready to read The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Some other books we are looking forward to reading (or re-reading) are The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Elijah (’22); A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Elena (’22); the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Ella (’25); Overstory: Zero: Real Life in Timber Country by Richard Leo Heilman, Dr. MacDonald; The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, Eliot (’24); 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith,Mr. Allen;  Screenshot by Donna Cooner, Rea (’25); and Educated by Tara Westover, Maestra LaZar.

Suggestions to get you started:
All Ages:
P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever by Raj Halder, Chris Carpenter, Maria Beddia (illustrator)
For Every One by Jason Reynolds

I Am Enough by Grace Byers, Keturah A. Bobo (illustrator)
Love by Matt de la Pena, Loren Long (illustrator)
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, Oliver Jeffers (illustrator)

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus—or ANYTHING by Mo Willems
Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, Frané Lessac (illustrator)
Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew Holm (illustrator)
The Wishing Spell (#1) in the Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate, Charles Santoso (illustrator)

Middle School:
Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo
A Crack in the Sea by H.M. Bouwman, Yuko Shimizu (illustrator)
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
The Crossover and  Rebound by Kwame Alexander
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

High School/Young Adult:
Scythe and Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak
Every Day by David Levithan
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli

Educated by Tara Westover
There There by Tommy Orange
Feel Free by Zadie Smith
Becoming by Michelle Obama
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Finally, a few tips:
  • Choice is important when cultivating a love for reading; let your child choose which books to read.
  • Model reading; create time for it.
  • Use your public library card to sign up for Overdrive or Libby with the free app, and you can have access to thousands of ebooks and audiobooks. (“Audiobooks are not cheating!”)
  • Read the book before you see the movie.
  • Read a book that is the first in a series, so your child can continue the adventure with other books.

What an opportunity we have during our upcoming winter break. May you enjoy the gift of reading—and tackling your own tsundoku!

If you have any questions, feel free to email (barb.lazar@bosqueschool.org) or message me on the Ford Library Facebook page or on Instagram.