Take a Break from Zoomlandia: Tackle Your Tsundoku

Director of Ford Library, Ms. Barb Lazar
Winter break…. Ahhhh…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 Zoomlandia routines, expectations, and exhaustion that the rigor of challenging education produces. That said, what it means to me is tackling my tsundoku! I recently learned this word. Yes, there is a Japanese word for it: the pile of unread books—literally, the TBR, the To-Be-Read, the reading pile!

Winter break has always been a chance to slow down and read for myself–tackle the pile. Don’t get me wrong, as a librarian and a longtime middle school English teacher, I like to think that my superpower is being well-read in and knowing middle grades and young adult books. Still, during breaks like this, I treasure reading a current bestseller or re-reading a classic, or exploring some beautiful new picture books. On my tsundoku reading pile this winter, I also have well-worn old copies of books like Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Corduroy. 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, out of my wheelhouse! Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith was my favorite during that break. I also find the time to read books written by or about places I would 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, a multitude of studies have shown the correlation between reading and improved writing; even without direct instruction, reading improves vocabulary, language and spelling structures, narrative style, and literary devices. I love when I hear a student use, but mispronounce, a delightful and complex 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 then recharging with engaging stories and absorbing 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, and even putting aside a book that isn’t working for you, is a luxury you have during school breaks. I have fun reading aloud to my granddaughter, using different voices, and practicing my Spanish, when I read books like Jorge el curioso - Curious George or Donde Viven Los Monstros, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald No Combina by Monica Brown.
Suggestions to get you started:
All Ages:
The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate
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)
A Polar Bear in the Snow by Mac Barnett, Shawn Harris
Antiracist Baby by Ibram X Kendi
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus – or ANYTHING by Mo Willems
Drawing on Walls: A Story of Keith Haring by Matthew Burgess, Josh Cochran
Clean Getaway by Nic Stone
I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott, Sydney Smith
Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew Holm (illustrator)
The Wishing Spell (#1) in the Land of Stories Series by Chris Colfer
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes
Show Me a Sign by Ann Claire LeZotte
Middle School:
New Kid by Jerry Craft
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds
Before the Ever After  by Jacqueline Woodson
Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander
Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes
When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
High School/Young Adult:
Scythe, Thunderhead, and Toll by Neal Schusterman
One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Furia by Yamile Saied Mendez
Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds, Ibram X Kendi
What if It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli
Intimations by Zadie Smith
Memorial by Bryan Washington
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet
Finally, a few tips:
  • Choice is essential when cultivating a love for reading; let your child choose which books to read.
  • Model reading; create time for it.
  • Use your Sora app with your Bosque email and public library card to 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 reading piles!
If you have any questions, please email me or message me on the Ford Library Facebook page or Instagram.