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:
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.
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!
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.
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).