Thursday, March 1, 2018

Family Book Club

A few weeks ago, my oldest son Ben suggested to his big sister Lorelei and little brother Kiefer and me: "Let's have a family book club."

The suggestion hung in the air; I waited to see if his siblings would match Ben's enthusiasm or strike down the request. As a giant book lover and devourer of books, I held my breath and hoped. Would they support their brother in this out-of-left-field suggestion, or might they chuckle at the random suggestion that create homework for themselves?

"Yeah!" they agreed.

I let out my breath. I patted myself on the back for whatever hand I had in this sincere appreciation for books and thanked my lucky stars for these cool apples who definitely fell close to this tree.

(Honestly, the reward for reading the book was really having permission to get on my laptop and do a PowerPoint presentation as a final book report/presentation to the rest of us. Nothing is cooler than PowerPoint right now to them...if that's not chuckle-worthy, I don't know what is!)

Ben got slips of paper and asked for help in remembering different genres of books. "What's a genre?" asked first grader Kiefer. Fifth grader Lorelei filled in the blanks for him, and we threw out a healthy list of categories: nonfiction, fiction, fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, biography, graphic novels. He folded the slips of paper, grabbed one of his many baseball caps, and let Kiefer do the honor of choosing the first genre.

"Biography!" Kiefer declared.

They happily started looking for books and talking about which person in history was interesting to them. They Googled and looked to see if our library had the books they wanted. Kiefer became quickly overwhelmed by the number of options within the "Who Was...?" book series. While I observed them and chimed in to help, I began to wonder who I would choose.

A few days later, I got a notification from my library that it was finally my turn to listen to the audio version of Grant by Ron Chernow. The decision was made. I'd listen to this book and learn about this important man and also do my book report on him.

While I faithfully review almost all of the books I read on Goodreads, listening to Grant with an ear towards lessons for my children on this leader has been unexpectedly fun. Should I share with them that his first name is actually Hiram, middle name Ulysses, which created the initials "HUG" for which he was teased mercilessly in grade school? Should I tell them, especially my equestrian daughter, of his horsemanship? In addition to these two things, here are the things that stand out to me as very worthy of teaching them about Ulysses S. Grant:

  • He was a kind-hearted, tender leader who once walked among the wounded in the Mexican-American War and gave water to a wounded enemy after walking the battlefield to look for his own troops.
  • He was a successful military leader early on, but then got out of the Army to pursue civilian life with his wife and children. But he was a failure at all things agrarian and business. Yet these failures meant he was looking for an opportunity, and when southern states seceded and military leaders were needed, he was in need of work--and this was his kind of work.
  • Many believe he was an alcoholic from a young age; Chernow argues that he was disciplined with his alcohol abuse and kept it from affecting his family and military career. He was a private man who took seriously the positions he held, but was undoubtedly unable to shake this addiction altogether.
I'm looking forward to listening to the rest of the book--which is a good thing, because I'm on part 7 of 38 parts!--and I'm looking forward to my own PowerPoint presentation to my trio at the end of the month. 

No comments: