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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #83
March 18, 2009

Get Caught Reading

Diary of A Wimpy Kid + Visiting Your Local Library

Diary of a Wimpy Kid and it's two clever sequels have tickled the collective funny bone of kids across the nation. The slim volumes, which rest on the nightstand of many a youngster, chronicle the daily travails of Greg Heffley, an average middle-school boy whose siblings, teachers and parents provide fodder for the hilarious pictures he draws in his diary. There is the time Dad gives Greg's older brother money for the SAT and he spends it on a tattoo that says "Loded Diper" (the name of his brother's rock band), the time Greg sends out anonymous valentines to let everyone in his class know how he really feels ("Dear James, you smell."). When, in book three, Greg wants to quit soccer, his dad exclaims "No son of mine is a quitter!" after which Greg writes "Which isn't really true at all. I'm a HUGE quitter, and so is Rodrick. And I think Manny is on his third or fourth preschool by now." We are not diary snoopers, so perhaps will never know what our kids are really thinking, but if the popularity of this book is any indication, a sense of humor is key to surviving middle school!

Just as reluctant readers have followed Greg Heffley with devotion, reluctant spenders have been making tracks to their local library for years. Especially in a down economy, your Public Library is a tremendous resource for every member of the family. Our kids got their library cards at a young age, and swiping it at the check-out counter makes them feel grown up. That sense of responsibility gets carried home with the books they pluck off the shelves, for they must keep track of and return their books in good shape... or risk late-fees! Our local library has a generous collection of movies, which are much cheaper to borrow than rent at the video store, and stopping by the library for a few books-on-tape has saved many a long car trip. Teens love being dropped off to do homework at a library, where they can download e-books, and conduct advanced research. Best of all, an enthusiastic reader can take home a huge stack of titles that parents would certainly veto in a bookstore check-out line -- and, who knows which book in that stack might have been the one to lure them into a new reading adventure?

Film Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Directed By: Jeff Kinney
2007, Rated G, easy chapters

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about these Books:
  • Why They're Worth It: Anything that gets your kids to read is fabulous - once kids fall in love with reading, they'll make more and more sophisticated choices. And books should be funny - Harry Potter had tons of humor! These books seem to grab the attention of girls and boys alike, from, as soon as they can read up to the ages of 15. And, kids read them over and over, probably because they're episodic and it's easy to drop in on Greg for a few moments before turning out the light.
  • Red Flags: Best for kids over 7, and parents should know that Greg tends to make mistakes and then learn from them - his humor isn't cleaned up or precious. He's a real kid with real life problems and solutions.
  • Further Reading: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw and Diary of a Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book.

Our Tips for Making your kids into Readers:

  • Author Savvy: Click here to read the NYTimes profile of author Jeff Kinney, who still works as a web-designer at FunBrain, where he first developed the Wimpy Kid character. Here's what he says about himself: "I'm not a real author and not a real cartoonist. I'm a failed cartoonist." Ask the kids what they think.
  • Book Sales Savvy: A book that spends over 80 weeks on the NY Times Bestseller list is definitely not wimpy! The latest Wimpy Kid book, The Last Straw, was the best selling book in the country in January of 2009 - that includes the adult lists, not just kids lists. Ask your kids if they have any theories about why!
  • Doodling Savvy: Jeff Kinney doodled before he drew cartoons - is that the secret to his success? Recent research suggests that doodling is good for your brain, because it keeps it on task; doodling improves memory function. Click here to read the NPR story.
  • Diary Savvy: Journal writing is a time-honored kid tradition and if kids are interested just buy them a simple journal at a bookstore and encourage them to write something, even a little, every day. Many kids start a diary, and don't ever stick to the habit, but others trust everything to these pages and keep them secreted away. Parents - keep out!


Get a Library Card and Use It

Age Recommendation: All Ages

Time Allotment: As much time as you have

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Adventure:
  • What Worked for Us: It's all about the library card which kids feel has the same magical powers as your credit card. Let the kids help fill out the card applications, and be sure to let each child has a card in his or her own name. Then, let them loose in the stacks and, don't forget to let them check their books out themselves! When you take your children to the library for the first time, ask a librarian for a short tour; this will teach them that librarians are there to help, so encourage them to ask for recommendations. 
  • The Greater Life Lessons of the Library: Placing coveted bestsellers on hold and waiting for them can help kids of all ages (even adults!) delay their instant gratification and keeping track of borrowed books helps instill responsibility.
  • Before You Go: Go over library rules-keeping a quiet, indoor voice doesn't mean boredom, it means the freedom to explore on your own!
  • Libraries are Resources: Don't forget to check out special community programs too. Libraries can offer inspired events, workshops, groups, and classes for kids of all ages. Most offer summer and weekend programs too.
  • Reluctant Readers: For those who are reluctant readers, expose them to other library offerings such as computer games, music and movies -- don't worry too much that your kids aren't reading; hopefully, the habit of the library will help them find their way to the books in the end!

Our Tips for Expanding this Adventure:

  • Preview the Book: You can see a few pages from the book and get a sense of what it looks like by clicking here

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

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