My son loves the summer. It brings a long break from school to do as he pleases, anything he wants. And this summer his role model is Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes.
“Look, look,” he yells to me, pointing to one of the comic strips.
It is about Calvin’s appreciation of Saturdays — and, by extension, summer — as a time of perfect freedom, with unlimited opportunity. “And what better way to appreciate that opportunity,” he tells Hobbes, “than by squandering it watching cartoons all day!”
He says, “You see, it’s good to watch TV.”
Left to his devices, that’s just what this seven-year-old would do on these lazy summer days after a morning at the beach, a whirl on his bike or a romp through the forest in Pinamar, on the coast of Argentina where we are spending the season. Then comes a chance to squander the rest of the day with delightful vegetation on the sofa watching cartoons.
He sighs despondently.
I try to perk him up. “Why don’t you read?”
He is a reader. He learned to read in first grade despite his learning problems, and now he is going into second grade. And he’s always loved books. But TV? It’s great too, he’s told me. So why ever turn it off?
We once lived without television and the kids played more, read more, and this made us parents feel like we were hip and advanced. But the episode was kind of like cheating. Wouldn’t it be better to instill the love and habit of reading while the temptation of 24/7 cartoons loomed in the very same living room? That’s real life, isn’t it?
Reading? I got the bug at an early age, happy as anything to read all afternoon. The Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, Swallows and Amazons, The Lord of the Rings. And summer was best for reading because you could get caught up in the stories and whole series like The Chronicles of Narnia. My wife, too, is a big reader, more so than me – or anybody I know, for that matter.
Our regular reading is a pretty good way on its own accord to inspire the habit in our children. But for added effect, this summer we signed them up to a reading challenge with prizes at the end based on how much you read. Our eldest daughter, who is nearly 10, is devouring the Dolphin Diaries series and Calvin and Hobbes. Our four-year-old girl is keen on a host of picture books, which we read to her – or her sister does.
And our son? I think he’s just made the click, just caught the bug, and just very well may win the summer reading competition! He’s been on the sofa – his favored hangout for watching cartoons – for the past hour reading Calvin and Hobbes.
I look up from my work on the computer every few minutes to admire his progress.
But what’s this? I think, as I take a longer look at him in his reading marathon. Wait a second… I get up and walk over to the sofa, where I discover that he’s not reading at all but happily dozing, the book on his face.
“What, pray tell, are you doing?” I ask while standing over him.
He looks up at me sleepily and says, “Sleeping,” before rolling over onto his side and adding after a long yawn, “And don’t wake me up because I’m going to win.”
“The summer sleeping competition.”