This week our elementary school celebrated Read Across America and kicked off Reading Month with a fun activity -- challenging students to read books set in all fifty US states. Our librarian has set aside a special Read Across America book cart with books that she's selected. Each book has a sticker with the name of the state that the book is set in, so students can easily choose which books they want to read. Every kid who wants to participate gets a black-and-white paper map of the US, and every time they read a book set in a state, they can color that state in. The papers are posted in the school's multipurpose hall so that everyone can keep track of completed and missing states.
Isn't that a great way to motive young children to read? Kids can never resist checklists, and having a themed reading list makes that much more fun. When I heard about the challenge, I got all excited and convinced The Pea to take it with me. I figured that having her mom complete it with her would help hold her interest in the project till the end. Also, it's a great way to expand her selection of reading material beyond Nancy Drew, the Rainbow Fairies, Roald Dahl and Percy Jackson. Besides, I figure I need a lesson in geography anyway.
This morning I created my Sea To Shining Sea reading list. Despite having several decades headstart on my daughter, my list has quite a lot of gaps in it! Here's what it looks like so far:
Alabama: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Alaska: Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
California: Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell
Connecticut: The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare
Florida: Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, by Rick Riordan
Georgia: Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Illinois: Meet Molly, an American Girl by Valerie Tripp
Kansas: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
Maine: Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White
Massachusetts: Anastasia Krupnik, by Lois Lowry
Minnesota: On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Mississippi: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
Missouri: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
Nevada: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
New Jersey: Superfudge, by Judy Blume
New Mexico: Meet Josefina, an American Girl, by Valerie Tripp
New York: Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
North Carolina: Meet Addy, An American Girl, by Connie Porter
North Dakota: On the Shores of Silver Lake, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Ohio: Meet Kit, an American Girl, by Valerie Tripp
Pennsylvania: Meet Addy, An American Girl, by Connie Porter
South Carolina: Dragons in the Waters, by Madeleine L'Engle
South Dakota: Little Town on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Virginia: Meet Felicity, An American Girl, by Valerie Tripp
Wisconsin: Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
At this point, several notes are in order. First, this is a list in progress, since I've probably forgotten several books here and there, so I'll be updating it as I remember some books and get around to reading others. Second, I only listed one book per state for now, even though I may have read multiple books for that state. Third, I'm trying to include "good" books, i.e. books that I enjoyed when I was The Pea's age (around the 7-13 age range) that I would love for her to enjoy as well. I'm not putting down the trashy romance set in Hawaii that I read when I was 12.
Also, I admit that I may have cheated a little bit; for one thing, I counted Tom Sawyer for two states (ditto with the Addy series). And a few books, like the Sea of Monsters, aren't set in their assigned state for the entire book; Percy just gets washed up on Miami Beach after battling a cruise ship full of monsters. And Benne Seed Island, the setting of Dragons in the Waters, although supposedly set in North Carolina, isn't a real island at all. But it still counts, right?
Now our journey begins, and to help us complete it, I did a search on Read Across America reading lists. Here are a few good ones:
It would take us years to go through all those books! So can you think of any books that The Pea and I really, really ought to read?
This post was inspired by this month's Yahoo MotherBoard topic about celebrating reading during America Reads month. To read what the moms of Yahoo are saying about kids, careers, and balancing the two, visit their Yodeling Mamas blog for a glimpse into their digital and domestic lives.