Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Monday, December 5, 2011

My mom went to _________ and all she got me was this lousy t-shirt.

On my way home a couple of weeks ago, I slipped into Shakespeare & Co., a bookstore on Lexington Avenue between 68th and 69th Streets in Manhattan. I love this store. Sometimes I take a particular subway route home after work just so I can stop by this treasure trove and see what they've got. My visits are part field research so I know which children's and young adult titles bookstores are betting on and part me-time pleasure. On this particular visit, I was lured in by a series of t-shirts hanging in the window, each with a different title of a classic novel. One featured title was S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders. This particular book has special status in my home. I loved it when I was younger and appreciated it in a whole new way when one of our 13 year-olds read it for school last year and became obsessed. I would bet that when she's my age, if asked what book from her youth changed her life, her answer would unequivocally be The Outsiders. How exciting for both of us that we will meet author S.E. Hinton at the next Children's Choice Book Awards gala on May 7, 2012! But I digress. The t-shirt.... I walked in and walked straight up to the front counter to ask where I could find The Outsiders t-shirt. I proceeded to tell her how my daughter was going to flip when she saw this. The woman behind the counter and her friend who had been hovering nearby congratulated me on being such a good mom because only good parents could raise a child that would get excited about t-shirts based on books. I'll admit it. I was feeling pretty good. Just that day Thomas Friedman has a piece published in the New York Times asking, "How About Better Parents?". Friedman insisted that parents more focused on their children's education could make a huge difference in a student's achievement. He went on to discuss a study by which the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (O.E.C.D) conducted exams as part of the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which tests 15-year-olds in the world’s leading industrialized nations on their reading comprehension and ability to use what they’ve learned in math and science to solve real problems. Among many interesting and thought-provoking findings was the clear conclusion that reading to your children on a regular base when they are young and parental involvement (like asking your child about his or her day) make a huge difference in terms of their abilities and accomplishments in later years. These propositions seem a little anti-climactic at first glance and then a little more shocking when you face the fact that many parents still don't get it. I'm not sure how you go about changing that since even a compelling article like Friedman's is likely only going to be read by those parents who are already reading to their children and connecting with them. Yet, how can we do anything other than keep trying to spread the word. Books and reading make a difference; engaged and involved parents change the game.

Back to that t-shirt. You know how sometimes you imagine the way something will go down and you're sure you've got it right only to find out you were completely wrong? Well, that's what happened with the t-shirt. I was beyond excited as I handed it to its intended recipient who took one look at the design and asked, "what does this have to do with The Outsiders?. I mean, I'd love it if it had anything to do with the book."  I was ready to get all defensive when I took a look (probably for the first time) at the t-shirt I had purchased only hours before. She was right, of course. It had nothing to do with her beloved book. She was remarkably unimpressed by the t-shirt. What I really should have done was walk into that store and buy her a copy of Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher's fabulous new novel, The Future of Us. I know she'll love it - all teenagers will (it's the story of two teenagers in the pre-Facebook era who discover their future selves on Facebook fifteen years in the future) - it also has nothing to do with The Outsiders but it's a great book that I'm pretty sure she'll connect with and I'm hopeful that her enjoyment of this book will erase the blah-ness of the t-shirt. More on The Future of Us in another post - it's entirely deserving of its own post!


  1. The Outsiders was Mitch's favorite as well.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    I love you mom! I actually meant to add that in but, in my sleepy haze, forgot. So for those of you followers of this blog who recall that even my brothers are keeping count of how frequently they are mentioned in my blog, this one goes to my brother Mitch who I am quite certain is the person who first introduced me to The Outsiders. Thanks Mitch!

    Have a great day,