Happy fall. The leaves have changed into beautiful red and orange colors, to brown and yellow, and now to empty branches and a lot of slippery leaves on the ground. It’s the best time of the year, right? We are giving nature a restart. The time for new beginnings, almost Christmas, and of course Thanksgiving before that. Who doesn’t love a good turkey, and apple or pumpkin pie? My choice would be strawberry/rhubarb, but America loves apple and pumpkin. I love fall. It’s the best time to run, a little wet but fresh and crisp air. Time for cashmere sweaters, mushrooms, boots, and beef or lamb stews. Fall came fast this year; the rain is never ending and it is so dark for hours in the morning. My lemon tree looks sad, all the grapes on our grapevines are gone, and the olive tree is dropping its leaves and turning yellow. No big harvest, no homemade wine or olive oil but it’s time to plant new bulbs for spring blooms according to the morning news. And if you haven’t started your Christmas shopping you might be in trouble. The cargo ships are still waiting to unload and there’s a shortage of plastic toys, dishwashers, medicine, and handmade pj’s from fair trade factories around the globe.
Fall is the perfect time to read. A new study about reading levels among students (PISA study for 15y/olds) in Sweden published a few weeks ago. (I know, I’m not working as a teacher or principal now but once a teacher always a teacher.) It’s a sad story. Numbers are basically bigshits, one of the lowest of all included countries. Kids and young adults can’t read and don’t read at all for pleasure, and boys have even lower numbers than girls. Libraries are getting less funds, school libraries are not prioritized at all, and the school is focused on grades and are too digitalized. Kids only read to find information and usually only read fragments of texts to find it. They don’t get the time to read a book from start to finish. This has been an ongoing discussion in our house for the past ten something years and even more since the 12804 days since the pandemic started. I am so sorry to say but our lives are not getting happier in front of the computer. Don’t get me wrong, I really like my Surface, Kindle, iPhone etc. but they’re not doing me much good. I don’t know if you remember the last decade when we have tried to reduce the use of screens for kids. You hear tips and tricks every day for screentime and computer games and how parents are trying to trade time for the screen like it is a punishment. It’s nothing new. And I know computer games (and all that includes) and a school computer screen is different, but we are still talking screens. And since when do young kids have to watch something or play on a phone/iPad in a restaurant/Costco/the mall. Since the pandemic started screens are king. What happened?
Not being able to use your hands, holding a pen and handwriting is another story but very much connected, too. The hand, eye, brain coordination. It is part of our brain’s development and growth, and guess what? Reading, too. Running, climbing trees, crawling, beading, Lego building, drawing, using scissors, painting, stomping or jumping your feet, walking in puddles, sewing, riding a bike, sorting things, memorizing, picking rocks in different shapes…it’s part of growing and developing your brain. Kids need it all. They need activity and stimulation. They need to use their bodies to grow a healthy body. They need dopamine, the happy hormone, that has a part in motivation, focus and learning.
But… kids also need to get the opportunity to read and feel like they have and are in control of time and that it matters. Results are in! Apparently, focus and grades are more important than well-being and knowledge.
What can you do? Have lots and lots of books around, a big selection of material. Difficult and easy. Read out loud. Listen to books. Read newspapers and magazines. Show your kids that you read and enjoy it. Ask questions and be interested. Make time. Libraries are fun and bookstores are fantastic. Find the good spots where you live. I don’t know how many hundreds of books I have downloaded on my Kindle and for a while I stopped buying paper copies thanks to Marie Kondo. I am back to some paper copies, but I don’t have the need to keep books, I read and donate or sell. I also listen to a book occasionally, and I read on my Kindle every day (109 weeks in a row for me). But nothing beats walking around a library or bookstore and turning books and reading the back, the smell, the low voices, the colors… Can you imagine getting that feeling of excitement browsing your Kindle when you are 7 or 11 years old? Not really.
Screentime is worth discussing among adults too. The pandemic made everything with screens good, social, and superduper. This was the new socializing. I’ve been there too. All meetings online, Happy Hour with friends on Zoom saved us, movies, facetime calls, games with friends… We have done that now, it’s time to move away from it. In our reality, where we live, there are still work from home recommendations and closed offices. But it will open up more and it is time to move on. I know a lot of people get more done and are extremely efficient, and I am incredibly impressed by humans everywhere. But for those of you who can, please get yourself dressed and out and about. Get your shots. Humans are meant to be together. Nothing beats a hug IRL. Or a coffee with friends, a walk in the woods chatting about nothing.
We have been starved of live music for a long time, but the last few weeks have been busy for all family members. Cold Play, Bleachers and last night Andrea Bocelli. Unlike the rest of the family, I am a big opera fan (thanks to my dad) and last night didn’t disappoint. There was a big audience in the new Climate Pledge Arena, crappy arena food, pricey drinks but a great voice. The big finish with “Time to Say Goodnight”, “O sole mio” and “Nessun dorma” didn’t leave anyone untouched. A couple of tears shed, big applause, goosebumps and a slow drive home in the rain. All the good stuff.