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Putting family first: Q&A with bloggers Dave, Marzena and Wanda

Early ipod by x-ray delta one from Flickrt

Early ipod by x-ray delta one from Flickr

For Modern Family month I thought I'd check in with a few bloggers who write about the trials and tribulations of raising kids these days. Our guests today come from a range of backgrounds and experiences. @davewordswords of Tomato Transplants moved with his wife and three kids from the "Tomato Capital of Canada" to Prince Edward Island. Marzena blogs about raising her children abroad at Wanda (@YMCbookalicious) is a Yummy Mummy book blogger.

Q: Why do you blog about family?

Dave: I blog primarily for my kids to read when they get older. I want them to have a record of the stories that make them who they are, and I want them to know their dad was always watching them with love, admiration and wonder. A line from Thomas King's Massey Lectures has always stuck with with me: "The truth about stories is that's all we are." I want my kids to know these stories. I want my grand kids to know them, too.

Marzena: As we have been posted overseas for a temporary term with my husband's employer, I blog about family as a means to keep in touch with extended family and friends back home. Writing is something I enjoy doing and so it also serves as a hobby for me, and lastly, I chose to have my blog about family as I wanted to document and "virtually" meet other families who have gone through a similar experience to ours, and also provide a comparison and contrast to young families just like ours, in a different culture and country.

Wanda: My Bookalicious blog appears in Erica Ehm's Yummy Mummy Club. My blog concentrates on books for busy moms and I make recommendations from the Yummy Mummy Book Club but I do report on books for all ages and interests. My family members make appearances in my blog whether they like it or not! Some of my book titles come from my children, husband, sister, father, mother and friends. When I need to get feedback from a YA reader or a parent with younger children this is when my friends play an important role in my blog. A friend of mine has four children under age 10 so I gave her the opportunity to guest blog and review a delightful children's book called Sleepy Lion Lullaby by Rachel Boult.

Q: What are some of the challenges of the modern family and how, if at all, is that reflected in your blog?

Dave: The challenge of the modern family is time. We have so little time. Mum and Dad both work, they're picking up supper in the drive-thru on the way home and slapping the kids in front of the television. If I'm reflecting any of that, it's by showing that we've rejected that idea, and have intentionally slowed down for the benefit of our kids.

Marzena: A challenge for (our) modern family is determining parental roles that seem to be constantly evolving. Being the primary-care giver who is also a stay-at-home mother it is evident that I as the mother do most of the activities and tend to most of the needs of our kids and domestic life. However, my husband is also very involved after he gets home from the office but at times we mesh on the degree of involvement.'

Wanda: It can be hard to set aside the time to read a book. Parents are pulled in every direction with responsibilities, and children like to spend their free time gaming, texting and hanging out on Facebook. If parents want to raise readers, it's important to start early and lead by example. I devote at least an hour each day to reading, it's usually at the end of the day when I find my quiet time. My boys have always enjoyed reading books. It's good if a child doesn't view reading a book as homework or a chore. For reluctant readers, I find it helpful to suggest books that have been made into movies. There's the popular Harry Potter and Twilight book series but parents should consider the Percy Jackson stories, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Alice in Wonderland and the S.E. Hinton books. If your child gravitates more toward playing games on the computer or video game system then I can recommend a cautionary tale aimed at middle-school ages called Danny in a Newfangled World by D.L. Bileski. In this book 10-year-old Danny gets so absorbed in his video-game playing that he actually ends up as a character living in a computer game world.

Q: How important is reading in your household and how do you choose the books that you'll read with your family?

Dave: We spend more than an hour a night before bed reading together as a family. Our kids are two, four and six. Our two-year-old picks the first books of the evening. Once she's in bed, the four-year-old gets to pick, then our six-year-old.

We're at the library once or twice a week, and have a pretty good relationship with the librarian in the kids' section. She makes recommendations, and we grab a lot of random books. The better books end up on the top of the pile either because the kids like them, or we all do. If we find a book we all love, we seek out more by that author. Seems to work pretty well.

Marzena: My husband and I have always enjoyed reading but it was something that over a period of time we did less. Time was limited, kids were always in need of something and there was just enough time to read news on the internet or watch something on YouTube. But, that has changed and we have both committed to reading more regularly. We both feel that books and hand-held literature are vital to education, learning and proper development (and they are an excellent way to unwind). Our three-year-old loves books and often brings us books to read to her. Our 16-month-old enjoys books as well (though at this age, they are still seen as something to destroy). As someone who collects children's books, the books we read are chosen based on a range of "qualifications." Colorful bright illustrations, rhyming stories seem to be attractive to the kids, and some classics (i.e., Cat in the Hat). At the age where our kids are at, I'd say the illustrations are the most important deciding factors in our books. They allow our daughter to create her own creative stories during the moments we don't want to read the text. Too much fun!

Wanda: Reading and writing are a big part of my family history. My grandmother wrote for her local newspaper, my aunt is a newspaper editor, my father is an author and a retired university English professor, my mother was a teacher and an avid reader. I guess you could say that the love for words is in my blood! Members of my family tend to share book recommendations and borrow books from each other. I have a habit of starting conversations with, "You should really read this book..." and I tend to give books as gifts. I must admit that in our house there's a bookcase or a pile of books in every room! Recently my son told me the history behind his Halo Reach video game and I noticed it was similar to the story line in Margaret Atwood's book The Year of the Flood. He's 14 going on 40 so this book is right up his alley.

Q: If you were to recommend a book for families to enjoy this holiday season, what would it be and why?

Dave: Anything by Arnold Lobel. His are books I wish I'd read as a kid, but am so glad to read them to my kids. The stories are simple, but the themes are true, and the characters hilarious. Frog and Toad are Friends is probably our favourite, but they're all wonderful.

Marzena: Hmmm...this one is difficult to answer as I don't have any specific books at my disposal to recommend (all the books around me in the shops are in Italian). We have purchased a few Usborne books with a Christmas theme which has been fun. I guess I would recommend a children's cookbook that we have — it allows for great family time, lots of laughs, creativity, food, and fun discussions.

Wanda: Seriously, you shouldn't get me started! I really can't pick just one book. I like to support our Canadian writers so I can recommend the recent titles below for all ages and interests:

Room by Emma Donoghue
The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Sanctuary Line by Jane Urquhart
Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
Ape House by Sara Gruen
Fauna by Alissa York
This Cake Is for the Party by Sarah Selecky
Light Lifting by Alexander McLeod
The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb
The Sea Captain's Wife by Beth Powning
All of Me by Anne Murray
The Virtuous Consumer by Leslie Garrett
I Love Your Laugh by Jessica Holmes
Shut Up and Eat by Kathy Buckworth
Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
Danny in a Newfangled World by D.M. Bileski
Sleepy Lion Lullaby by Rachel Boult
Mad About Munsch by Robert Munsch
The Mischievous Mom Goes to the Art Gallery by Rebecca Eckler and Erica Ehm

Kimberly Walsh (a.k.a. @AliasGrace)Kimberly Walsh is an associate producer for CBC Book Club and Canada Reads.

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