March 2nd 2022: The Relatives Came

Happy Read Across America Day!

Today we celebrate and honor literature in our classrooms and I couldn’t be more excited to see how this day has evolved around the world and especially at my school. No longer will we dine on green eggs and ham, but what we will dine on is juicy, rich, meaty children’s literature in many forms, genres, and mediums. Happy Reading!

To honor this day, each student will bring their favorite book to school and have the opportunity to dress up like a their favorite star character (from their books of course). They will share their inspiration and passion for their books with their book club members, homeroom class, and other grade-level peers. Guess what? Teachers will also share. And that is where The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant comes into the picture…

I probably have 5 copies of this book snuggled deep on the shelves of my classroom library. Some old with tattered dog-eared pages, others riddled with sticky notes, and some brand-new begging to be read for the first time. This book, The Relatives Came, is a book that for me, will stand the test of time. It’s honest, pure, and so well-written that it can be reread over and over again. Each read I learn and feel something new. I can thank my mother, Constance, for introducing me to such a rich pieces of children’s literature at such a young age.

Rewind at least 29 years ago…Does that make you feel old? YIKES. Anyway, let’s take it back to when I was a child. Every night my mom would read me one book before bed. Looking back, I am so impressed with the books that she chose for me. I was exposed to Kevin Henkes, Maurice Sendak, Marc Brown, and Stan and Jan Barenstain. The books I was exposed, are still classics to this day and those books shaped who I am, helped with my language development, and subconsciously made me enter the field of education. Thanks, Mom!

Each night, during our bedtime ritual, I would beg my mom to read a Barenstain Bears book (I was obsessed). I know she would read reluctantly because those books were so long. It would take forever to get through a Barenstain Bears book because I would always beg her to reread certain pages and trace my tiny sausage-like fingers over the illustrations. My mom decided it was time for a change. Maybe she could find shorter books, books that wouldn’t take a year to read while she was half asleep dying to get into bed. Then, it happened! My mother introduced me to a new book, a shorter book, but an impactful and powerful book, The Relatives Came. I connected with the book immediately. Each summer I went to visit my relatives and this book was a mirror to my life as a child. I loved the pictures of the purple grapes, lush, ripe, and ready for picking. I would trace my finger down the winding path the car drove on as they drove through the night to Virginia. I loved that the characters loaded up an ice-chest of crackers and pop in the middle of the night before their long journey because it is something my family would do. Then there was the writing, oh the writing. So succinct, beautiful, and had that less is more quality to it. “It was different, going to sleep with all that new breathing in the house.” How is this not the best writing ever?

This book is a mirror and a reminder of my childhood and the fond memories I had with my relatives. Books connect to our lives deeply more than any movie or YouTube show could do today. Books are keys to the future and friendly reminders of our past. When I honor Read Across America Day today, I am going to share my love and passion for a book that I am deeply connected. I can thank my mother, Constance Maitland, for showing me the literary way.

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2 thoughts on “March 2nd 2022: The Relatives Came

  1. Thank you for the reminder about Read Across America Day! Have fun with it. In what feels like another life I used to coordinate school wide activities for this day. Memories…

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