The Friends You Need…

Just yesterday, Saint Dominic Academy proudly hosted the graduation ceremony for the Class of 2017. It was a lovely event and, as I watched the young ladies smile, laugh and cry with their friends, I began to reflect on friendships, especially female friendships and how they manage to sustain us in life.  I am aware of studies that have been done; looking into how social media has given rise to a greater number of casual friendships and how it allows those who might drift apart to at least stay in some sort of touch, even if it is only via the internet.   And so, I am certain that the class of 2017 will remain much more connected to each other than I did with my graduating class back in 1995.

However, when I think about friendships amongst women, my own theory (and let’s keep in mind I am no scientist!) is that there are three friends who each of us really needs as we move into our adult lives.  Now, at the age of 17-18 years old, most of us will not even be aware of these women because our need for them grows as we grow further into adulthood.  However, young women should be on the lookout for these three friends as they come into your lives, because these are the friendships that will sustain you when you get to be my age and older.

The first is the female equivalent of one of those buddy movies- the Thelma to your Louise or perhaps something not quite as crazy.  This is the friend with whom you have some of your best young adult memories; after college, you’re both working and yet you find time for madcap adventures. Road trips to D.C., private parties at the American Museum of Natural History, taking a 13 mile walk around New York City for no real reason; this is your go to girl for fun and laughter, for selfies and memories to last a lifetime. As you both get older and life becomes busy, the selfies may turn into group shots of your kids and the walks may be with strollers to the playground during a visit, but the friendship is still there and at the end of the day, nobody makes you laugh like this friend does!

And, as life becomes busy for women, the next friend each of us needs is the “Been There- Done That, Let Me Tell You What I Learned” friend.  She does not have to be much older than you, but in many ways, she is wiser. This is the friend who has a child older than yours; who you can call at two am to ask about colic or who will tell you that you are doing an amazing job as a mother when your four year old stomps her foot and says she does not like you.  This is the friend whose house you can go to in leggings and  mom hair after a night of little sleep because your child has nightmares and she will speak the best words you will ever hear “ It gets easier; they grow out of it!” The experienced mom friend is a friend you will come to value as life moves along.

Finally, the third friend you will treasure is one you won’t make until your children become social themselves.  It’s the “Mom Friend”.  You strike up friendly chats at dance school or the soccer field, you might grab a coffee and set up an initial playdate with several other parents. And then, for whatever reason, your kids click and you click too.  And this is the friend who is just like you, running from one thing to another, balancing laundry, ballet, communions and birthdays. This is the never ending text message that goes back and forth for eons, because you can just commiserate with each other on any topic at all.  And 9 times out of 10, this is the friend who first hears about any type of frustration you have, regardless of the topic because she can relate.  What would we do without the mom friend?

Of course, you’ll have many more friends than these three; cousins make excellent friends because they know the family history.  Your sister in law eventually becomes your sister and friend, and of course, we know I am a firm believer in the statement “A girl’s best friend is her mother!”  But these three friends, the “buddy”, the “experienced mom” and the “ friend mom”, they will get you through some tough days and they will become your sounding board and support for a lifetime.  Keep your eyes peeled as they enter your life; you’ll be thankful for the rest of it that you have them!

Advice to the Seniors

On May 19th, I had the honor of addressing the graduating class of 2017 at their Senior Honors Assembly.  I thought for a while about what I wanted to say to them; as I will address them twice more before they finally leave Saint Dominic Academy as graduates.  I knew that the Honors Assembly was my opportunity to give them some advice as they begin to prepare to head out to college and the world, but also my chance to give some advice to the young ladies in grades 7-11 at Saint Dominic Academy as they attended the ceremony as well.

Today, as we head into the days leading up to graduation on June 4th, I want to use this week’s blog to share with all of you the wisdom I shared with the students on May 19th.  It is not original advice, but comes from a source that we cherish as children and would do well to continue to cherish in our adult lives.

The most important messages from childhood are usually delivered via animation, with the nuggets of truth being wrapped up within the plot. When you are young, it is your parents, not you the child who sees how important and necessary some of these messages are. However, as you prepare to graduate from Saint Dominic Academy, you know in your hearts that you are also graduating in a sense from childhood to adulthood, and as such, you need to call to mind those childhood life lessons you learned and put them to good use in the future!


So today, I want to share with you some life lessons from the most magical place on earth and the filmmaker whose quest in life was to keep us young at heart always.


From The Lion King, we learned that “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.”


From Winnie the Pooh we learned that “The things that make me different are the things that make me.”


From Hercules we learned that “Giving up is for rookies.”


From Monsters Inc we learned that “Nothing is more important than friendship.”


From Tangled we learned that “sometimes you have to face your deepest fears to make your wildest dreams come true.”  


From The Princess and the Frog we learned that “You’re never too old to wish upon a star.”


From Toy Story we learned to“ Reach for the sky!”

And finally, I leave you today with these two words of wisdom from Walt Disney himself. I want you to remember that growing up is mandatory but growing old is optional … and…all of our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.  Congratulations today ladies and I will look forward to talking with you again at graduation!

Tireless Volunteers- SDA PTA!

As some of you may know, in addition to my position as Head of School at Saint Dominic Academy, I also hold another title which is almost as special to me. I am Kindergarten Class Mom at All Saints Catholic Academy. I’ve been the class mom for Abigail’s class since she started at ASCA in Pre-K Three. If you’ve never been a Class Parent or a room volunteer in an elementary school,  I am here to say it is a great experience.  Coming up with creative Halloween treats, wrapping Christmas gifts for “ Cookies with Santa”, filling eggs for “Breakfast with the Easter Bunny”, and for the past two years, working in tandem with the other class mom to coordinate the graduation ceremony- I know that as Abigail gets older and is less interested in having me pop in and out of her school , the memories of these days, when her face lit up when I walked into the classroom, will be a gift I will treasure always.

As a working mother, I will admit it is a sacrifice at times to volunteer.  Most of the work that goes into my role as Class Mom is done in the late hours of the evening or the wee hours of the morning. At times, it is one more errand to run before I get home from work, or one more binge worthy TV program I do not see because I am writing reminder letters.  And knowing all that, I must say, I am in constant awe of the members of the Saint Dominic Academy Parent Association.  For, when I look at how much work goes into being a volunteer in the kindergarten, I have to multiply it by tenfold to fully appreciate how much work our volunteers here do!

This year, the Parent Association hit the ground running with the Welcome Back To School event, and did not pause for a breath all year. They coordinated the Calendar Raffle, they planned and organized the Communion Brunch,  they launched a Parent Facebook Page, and they added our new and hugely successful event – Designer Bag Bingo!  They held meetings, with me, with each other, in person and on the phone after their own long days at work. And the energy that they brought to the job was monumental; never once was there a hesitation, a question about whether or not they could achieve the desired goal.  This group set goals in July and now in May, have met and exceeded every single one.

For years, Catholic education has relied in part on the volunteers within the school who are willing to give back; to join a committee, to organize a fundraiser, to coordinate an event for students and without these volunteers in place, how could any school truly run well?  Parents are an essential part of the Catholic school community; it has always been that way and it will never change. It is our Parent Association who helps those who lead read the pulse of the school and who help to keep energy and excitement for school activities at high levels throughout the entire year.  

And so, as the end of the school year is always a time for heartfelt thanks, today I want to express my thanks, my gratitude and my appreciation for those members of the Saint Dominic Academy Parent Association this year.  They are as follows:


 President- Jennifer Bailey  Board Member- Maria Sasso
 VP/Secretary- Lori LoCascio  Raffle Coordinator- Mary Dowden
 Treasurer- Stacey Swope  Social Media Coordinator- Peggie Marano


 Communion Brunch Chairs:  Back to School Chairs:
 Kelly Lekic/ Cathy Sabia  Eileen and Chris Gill


 Designer Bag Volunteers:
 Lisa DeBari/ Gigi Diaz/ Janine Colletti/ Laura Herrera

I thank each of you for a wonderful year and from one parent volunteer to another, I hope you know how very much you are appreciated and valued by all of us here at Saint Dominic Academy!

SDA Athletics!

In 1997, I was 19 years old and in my 2nd year of college. I also began working at the Mayor’s Office in Jersey City. I remained there until I was 22, first as an intern and then progressing to the administrative assistant to the Director of Communications. It was during my tenure working for the City of Jersey City that I first had the pleasure of meeting Mr. John Nagel.  A busy man, always in a hurry to head into this meeting or to that event, (much like today, 20 years later!) he always had a moment to stop and say hello.  If something great was accomplished by a member of Communications, he was the first to give a quick but thoughtful word of praise or congratulations.  If I needed information for a press release or a seal of approval from his Department on an upcoming promotion for an event, Mr. Nagel, (as I called him back then) was always able to assist me in order to get the job done well and to ensure that the Mayor’s Office looked good!

How nice it has been this year, twenty years later to be able to once again work together with John Nagel, our Director of Athletics.  Time has changed both of us, now I call him John and he jokingly refers to me as “Madame President”, but the same exceptional working relationship has not changed.  The dedication to the job and the effort to ensure that SDA’s athletic program both looks and is exceptional has not changed.  As a member of the SDA family for forty years now, (he began his time at SDA the year I was born!) as well as our Head Track Coach, Mr. Nagel has worked to uphold the mission of Saint Dominic Academy and its commitment to producing well rounded young women.  He reaches out to girls who otherwise may not get involved and encourages them to reach their full athletic potential.

He leads by example as a coach and models how he expects all of our coaches to act.  By emulating how to be a motivational coach,  all of our young athletes, regardless of what sport they play, know that they are supported by a coach who truly cares for them, who wants them to be successful, but  most of all, who wants them to truly enjoy the sport in which they are participating.  What a wonderful gift to be giving our young women; the chance to be leaders on the various athletic fields and to engage in healthy competition, but at the end of the day to know that, win or lose, their coaches are proud of them!  I think every young lady who has played on one of our sports teams can walk away saying “I had fun!” That’s Mr. Nagel’s goal as AD; to make athletics fun. And hey, if we have an impressive collection of trophies here at 2572, then so much the better!

From Dance to Softball, from Track to Tennis, he oversees it all, with a smile, a kind word and a space for every young lady who wants to try a new sport. Tonight, we will gather at our Athletic Dinner to honor our young athletes and celebrate all they achieved this year.  Mr. Nagel and the coaches will coordinate the event and guests will see, they each downplay their role in creating successful student athletes in spite of all of the time they give to our athletic program.  And so, I want to take a moment to thank all of our coaches for all they do each day for our students and for how dedicated they are to the athletic program at Saint Dominic Academy. You make our school well rounded, successful, and a welcoming place for everyone!

And to my friend of 20 years, Mr. John Nagel- your dedication to the mission of Saint Dominic Academy is extraordinary. For 40 years, you have been teaching the women of SDA how to “run like a girl” and I know you will continue to lead our athletic program to great things in years to come! Thank you John, for all you do for SDA!

All That We Have We Owe To Our Mothers…

My 20th blog post focused on my father. In it, I described one of my first memories of he and I as follows….  My earliest memory of my father is from when I was just a little over two years old. He took me out for the day, probably because, as an early talker, I was wearing my mother out.  In July of this year, I will have been wearing my mother out for forty years! I started talking at 10 months old. By 18 months, I was singing full length songs to my mother. (None who know me are surprised by this revelation!) While I am no longer in the habit of belting out a show tune for her questionable enjoyment,  I will admit that I have not stopped talking, and talking and talking.   And yet, she always has time for me and never once, in forty years has she been too worn out to listen.

When I was a little girl, my mother was my playmate. (My two brothers were often not; I mean, how exactly do you play DINOSAUR?) She played Barbie, she played Strawberry Shortcake, and she played Care Bears (once! I did not really understand how to play with bears. I mean, bears can’t talk…but I digress!)  When I was in the hospital at age six, she promised me an almost impossible to find Cabbage Patch Kid and she did indeed find it. (How we could have afforded it, I still wonder.)  She was more wonderful than any fairy godmother because she made my little girl dreams come true; sometimes using nothing more than her imagination and whatever was handy in the craft drawer.  She was a wonderful best friend!

High school arrived, and the road, although still strong and sturdy, had a few bumps every now and then. We did not see eye to eye on a great many things; how long I should talk on the phone each night, how much lipstick I needed to wear to school, whether Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” was an appropriate movie to see (She voted no and she won!)  whether or not prom dresses should be peach and fluffy ( I voted no. I .and won!), but we were still close. She was my strongest supporter;  smiling proudly at every production I was in, even if I only had two lines, bringing her friends to see me, putting daily notes of support in my suitcase when I went away to a two week summer program.  She was again, my best friend, my confidant, and she listened tirelessly and ceaselessly to the whirlwind of my high school life.

As I got older, finished college and began my teaching career  and she became principal of a high school in Montclair, we did not, as life got more hectic, grow a little bit apart, but instead became even closer. Her advice was the first I sought, before my friends, even before my father’s.  Hers was the shoulder I went to cry on or the first phone call I made when something wonderful happened.  It is hard, even now as I write this to fully capture in words all that my mother has brought to my life and all she continues to bring to my life every day.  I know for a fact, I would not be sitting in this office at Saint Dominic Academy if it were not for her constant guidance, influence and support.  I consider myself a strong, empowered and independent woman and I think most who know me would agree.  However, I also know that I would be lost without the daily grace and love that my mother brings to my life.

Mothers who are reading this, I would imagine that many of you feel the same way about your own mothers. Daughters of SDA, young ladies in grades 7-12 who argue daily with your moms about some of the same petty topics I argued with my mother about, trust me when I say, your mother is your first line of defense, your biggest cheerleader, and the woman who will shape the way you mother your own child one day in the future.  Even when you fight with your mothers, (and, of course you will) and even when they fight back (and of course…they will!), there are no words strong enough to capture the love your mother carries within her heart for you.  It is all encompassing, it is infinite and it is yours whenever you need it most.  I know that, as a mother, because I learned it from my mother.

Motherhood is a thankless job at times, but it is also the best job in the world. I know my mother will read this blog and before she tells me whether she likes it, she will fuss at the fact that I used her picture or that I went overboard with sentiment. She is a private person, one who gives of her heart daily without expecting to be thanked.  All mothers do this and on this Monday  leading into Mother’s Day on May 14th, it is time all daughters took the time, not just to send a card or wrap a gift, but to look our mothers in the eye and say thank you for all they do for us and for how much they love us.

Even then, it is not enough, but daughters, it is the best we can do.  And so, to my own mother, a very public thank you:  Mom, if I can be half as good a mother to Abigail as you are to me, then I will be a great mother. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being my first and best friend. I love you!

And to all of our SDA mothers, who wipe away tears after a heartbreak and who listen to the stories of teenage drama, and who find that extra fund to make her little girl’s dress or shoe or whatever dreams come true, I thank you.  Thank you for raising such beautiful young women, each day they walk the halls of SDA they are a testament to how wonderful each of you are.  And I wish you the happiest of Mother’s Days because now, as a mother myself, I truly understand how much you deserve it!

SDA: A School That Rocks!

Over the Easter break, I had the opportunity to take my daughter to see School of Rock on Broadway.  For those of you not familiar with the Jack Black movie or the musical inspired by that film, here is a very brief plot summary from the Internet Movie Database.

After being fired from his own band, the guitar player Dewey Finn needs to raise some money to pay for his rent and his bills. When his friend and school teacher Ned Schneebly is called to a temporary work in an expensive private school, Dewey pretends to be Ned and accepts the job. He finds talented young musicians in his class, and he decides to form a rock-and-roll band with the students and win a competition called “Battle of The Bands” to win the prize and be recognized in the show business.

The show, whose music was written by that icon of the Great White Way, Andrew Lloyd Webber, was a wonderful experience for the both of us.  While she enjoyed seeing the pint size actors and actress rock out to songs like Stick It To The Man and You’re In the Band, I was inspired by the subliminal message contained within the musical, a message I thought was lacking in the original film.  What struck me were several of the musical numbers, performed at different times by the faculty at the fictional Horace Greene School, and the students in the class, who are benefitting from the day to day rigor of their education, but not fully awakening their minds to the idea that learning can indeed be fun.  While the faculty shares with the audience how tight a ship the school is (Here at Horace Greene), the students, wise beyond their years at age 10, lament that nobody asks them for their thoughts, ideas or insights- not their teachers nor their parents (If Only You Would Listen).

I have to say, I had tears on my cheeks at that moving number and I thought to myself, I am glad to be in a place where I know the entire community, teachers and parents, make an effort daily to listen to the children of SDA.  Now, while I don’t think that teaching rock music alone is the way to reach every student- (Mr. Finn’s schedule was Rock History, Rock Appreciation and Theory, and Band Practice), I am in agreement that sometimes unconventional teaching reaches students in ways that rote memorization and by the book tests do not.  

The overall messages that School of Rock sent, to me and to Abigail, as well I hope to the other parents and children in the sold out theater was that learning can be fun when a teacher is truly inspiring,  that when he or she brings a passion for the subject matter that can be shared with the students in the room magic happens, ( or as Mr. Finn called it musical fusion) , and that when together, the students in the class and the teacher who leads them, share a bond of respect, understanding and compassion, then the best type of learning takes place!   And I think, in classrooms at 2572 Kennedy Boulevard, this type of inspired learning is happening on a daily basis, and it has been happening since 1878.  While I do not hear any drum solos or electric guitar chords blasting through the hallways (thank goodness!), I do see and hear innovative, intriguing and extraordinary lessons occurring in the classrooms at Saint Dominic Academy.  

This week, on May 3rd, Saint Dominic Academy will be having an Open House for prospective students and their families!  You, our current parents, our alumnae, and those who are connected to SDA in one way or another, can lift your voices this week and invite a family you know to come see all the reasons that Saint Dominic Academy is truly a school that rocks!  Open House will begin at 6:00pm and it will be a showcase of all we have to offer students in grades 7-12!  I hope that you will help us spread the word and make the event a stellar and successful one for the SDA community!

Oh, and if you are looking for a way to, as the musical said live hardcore, for a few hours on a spring afternoon or evening, then I recommend taking your daughter to see School of Rock!  It was an amazing show, one of the best I’ve seen, and I do plan to see it again, and rock out with Mr. Finn and his pint sized band!

The Empowered Lady of the Harbor

As I sat, reflecting on the generations of empowered Saint Dominic Academy alumnae who will come together at the end of this week, either at the Biergarten in Jersey City or at The Breakers in Spring Lake to celebrate our Alumnae Reunion weekend, it occurred to me that both of these events will be celebrated in view of the water. And what better backdrop then than sparkling blue water, catching the light of the sun and the reflection of the sky (or the skyscrapers) to showcase the beauty and devotion our alumnae have shared with Saint Dominic Academy throughout the years. That thought, as thoughts often do, led me to reflect on images of women that come to mind when we think of the word empowered. And I realized, that in writing this blog weekly since September, I have neglected to give focus to one of the most welcoming, strong and empowering women ever to venture to Jersey City; and we at SDA were here to welcome her when she arrived. shares the following: The Statue of Liberty was a joint effort between France and the United States, intended to commemorate the lasting friendship between the peoples of the two nations. The French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi created the statue itself out of sheets of hammered copper, while Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, the man behind the famed Eiffel Tower, designed the statue’s steel framework. The Statue of Liberty was then given to the United States and erected atop an American-designed pedestal on a small island in Upper New York Bay, now known as Liberty Island, and dedicated by President Grover Cleveland in 1886. Over the years, the statue stood tall as millions of immigrants arrived in America via nearby Ellis Island; in 1986, it underwent an extensive renovation in honor of the centennial of its dedication. Today, the Statue of Liberty remains an enduring symbol of freedom and democracy, as well as one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks.

Look carefully at the years in the description; she was dedicated in 1886…and our women were here in Jersey City!  We had a presence in Jersey City before Lady Liberty herself!  Eight years prior to her arrival in the harbor, Saint Dominic Academy was established in Jersey City and had, for eight years, served the young women of Jersey City well.  Imagine the excitement in the school building when she arrived. The community of women at Saint Dominic Academy were here to welcome her and it must have been quite a welcome!  What a breathtaking sight she must have been to behold.

And again in 1986 (and this I remember from my childhood), when the centennial celebration was held, Saint Dominic Academy was present, vibrant and alive and joining in the celebration of Lady Liberty; she who welcomes “your tired, your hungry,  your poor…”, she who “lift(s) my lamps beside the golden door.”  One has to wonder in awe, how many young women, following the arc of light from her torch, followed a path from the Jersey City waterfront to Saint Dominic Academy?  How many lives did we shape, how many hearts did we touch, as the children of immigrants passed through Ellis Island and settled in this area?

Today, still within the daily presence of this monumental woman (literally), we at Saint Dominic Academy celebrate the generations that have gone before us and spread wide our doors to welcome those who are seeking an enlightened, enriching and empowered education for young women. Our tradition is a strong as her pedestal, our devotion to educating women as welcoming as her gilded torch and as our alumnae gather to celebrate this weekend, let us all, wherever we are join them in a toast to all who enrich the lives of Saint Dominic Academy each and every day!

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to the entire Saint Dominic Academy community! Yesterday we celebrated the miracle of Christ’s resurrection! As we reflected on the sacrifices that Christ made for each of us, let us also call to mind the daily sacrifices we make for each other, as parents to our children, as educators for the students who sit before us, as alumnae who work to support their alma mater. Each of us is blessed daily by all the gifts we are given from God and each of us is a daily representation of God in the lives of others. As members of The Saint Dominic Academy community, let us rejoice in this season of Easter and continue to celebrate the joys that God’s love brings to each of our lives.

Each member of the SDA community is a gift from God to us and each of you will be kept in our daily prayers all throughout the Easter season and the spring.  We celebrate our new life in Christ, the joys of spring, and the many blessings each member of our family brings to SDA this year.

I wish you and your family a Happy Easter, a warm and rejuvenating spring, and all the warmth and love that blossoms during this time of year.


Sarah Degnan

Head of School

The Road to Easter Sunday

This week, the Catholic church enters into the most Holy Week of the year; a final meal among friends, a reflection and betrayal in the Garden, a trial, a death sentence, and the long, painful walk to death on the Cross. These days commemorate the suffering of Jesus Christ and ask each of us to pause and reflect on His sacrifice for all mankind. It is important for us all to reflect and repent during this darkened time so that we can truly embrace the Light and Life that comes forth in Joy on Easter Sunday.

Jesus knew, when He traveled to Jerusalem for the final time, that the end of his life was drawing close. We know, from Church readings that while Jesus was committed to His Father’s plan for the salvation of humankind, he still carried within His own heart great fear. We would expect nothing else; the fear of dying in such a painful manner, the fear of betrayal by a close friend, the fear of being mocked, ridiculed and beaten for His words of love would cause even the bravest of us to perhaps turn and flee the fate that awaited in Jerusalem. However, we also know from the Gospel that Jesus did not turn and flee; His presence at the Last Supper, where He washed the disciples’ feet, where He shared with close companions His Body and Blood were actions that signified His acceptance of the plan His Father had in store for Him. And although He asked in prayer to have the cup “pass from my lips”, Jesus turned His cheek to accept Judas’ kiss of betrayal and walked willingly toward His fate at Golgotha.

This week, each of us should take comfort in the suffering of our Lord, for it is that very suffering that should give us hope in difficult times. Whether we are mourning the end of a relationship, the loss of a friendship, a physical illness, the death of a loved one, or even a small sadness that touches our heart only and leaves other hearts unmoved, our sadness is not unnoticed by God. We must remember, this week and always, that the events that led to the crucifixion of Jesus and His agony on the cross give all of us hope for a better tomorrow. When we offer our individual sadness, our silent pain, our tearful mourning to God, we are reminded that if we trust in our Father, His love will sustain us, not just during the trials of Holy Week leading to the Easter celebration, but always, for His sacrifice for us is continual.

As we wait this week for the stone to be removed from the tomb early on Sunday morning, let us be thankful for the sacrifice God has made for each of us and keep each other in prayer daily. We may not know the sufferings of others, but together, we can offer our sadness to God and receive the gift of joy on Easter Sunday.

In prayerful anticipation for Easter…

What Are YOU Reading?

The month of March was full of opportunities to encourage young children to read. Read Across America, the program that celebrates Dr. Seuss’ birthday allowed the young women of SDA to visit both All Saints Catholic Academy and P.S. # 23 to read to students in grades ranging from Pre K 3 to 3rd.  I myself had the chance to do some reading to the kindergarten at All Saints, both as a chaperone for the NHS trip there and as the class parent for my daughter’s class.  It was wonderful for our young ladies and the chaperones who attended to be able to experience the excitement that comes with reading a story out loud to interested, inquisitive, and yes, at times chatty, youngsters.

I am sure many of my fellow parents who read this can fondly recall nights curled up in bed or on the couch under a blanket, reading to your daughter as she first discovered board books.  Was Good Night Moon a favorite bedtime story for your daughter?  Or was she more of a Where The Wild Things Are fan?  And as they got a little bit older and chapter books came into play, did you read aloud nightly from classics such as Little House on the Prairie or James and the Giant Peach?  I see our young ladies in the halls today, carrying novels with them, novels that we are not currently teaching in any of our English classes and that fills me with joy.  I am still lucky enough to have that little one to read to each night and although I dread the book choices some evening (I am NOT a Peppa Pig fan…book or TV show), other nights I dedicate to chapter books (currently on the bedside table is Beezus and Ramona) and it is my hope that this habit of reading together daily will inspire a love of reading that will carry far into the future. (So far, I have observed that math comes easier for my daughter; a source of sadness for this English major mommy!)

And I put this question to the moms and dads of the girls of SDA; now that they have been given the gift of reading, the ability for years now to read on their own, do you miss those “read aloud” days where you watched their smiling faces as you recounted the tales between the covers of a beloved childhood book?  I do get to see some of those smiling faces still, when it comes to reading for pleasure; we have implemented a Book Club here at SDA this year and I am the moderator.  We meet every 6-8 weeks and I am always pleased, both with the turnout and with the level of discussion I observe amongst the young ladies who attend.  It’s very informal, some snacks, some talking, and some laughs (or tears) about the book.  Different students choose to attend at different times, depending on what is being read and the books selected vary greatly in plot and theme.  I am so glad this club has come into existence this year! (Thanks Francesca and Margaret!)

As I think about what books I would love for SDA Book Club to read, it occurs to me over and over again that there is just not enough time in the year or hours in the day or days in the week for students to read every book that some of us adults consider wonderful, inspiring, or even difficult but necessary reads.  And I think to myself, wouldn’t it be wonderful if as parents, you with your daughters and me with mine, could continue that tradition of “story time” together.

So, regardless of whether your daughter is an avid reader or you fear that text messages are all she reads these days, I have three suggestions for some books that parents and daughters may truly enjoy reading together this spring! The few I suggest will all leave a lasting impression and will teach an important lesson as well.

  1. Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy.  Lucy Grealy was nine years old when she was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, an almost always terminal cancer that she managed to beat and survive. However, her survival came with quite a price, the removal of a third of her jaw, which left her disfigured for most of her school years.  Here, Grealy tells openly and honestly of her experiences, not only with cancer, but with the never ending teasing she faced at the hands of her classmates for most of her life. This book will wipe out any thoughts of bullying your teen may have entertained and is all the more sad for the fact that Grealy killed herself as a young adult.
  2. At Risk by Alice Hoffman.  The story of the Farrell family, mother, father, 8 year old Charlie and 11 year old Amanda, who is on her way to being a world class gymnast. Set in the mid 1980’s, before donated blood was tested, the family faces a harsh tragedy when Amanda is diagnosed with AIDS; a result of a blood transfusion during an appendix operation.  This novel, not a story of death, but a story of how a family learns to live, cope, learn and love each other in the face of discrimination is just as timely now as when it was first published.
  3. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.  Set in Berlin in 1942, this book tells the story of Bruno, a young German boy whose father has just been placed in charge of Auchwitz. Bruno is too young to understand what is happening in Germany and across the world; all he knows is that he has been moved to a new home with nobody to play with and nothing to occupy his time.  Fascinated by a fence that runs the length of his property, he begins to wonder about the people on the other side and why they are always dressed in striped pajamas.  Exploring the fence, Bruno makes a new friend on the other side, a friendship that will end badly and break readers hearts.