Get involved in the holidays

One thing I love about my job as a substitute teacher is that I'm continually inundated with calendars, fliers and posters that raise my awareness of what's happening in the world. Did anyone working at Wal-Mart or Lowe's realize the first week of October was International Walk to School Week? Don't you know all the kids in Norway who normally ski 20 miles were thrilled!

Did people in corporate America realize that October was National Heritage Month for Czechs, Italians, Poles and Hispanics? Or that the Germans got only one day, Oct. 6, which they timeshared with the four other groups, leaving them only one fifth of a day? Pretty shabby, if you ask me, considering there would be no Oktoberfest (NOT on the school calendar) without German brats and beer.

Religious groups celebrated Rosh Hashanah, Ramadan, Yom Kippur, Halloween (It's Wiccan, you know) and the Bab's birthday.

October also included National School Lunch Week, Bus Driver Appreciation Day, National Physical Therapy Month and Red Ribbon Week, which public schools celebrate in lieu of Halloween. So while adults wore costumes to the office that day, like my son Ian who works at a law firm and won a prize for his John Lennon getup, school kids wore red ribbons pinned to their shirts. What fun!

Well, now it's November, and except for Thanksgiving, the highpoint of the month is National Children's Book Week and Youth Appreciation Week, with National Parental Involvement Day falling on Thursday.

And that brings me to another perk I get from my job. Sometimes I help the librarians Connie Greene and Carolyn Lucas check in books. That gives me the opportunity to find lots of good reads, such as Maria Shriver's "What's Happening to Grandpa," a book that provides parents an excellent way to get involved with their children's questions when dealing with a grandparent suffering from Alzheimer's disease. And a rather unlikely source of stimulation is "The Jolly Mon" by Jimmy Buffett and his daughter, Savannah Jane Buffett, which they wrote together when Savannah was 8 years old.

The folk tale inspired by Buffett's Caribbean travels with his daughter came about while Buffett watched Savannah pretend to type on his computer. As she read her story aloud, he wrote down her thoughts. He offered input from his own experiences, and they compromised on the plot. The book, which is beautifully illustrated, includes a complementary song Buffett composed by the same title.

Next week, why not get involved with your child - or grandchild - and a good book? Or better yet, forget all the bureaucratic boxing in of specially designated months, weeks and days. Just read with your child whenever you can, or as Buffett says, "Live happily ever after every now and then."

And, you know, if anyone needs a role model for involved parenthood, I think Buffett's as good a guy as any to parrot.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.