Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

5 Ways to Encourage Reading


Sometimes you love to read, your kids love to hear you read, and the whole family walks around with a nose in a book or up against the screen of a Kindle. But maybe your family has a kid or two or three who finds the work of reading a deterrent to actually doing it. They love stories—books on CD, movies, cartoons. They may enjoy comic books. But the sustained effort to read a novel is challenging. And being the conscientious wonderful parent that you are, you are now worried. What to do!

I have a few tips today to offer you. Feel free to add more in the comments.

1) Create a cozy reading space.
Hidey-holes are particularly popular. Pick a corner of a room where people are (no isolated space gets used in a homeschool family so make this space a part of the family activity), prop a pillow or two up against the wall and place one on the floor (a bean bag chair works too, or a futon). Next to the floor-level cushiony space, situate a basket with books in it (tempting ones, a range – fiction, non-fiction, short, long, easy, challenging). Next to the basket, add a small low table with a lamp on it. Or alternatively (to “up the cool factor”), put a clip light in the basket for the child to attach to the book itself to provide lighting. Be sure (if it’s winter where you are) to add a cozy blanket to snuggle under. Specify that the corner is for reading, not for any other activity. Any child may go there any time he or she wants to read, even if only for a couple of minutes. (In big families, you may need several hidey-holes—don’t forget hidey-holes under tables or near fireplaces or behind sofas, too.)

2) Write personal notes in the book that the child is going to read.
My daughter does this for siblings when she loans a book. She writes notes at particular moments in the story in the margins for the sibling to read. These might be comments like “Bet you didn’t see that coming!” or “Isn’t so-and-so a jerk?” or “Tell me when you get to this chapter so we can discuss. It’s so infuriating!” Knowing that these notes are in the margins waiting to be discovered can help a child sustain attention to keep reading just so he or she can see what you wanted to say to him or her.

3) Light a candle for “reading time.”
Everyone in the family reads while the candle is lit. Start with 5 minutes of silent, family reading and build over a period of weeks to 15 or 20. During the “reading time,” no one will get up to get a glass of juice or a snack for a sibling or child. No one will pull out the Legos and build a fort (unless you have some pre-readers who need to do something while everyone reads). When the candle is extinguished, reading time is over, talking and noise resume.

4) My mom’s tip for reading worked wonderfully for my siblings and me.
She sent us to bed at whatever bedtime was the current one. But she always told us we could stay up as late as we liked as long as we were reading in bed. This strategy had two benefits. First, we found ourselves reading every night because, in part, it meant we got to stay up late. Second, we wanted to go to bed to read to find out what happened after we fell asleep with the light on the night before—it made the whole “getting to bed” routine much less of a big deal and it turned all of us into readers!

5) Go to the library on a regular basis.
Even if you have digital books aplenty, there is something about walking through the stacks and getting to pick out your own books that makes the library a fabulous incentive for reading. Don’t worry if your child picks books and doesn’t read them or doesn’t finish them. The accumulation of information, language, and story from repeated visits, paging through books, reading some, ignoring others, will generate more reading later. Only good can come of it!

Fabulous article on form vs. freedom at college level

Listening to College Writers

What has stayed with me most strongly from the past two semesters has been students’ remarks that the most important thing they will take with them from English classes into the rest of their lives is the ability to bring out what is deepest in themselves with clarity, to take that terrible risk, and to be heard and understood by someone, whether a teacher, their classmates, or an even broader audience.

Close Reading Tips

To be a good academic writer, it helps to be an effective reader. Close reading of texts is the key. I found a great set of tips here:

Close Reading Tips

Book Review: The Animal Dialogues

Craig Childs’ book, The Animal Dialogues (Uncommon Encounters in the Wild), is an insightful look at how a naturalist spends his free time. Liam, who is our animal-nut around these parts, is lapping up the delightful (and, at times, downright scary) encounters between human and beast.

Childs divides the book into chapters that each contains a single animal. He then details the intersection between his curiosity and the animal’s natural instincts… often to the point where you wonder: What on earth were you thinking, Craig?

What makes this book such a delightful choice for you and your kids is… you guessed it: the writing. Childs is a natural story-teller. He grabs you by the shirt-collar and holds you against the wall until your pulse finally slackens as he demonstrates his improbable escapes.

Here’s a sample of his terrific writing:

“The grizzly bear is six to eight hundred pounds of smugness. It has no need to hide. If it were a person, it would laugh loudly in quiet restaurants, boastfully wear the wrong clothes for special occasions, and probably play hockey. It would also pursue secret solitude, disappearing for weeks on end while people were expecting it at upcoming meetings. At the moment, it was bold and aloof, making sure we knew we were being watched, but keeping its distance.”

The first section includes the following animals:

Mountain Lion
Cat and Mouse (A hilarious chapter! We couldn’t stop laughing.)

He continues with birds (raptors!), moutain animals like elk and bighorn sheep, and then runs through the gamut of unusual fellows such as rattlesnakes, rainbow trout and even mosquitoes. His final ode is to the most complex beast of all: the human.

Childs is frequently a guest on NPR so you may have heard him share his bits of naturalistic advice and wisdom there. More than anything, I find this to be a perfect read-aloud. Each chapter has suspense and closure. You can read each one over a several month period, one per week, or read them all in a row (like we are).


Peter Pan

Johannah wrote to me from college to tell me I must read Peter Pan. Then she wrote again later to tell me that the first five chapters are genius but after that it gets a bit racist. Still when Johannah calls writing genius, I listen. She’s a great reader, better than I am.

So I followed her link to the online version and began reading today any time I needed a break from SAT/ACT essays (which was often, I confess). Then I had to keep interrupting Jon from his work because I was laughing so hard, I felt guilty unless I involved another party.

Tonight as I closed up shop online, I took another quick peek at the first chapter (couldn’t resist) and read the following. Instantly I thought of you all.

Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying up her children’s minds. It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can’t) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers. You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek as if it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake in the morning, the naughtiness and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out your prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on.

Good night, good mothers.