Tag Archives: literature

Learning and Loving to Read

One of the great gifts my mother gave me is a voracious love of reading.  She read aloud to me from an early age, took me to libraries and book sales, and always made sure I had plenty of reading material available to me.  As adults, she and I swap books and recommendations; whenever I return to my home state to visit, I nearly always come home with one or more books.

It was no surprise to anyone when I married a man with a love of books that rivals my own.  Anyone who has moved us during one of our 12+ moves can attest to the extensiveness of our personal library.  Currently, we have reduced our load down to five overstuffed bookshelves, some boxes in closets and the basement, and several baskets full of books throughout our house.  Books are in every room…usually even in the laundry room as I stack piles to be returned to the library.

V “reading” her books at 11 months old.

As the child of two avid readers, our daughter V was exposed to books starting in the womb, as her parents read aloud “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” groaning at the inept literary references and cackling at the goofy zombie antics.  We now find it funny that at age two she selects this particular book off of our bedroom shelf and carries it through the house, looking at pictures of “zomies.”  Though she will be formally introduced to Jane Austen before we let her read this book, I don’t think it is chance that she is drawn to this story.  She’s heard it before.

There are many reasons why I personally believe that reading is critical to life.  Reading introduces you to experiences, people, places that you might not otherwise encounter.  It can help develop a sense of understanding of difference and empathy for others.  It can facilitate critical thinking and open up the mind and heart.  For me, reading can comfort, motivate, empower, engage, explain, teach, and enrich my world.  There are many reasons to read and many ways to promote reading in your children’s lives as well.

Some of the ways we expose V to the written word are as follows:

-We have baskets of face out books around the house.  She has one basket of books that are currently seasonal/interesting to her by her bed.  Another basket near her bed is full of library books.  When it gets quiet, I know to look for her snuggled on her pillows flipping through stories.

-We started attending library programs at age 8 weeks old. She knows our children’s librarian by name and feels very comfortable in the local library space.

-We make a weekly library trip.  At the library, I select a combination of books that match her current learning interests.  If she’s all about bugs that week, I get every book I can find on bugs.  If she loves Mo Willems books, we stack a giant pile on the counter.

-We read books over and over again.  She picks from the selections available to her and we read them, sometimes ad nauseum.  She easily commits her favorites to memory and can recite them back to us while turning pages, proudly saying “I read it my big self!”

-We read to her during potty training; we have mini books in the diaper bag for waiting at restaurants and doctor’s offices; we bring books during car rides…even short ones.

-We have an entire bin of books on CD and tape next to our stereo system in the living room and play them throughout the day.  When she gets bored, instead of the TV, I offer her a recorded story when I am busy with housework.  She can play her books on tape by herself and we are teaching her how to gently handle the CDs so she can play those as well. (Note:  you can pick these up cheaply at garage sales, online or from library or community book sales.)

-We have a comfortable reading nook near her books on tape and sensory bins.  There are pillows and a blanket in her nook.  A box near her nook includes books that tie in with the themed sensory bins stacked beside it.  For example:  we have books on dinosaurs in the box and a dinosaur sensory bin that she can explore while in her nook. I rotate titles in the sensory bin reading box.

-I pull out seasonal titles to read as the year progresses.  For example: as Halloween approaches, I go through all our shelves and pull related titles to put in spots where V tends to sit and read.  If they are handy, she’ll choose them.  This keeps our selection fresh and helps with learning about seasons, holidays, and related thematic activities.

-We tie in art projects, museum trips, nature walks and projects, and science projects with the books we are reading.

-We connect her TV viewing with reading.  We read books about familiar characters she encounters on the DVDs we watch with her:  Curious George, Dora the Explorer, Diego, Little Einsteins, Winnie the Pooh, some Disney characters.  When she is interested in a topic from a show like Sid the Science Kid, we find books about the topic (example: we found books on weather and posted a weather chart).  When we read about a topic like bugs, we find non-fiction kid oriented documentaries at the library for her to view (like MicroCosmos or Stargazer). We limit her TV viewing.

-We read every night at bedtime.  Sometimes we read books that are well above her age level, like the Magic Tree House series.  She loves the one about knights and we just finished the one about the ice age and sabertooth tigers.  This helps her build her vocabulary and also stretches her ability to attend to a book with limited pictures.  She fell asleep more than once to a DK early reader about knights; this was a topic that fascinated her for a while.

-We have a busy bag basket filled with literacy activities that she can select as part of self-directed play.  There is a wipe board and dry erase markers for printing letters (she can manage some letters at 2 years of age); there are textured flashcards and magnetic letter boards for her to touch and explore.  We do not drill her on letters or words but answer questions or play with her at her request.  Based on the reading I have done on the topic, I do not recommend pressuring toddlers and preschoolers with flashcards and workbook literacy activities.

-We have a chalkboard where we select a letter of the alphabet and write down all the words we can think of that begin with the chosen letter.  V loves to brainstorm the words with us now that she is older and it is great to see how her vocabulary is developing.

-V also accompanies her writer parents to poetry and fiction readings where she sees us read our written work; I hope this will make a big impression on her and empower her to explore her own stories as she matures.

There are so many ways to help children explore and enjoy reading.  In our house, we like to keep it fun and interest-based so that V will crave more words and more literacy experiences.  While she may turn out to have different reading interests that her father and I, I hope that she will always feel comfortable with books and using books to further her life-long learning.

Here are some wonderful resources that I have recently read about promoting literacy in children.  I hope you take the time to check out one or all of them.  Give the Read Aloud Handbook as a gift to teachers or principals or to a new parent.  There is no telling what can happen when you give the gift of reading to a person in your life.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Raising Bookworms:  Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment by Emma Walton Hamilton

Raising a Reader:  A Mother’s Tale of Desperation and Delight by Jennie Nash


Hot Novels in the Summertime

(photo by PML)

The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson:

The first novel in the Inspector Ann Lindell series, The Princess of Burundi explores the death of a reformed criminal turned family man who was found murdered. I am enjoying this Swedish series as a small window into modern Swedish culture and life and also because the main character, Ann Lindell is a new, working mom, trying to figure out herself as a mother.  She doesn’t strike a conventional balance, and I find that her character’s struggle to pave her own way is very believable.  Eriksson is becoming one of my go-to mystery authors; someone I can count on to provide an interesting and enjoyable tale.

The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran:

This well-researched historical novel explores the romantic relationship of poet John Donne and Ann More. I found it a very enjoyable read.  I think Haran did a great job showing the options and struggles of women in that time period, and how difficult, if not entirely impossible, it was to marry for love.  The strong Ann More is a character you can’t help but love, as John Donne discovered for himself!  And this story makes me want to go read Donne’s work with a fresh perspective.

The Midwife’s Tale by Gretchen Moran Laskas:

This story of three generations of West Virginian midwives, of love in its many forms, and of loss and healing was so wonderfully crafted.  The sense of place, the smooth, graceful prose, and the carefully crafted main character, Elizabeth demonstrate why Gretchen Laskas was selected as this year’s recipient of the Appalachian Heritage Writer’s Award.  While this story contains “romantic” elements, I found I was more moved by the mother-daughter relationships. The connection between the generations of women in The Midwife’s Tale is so well-written and poignant.  As the mother of a daughter, I felt Laskas really captured the complex love that exists in that relationship.  She writes about how we differentiate ourselves from our mothers with our choices, about the ways we find our mothers in ourselves through growing and understanding their experiences as we move through life, and about how the love between mothers and daughters can change and heal. I can’t wait to hear Laskas speak in the fall during the Appalachian Heritage Writer-In-Residence program.    

How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life by Mameve Medwed:

A cute read; this romance is a light, modern, summer-appropriate tale about an antiques dealer who has been unlucky in love. Any fans of the chick-lit genre will enjoy!

Got any recommends for fun summer reading?  Feel free to share in the comment section below or on TheRippleEffect2009 Facebook page!

Wholesome Book Series for Wholesome Hearts

I base my book selection on many factors, but one that always trumps is the state of my spirit.  When I am in a spiritual slump, I often return to old friends that feed my soul with wholesome words, winsome characters, everyday family relationships, and positive messages.  Here are my favorite wholesome standbys:

Anne of Green Gables series  by L.M. Montgomery:

L.M. Montgomery is my all time favorite author.  I relate to Anne Shirley/Blythe more than any other fictional character I have read. (A sensitive girl, who doesn’t easily embrace change, who lives partly in a dream world, who wants to love and be loved by everyone, who finds herself in words and the comforts of home, who aspires to do and be more, who is feisty and stubborn and determined and accident prone, who values education and children and family:  yep, that sounds familiar! I also think that shaven, my husband resembles the actor Jonathan Crombie when he played Gilbert in Anne of Avonlea…hmm.)  I have every fictional book penned by L.M. Montgomery, and have watched and own the miniseries Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, (and yes, even the awful attempt to resolve the onscreen Anne stories in the form of Anne of Green Gables, The Continuing Story ).  I can’t get enough of Anne’s world. I plan to do a whole post on L.M. Montgomery’s work at some point, but in the meantime, I’ll share that retreats to Prince Edward Island nourish my soul.  I hope to visit PEI some day in real life.

The Corrie Belle Hollister Series by Judith Pella and Michael Phillips:

I hope to re-read these soon, given that my home is now near many Civil War sites.  Corrie Belle Hollister is a fictional Christian journalist during the Civil War era; the books chronicle the tale of her adventures as a pioneer girl/woman in the West and working as a journalist during the Civil War.  The moral struggles she and her family encounter and overcome are inspirational and Corrie is a strong, smart role model for young girls.  Today’s girls would do well to put down Twilight and Gossip Girl and pick up one of these novels to learn about strength, intelligence, and integrity.  My Grandmother bought these and read these with me, bequeathing them to me before she passed away and I hope to share them with my little girl when she is older.

Little Women (Little Men, Jo’s Boys) by Louisa May Alcott:

Both the real life and fictional adaptations of the Alcott family are inspiring.  The simple morality, the everyday human struggles and triumphs of spirit, the lessons in kindness, simplicity, compassion and value for education speak to me deeply.

The Mitford Series by Jan Karon:

I have turned to these books after the death of my beloved Grandmother, after the loss of a friend, many, many times when I’ve needed to believe in the goodness of community and everyday people.  Father Tim is everybody’s Father and everybody’s friend.  I always leave these books feeling refreshed and gentle in spirit.

What are your favorite wholesome books?  What books refresh your spirit?

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