Showing posts with label Reading. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reading. Show all posts

Thursday, January 23, 2014

What Are You Reading Now?

Reading has always been my favorite pastime, my internal refuge and my method of escape to places and worlds beyond our reality or into the minds or lives of the past.  A good book is a doorway to another life or place, and as you open the pages, you step through and become absorbed wholly into a well written story, consumed by the next page, and the next and the next.

A good book allows you to internally live as the characters in it, to feel their joy and pain, to anxiously await their next move, to worry about what fate has in store for them in the end.

The greatest joy is to find a book that will not let you go, that you cannot put down because you must know what happens next...all the way to the end of the story and beyond.  Who doesn't have a book that haunts them still, standing at the precipice that is the end of the written story and jumping off into the imaginary beyond, longing for more.

A good travel book can help you to go places you have never yet been, to smell the air and see the colors of a land far away from where you may be in the moment.  It is more than planning a trip or wishing for adventure, a well-written travel book takes you on an internal journey through your own soul as you walk the path of another across a foreign landscape.

I tend to be voracious in my reading habits:  mysteries, classics, travel, science fiction, fantasy, children's books, nonfiction - especially cookbooks and history treatises - you name it, I am likely to be reading it if it is a good read.  (Since the breast cancer diagnosis last year, my cookbook reading has been along more healthy lines, for obvious reasons.  Any good suggestions for nutrient-filled recipe cookbooks are always appreciated.)

At the moment, and in no particular order, here is what I'm reading:

-- Queen Victoria by Elizabeth Longford

-- Joy of Zentangle: Drawing Your Way to Increased Creativity, Focus, and Well-Being

-- The South Beach Diet Gluten Solution: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Gluten-Aware Plan for Losing Weight and Feeling Great--FAST!

-- Divergent by Veronica Roth

-- The Perfect Husband: An FBI Profiler Novel by Lisa Gardner
But I am always looking for something new to add to the "to read" pile.   Are you reading anything good at the moment?  If so, please do tell...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Armchair Travel Ideas For The Sick Or Shut-In

Wishing I were here...

It has finally arrived.  That point in all of this treatment where I want to run away  on some marvelously relaxing trip to an island or a beach or something completely out of my ordinary day to day survival right now.

But I can't, because such a trip would be wasted on me at the moment.

That is just the truth of it:  any big trip would be useless for me just now.  I barely had the energy to sit at the bookstore yesterday and browse for books with my family for an hour or so, just to get us out of the house.  Pathetic.  I know it will get better over time, but grates on me to be this blah.

It occurred to me yesterday, though, that other folks might have family or friends who are in similar situations.  So I thought I would pass along some suggestions for good books or DVDs that have worked well for me under these trying circumstances.

When Mr. ReddHedd's father moved in with us, he was very ill and not able to get out and about as much as he might have liked, and he was desperately grieving the loss of his wife of over 50 years (my much-loved mother-in-law).  I discovered one evening, quite by accident, that one of the things he loved was watching shows about animals or travel in exotic places.  Because I love that sort of show, too, we all watched one together on coral sea islands, and I watched his face light up as the show transported him away from his grief and physical infirmity into a lovely world of wonder.

It was such a fun moment.

The trick, I think, is to tailor the show or the book toward the interests of the person to whom they will be given.

Friday, July 5, 2013

It's A Mystery!

For whatever reason, probably ease of reading so that my chemo-addled brain can fully enjoy an easy pull-me-along read, but I've been on a mystery kick lately.

My books of choice during chemo infusions have been M. C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth mysteries:  because they are just funny enough to get a giggle out of me, even with all the poison coursing through my veins.  But, most importantly, they are an easy enough read that I can follow along even with a double dose of steroids and benedryl added to the chemo cocktail mix.

I've always been a bit of a mystery fiend, loving Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle and everything in between.

So I thought I would throw some questions out to everyone:

-- Who is your favorite mystery writer and why?

-- What is your favorite mystery book of all time?

-- What is your favorite mystery film?  Why?  It could be a modern adaptation or an old noir classic, a television adaptation, or something not necessarily considered a mystery but which presents one nonetheless (like a scifi thriller with mystery written all over it -- a lot of the work of Philip K. Dick brought to the big screen springs to mind here!).

Would love your thoughts on some new mysteries to read or watch.  Thanks in advance for any good suggestions!

Saturday, February 16, 2013


The Peanut just finished reading The Swiss Family Robinson, in its original version and not via some abridged one.  She loved it.

So this morning, we are watching the Disney movie version. I'm expecting a lot of "Hey, that wasn't in the book!"

It's the little things, isn't it?

Hope your day is a good one.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Building An Enthusiastic Reader

This morning, The Peanut woke up for school when her alarm went off, brushed her teeth, got dressed, fussed with her hair a little bit...and then crawled right back into bed to read for another half an hour.

Her father, thinking she hadn't gotten up at all, rushed upstairs to get her moving only to find her nose completely buried in the Percy Jackson series.  Which is how she was last night, too, when we had to make her turn her lights out and go to sleep.

It really is every parent's dream to build an enthusiastic reader, isn't it?  But how do you do it?

I don't have the answer for every child, but in terms of my own child I do think this was key:  we have been reading to her and with her since she was tiny.  We never went anywhere without a book -- in the diaper bag, in the back seat of the car within reach of her car seat when she was younger, all over our house in every room, fairy tales on my kindle, good stories crammed on her bookshelves in her own room...first in board books and later in regular books and then on her own kindle.

We wanted her to know that reading is important to us, so that it will also be important to her...and from the earliest age. 

Both of us are big readers -- we read every night before bedtime, and have made it a point to let The Peanut crawl in bed and read with us fairly often.  Also, during the summer on hot and humid afternoons when being outside in the sweltering haze is miserable, she and I will crawl onto the king-sized master bed and enjoy some reading time in the air conditioned splendor together.

Also, each summer, The Peanut and I pick out a book to read together -- something that might have been a big reach for her when she was smaller, but that was a wonderful story.  One summer it was The Cricket in Times Square -- we happened to be taking a trip to New York City that summer, to tag along with daddy to a conference, and I wanted to introduce her to the hum and rattle of the city and the subways before we got there. She loved it, and we spent the time in New York periodically looking for lost crickets, which was very fun indeed for wee girlies.

Another year, it was The Borrowers, a story that I highly recommend reading aloud together. At the time we read it, the vocabulary would have been well past where The Peanut was, but by reading it together she got a wonderful story and a built-in personal dictionary and context explainer right there in the chair next to her, and that was both handy and cozy.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Reader Interest Inventory

One of my favorite start of the year things is my Reader Interest Inventory.  The kids moan and groan having to fill it out, but really love getting personalized feedback from it once I've had time to read and digest their information.

I've pasted the contents of my Reading Interest Inventory form below, as well as my response letter form that I'll be using this year.  Thought it might be helpful for others who are considering doing something like this at their own library.

I put my forms together using some that I found here and there online last year, but culled most of the questions from two wonderful books.  I highly recommend every teacher who has anything to do with literature or library programs get these books and read them -- they have opened my mind up to outside-the-box possibilities and seeing reading fresh through the eyes of my students and not just my own.  They are:

-- The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers

-- The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child

Superb reading on an incredibly important topic. Worth a lot of reading and discussion among all of us, including with parents and lawmakers.

It took a while to tweak my form to get it just right for my particular batch of kids and age groups, but once I did that I had to figure out what to do.  Here's how my Reading Interest Inventory works:

At the very beginning of the school year, I have the kids in grades Third through Sixth fill out a Reading Interest Inventory form.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Summer Reading

It is the first full day of summer break for me, having finished the year with meetings and a very nice luncheon yesterday.

This is what The Peanut has been doing with her morning thus far.

I know. 

We have spawned an avid reader and it is awesome.  I cannot begin to tell you how happy this makes me, that she has her nose in a book whenever possible without having to be prompted or forced into it.

When asked the other day how she became such a good reader, her reply to another adult we know was instructive:  "It's what we do in my family.  We all love to read."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Books To Love: The Borrowers

The Peanut and I choose a different book every summer as "our book," and we read a chapter or so in the heat of the afternoon in the master bedroom, snuggled comfortably in the air conditioning on the big, king-sized bed, reveling in the glorious lazy goodness of summer and excellent storytelling.

We have done this each summer since she was small.  And it is something we look forward to now each year when school is out.  We haven't yet selected this year's story, although I am thinking The Secret Garden may be a good pick, or perhaps Treasure Island.  But it could also be one of the Harry Potter books that she hasn't yet read (she's somewhere in the middle of the series, along with reading a bunch of other books at the same time).

The key is to pick a book that has a really good story that will pull her along day in and day out and make her drag me to read aloud again.  I know that I've hooked her when she is begging for more story the moment she wakes up.

Two summers ago, our read together book was The Borrowers by Mary Norton.  And it was just such a book.

Even now, two years later, she still talks about scenes from The Borrowers. And wants to make presents for The Borrowers in our own house that she is convinced we must have.  Her reasoning?  "Our house is 109 years old, how could we not?"  You can't really argue with that.

Last summer, Studio Ghibli released The Secret World of Arrietty. At our house, it was a much anticipated film, because The Borrowers is all about Arrietty, her family and her world, and the adventures she has trying to stay out of sight from humans while still being close enough to them to borrow what her family needs.

While the movie is enchanting, as pretty much all Ghibli offerings are given Miyazake's amazing gift of storytelling and visual art, it just isn't as good as the original book from whence it came.  If you haven't yet read The Borrowers, you really should -- it is fabulous.

There are several books in the Borrowers series, and we haven't yet read them all, so perhaps this summer will be more of a series read.

What's your read aloud for your kids lately?  We're always looking for our next good read...

Friday, March 16, 2012

If You Were The Librarian: Essential Books For Kids

Currently, I've been working on a master "wish list" for my elementary school library.  It is proving to be a much larger task than I initially thought it would be, primarily because the kids are reading so much this year that wear and tear on books has been way more substantial than I expected at the beginning of the year.

As a result, replacement of much beloved and read books -- especially in popular series -- has to take a front seat and adding to the collection will end up being a secondary concern as budget allows.

And when I say budget?  I try not to laugh out loud because, as is the case in almost every school in the country I would imagine, "budget" means mostly out of my pocket with the occasional assist of some much-appreciated book donations from wonderful parents, family and alums who are clearing out their children's bulging bookshelves and think of us.

Without those gently used book donations?  I fear we would be in very sad shape indeed.  Consider this a gentle reminder that your local school libraries as well as public libraries are generally thrilled with donations of well-kept books as you clear out your bookshelves.

All of this has gotten me thinking about what my dream elementary school library would contain, if budget were no obstacle and space were no concern either.

Which made me wonder:  if you were the elementary school librarian, what would be the books -- or book series -- you would consider "must have" material?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Arrietty Is Well Worth Seeing!

We finally got out to see The Borrower Arrietty yesterday afternoon. The Peanut and I loved it!

This is definitely one we will want to see again!

When we heard that Studio Ghibli was doing an Arrietty movie, we were thrilled.  Miyazake's storytelling is always full of wonder, and this movie lived up to our expectations with it's gorgeous artwork and attention to the little details.  Especially by leaving Arrietty's spunk intact.

We read The Borrowers a couple of years ago together as our summer reading, devouring a few pages at bedtime and a chapter here and there in the afternoons on rainy weather days.

I highly recommend choosing a longer, more difficult storybook like this as a family summer reading project with your kids.  The Peanut and I do one every summer and we both get a lot out of just sitting quietly and reading out loud together.  Not least of which because I get to revisit some of my old favorites as she gets to know them for the first time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Favorite Fantasy Books

Who doesn't want a little fantasy in their life?

I mean, honestly, wouldn't it be just so fun to find out you'd really been a wizard all along?  Or that when you reach through to the back of your closet in that darkest of messy places, you don't find some long lost sweater but, instead, a magical world filled with talking animals and high tea with a friendly faun?

One of the best things for me about working at the library this year has been the reminder of how much fun children/young adult fantasy books can be.

I've been purposely reading several series that I hadn't yet read, and revisiting some of my old favorites that still hold up as classics for me.  And I've been enjoying every, single minute of it.

Escape from the day to day can be such a magical thing.  Especially when it involves reading about magical things, right?

So I thought it might be fun to list some favorites in the fantasy genre.  How about listing a few int he comments section?

Please take a moment to note, especially, those which are appropriate for kids ages 5 through 12 given that's who I'm teaching.

But I'd love to know what fantasy folks are reading regardless of library applicability.  Because although I've got a lot of books in my "to read" pile, I'm always searching for another good one to add.

Here are some of my recent finds and old faves, in no particular order:

-- J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. This still sucks me right into the story every single time.

-- Fablehaven (good for young readers)

-- Inkheart Trilogy Boxset (good for young readers and adults alike)

-- David Coe's The Lon Tobyn Chronicle

-- The Chronicles of Narnia (fabulous for young readers)

-- Harry Potter Paperback Box Set (Books 1-7)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Reading Is A Wonderland

We've reached the end of September, which has been a pirate theme at the school library -- and quite popular with the younger kids, I have to say.   Especially the stickers and bookmarks with pirate stuff on them that I managed to find -- that has been a big hit!

For October, I thought I'd go with a bit of whimsy.

So "Reading is a Wonderland!" it is.  I'll be going over today to take down the pirate flags and decor and bulletin board excitement, and to put up all sorts of Alice in Wonderland-inspired decor all over the place.  So when the kids come back from their long weekend (they have Monday and Tuesday off next week), they will walk into the library and right into the pages of Alice in Wonderland.

I think that's going to be very fun for everyone.  Including me.

Frankly, anything to get these kids reading and keep them interested in it is a good thing, I say.  And who doesn't love a bit of whimsy in their day?

Luckily I have saved a lot of the decorations that we used for The Peanut's Alice-inspired birthday party a couple of years ago.  I still have the net butterflies and the Mad Hatter hat and a few other assorted goodies, and so those will be brightening the library space by the end of today.

Will try to snap a few pictures for everyone once I'm finished, so you can see how things turned out.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dragon Rider

This summer, part of my reading time was devoted to reading through children's and young adult's fiction that I hadn't previously read, to get an idea of some of the more recent books that we had in the school library.

Just in case I was helping a child find a book, I wanted to actually have read the book in question that might be recommended.  I figured the fastest way to lose credibility with a kid was to have no idea what I was talking about with the books.  So I'm making the extra effort to try and read (or know that I already have read in a lot of cases) just about every fiction book in the library.

It's a dauntingly large task, but will serve me well in the long run, I think.

Plus, it's been so long since I've read some of the classics of children's literature, that I wanted to go back and re-read a few of those as well.  (Or perhaps it is just my excuse to re-read Wrinkle in Time and Little House on the Prairie.  As if I needed an excuse.  LOL)

One of my favorites has been Cornelia Funke's Dragon Rider. It is a superbly crafted story about a silvery dragon named Firedrake, his furry cat-looking brownie friend named Sorrel, a young orphan boy named Ben, and their adventures along the way on a quest that is a race against the humans threatening a dragon settlement, a number of mystical beings and an evil entity named Goldeneye.

I absolutely loved the book.  And I loved that the characters were drawn as real, imperfections and doubts and all, and not just as perfect cardboard stand-ins that you often find in children's books.  Really well done on the character development.

Moreover, I loved that the main characters learn to work together, and that they recognize and are profoundly grateful for the help they receive along the way.  There is a lot of serendipity woven into the tale, but that's also how it weaves itself into our day to day lives -- learning to recognize it and be grateful is one of the things that makes life bearable, I think, on our bleaker days.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lost In The Land Of Reading

Yesterday evening, I went up for bed and saw that The Peanut's light was still on, even though we'd sent her up to bed a little over an hour beforehand.  I opened her door and poked my head in to see why on earth she was still awake.

She emerged from her pillow and blanket nest and smiled at me.  When I asked why she was still awake when it was getting late and she had school in the morning, she said:

Sorry, mom.  I didn't know what time it was.  I was lost in the land of reading.

It was at that moment that I knew I was succeeding on some level as a parent.  You have to love that, don't you?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Young Readers And Science Fiction Books

I spent time at the school library yesterday, mostly working on displays and bulletin boards to make everything pop for the kids when they return to school next Wednesday.  I'll definitely take photos for everyone next week once I've finished tweaking.

Am especially pleased with a "books we love!" display that I put together.  I've got a bright Dr. Seuss border around the outside of the bookshelf area, and a stuffed White Rabbit and Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland peeking out from the shelves.  (Thank goodness I saved all the decorations from The Peanut's 7th birthday party -- I knew they'd come in handy again someday!)

I managed to carve out this designated section of bookshelf space for rotating displays and themes from the fiction section which faces out where the kids will be sitting for class, but it is a painful carve out because it makes shelving a little more tight than I'd like it to be.  The space may reduce in size a bit over time out of necessity.  But, for now anyway, it is a bold and lovely display of great books to entice the kids to want to check them out.

As I was putting the display together, though, I realized that we have no really good science fiction books for younger readers in the library.  Or, frankly, no science fiction books that I could find at all beyond the classic Jules Verne variety (which is awesome, but not likely to tempt a 4th grader quite yet unless he or she is a particularly precocious one) or Star Wars novelizations.

Which got me thinking about great science fiction books for kids.  At which point I, sadly, drew a bit of a blank.  That's just unacceptable, isn't it?  So, I'm asking for your help.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Library Lesson Plans: The First Three Weeks

It has been a long two weeks of lesson plan slogging, but I've finally completed them. 

For the first three weeks of school, anyway.  I'll re-evaluate once we get going and I'm certain we'll be headed down some different paths from there.  But it is at least a start, right?

As I said in my prior post on what I've been doing to prepare for my first few weeks as the new school librarian, there is a lot of interesting material out there.  I've been reading through a ton of it all summer to wrap my brain around what would be needed -- what the kids ought to know, what they likely haven't covered and where we ought to start.

There is a LOT of ground to cover.  And I have to keep reminding myself that it is a building process, not something that can be fully taught on the first day.

The big question for me is how to best cover everything I want to talk about, and yet consistently make it interesting and fun for the kids at the same time.

Did I mention the age groups I'll be teaching range from 3 to 12?

BIG difference in comprehension and teaching styles.  But I do love a challenge, so here's what I'm thinking:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Elementary Library Lesson Plans: Resources For Other Newbies

Because they are re-doing tile and working on plumbing at the elementary school, I haven't been able to get back in to work on the library space for quite a while.

My Type A brain is going bonkers because I'm not quite done, yet I can't get in to finish.

So, what's a girl to do?

Working on lesson plans was the best that I could come up with under the circumstances.  I can recall my mom working on them prior to the start of school every year -- and she taught for more than 30 years! -- so that she'd be organized for at least the first few weeks and not have to scramble for lesson ideas.

Since this is my first year in the elementary school library, and I have a range of ages that I'll be teaching -- from Pre-K 3 year olds to 6th grade 11 and 12 year olds -- I thought being organized would be a survival skill for the first few weeks until I get my bearings. 

Over the course of the summer, I've picked up several books on library lessons and fun ideas for getting things across to different age groups on the Dewey Decimal System (remember that?!?) and parts of a book and all sorts of other useful basics.  And, per usual, it's turned into a personal research library of sorts.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Hobbit Begins Rehearsals/Filming

Seriously excited here.

According to Sir Ian McKellen, they have begun rehearsals for the first of The Hobbit movies:
And I was there too, in Hobbiton, with a semi-circle of dwarves and Bilbo, their reluctant host. I was at the cast’s first joint rehearsal where Peter Jackson, with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, invited our comments on their script so far. This is as close to bliss as an actor can get. Facing three Oscar-winning screenplay writers who genuinely want us actors to contribute.
Oh, huzzah! The Hobbit is one of my all time favorite books, and to see Ian McKellen back in his Gandalf guise will be lovely indeed. He really is a genius in the role and, in my opinion, deserved an Oscar for how he transformed himself in the role in the The Lord of the Rings movies.

Here's hoping he delivers a similarly brilliant performance this time around and wins one.

Filming has apparently begun in New Zealand, although no word on what scenes are being shot just yet.

Director/producer Peter Jackson posted some casting news on Facebook that looks rather promising as well.  Take a peek:

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Pause For Reflection

This week, there was a memorial service for Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, at which President Obama spoke.

There was a portion of the president's speech that caught my ear, and I wanted to share it with all of you, for it calls to the longing that I think we all feel, somewhere deep within, to strive to be more, to do better, and to find a way to make some impact on the rest of humanity.
Like the country he served, Richard contained complexities. So full of life, he was a man both confident in himself and curious about others, alive to the world around him with a character that is captured in the words of a Mathew Arnold poem that he admired. “But often, in the din of strife, there rises an unspeakable desire after the knowledge of the buried life; a thirst to spend our fire and restless force in tracking our true, original course; a longing to inquire into the mystery of this heart which beats so wild, so deep in us -- to know whence our lives come and where they go.”
I'd never read that particular poem, but here it is in it's entirety.  English professor Margaret Soltan had this to say about the poem, which I found spot on:
Arnold’s poem, titled “The Buried Life,” is about what’s under public life and global events, what lies beneath one’s public persona and activities; it’s about being very quiet and trying very hard to figure out who you, in particular, authentically are.
But I don't find it incongruous, as she seems to anyway, that Holbrooke should enjoy this as both a poem and an exercise in thought, while also being such an active participant in the world around him.  I think that sometimes you meet your true self at the forks in your road, much more often than in the smooth patches.

And Holbrooke was certainly never a man to shy away from those forks, now was he?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Winter Is Coming: Snow Day Ideas

We have another wave of snowstorms headed toward us out of the north and the midwest.

According to the Weather Channel people, two fronts will crash together over top of us -- at least that's what the radar looks like.

Right now?  It's pouring the rain down.

And I'm sitting here trying to decide whether I want to brave the crazy people to snag an extra pack of toilet paper and some chicken breasts, or whether we can just wing it.

Unfortunately my fear of running out of toilet paper may be making me one of the crazy people who heads out to the store in advance of the snow today.

In any case, I thought I'd put together a list of some of our snow day activities for others to use for bad weather or sick days in their own neighborhoods: