Tag Archive | reading

I will not go quiet into that Kindle Light

I will not go quiet into that Kindle light.

I don’t ever see myself curling up with a Kindle, or a Nook, or any other e-book for that matter.

Kindle the eBook 2.0

I will not go quiet into that Kindle light.

I don’t ever see myself curling up with a Kindle, or a Nook, or any other e-book for that matter.

There has been so much news about books. The drop in the sale of physical books and the recent scanning of 5.2 billion books into digital form to study trends in culture and literature, as reported by the New York Times. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Barnes & Noble recently cited studies that suggest consumer spending on new physical books will fall to $19 billion in 2014 from $20.5 billion in 2009.

But books are more than carefully strung words. Books create communities and friendships. A book has physical attributes – the feel of its Tattered Cover, the texture of the dog-eared pages inside and the wonder about by whom the book has been previously held and read.

A few years ago, a friend of mine was making what she thought at the time a permanent move back to her home of Cape town South Africa. The trans-Atlantic container could only carry so much of her possessions, so she held a yard sale.

Among the precious things she agreed to part with was her vast collection of books. An avid reader, my friend always had a stack of books – from the library, finds at other yard sales or book sales – on her nightstand. From the pile of books that was spread on a blanket, I picked up “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks and offered her the asking price of a dollar. She refused to take money from me and instead, pressed the book into my hand, smiled, and just said “enjoy.”

So I took it home and read it. I’ll admit it wasn’t my favorite. But it was a book given to me by a friend, a friend I feared I would never see again short of a very long plane ride. So, the year she was away, I had her book on my shelf as a reminder of our friendship. I have given and received many previously enjoyed books, as a symbol of family and friendship. Before a family vacation, my doorbell rang and it was another friend, who, just because, wanted to give me a book to read on the beach. It was The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd.

I have also given my books away to friends: like Sarah’s Key and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan to my mom, and A Thousand Splendid Suns to my dad.

Can you do that with a Kindle?

Now I know that e-books have their advantages: less trees are cut down to make and read books, less clutter in one’s home, ease of traveling with multiple books, instant gratification of downloading the latest book, and so on. But the clutter of books is legacies of family and friendships that our society will lose with the emerging popularity of the e-book. No, I fear that this next generation coming up, if predictions hold true and purchases of physical books will fall away to one more screen that we must stare at for information. Something will be lost.

Because of paper books, a multi-generation legacy of books rests in my house.

My grandparents lived in a tiny apartment in Bensonhurst Brooklyn for over 60 years. In the foyer, they had their treasured library. Into each book that was added to their collection – books like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, and fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson- a seal was placed, saying that this book was part of the Library of Pauline and Milton Kasmere. Some of these books, with their spines embellished with fading gold lettering, are now propped on the bookshelves in my home. I hope that my kids will read these classics from the pages that their great-grandparents held, not an e-book.

In the future, what will we put on our bookshelves?

Now, call me a luddite, but I can go on about how much I like e-books, if only for sentimental reasons. I’d write more about my feelings and dislikes about e-books, but I am off to a book exchange at my son’s middle school – off to sort books that will be donated to a city Literacy project to share with inner city schools in Rochester.

Tell me, in the future, if physical books go away, will there be books to share and book exchanges to give away books?

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Fall Leaves: Rake Many, Turn a Few into a Turkey

By now, in Western New York, the fall foliage has long reached its peak of yellows and reds.


Now, when I look up at the massive sugar maples in my neighborhood (the ones that are covered with snow in my homepage picture),  sadly the branches are mostly bare. The only color they will be covered with over the next four months or so, is white.

Wherever you are living now, I bet you are thinking: how to get rid of all the leaves? Rake them? Mulch them? Sick the leaf blower on them?

But before you rake, blow, or mow every last leaf away and before the snows fall, admire the carpets of red and yellow that lie at your feet.

Then, save a few of nature’s castoffs for craft supplies that can last the whole winter through. Here’s how:

  • First, find a preschooler to help you with this task. They are low to the ground and can teach you how to appreciate the simple, beautiful perfection that is found in one leaf that is the color of fire.
  • Then, show that preschooler a telephone book. Theirs will probably the last generation that will actually come in contact with one of these volumes of bound, thin yellow paper volumes. None of them I bet ever had a parent use them as a makeshift booster seat or a stepstool. Show them that these yellow or white clunky books were once used by people to look up numbers for plumbers or dog groomers but now come in handy for pressing leaves.
  • Next take a few of your leafy treasures and pat them dry with a paper towel, and place them between the pages of the book.
  • While the leaves are drying and pressing, read to them a wonderful book like Leaf Man, by Lois Ehlert to get inspiration as to what to do with all those pressed leaves. 

Our preschool class used leaves to represent the feathers of turkeys in our thanksgiving cards, like this:

Fall leaves are abundant - and free - and make for great crafts like this turkey

Send me your comments and pictures about what you made with your leaves.

No, I didn’t Finish Reading Harry Potter. Now, I Must Hide in a Cave.

Am I the last on Earth to know the fate of Harry Potter?

As I write this, I realize that with the release of the first film from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows coming out on Nov. 19, I am in danger now of finding out the final fate of Harry Potter.  Until now, I have sheltered the ending from myself, the final fate of Harry and He Who Must Not Be Named.  Even if I had to enter my childen’s bedrooms as they listened to the book of the same title on CD and had  to sing “Lalalalalala” to myself while I put their clean, folded laundry into their drawers.

No, I am in danger still. Because I know this blog post will be read by millions who will be clicking away at their keyboards to comment and tell me the end.

Okay, it might be read by three-dozen people who might bother to read it and then still take more of their precious time to comment and tell me. But really, please don’t. Give a mom a break!

I remember when we first started reading and/or listening to the Harry Potter Series as a family on paper and audio book format.  My patient husband read our daughter Harry Potter and the Sourcerer’s Stone and then Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets , one chapter a night, when she was only in the first  and second grades.  I don’t know how we had all this time, because now I barely have time to read my third child a Dr. Seuss book.

By the time she was eight or nine, she was reading the third and fourth books on her own. She would shlep the hard-covered editions of The Prisoner of Azkaban  to whatever errand we were running. I think the novel weighed more than she did.  At the supermarket, I would shop and she would sit in the bottom of the cart, immersed in reading about Harry’s third year of wizarding school through the produce and cereal aisles.

I did my own reading and listening of the series. But, halfway through the Order of the Phoenix,  and halfway through my third pregnancy, I just stopped. My interest went elsewhere while the rest of my family, excluding the baby of the family, gobbled up the rest of the series like it was a box of Chocolate Frogs and washed it down with Butter Beer.

My kids can’t believe I haven’t finished yet. And I tell them I will finish the series before I leave this earth.

 There are a few things that I can do so I can finish the series and not have Hollywood ruin the ending for me:

  • I can hire a House Elf to prepare the meals, wash the clothes and scrub the bathrooms
  • I can purchase a wand from Olivander’s Wand Shop and wave it over the dinner table instead of shopping, chopping and cooking to get ready for meals.
  • I can quit all three of my jobs that I work at to help pay for their Hogwarts-like overnight summer camp to free up my time.  
  • I can stop reading the other amazing pieces of literature I have tackled in my post, unfinished Harry Potter era. Books that took me to places and times the Hogwarts Express does not reach. Books like The Little Stranger, The Help, The Man in the White Shark Skin Suit, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and other wonderful adult novels I have finished.  Not to mention The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

So Harry, Hermione, the Weasleys, and Headless Nick, I will not cave to popular culture. You’ll just have to wait for me to finish. And when I’m good and ready.

Traversing The Swiss Family Robinson – and use of the “A” Word – with my six-year-old

Time magazine’s July 22 cover story was “The case Against Summer Vacation,” an article that posed the argument that our romanticized notion of summer vacation can be blamed on Tom Sawyer and is merely the remnant of our vanished agrarian society. Kids had off in the summer hundreds of years ago because Ma and Pa needed them to work the fields. Now, enriched summer vacations are a privilege only bestowed to the middle and upper class, while inner-city kids run the risk of summer learning loss if they spend too much inside with TV and video games.  

I know how lucky we are that we can afford – barely – to send our kids to summer camp. It’s not just kids in lower economic brackets who tend to veg out before the plasma god in the summer. At the beginning of the summer, I feel it is my parental duty to program every art project, play date and forced nature hike. What happens if I take the laissez-faire approach?  Let’s just say I wish I had a quarter for every time I scream “TURN THE TV OFF!”

I know that kids can backslide during months of summer slacking. So I have really tried to get my kids into summer reading. I’ve enlisted them in our local library’s summer reading programs. I don’t know if my kids are reading while away at summer camp, but I know that my 11-year-old son voraciously plowed through four books before he packed up and left for sleep-a-way camp. My teen daughter? She put up a bit of resistance to reading this summer.  I will attempt to get her bit by the literacy bug before the summer is through.  Her school does have required reading book lists, after all, it’s not mom that wants her to read, it’s SCHOOL!

While the big kids are at their heavily-programmed, up-at-dawn sleep-a-way camp, my youngest child gets to be an only child for one solid month.  That means mom and dad are all his. With all this quality one-on-one bed-time reading time on our hands, I figured we would tackle a classic. No Captain Underpants for us! With visions of climbing that immense artificial treehouse at Disney World and bowls made of coconut shells dancing in my head, Toby and I cashed in a 10-month gift card at Barnes & Noble and bought The Swiss Family Robinson.

We get through a chapter each night. The language, let’s just say, was far more complex back then. I checked the year Swiss Family Robinson was written. 1812.

“I believe there was a war that year,” my husband jokingly said.

Yes. This book is almost 200 years old. And some of the sentences were as heavy as the sugar canes that Fritz and Father carried on their shoulders on their Voyage of Discovery in Chapter Three.

I’ll give you examples of how I offer my son modern interpretation as I read along.

“I awoke my wife, and we consulted together as to the occupations we should engage in.”

I woke up my wife, and we talked and made a to-do list of all the jobs we needed to get done for the day.

“When we had gone about two leagues…”

After walking two miles

“we entered a wood situated a little further from the sea…took out some provisions and refreshed ourselves.”

We went into a forest located further from the sea, got out some snacks and refreshments.

At one point, my son asked me to read the book exactly as it was written. Three sentences later, he again asked for my interpretation and complained, “mom, I have no idea what you are talking about!”

But, he urged me to read on. We got to the chapter about rescuing the animals off of the shipwreck, and the challenge faced by the father and the oldest son.

I read,”What a difficulty in making it! and how could we induce”

umm.. make

“a cow”

a cow

“a sow”

a pig

“and an ass”

…….ummm, a donkey

“either to get upon a raft, or when there , to remain motionless and quiet?”

At that point, my young son stopped me.

“Wait, Wait! Moooooom, you changed that word, the word for donkey!! You were going to say one word, but you said “donkey.” Does this book have — the A word — in it??” He had deliciously naughty grin on his face, both dimples showing. Reading a 200-year-old book cannot be all that boring if you might catch your mom saying the “A” word, after all.

Tonight, Chapter Seven: Second Journey of Discovery Performed by the Mother of the Family. I can’t wait.


In pursuit of a fine-free summer of reading

In our debt-inflicted society, there are some who cringe at the thought that their credit card will be denied when it is swiped at the department store, or the supermarket, or the gas station. For me, it is my library card.

I am under the impression that I will personally offend the librarian if an outrageously overdue book shows up on my account, accompanied by a hefty fine.  What book has slipped under a bed or retreated to the deepest recess of my son’s closet? How much do I owe in overdue fines and will I need to take out a second mortgage to pay for it?

In any case, a few dollars in overdue library books are worth it if the book is enjoyed by a child – or adult – through the summer.

There is something magical when a child puts vowels and consonants together and realizes they can read. It just clicks.  Words on street signs and cereal boxes come to life. Best of all, they can pick up a book and read to themselves.  Libraries in Brighton, Pittsford, and Mendon are offering plenty of incentives this summer for children to curl up with a good book, whether it is under a tree or on a beach blanket.

On June 25, the Brighton Memorial Library kicked off its summer “Make a Splash into Reading” program that runs through August 13 and is sponsored by the Friends of the Brighton Memorial Library.  Beach balls hung from the ceiling as youngsters were greeted with leis and ice pops by children’s librarian Tonia Burton. Girls dressed for the occasion in Hawaiian printed dresses. They decorated paper-framed sunglasses and said they couldn’t wait to read titles such as Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale.   

Registered children received game boards with pictures of beaches separated by five blank spaces. For every day they read 20 minutes or more, they move one space on the board.  When they reach a beach, they return to the library to pick a prize out of a beach pail – and borrow more books.  After a child reaches the fourth beach, they receive an invitation to the summer reading party in August.  For every person that finishes the reading game, the Friends of the BML will donate three books to the library.

If you missed the kickoff party at your local library there is no need to worry. It is summer, after all. Register your youngster in person or online at www.brightonlibrary.org, www.townofpittsford.org-library, or www.mendonlibrary.org.

It is relatively easy to steer eager new readers to books that contain vibrant illustrations and lively prose. But what about those independent-minded tweens and teens?  Deena Lipomi, circulation and young adult services manager at the Brighton Memorial Library said she rarely offers verbal recommendations because “that might seem too pushy.” Instead, she lets the books speak for themselves.

“I look for books with colorful, modern covers and turn them face side out on the shelves.  For teenagers, you can’t strongly suggest a book, or they may not read it, and the book can’t look dated.”  To entice this age group, Lipomi also creates book displays by theme, such as the popular vampire series. But thankfully, the classics still endure. Lipomi said that the multiple copies of Catcher in the Rye and Jane Austen are “(checked) out all the time.” 

The joy of reading can also blossom in adulthood.  Jodi Warner-Farnsworth, a retired French teacher who lives in Canandaigua enjoys the personal impact she makes on the adults she helps to read through Literacy Volunteers of Ontario County.

“The biggest gain I have seen in the people I tutor is the self-confidence that spills over into all aspects of their life. Sometimes, all they needed was just someone to believe in them,” said Jodi.

Jodi started tutoring because she was interested in giving back to the community. She also will be training volunteers this fall. Jodi teaches multi-sensory strategies that help adults with learning disabilities learn to read with visual, auditory, and kinesthetic teaching methods. If you are interested in becoming a literacy volunteer, contact the organization at 585-396-1686 or go to www.literacyvoc.org.

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