Tag Archive | J.K. Rowling

A Twist on Summer Reading

By Karen Hendricks

How hard (or easy) is it to encourage summer reading time for your kids? Even if your kids are voracious readers like mine, it’s good to change up the reading routine with a fresh approach. And if it’s a struggle to keep your kids reading through the summer, this idea might also help hook them on books. The idea? Audio books!

Listen Up

There’s no question that reading is one of the most valuable skills our children can acquire during their school years. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that audio books are the best format for kids to latch onto during the summer. Here are a few reasons why:

  • The change in format makes reading more fun, less like “homework.”
  • The narrations are entertaining, and the art of listening / focusing is so important. Kids who can truly listen and comprehend a book will be able to better listen to adults, instructions, speeches, etc.
  • Listening to a book allows the narration, sound effects, music, etc. to paint a picture of the book’s events in your child’s mind. I think it’s a great way to spark the imagination! This would be as opposed to “seeing” the book come to life in movie format. Movies are never as good as the books. But I would argue that audio books are usually as good as the book—sometimes even better because it gives your child’s imagination a jump start.

Road Scholars

One of the best times to listen to an audio book is in the car while traveling. My family has listened to numerous audio books while traveling on vacation, or during regular road trips to summer camps, sports practices/games, etc. It’s made the miles fly by and I really enjoy the fact that we’re sharing the experience of listening to the same book. We often talk about our reactions to the plot—great discussions! This brings up another topic: Do you have family rules for traveling? Are the kids allowed to listen to iPods, MP3 players, etc? Or is there one “family” radio station / CD / etc. playing for everyone to listen to? Or do you watch DVDs while traveling? This might be a great topic for a future blog! Reminds me of Jen’s previous blog on screen rules.

Recommended Reading

Back to books… Sometimes the narrator or characters’ voices can “make or break” an audio book. If you don’t enjoy listening to a particular voice, give another audio book a try. Most of the ones we’ve tried have been very good. Here’s a list of suggested titles or series to try—all enjoyed by my family through the years:

Great_Bedtime_Stories_with_Magic_Tree_House_Books

  • The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osbourne (Ages 8+) – A wonderful collection of books that combine a love of nature and history with learning, in an entertaining way. Fairly short audio books are perfect for shorter car rides or shorter attention spans.
  • The American Girl series by various authors (Ages 8+) – This series instills an appreciation for history in young girls and is beautifully done. My husband and son deserve special pats on the back for listening to many of these books during vacation treks!

Charlotte's Web

  • Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White (Ages 8+) – A classic that “children” of all ages enjoy. Even if you have a range of ages in your family, hopefully the older children will enjoy revisiting this childhood favorite.
  • The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling (Ages 9+) – These audio books will transport you straight to Hogwarts! Even if your children have read the books, it’s fun to experience the audio versions, and again, I think there’s appeal to children of all ages. I have to say, I truly enjoyed listening to the series!
  • ShilohThe Shiloh trilogy: Shiloh, Shiloh Season and Saving Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Ages 8+) – From Amazon: When Marty Preston comes across a young beagle in the hills behind his home, it’s love at first sight — and also big trouble. It turns out the dog, which Marty names Shiloh, belongs to Judd Travers, who drinks too much and has a gun — and abuses his dogs. So when Shiloh runs away from Judd to Marty, Marty just has to hide him and protect him from Judd. But Marty’s secret becomes too big for him to keep to himself, and it exposes his entire family to Judd’s anger. How far will Marty have to go to make Shiloh his? Great family discussions can come from this series.
  • Holes
  • Holes by Louis Sachar (Ages 8+) – From Amazon: This winner of the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award features Stanley Yelnats, a kid who is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the warden makes the boys “build character” by spending all day, every day, digging holes five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake: the warden is looking for something. Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption.
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry (Ages 8+) – Amazon.com’s review: In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community’s Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world and struggles against the weight of its hypocrisy. With echoes of Brave New World, in this 1994 Newbery Medal winner, (Lois) Lowry examines the idea that people might freely choose to give up their humanity in order to create a more stable society. Gradually Jonas learns just how costly this ordered and pain-free society can be, and boldly decides he cannot pay the price. This book, I have to admit, freaked me out a bit, but ultimately, led to some great family chats.

If you enjoy audio books, let us know which ones you and/or your children recommend! Happy reading (or listening)!

 

 

 

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“Write Away: How to Journal”

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”  T.S. Eliot, Poet

Have you ever been really upset and wanted to “get something off your chest”–without actually telling somebody? Or been confused about which decision to make or direction to turn in your life? Perhaps you have simply wanted to record a special time, or capture a moment you witnessed, preserving it in your mind forever.

All of these reasons and more are why some people choose to keep a journal. Others may feel they don’t have the time or inclination, or believe they aren’t a “good writer.” However, it really only takes just a few moments to journal and the best part is there is no experience required!

If you have ever considered putting your thoughts to paper, there are many ways to journal. There are also several components to this process – which is not really a process at all; it is indeed an easy-going and relaxed activity.

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About 15 years ago while living in Tallahassee, Florida, I saw a ‘Life Stories’ workshop for women offered. Since I am a writer I was curious, and the description sounded intriguing, so I signed up. To my surprise, I found that women who were not writers or didn’t necessarily find writing interesting had also come!

The workshop was offered by Katya Taylor who had a Master of Education and simply liked to journal and write. She also knew how to inspire and teach others to do it. Her workshop was amazing, as well as remarkably inspirational and healing. She encouraged us to share her methods and spread the word, so to speak, and about 3 years ago I developed a course curriculum for a writing workshop using Katya’s teachings as a beginning point.

The most important thing I learned from these workshops is that everyone’s story is important and worth sharing. At the beginning of the workshop Katya said, “Every time a person dies, a library burns.” I couldn’t agree more, so here are some basic journaling concepts to keep in mind when you think about putting your pen to paper – and preserving your library and life!

Write Away!

We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already.”  J.K. Rowling, Author

1)In the beginning…

I know this famous author scrawled the beginnings of her Harry Potter series books on napkins. And, I encourage always being ready to jot down a spur-of-the-moment idea. However, you may wish to keep these more “stable” items handy:

+Notebook (for jotting down anything you’d like to remember)

+Writing Journal (make it special – one you will want to open again)

+Pencils and Pens (for writing – and illustrating!)

*Now that I have shared this suggestion, it is your turn to get jumpstarted on your way to journaling. So take a moment to gather at least one writing implement and find one small notebook, notepad, or journal you can stash in your purse or bag.

It takes courage to grow up and become who you truly are.” E.E. Cummings, Poet and Painter

Journals come in a wide variety of forms.

Journals come in a wide variety of forms.

2) Writing tools, spaces, and time

The place where you write generally does not matter but should be somewhere you are comfortable, and where you can focus and write undisturbed. The time of day you choose to write may vary. Sometimes, you will get a brainstorm unexpectedly and want to write wherever you are – hence, the use of a napkin!

Journals come in many forms, as well as shapes and sizes.

*Your Turn: Look around your house to identify the place where you can write without interruption. Also, as much as possible (I’m thinking especially about anyone else who has a 3 year old at home!) determine a general time when you can write. Is that in the evening, when everyone else has gone to sleep as it is for me? Or are you an early riser who sneaks out of bed before everyone else begins stirring? Can you snatch a few moments in the middle of your day? Finally, choose where you will record your writing – now you have a good excuse to visit that cute little book and gift shop in town!

Everyday courage has few witnesses. But yours is no less noble because no drum beats before you and no crowds shout your name.”  Robert Louis Stevenson, Novelist/Poet/Essayist

3) Jump-Starting Your Writing

Most writing comes from memories and experiences. We can “jump-start” our writing by re-connecting with those times through pictures, objects, imagery, our 5 senses, and phrases (what Katya called “Seeds”). Many times Seeds generate writing from a part of our life – our writing is just a ‘tidbit’ from a bigger picture that can eventually become a Narrative.

There are many ways to begin a journal entry. Keeping lists is a good start.

*One running list I keep is of phrases and famous quotations I come across and like. I use them to inspire my writing and thoughts. My latest favorite quote is: “The best way out is always through.”  Robert Frost

*Your Turn: Start a timer for one minute. On any sheet of paper, list as many ideas you can come up with to finish the list phrase I love to

Next, choose one item from your list to expand and write upon for 5 minutes.

If you have something on your mind (and even if you don’t), try writing from a ‘seed phrase.’ It is a little like a sentence starter from which many of us wrote essays in school. These are really just “writing prompts” and brainstorming! A few examples:

  • Once I found…
  • I remember a room…
  • Looking back I…
  • On a sunny day I like to…
  • A favorite garment…

*Your Turn: Pick one Seed from the list above and write for 5 minutes uninterrupted. See what you come up with!

You are now on your way to journaling! In part 2 of this series, I will provide you with several easy ways to get inspired to expand your writing further.

In the meantime, please share your experiences with any of the above activities and I will be happy to incorporate them into the next blog ~ Happy writing!