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I ask this question just about every day. Customers come in seeking books for five to seven-year olds and we often ask “are they reading?” to clarify what section of the store to find books. It is not meant as judgment. I am very quick to let folks know that I really didn’t get the hang of reading until well into my eighth year, so there’s no shame in a seven-year-old who isn’t reading yet.
But there always is. I’m not really sure when it happened that it was expected that every six-year-old should already know how to read. The rush to be on grade-level, even if that grade is kindergarten, is rampant. More often than not the answer to the “is she reading?” is met with a very quick, “She precocious. She’s just finished the Harry Potter series.” Really? At six? Hmmm. I bet every bookseller hears this at least a hundred times a year.
Once I was helping a woman get a book for her son’s friend’s birthday. He was five. I was told he was a very precocious child. I asked if he was reading yet and she said, “Well, not yet.” And I countered with, “Well, then, he’s not that precocious.” I waited for her to get angry with my quip. Instead, she laughed and regrouped on the book idea, settling instead for a lovely Bill Peet book. If you’re not familiar with Bill Peet, go get some of his books.
From Wump World, The Whingdingdilly, Big Bad Bruce to The Caboose Who Got Loose and so many more great titles, his books are playfully illustrated long stories. There is nothing more fun than introducing a family to Bill Peet. His picture books are text-heavy, which is a good thing to get for the older child who isn’t reading yet, but feels too old for picture books. Oh, how I hate that moment when kids eschew picture books because they keep hearing that picture books are for babies. Handing a family a 48-page picture book is a gift. Peet’s books are long and that only makes them skew older. Let’s face it, not many three-year-olds can sit still that long.
But the reading question is one all booksellers grapple with every day. We have to ask about a child’s reading level. We are not doing it to judge, we are doing it find the perfect book. Honestly, I think we should steer away from reading levels, but we can’t. If a first grader is reading at first grade level why do some think that’s bad? The kid is in first grade! Let them read at that level and enjoy all the books written for first graders. There is nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with that.
And I love it when people respond to the “Is he reading?” by answering, “No, he’s a regular five-year-old.” That response kind of puts in perspective, doesn’t it?
Times have changed so that it is now acceptable to run and scream in the library. Also to make and receive phone calls, shout across to others, and utilize the public computers to chat on Facebook for hours while people who need to do actual research wait in line. Either that, or I’m getting old and crotchety. Probably both.
As a lifelong library lover, I openly admit that while I do love being surrounded by (free!) books, I don’t enjoy visiting libraries as much as I used to.
For example, when my kids were babies (they are twelve and fifteen now), I used to take them to a story time program. All of the mommies and toddlers would respectfully walk to the children’s area, where we would use our quiet voices. Even after the story when we would sing the Itsy Bitsy Spider, it was done in hushed tones. After all, it was still a library.
Of course, there were plenty of times when my kids or others started crying or trying to run around. However, we mommies did our best to stop them and I can recall more than one occasion when I carried them out… with them kicking and screaming, and me apologizing.
Not so today. Nowadays (see, I told you I’m getting old) the story time songs are belted out at top volume, regardless of the fact that the other 80% of the library patrons are adults trying to concentrate. Afterward, the kids are literally running everywhere, while their parents either ignore them altogether, chatting as if in a coffee klatch, or roll their eyes and shrug as if there isn’t a thing they could do about it.
This phenomenon carries through to other times of the day too, and not only with little kids: Adults having phone conversations via Bluetooth headsets, complete with the significant verbal projection required to effectively use such a device; big kids loudly sassing their parents about the book report they don’t want to do. You get the picture.
Maybe I’m old-fashioned. Okay, clearly I’m old-fashioned. Yet I can’t seem to accept the fact that one of the last quiet places on Earth has now morphed into a place where the volume could nearly compete with an amusement park!
Have you noticed this at your library too? What’s your opinion?
It’s been a number of years now—what I refer to as that moment of enlightenment— that instant I recognized the way out of the house of pain my relationship had been with my mother. Mind you, it was after 40 years of trying this and that and everything else, as it took me a while to understand that nothing really changes until your intent is solid. It wasn’t on Mother’s Day either but one Thanksgiving morning, while I was making an apple pie (my mother’s Pennsylvania Dutch recipe), that the proverbial light dawned.
She had been dead for eight years by then, and in that interim I had moved back to the States to marry. I was standing at the kitchen counter slicing apples when all of a sudden it felt like someone was in the room with me. I never tried to cultivate those sorts of experiences so it got my attention. First, it was like a punch to the gut and all the remaining hurt and sadness in me where my mother was concerned came out in one last gasp and sob. I thought, oh no not again; I’m not falling in that pit again. But the next moment was the one, the one that ended it all. I heard and felt myself burst out laughing as, after years of lament about what it was like for me to have her as my mother, I suddenly realized what it was like for her to have me as her daughter. And there I stood laughing at the sweetest irony I’d ever known. I wasn’t bad or mean or even thoughtless, but my basic nature would have been her worst nightmare. Yet there I was—her daughter. I stood thinking about what it would have been like living with me, a thought I could never allow in all those painful years. I was too busy being right to notice how unsocial I was, how independent, and how little I wanted any help. My basic nature certainly pushed every button she had concerning her fears of being a good mother, given the hurts and pains of her childhood.
Next came a moment of great sadness, the Mary Oliver line of “if only we could have loved in time,” but the blessing of that moment was its wisdom, and it didn’t let me linger there but for a second. Instead, it pushed me on into the light that Truth always offers, the chance to see things anew beyond regret. In that moment, the sense of someone being present with me whooshed out of the room, and I was free. Free to love her as she was, and free to feel loved by her.
Years later, I heard the universe laughing at me this time, for never having had children, Read more »
I’m a slow reader. I don’t think it was always that way. When I was a child I would take 5 books a week out of the local library and they would all be finished by the weekend, after which I would walk the 2 miles into town and spend all my pocket money on three paperbacks.
Somehow, as I got older, my reading became slower. As a result, I was put off by the physical appearance of a doorstep of a thick paperback, the sheer weight of the object, and anything with “epic” in the blurb was an immediate turn-off. I had a psychological response which revolved around, “It’ll take ages to read,” or “I’ll never finish it.” I lost confidence, so I missed out on some wonderful stories.
Of course, when you download a book to your kindle, you can’t visualise the size and length, so you don’t have that tangible obstacle. In fact, I’ve surprised myself recently when I’ve seen the print equivalent of books I’ve completed and enjoyed. For example, I loved The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, which is over 500 pages; if I had seen the paperback in a bookshop I wouldn’t have bought it, not even tried.
To some readers, 500 pages is nothing, the words to be devoured in a single sitting. I tend to fit in reading with everything else, only occasionally allowing myself the luxury of spending an afternoon with a book. A heavy paperback won’t get taken out with me in the way that my kindle, which can be fitted in my handbag, does. I take it to work, and I can dip in during breaks for half an hour here, ten minutes there, and before I realise it, I’m 300 pages in.
So reading bigger books feels like an achievement, and my confidence in my own reading ability has been boosted. This has, in turn, changed my reading habits in positive ways, allowing me to escape my self-imposed limitations. Another way in which the kindle has opened my mind and challenged my assumptions.
As a reader, you probably imagine that writers begin each new book with a grand vision plus a twenty-item list for a killer marketing campaign.
As a writer, I’d have to say: Ha! I wish!
I write parodies. Sometimes they’re on mainstream topics like pets, weddings, or home improvement, and I know exactly where the book is going. But recently I stumbled upon a spoof topic purely by accident.
An email popped up for the Amazon account my husband and I share: “Thank you for your purchase of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ ”
Hmmm…I didn’t download that book. I phoned Hubby at his office. “Did you buy ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’?”
An instant of relief: Our Amazon account wasn’t hacked after all. Then a new worry: Is Hubby secretly hooked on overheated S&M? “Um, hon, do you know what it’s about?”
“No, but it’s been on the bestseller list for a year, so I figured I should check it out.”
A moment of silence. Then: “Ohh-kaaayy. Let me know how you like it.”
As it turned out, Hubby never got beyond chapter 2 of “Fifty Shades.” But guess who started reading it on her Kindle? Yup. And when I reached the part about a contract (“The Submissive will walk five paces behind the Dominant, bow when he faces her, and respond ‘Yes, Anjin-san’ to his commands”) it hit me: This book begs to be spoofed. Read more »
Our guest blogger is Douglas Robbins author of The Reluctant Human.
The individual’s dream is never a dream to live on Mars and eat a ham sandwich. But it could be. Dreams are simply potential that was planted in our souls long before birth. And it consists of possibility. Each one of us has a different set of unique characteristics to fulfill for our betterment and the betterment of humanity. It is the way the world moves forward.
It is our responsibility as human beings to water that seed and tend to it. For that is our best self, our most fulfilled self, and in turn, our most radiant world. If we do not tend to that inner calling the soil dries, the answers become distant, and we become regretful of what we could have been as the world suffers. Then we end up watching television nightly and eating too much as the fears grow and our blood and thoughts sour.
Yet the dream has never been to cow-tow or be afraid or miss the shot at the buzzer, but it is to stand honorably and upright with our hearts, minds, and souls, fulfilled.
The Boston Marathon course ran past the front steps of the apartment building where I grew up in Brighton. We lived a bit after the twentieth mile, just over the crest of Heartbreak Hill. Since Patriot’s day was a holiday and we had no school, we’d go out every year and watch, a rite of spring, along with opening day at Fenway Park.
Back then, there were a paltry two or three hundred runners, not the twenty-five thousand plus of today. There were no prizes beyond a laurel wreath and the beef stew waiting at the finish. But thousands of onlookers would line the streets and offer complete strangers water and encouragement.
Another connection was when my dad was a kid, his scoutmaster was a man named Clarence Demar. Now, I suspect few of you have heard of him, but he won the Boston Marathon seven times around the 1920’s. He wasn’t a pro. He didn’t win prize money or endorsements. He just loved to run. He worked as a printer in Boston and used to train by running to and from work.
Of course, today the marathon is a bigger deal. Prize money was first awarded in 1986 and top finishers now compete for more than $800,000. The marathon is televised broadly and sponsored by large corporations. But most of that hullabaloo involves only the first few hundred runners, superhuman specimens who run faster per mile than most can conceive of and keep it up across hill and dale for twenty six miles.
They weren’t the ones targeted. The bombs were set to go off around four o’clock. That’s when the nine-minute-a-mile guys come in. These are people that will never win anything, if you don’t count the respect of friends and family and the pride in their accomplishment. Many of them are running for charity or in memory of a loved one. Lots of them have used the marathon as a goal, the pinnacle of a journey back from some hardship—stroke, cancer, addiction or personal loss. For them, the marathon is more than a road race. It’s a celebration of the human spirit.
Into this celebration came some deranged mind. It doesn’t matter whether their cause was political or religious, or they were just delusional. What they sought was not only to kill and maim innocent people, but to steal dreams. Read more »
Our guest blogger is Douglas Robbins author of The Reluctant Human (4.5 stars, 31 reviews).
When the world eats at my sanity and pisses me off or I just need to stop seeing the same four walls of my home office, I walk into the garage to fire up the red 2006 Suzuki V-Strom 650. Often I need movement to flush the stagnant puddle of my mind.
When the sun is shining and it’s warm enough, I hop on the bike, pull in the clutch, lift the gear arm with my left foot and pop it into first. Like a baby needing to be soothed the movement helps me de-stress and gets me focused on the moment and simpler things.
With the engine revving under me and the handle bar grips held tight the intensity of the movement begins rocking me into a state of focus. With my mind alert and my life on the line, the bills, incompetent politics of the world, my own incompetence and bad decisions, fade away, while frustrations are kept at bay. The senses heighten with each gear and each bend as I leave the neighborhood seeking my favorite windy roads at the state park a few miles away. There are no intersections at the park, no stops signs, no lights. I carve up the mountainside leaning in and breathing deep.
I twist the throttle under my wrist increasing speeds then easing off the gas and popping the bike into another gear moving faster feeling the wind, tasting the air.
It is a meditation and therapy to be on a motorcycle. Ideas are figured out while pure focus and survival instincts lock in. Ideas that were stuck in the brain get clarified while ones that weighed upon my soul just minutes earlier get left on the roadway. Patterns and stuck feelings loosen. There is a feeling of comfort riding the earth’s welcoming bosom.
I must focus completely while riding a motorcycle for my life is on the line. Everything from gravel to sticks to squirrels to bad inattentive drivers is the enemy.
Unlike a car where small mistakes often have no results, or a possible fender bender, a mistake on a bike can be death if I am not riding with eyes wide and mind alert scanning the road surface and sides for danger. Read more »