Reigniting the passion

This is the final post in our series with Teri Lesesne. In January she shared with us her reading resolutions, in February she talked about how to foster a love of reading in kids, and this month she talked about how to get out of the reading doldrums. After reading this post and revisiting her previous ones, take a quick look at the special package of Teri’s books on the Stenhouse website.

Reigniting the Passion

I will make a confession:  there have been days and sometimes even weeks when I have just not felt much like reading ANYTHING.  Gasp!  Horrors, right?  The fact of the matter is that, now and then, we need a bit of a reignition, a kick start, a battery jump.  So, the next time you find yourself in that slump, try a few of these tactics (and they work well with our students, too).

First, it is perfectly fine to TAKE A BREAK FROM READING.  Daniel Pennac in his ground breaking book, Better Than Life (Stenhouse, 1999) includes some Rules for Reading.  One of the rules is the right not to read.  Now, don’t get me wrong: we can take a break, but we ultimately need to return to reading.  However, when things are hectic beyond all belief, take a break.  Get the other “stuff” done.  And then, if you need something to help you come back to reading, try this.

REREAD AN OLD FAVORITE.  That could be a book from your childhood, adolescence or adulthood.  Every time I read Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, I see something I have missed before.  It is one of those rare and wonderful children’s books that, like Charlotte’s Web, has deeper meaning as I grow older.

START WITH SOMETHING EASY THAT YOU CAN FINISH READING QUICKLY. I read a ton of picture books.  In part, that is because I teach children’s literature in addition to YA literature.  However, when I am in a slump, there is nothing like a 32 page picture book (or 5 or 10 or more) to make me feel accomplished and fast!  I will sometimes start my morning with a stack of picture books to go along with my first cup of coffee.  About the time I take the final sip from my mug, I have finished at least 5 books.  5 X 32 = 160 pages. Granted, illustrations take up some room on the page, but I make no apologies here.  It works like a charm for me.

TRY READING SOMETHING OUTSIDE OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE. I began reading graphic novels as a way to vary my routine of reading YA realistic fiction.  Now, graphic novels are part of my comfort zone (and, like picture books, I can read them rather quickly).  So, I press on.  I have grown to like fantasy and science fiction more because I decided to try to extend my reading interests.  If I never pushed myself at all, I would still be reading Gothic romances and little else.

ASK FOR A RECOMMENDATION FROM FRIENDS. I am a proud member of the Nerdy Book Club. Recommendations from the other members get added to my wish list at Amazon and my TBR pile which threatens to topple daily.  I trust these folks.  They know what I like, and they are always ready to suggest a book for me to read.  Of course, I have a couple of colleagues here in the department where I work who also make fine recommendations.

SEE WHAT IS LIGHTING UP THE SOCIAL MEDIA OR BESTSELLER LISTS. I troll Twitter and Facebook and other networks to see what others are reading and raving about.  There are blogs I follow religiously as well.  I might have missed books such as Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach were it not for the Cybills’ discussion.  The Cybills are awards given by children’s and YA bloggers.

JOIN A READING GROUP. My colleague Karin Perry (@kperry on Twitter) has formed a reading group of our current and former Library Science students.  In January we read Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  Next up was The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger (recently the winner of the Texas Bluebonnet Award with over 25,000 votes).  It is an online discussion because many of our graduate students live 400 miles from campus. We are so enjoying being able to talk about our reading with one another.

READ SOMETHING WITH YOUR CLASS ALOUD. Why not wake up all those dormant readers?  Find a quirky book like I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen or Dude: Fun with Dude and Betty by Lisa Pliscou and read it aloud.  It’s a Book by Lane Smith would work well.  So would Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd (get it?) or Dog Breath by Dav Pilkey.

So, here comes Spring.  Ready?  Set?  Read!

4 comments March 1st, 2012

Developing a love of reading in our students

We continue our series with Teri Lesesne this month with ideas about how to inspire students to become lovers of books and reading. Teri says that teachers, librarians, and parents, need to start by showing kids that they themselves love to read. We are still offering a special package price on Teri’s two books, Naked Reading and Making the Match. Come back again in March for more tips from Teri!

The pink hearts and red candy boxes are everywhere in stores.  Flowers, candy, stuffed animals: they all serve as concrete representations of love.  I wonder, what symbols would we use for our love of books?  How could we surround our students with reminders of the importance of books and reading in their lives?

The most powerful image we can provide our students is ourselves as a model of reading.  How often do students see you engaged in a text?  Do they see you reading books or listening to an audiobook or reading a book on your e-reader?  I would often be sitting at my desk with a book open as students came into class.  I would purposefully select books whose titles might engage even reluctant readers:  WHEN DAD KILLED MOM, THE EARTH MY BUTT AND OTHER BIG ROUND THINGS, WHY WE BROKE UP, UNDER A METH MOON.  If I were listening to an audiobook, I would ensure it was an intense passage such as when the main characters of Kenneth Oppel’s THIS DARK ENDEAVOR are defending themselves against the barbed teeth of the coelacanth fish or one of the battle scenes from THE ASK AND THE ANSWER by Patrick Ness or perhaps the chapter from Jack Gantos’  DEAD END IN NORVELT when young Jack believes his neighbor is boiling the skin from her hands (trust me, this scene is actually hysterically funny).  If I am reading electronically, I always make certain that a copy of the actual book is displayed so students can see what I am reading.  Two of my colleagues have clear folders on their door with book covers from the books they are reading with their eyes and reading with their ears. John Schu, an elementary librarian in Illinois, surrounds his library with covers of the books he reads (he read 2011 last year).

So, students need to see us reading.  Preferably, the books they “catch” us reading should be books appropriate for their pleasure reading as well.  Students are more likely to come to us for book suggestions if they know we are familiar with contemporary books.  Surrounding them, then, with children’s and YA books, fiction and nonfiction, is also critical.  Walk into Donalyn Miller’s classroom (she is THE BOOK WHISPERER) and you cannot help but know how important books are to Donalyn.  Tub after tub, shelf after shelf, her books number in the thousands.  Is it any surprise that her students read dozens of books for pleasure each school year?  Classroom libraries are another essential way to surround students with concrete reminders about books and reading  (this does not mean that your students never visit the school library, though). Classroom libraries also eliminate the excuse of “I left my book at home or in my locker” as there are always some books they can pick up in its stead.

Finally, we need to talk about our reading, share it with others.  Now that my classroom is often online, I use a blog to let students know what I am reading right now. Other educators do the same.  Explore the blogs of  Kate Messner, educator and author ( or  John Schu, librarian ( or the hundreds of others out there who blog about books and reading.   Get the word out: you are a reader.  You want to share books with others.  You love reading.

4 comments February 1st, 2012

New Year, New Goals

We begin 2012 in very good company: As the first blog post of the year, Teri Lesesne shares her new year’s resolutions for staying active as a reader and writer. To mark this occasion, we are offering a special package of Teri’s two books, Making the Match and Naked Reading at a special price. Check out the package here and then visit us again in February and March, when Teri will talk about her LOVE of reading and will lead us in a MARCH into books.

So tell us, what is your new year’s resolution when it comes to reading and writing?

New Year,  New Goals

I am a list maker.  There is something satisfying about making that list and then checking items off as they are completed.  Of course, no list is ever complete; it simply morphs into a new list.  As the new year opens, my first list centers on some New Year’s Resolutions.  My professional goals are simple and to the point.  I resolve to read more and to write more.  Now, for the tough part:  how to accomplish these goals?

Reading More

  1. Set aside the time: As I wait for the coffee to finish brewing in the morning, I sit down with a book. Generally, I can read a chapter before coffee is ready. Sometimes I manage a few more pages as I sip that first cup. In fifteen minutes a day, a person can read an average of more than a million words a year or about 20 books.  If you are a commuter, add audiobooks to your drive time.  Make sure your devices have books loaded for that time when you are kept waiting somewhere.
  2. Join a reading community: Paul W. Hankins, a high school English teacher in Indiana formed a Facebook group a couple of years ago.  Those of us who joined the community pledged to read 100 books that year.  We posted our progress monthly. This was sort of like a support group for us all.  It kept us on track. So, gather a few colleagues around you who will join in your resolution to read more.
  3. Make a realistic goal: My personal reading goal each year is to read one more book than I read the year before.  So, if you have been dormant for a while, start small.  If 100 books seems daunting, settle on a number that is realistic for you and your situation.
  4. Monitor your progress: Goodreads can help you monitor your progress once your goal is set.  Once you set up an account, you can enter your reading goal and Goodreads will monitor your progress for you.  Basically, I keep an open  file on my desktop each month where I enter the titles of the books I have read.
  5. Save for that rainy day:  I love a rainy weekend.  It provides just the excuse I need to sit and curl up with some books.  I have a separate TBR (to be read) stack for those days: books that I want to read in one huge gulp instead of tiny sips.  Sometimes I have a big stack of picture books for those rainy days.  At an average of 32 pages per book, I can knock out quite a few picture books on a dreary weekend.  And I have found there are many picture books that work across the grade levels.

Where does the writing come in?  I write daily on my blog. Most of the time I write about the books I am reading.  However, from time to time another topic presents itself.  My blog is informal and personal.  It is also, though, a place to explore ideas and issues that might later evolve into longer pieces of writing.  You might opt for a notebook.  Even annotating a text by jotting notes and comments in the margins (or using these features with an e-reader) is writing.  Readers and writers do not operate in a vacuum; they are part of a larger community.  I hope you will join me this new year as I resolve once more to be active in my development as a reader and a writer.

16 comments January 3rd, 2012

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