Best Beginnings

“There is no beginning too small.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Currently on my nightstand  ... some on loan from friends. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Currently on my nightstand … some on loan from friends.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My best beginning is steeped in words and was the best beginning twice: once as a little girl and once as a parent.

My reading journey began with trepidation … halting steps.

Picture an awkward first grader, uncomfortable in her skin early in life, already different because of the color of her skin and body type. I wanted nothing more than to fit in, to be “normal”.

The youngest child in my family who was replaced as such by a surprise baby sister, school was the environment where I could be myself and where I was most alive.

One challenge … academically I struggled. Often I was in the lowest levels of each subject: math, writing, reading. I didn’t care much about math but reading made an impression.

Life in the late 70s and early 80s wasn’t like today. Few people sent their kids to school knowing how to count to one hundred or read by sight. Back in those days reading went hand in hand with phonics.

It’s no wonder that I was “behind”.

There were lots of books in my home but they were mostly adult reads. Both my parents were insatiable readers but I don’t have memories of mom and dad reading to me, although they talk about doing so.

I was frustrated watching my friends and mortal enemies (as if that exists at 7) dive into more complex books than See Spot Run or Dick and Jane. They were growing their skills and vocabulary, sounding out words and counting syllables with fists striking tabletops. All my words were short single beats.

Devastated to find out I wasn’t equal, that I work to do, that I didn’t fit in, it was a heartbreaking time.

You’re wondering how this could possibly be the best beginning?

Well, it forced me to fight for written words. Envy drove me to become the best reader in my peer group instead of the worst. And in the process I fell in love with language, with literature.

Now I experience the world in words similar to conversation bubbles in comics and cartoons. (There’s a book, A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd, that I am dying to read because the description of how Felicity views the world feels like how I see it.)

Words and stories and books are how I fit in.

Their Spring Break reads which were done before Spring Break started. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Their Spring Break reads which were done before Spring Break started.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Round one of in my two part best beginning saga put me on the path of a life long love affair with great stories. Round two is less “hero’s journey” and more practical but no less tied for best.

Looking back at the initial trauma I lived through made me determined that my dudes would have a better tale to tell.

Their reading journey is my second trip to unlocking the wonder of words. It’s a personal mission. Even though it shares the title of best there is something sweeter about walking through it with my boys.

From board books to picture books and from comic books to chapter books and even eBooks to audio books, my boys have fallen in love with the power of stories. And it’s the only gift I felt qualified to give them.

What a rewarding opportunity to observe:

  • Stillness because they’re lost in another world.
  • Peels of laughter that is private joke between them and the pages.
  • Vocabulary beyond their ages and catches me off guard.
  • Expressions of sadness or anger that result in books being thrown down.
  • Conversations that start with “Mom you have to read this because…” Followed by a plot summary or character analysis (and they don’t know that’s what they’re doing).

At ages nine and seven, they own more books than I did when I was old enough to work full time and buy my own. Plus we take advantage of the local library and visit our local bookstores. Another joy is borrowing and loaning books to friends. This summer I hope to facilitate a “book club” experience for them and our small group buddies.

Readers surround them. They believe that readers are leaders.

How wonderful it is to have their reading origins shape their interests. My nine year old is planning a future as a comic book writer and illustrator. His seven-year-old little brother is a fledgling filmmaker.

I pray that this reading life is worthy of best beginning in their estimation. May storytelling stay in their blood. May they bring to words to life for others. May they continue the legacy of reading being the best beginning, twice.

What about you? What are your thoughts on beginnings? What is your BEST beginning?

 NOTE: This was a reflective journal exercise for me. Thanks to Lisa Sonora for sharing her 30-Day ROOT Journal Project with the world. And thank you to Stephanie at Visible and Real for writing the post that led me to Lisa.

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Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: A “Dear John” Letter to a Fictional Character

Dear Baby Girl,

What can I say? Arriving at this moment is surreal.

I thought we would be together for a long time; friends for life.

Our lives are inextricably linked with a common thread …

Eight year old you wanting to escape, finding solace in the pages of a book. Struggling to deal with the loss of your grandmother. Realizing the fate of two worlds rests on your young shoulders because only you can defeat the villainous Red Queen. Fighting the internal battle of the truth that surrounds you or accepting your mother’s beliefs.

And my forty something self, also longing to escape by penning your tale so others can escape into its pages. We’re a match made in heaven.

Yet here we are …

I have other characters whispering, okay shouting in my ear. Waking me from sound sleep and vibrating for my attention. Of course, I’ve denied them till now because I was committed to you. But I can’t deny my feelings for them any longer.

They speak to me in ways you haven’t in far too many months. Six to be exact. That’s not an accusation. It’s a fact. We don’t talk like we used to. Let’s face it, the spark is gone.

I crave the newness that comes at the beginning of a relationship. The “Honeymoon Phase” they call it. I miss that. I miss the excitement and exploration and surprise as we were getting to know each other. I need that.

Still I held on …

Why?

Because calling it quits would mean failure. Calling it quits would mean admitting that your story is bigger than my ability to tell it.

I know it’s selfish. I’ve stayed for the wrong reasons. I stayed because I was afraid of not finishing.

This may be cliché but:  It’s not you … It’s me.

After three years and four months of trying to make it work … three years and …

  • Countless reams of paper
  • Megabytes of memory
  • Tens of thousands of words
  • Three journals
  • Hundreds of phone calls and meetings
  • Lots of tears and heartache …

I have to say goodbye.

I have to put you on the shelf and walk away. We’re just holding each other back. I’m sorry. I know I’ll regret this one day.

There’s an old saying:

“If you love something very, very badly, let it go free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever. If it doesn’t, it never was yours to begin with.”

Baby Girl … I pray you and your story come back to me. Please know that I love you, I just can be with you right now.

Tell the others bye for me …

Gail

Lost in Bad Translation

Cover of "Ender's Game (Ender Quartet)"

Cover of Ender’s Game (Ender Quartet)

Orson Scott Card has been on my list of authors to read for a while. His novel, Ender’s Game, is often hailed as the example of science fiction/fantasy writing.

When previews for a movie based on the book started airing, I decided reading Ender’s Game a priority. At best, I hoped to learn a thing or two about effective story telling especially with such a young protagonist. At the very least I would be entertained.

I wasn’t disappointed on either count.

Ender’s Game has topped my list as best read for 2013. I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. I highly recommend it to you if you haven’t yet read it.

It’s the book that reawakened the love of reading fiction in my hubby who spends most his reading time in non-fiction. He’s moved on to the second book in The Ender Quintet. I’ve chosen to bask in the warm fuzzy glow that surrounds you at the end of a good book.

But of course, with the cinematic release I found myself excited. I couldn’t wait to see how filmmakers would translate the story to the big screen.

Unfortunately, here, I was disappointed.

Elements of the story, which I loved, were lost in translation. For example:

  • Ender starts his journey at the ripe old age of 6 but in the movie he’s older maybe 12. Either age is young for having the weight of the world rest on your shoulders but the added years takes away some of the sympathy I had for the character.
  • Ender’s being a third has significant religious implications and points to his parents not following the status quo. The movie version only mentions Ender being a third, which removes layers of complexity from the story.
  • Ender spends most of his life at battle school in isolation. It seems like years pass before he makes true friends. The burden, at 6, of being away from your family and deliberately starved for human connectivity is key in the story. In the movie, alliances are made quickly.

These are just the highlights. I don’t want to spoil either movie or book for anyone but between the two the book is better, as it usually is.

My ~isms for book to movie adaptations:

  • I have to read the book first. Then depending on how good the book is I may opt to keep with the story as it unfolded in my imagination. Like, The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I haven’t been able to watch the movie.
  • If I see the movie first I don’t read the book. For example, I won’t read John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief because I saw the movie and the characters and the story shape up the way the director shot it.

There are exceptions of course. I watched the movie, In Her Shoes, starring Toni Collette and loved it. Then I read the book. In this case I like the movie better.

Or, the fact that I loved the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and I loved the movie is surprising to me.

In the case of Ender’s Game, I should have forgone the motion picture and maintained my personal mental movie.

What about you? Any hang ups about literary adaptations?

Celebrating the Love of Reading …

I’ve been boasting to my dudes about how I used to stay up all night (2 or 3 in the morning and still getting up for school by 6AM) reading by flashlight under the covers.

Of course they thought that was cool and funny because I was breaking the rules.

My oldest expressed interest in doing the same thing. So I promised him a READ-A-THON. Maybe not the best name for our event. Still we pulled an all-nighter; complete with a carpet campout and picnic.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint Grasshopper Cookies, York Peppermint Patties, and Honey Mustard Pretzels

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint  - Oreo Fudge Cookies and Cheetos Cheese Puffs

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint – Oreo Fudge Cookies and Cheetos Cheese Puffs

I purchased both dudes favorite snacks and drinks, along with some of my favorites. I made sure we all had new books to start reading that night.

The premise of the event was to see who could stay up the latest reading. We spent a couple of weeks throwing down the gauntlet. Each of us claiming the win, which just meant we’d earn the right brag.

At one point the oldest dude said, “I’m going to win because you need your rest and I don’t. You’re old and I’m not.”

Thanks for that! I am definitely older. My days of hiding under the sheets reading till the wee hours of the morning have long since expired.

But the most important part of doing this event was celebrating the new found love of independent reading that my dudes have discovered. They’ve always loved Momma reading to them at bedtime, but now they each ask for 5 minutes or more to read quietly before lights out.

Yes, I’m grinning from ear to ear.

My husband and I wanted to make a big deal out of their summer reading accomplishments, by awarding certificates of achievement. Also, we took the time to write each of the dudes a personalized note expressing our pride and joy.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint  - Lots of book options

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint – Lots of book options

Our oldest dude read 10 books since school ended with the shortest being 192 pages. Many of the books he read within 48 hours of getting them. He also read lots of comics.

The sitter said he would lay on the floor while the smaller children crawled all over him. And still he read, unhindered by the fact that he was a human jungle gym.

Our youngest dude read 12 books within his reading ability. He’s great at sounding out words and remembers words that you’ve only helped him with once.

He also delved into the world of comic books, Sonic the Hedgehog being his favorite. At first I thought he was just looking at the pictures but when I asked him to tell me the story, he could.

I’m telling you these are the happy Momma moments. When something you’ve desired for your children manifests itself you can’t help but throw a party.

You may have noticed I get a little obsessive about my boys being readers. Leaders are readers, right? 

There are other things I need to be obsessive about for their sake. But this is the one that bubbles up most often, the one I feel most equipped to tackle, and it’s one they can carry with them everywhere they go.

More than once during our READ-A-THON event, I heard my 6 year old say, “You’re the best Momma ever,” primarily due to the junk food feast.

It was a special night. Great fun even though I conceded at 1:15AM to my 9 year old. He won the bragging rights but decided not to exercise them because he “didn’t feel right about it.” So sweet and naïve.

I don’t know that I would have been as generous to him. I would have bragged it up. I guess there’s always next year because guess what? They asked if we could make it an annual event. Yay!

Thankfully, there were a lot of people who knew about the event. I updated Facebook every 20 minutes or so, which means he’s received kudos from people in our circles of influence. I appreciate their acknowledgement because it reinforces his love of reading, his championship title, and his good sportsmanship.

To keep dudes going during the school year we have a new incentive which we kicked off the night of the READ-A-THON. I call it READ RACING.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint – What you measure is what gets done.

Nothing fancy … just reading goals outside their school work for the first semester.

  • 6 year old = 500 pages within his reading level
  • 9 year old = 1000 pages within his reading level
  • Me – 3000 pages

Part of the new challenge: I get to pick one of their reads and they each get to pick one for me. So we’ll be forced into trying something we wouldn’t necessarily choose on our own.

If they complete their race, I will give them each a $20 gift card for Amazon (which I believe they’ll use for buying toys because they know Momma will buy their books).

I am encouraged and hopeful and inspired. See what good stories can do for you. Good stories move us!

What has inspired you or made you grin from ear to ear this summer? What can we celebrate together?

excuses! Excuses! EXCUSES!

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint  New Journals

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint
New Journals

This post has been simmering in the creative juices of my stewpot brain for weeks.

I’ve been unwilling to let it come to a boil and bemoan (yet again) my lack of writing. I know this is the writer’s journey. The cycle of highs and lows. Triumphs and defeats.

But I wonder should I keep talking about the journey? Especially when said journey is at a standstill?

Apparently, the answer is yes because here I am, telling you (yet again) that I have writer’s block. Or better yet, as Jerry Cleaver, author of my go to resource, Immediate Fiction, puts it: “Page Fright”.

Last time I talked about writing, it was on the heels of a recommendation to take a sabbatical. To which I publicly said no, only to traverse that path anyway …

Confession: It’s been months since I’ve opened Scrivener. It’s been weeks since I made a note in my journal relative to the novel in progress. It’s been days since I’ve thought about my characters and what’s going on in their lives. Truly, I am embarrassed at my lack of concern for them.

So you’re probably wondering what has me blocked this time. What’s the trigger for my “page fright”?

  • Excuses
  • Self-loathing
  • Emotions
  • Self-doubt
  • Oh yeah and did I mention?
  • Excuses

Tell me my creative friends … have you ever said any of these things:

I’m too tired …

It’s an excuse. I have the energy to stay up all hours of the night and day watching TV or surfing the web (especially for books on Amazon) or playing games on my iPhone. So I’ll take the hit for this one. It’s really just laziness on my part.

I’m too busy …

And I am. I’m a wife and mom who works outside of the home. Needless to say in the last six months my day job workload has more than tripled; leaving no room for anything else. Except maybe: baby blankets? Remember all my friends who are expecting or adopting? Wait. That’s another excuse. If I’m being honest it just means I procrastinate and writing is first thing to go.

I don’t have time …

Okay, is this the same as being too busy? Maybe. What I know is in a high time in my writer cycle I would say something like: “It’s about making time,” which is a truthful declaration. And I would. I just don’t know what to do in the low times like right now.

Writers should read widely … inside and outside their genre

So, I’ve immersed myself in books. Isn’t that what the Goodreads 2013 Challenge is for? I need to read more before I can write well. Reading a well written novel should teach me tips and tricks. Unfortunately, all the great writing I’ve been reading is discouraging me … paralyzing me. Plus all the bad writing I’ve been reading is discouraging me. This losing myself in other people’s stories instead of my own is a distraction.

Who am I kidding … Nobody’s going to want to read this

The word drivel comes to mind which is why good writing and bad writing is discouraging. It all depends on the day I peruse my darlings. Sometimes I find gold and it makes me smile. Other times, I lay my head on my desk and weep because only rewriting can fix it. Ever been here?

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

“Put all excuses aside and remember this: YOU are capable.” ~Zig Ziglar

I’m not good enough because writing is hard …

Haha … this is Who-Am-I-Kidding’s kissing cousin. Writing is hard despite my love for words and the thrill of a story. Thanks to I-Don’t-Have-Time and I’m-Too-Tired, the last thing I want to do is invest my time in learning “the craft” of writing. I know … another play at laziness.

I need to build a platform …

Do I really? I mean, yes, I get it. I do. But having a platform and nothing meaningful or substantial as in finished to give those who would join “my tribe” is just social media fun not platform building. Distraction at its finest, right? Tweet. Friend. Post. Like. Sigh.

What is the cure for the excuse-itis I am experiencing? I’ve self-diagnosed the symptoms:

  • Distraction?
  • Procrastination?
  • Laziness?
  • Stress?

Truth be told, all my excuses boil down to good old fashioned FEAR.

  • Fear of finishing.
  • Fear of not finishing.
  • Fear that it’ll be bad.
  • Fear that it’ll be great.
  • The list is endless.

We are just a couple of months away from my self-imposed August deadline. WIP started in August 2011. I can look in my journal and tell you the day I penned the idea. I gave myself a year for completing. Ambitious for a first time novelist. Then I extended it to August 2012 and again to August 2013.

It’s fast approaching and I have little to show for it. I should cut myself some slack. August 2014 anyone?

Some of the podcasts I listen to have recently referenced authors who worked on a book for 10, 20, 30+ years before finishing.

Again I wonder … what’s the cure for excuses? Especially when the first words to form are my handy little phrases … there seems to be a shortage of the words I crave most. You know …

  • Clever words
  • Witty words
  • Rambling words
  • Story picture words
  • Pithy words
  • Words with friends (oh wait … no … strike this one)

I should be making word soup in my stewpot brain … not excuses …

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint  New Ink

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint
New Ink

And yet during this unexpected hiatus I’ve found it easier to tell people who ask what I do: 

“I am a writer.”

And to respond to the question: “What do you write?” with “I write YA fiction.”

Now like the sign off from the podcast Writing Excuses: “This has been Writing Excuses. You’re out of excuses. Now go write.”

Today, I’ll take that advice. I’m off to write in my stacks of beautifully blank journals; fighting “page fright” with ink. But before I go, tell me:

What self-talk keeps you from your creative pursuits? What’s on your list that isn’t on mine? And most important, how do you combat the excuse mill?

Summer Reading 2013

The first Captain Underpants book.

The first Captain Underpants book. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The best gift my dudes gave me for Mother’s Day was cuddling up on the sofa at Grandma’s, cracking open the newest Big Nate book: Big Nate Flips Out.

It does my heart good that my dudes have reached the point where they’ll choose Momma reading to them at bedtime over anything else (including screen time).

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about what our reading plan will look like this summer. Last year we transitioned from reading picture books to chapter books; which was met with opposition. This year will be easier. I hope.

We’ve overcome the qualms of our oldest not wanting to read independently. As a matter of fact on our road trip to Grandma’s for Mother’s Day weekend, he spent two of the three hours’ drive reading. Woot!

And we’ve moved our youngest past sight words to reading with confidence. He’s good at sounding out words he doesn’t know. His teacher tells us: “Wow is he a reader.” Yay!

With less than four weeks left of school it’s that time again … and my list is already started thanks to soliciting titles from friends and family via Facebook.

The stories or series they fell in love with since summer 2012:

  • Captain Underpants – We’ve read all 10 and now have to wait for the next one to be published.
  • Sweetfarts – Anything with bodily functions appeal to 8 & 6 year old dudes. We’ll tackle books 2 & 3 in this series.
  • Big Nate – As I said we’ve just started the most current novel.
  • Roscoe Riley Rules – The first 5 books were a Christmas gift. There are more for us to finish.
  • George Brown Class Clown – Received 2 for Christmas. Again there are more to read which makes us happy.
  • Origami Yoda – We’ve only read book 1 (they were reluctant at first, now they’re hooked)

 

The books that fell short since last summer:

  • Geronimo Stilton – Surprisingly, they didn’t like the bright colors and font treatments as much as I did.
  • Magic Tree House – Our oldest loved them when his teacher read them to him in school but lost the love when I read them at home.

So here’s what’s on the horizon for summer 2013 (in addition to the different series we need to finish):

  • Jigsaw Jones Series
  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • Paddington Bear
  • My Father’s Dragon
  • The Cricket in Times Square
  • Because of Winn Dixie

For my youngest we will invest in the Pigeon books by Mo Willems. He loves the snarky and indignant pigeon. Plus he can read them on his own.

And, there are always more to come, like the books we stumble upon during bookstore visits.

For me … I have more 20 unread books on my Kindle to work through and the list is ever growing. I can’t help myself. I download at least one book a day.

Then, in a sneak attack mom move, I’ve told my oldest I will be reading the Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch; which I will because they sound like a load of fun; but I will buy physical copies just in case someone wants to dive in too.

He said, “You should read it to us because we like mysteries.” Right! The idea of it being something for me and not for him has piqued his interest. Oh the reverse psychology!

I didn’t offer it to him because his primary response to my book recommendations is rejection. We’ll see if he makes it to reading these.

LOTS of options. A good book is only a click away for us. And amazon.com has a summer reading adventure map. Plus you don’t know where to begin they have recommendations by age group (including adult) for summer reading.

Happy Reading! What’s on your book list? What will you read this summer? What will your little people read?

Previous the Jotter’s Joint reading posts:

https://thejottersjoint.com/2012/05/10/summer-reading/

https://thejottersjoint.com/2013/03/25/reading-for-screen-time/

https://thejottersjoint.com/2012/07/23/unplugged-turned-off-and-tuned-out/

https://thejottersjoint.com/2012/06/05/joint-venture-summer-reading-tips-from-raymond-bean-award-winning-author/

https://thejottersjoint.com/2013/04/04/how-to-commit-identity-theft-without-breaking-the-law/

Photo image from Zemanta via WordPress.com

How to Commit Identity Theft without Breaking the Law

Alachia GoodReads

Alachia GoodReads (Photo credit: alachia)I don’t usually do “how to” blog posts … but thought this was a worthy topic.

 

I don’t usually do “how to” blog posts … but thought this was a worthy topic.

It’s simple really. I do it all the time … this identity theft thing … but never thought much about it.

Have you ever considered it? That’s a rhetorical question, so please don’t answer out loud.

I will attempt to share my steps with you as an experiment to determine if it’s really as simple as I think it is.

Step 1 – Go to the bookstore or library
Step 2 – Select a book
Step 3 – Purchase or check out selected book
Step 4 – Go home
Step 5 – Get comfortable
Step 6 – Start reading
Step 7 – Lose yourself in the story

When you lose yourself in a story you are “experience taking”. You put on the life of the protagonist or main character. You get to feel what they feel; see what they see; and live through what they live through. For a brief moment in time you are that person.

As a reader, I love that moment when I’m whisked away to another time and place. I get to be someone else without the risk of committing a crime.

As a writer, it’s my dream that someone would connect so deeply with my characters. It’s my desire to create worlds that people will want to inhabit; stories where people never want them to end. That’s my writer’s utopia.

Sorry if you feel misled by the title but this really is the only way I know to steal someone’s identity. Writers actually would encourage you to do so … so I guess it’s not theft at all.

I was listening to a podcast called The Psych Files when this came to me. The title of the episode (#190) was Why Do You Get So Absorbed in that Book (or Movie)?

The host, Michael Britt, talked about a study that was done to determine what causes us to be engrossed in stories we read and watch. The first half of the podcast was most interesting to me but the second half he unpacks the study (a little too technical for me).

He explained the idea of “experience taking” and how being caught up in someone else’s story allows us to test our social identities or try things we wouldn’t otherwise try.

It was very reassuring. It validated one of the reasons #whyiwrite (check out other writers’ reasons for writing on twitter). Also, it reinforced one of the reasons I read: escapism. I love putting on someone else’s life.

Along with this podcast prompting, blogger buddy, Jordana East posted some thoughts on book selection … Which lead me to think about how I choose titles and make decisions about what to read, whether or not I should ditch books mid-read. Be sure to check out her “won’t read” list. 

How do I select an identity to assume (a book to read)?

  • I tend to gravitate towards books written by women. I don’t know why. In recent years I’ve been broadening my scope to include male authors. I guess I used to think that I couldn’t relate to things a man would write. Thankfully I’ve matured.
  • Likewise I tend to choose books with female protagonists. Probably for the same reason as above.
  • My #bookconfession (again check out this hashtag on twitter) is that I worry about cost per page. It started out when I was poorer in life, when I worked full time in my early 20s but survived by eating a lot of Raman noodles while barely making rent. It seemed to matter more how I spent my entertainment dollars. But I am still grappling this thought process and as a writer I am mortified that this exists within me. My budget is bigger now and I love hardcover books so I want to pay what a writer is worth. Surprisingly when it comes to buying books for the dudes this never enters my mind. Anyway … I am working on it.
  • I typically enjoy books with a “meet cute” element. One of my favorite “experience taking” moments. So you are likely to see romance or chick lit titles on my Goodreads page.
  • I like books that appeal to young readers. So I ask the young people in my life what they are reading and get to see them be excited about immersing themselves in a good book. Which is also why I probably like and write YA fiction.

I am sure there are other ~isms that lead to the identities will take on.

Anyway, a long post to ultimately say:

Goodreads Avatar

Goodreads Avatar (Photo credit: minifig)

GETTING CAUGHT UP IN A GOOD STORY IS LIKE COMMITTING IDENTITY THEFT.

This has been a public service announcement for literacy … read more … it could keep you out of jail … unless you choose a book on the topic.

What stories are on your list? What identities will you try on this week? Who are your favorite authors when it comes to creating great lives to steal? 

Images from Zemanta care of WordPress.

Reading for Screen Time

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

We’ve entered a new phase of parenting. My husband and I have decided that screen time isn’t free. We are instituting a minute for minute trade off. For every minute our dudes read, write or craft, they get a minute of screen time.

Some of you are thinking, “Duh, of course”. Others are thinking, “Novel idea,” kind of like we were when some friends mentioned it.

It wasn’t a difficult decision to make. But, it’s hard to practice. As I write this post it hasn’t even been 24 hours since we communicated and introduced the change to our dudes. I already want to give in.

My dudes are mourning the loss of what has been freely given. It’s always been available to them. No questions asked. They’ve never had to earn it. This is a shift they weren’t expecting.

How did we end up here?

You may recall a post I did this summer: Unplugged, Turned Off and Tuned Out. And unplug we did. Less gadget time helped. I am sad to report that it’s creeped back up to unnecessary levels because we keep getting busier and busier. My hubby and I accept responsibility for this. It’s our fault not our dudes.

We’ve noticed increased tiredness; aggressive behavior and language; and their brotherly friendship is deteriorating. Sometimes their interactions end in a physically volatile manner.

They’ve forgotten about respect and acceptance and love. Oh yeah and did I mention respect. Not just for one another but for themselves. This can not continue to happen.

What’s their response?

8 Year Old Reads© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

8 Year Old Reads
© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

My oldest dude is mopey and mad. My youngest isn’t happy but spent 10 minutes this morning reading when they would usually watch TV. He’s on the path; already earned his first screen time. It may be harder at the end of the day for him. We’ll see.

Needless to say they are very angry. I’ve already heard the “B” word out of their little mouths. No. Not that one. This one: “I’m bored and I don’t have anything to read.”

Tragic right?

In my day, TV shows and movies weren’t so accessible. I mean you had to wait a whole week for the next episode. Now you can wait a day and see it on Hulu. And if you missed episodes you had to watch the reruns in the summer. Now you can wait for the next season to start and see the previous one on Netflix.

Oh and don’t forget the beauty of DVR. My kids have the luxury of instant gratification. It’s way too easy for them to watch what they want when they want; which can be a challenge for parents.

We were sent outside to play and couldn’t come back till the streetlights came on. We didn’t have all this fancy gadgetry. We didn’t have VHS till I was in high school. We didn’t have a computer in my childhood home. DVDs didn’t exist nor did the Internet or Apps. We had what we had and we were happy.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

We didn’t get to buy books, we went to the library. My boys have their own personal libraries and are running out of room on their bookshelves. We had chores that we didn’t get paid for, it was how we contributed to the household. Our little guys get an allowance for their contributions i.e. cleaning up and folding laundry.

I digress. Our boys have so many advantages.

The oldest is struggling the most. He said, as I dropped him off at school, “I hate reading and writing now.”

I truly hope this isn’t the case. It isn’t the desired effect.

Our goal isn’t to make them perceive reading as a punishment. Rather we want screen time to be perceived as a privilege and not a right. That it is a level of reward or an added benefit. For me reading is its own reward and I want my boys to think the same way.

Maybe there’s another approach and we haven’t come across it yet.

Of course, as parents, we receive the right to gift screen time to our boys on occasion but it’s not the rule of thumb. I know that there will be modifications along the way. In the end I anticipate that their moods will improve.

6 Year Old Reads© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

6 Year Old Reads
© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

For those of you thinking that it may not be the type of content they experience or the amount of it … we did a week long trial limiting their screen time and the content. We saw positive change.

So here we go. It’s time for drastic measures. Wish us luck … send up a prayer … We purchased new reads!

Parents, what have you done to balance out screen time in the lives of your little people?

Audio Books

Audiobooks Rock

Audiobooks Rock (Photo credit: Lester Public Library)

I am slow to embrace new technology (and in this case old technology). Don’t get me wrong. I’ll do it but usually with a shove.

Like when iPods were the cool new product? I waited until the second or third generation before getting one.

Or, when eReaders started gobbling up market share? I waited till Kindle was in its third generation before getting one.

And, when smart-phones became ALL the rage? I waited for the iPhone to be in its fourth generation before getting one.

With tablets? I’m still vacillating even though we have two in our household.

Okay … if I’m telling the truth … my husband pushed me into the realm of these great devices. As a matter of fact, each time he suggested one I balked. So he purchased each one as gifts which I placed on shelves and told him he shouldn’t have spent the money.

HAHAHA. I know … Ingrate!

Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle Paperwhite (Photo credit: Zero2Cool_DE)

Now, I don’t know what I would do without these wonderful toys. I’m addicted to my iPhone and would be lost without my Kindle Paperwhite (my second Kindle); especially when I travel. (Don’t tell my husband how much I love these. He’ll never let me live it down.)

How long have audio books been around? You know? Books on tape or CD.

Now you can download them to just about any electronic device and have the luxury of someone else reading to you.

Honestly, it’s an idea that never appealed to me before.

Even when I lived in Southern California and had long commutes in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I didn’t have the urge to buy a book in this format.

I used to value the quiet on my drive to work. It’s the only place I can control the volume around me. No noise was perfect. Until I realized there’s a lot of stuff I need to read or know about writing.

My current commute is less than 20 minutes which is the perfect amount of time to listen to a podcast (sometimes it takes the round trip).

So I find myself entering this new world of listening to messages instead of reading them for myself; which brings me to my first foray into an audio book.

audible.com

audible.com (Photo credit: insidetwit)

Many of the podcasts I listen to are sponsored by audible.com. I mentioned to my husband that I might want to try it out … and not surprising, he already had an account.

I downloaded my first book: The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom. I’m almost finished listening to the story which is a wonderfully well done back-story that plays on the myth of Father Time.

I’m still adjusting to the voice talent who has a British accent, I enjoy, until he mimics a teenage girl speaking with an American accent.

Also, I’m still not convinced that this is should be considered “reading”. It feels more like cheating. Still, I got a good story out of it. I was entertained for 4+ hours.

What do you think about audio books: Yay or Nay? If yay, please let me know of any titles that are worth the listen.

In case you’re wondering … here’s my current podcast list. Feel free to tell me your favorites so I can check them out.

  • Grammar Girl
  • I Should Be Writing
  • Literary Disco
  • Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day
  • The Moth
  • Writing Excuses
  • Your Move 

Photos from Zemanta

Reading to My Children, Books They Love to Pieces …

My husband and I have been reading to our children since the womb. We would crawl into bed and choose from a stack of rhyming books to read my rounded tummy.

When my husband read he could usually illicit movement as a response, a kick or punch. Sometimes there would be a somersault or full body stretch.  One of the things I loved most about pregnancy.

Our oldest son, at birth would try to turn toward my husband’s voice because he knew it so well. It was amazing to see a swaddled baby turn his head in the direction of his Daddy’s voice.

We received a copy of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom as a baby shower gift. A sing song story about the alphabet which I still have memorized to this day. Its bright colored pages took us from womb to tummy time. We would prop it up in front of him while he lay on his tummy. I would read it to him while he played in his bouncy seat.

As a toddler the book went with him everywhere as a constant companion; it was always under his arm. He carried it to and from the sitters. We eventually had to buy a copy to keep at her place. He carried it to Grandma’s house. He held on his lap during car rides. We had to read it every night at bedtime. This is how he learned his alphabet.

Here’s his third (well worn-well read) copy:

We had to buy our youngest son his own copy to destroy. And since we’d changed sitters we had to buy a new copy for her daycare library. So we’ve paid retail for this book at least 6 times, I’ve lost count. Crazy? No.

Reading to our boys is a joy, not just for them but for us as well. They still find comfort in hearing the sound of our voices as we experience new or favorite stories together. It’s humbling really.

It’s not just reading the words but finding ways to make the words come alive for them. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is more fun if it’s read (or recited in my case) with drama. Reading out loud is like performance art (think Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam). Reading is NOT boring and I want my boys to understand that. When my oldest says, “I can see it playing like a movie in my head,” I know we’ve done our best by the author’s words.

Transitioning from rhyming books to picture books and now chapter books has been a wonderful journey. Watching my oldest read to my youngest fills me with a sense of pride and peace.

Here’s what on their bookshelf right now …

I love it when they laugh at the funny parts. I am thankful when they are empathetic to characters’ embarrassments, disappointments, and triumphs. Their comprehension is evident when I hear them tell the storyline to others.

We are reading, The Genius Files:  Mission Unstoppable, which I feel is too mature for them. But it just means we can have conversation to unlock the mystery of what they don’t know.

No matter what … my boys understand that words have power. And they love a good story. They know good stories are meant to be shared through voices of love.

What about you? … What are the books from your childhood that fell apart because you read them so much? Is there a book that you always have a copy of on your bookshelf?