Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Service of Book Clubs: Tips From a Pro

Monday, April 5th, 2021

Deb Wright

I asked Deb Wright to share what’s happening with book clubs in her Chicago suburb. You’ll soon see why she is qualified to cover the subject.

Deb leads two and is active in an additional two. She heads Shakespeare Readers Theater and co-directs a Great Books group while participating in Louse Penny and woman’s book clubs. Deb’s secret to keeping up with all those books: She speed reads while retaining what she reads.

She says eight is the ideal number of participants so there’s time for each to chime in. With Deb–and another retired teacher who is in three of the groups–a wandering or diverted discussion doesn’t have a chance. They are there to discuss books. Men and women participate equally in Shakespeare Readers Theater and Great Books.

As with most things, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on club activities. “In some odd way I feel on vacation! I don’t have quite so many to-do lists,” Deb said. Nevertheless, “everyone I’ve spoken to has been reading political, fiction and non-fiction on subjects they’ve wanted to explore.”

Photo: Shakespeare.org.uk

All four of her groups passed on Zoom meet ups although she says that the public library in her town continues its discussions via this cloud-based video communications app.

The women’s book club, made up largely of League of Women Voters members, normally meets in a bookstore. Members have stayed in touch through email. “This group always chooses a non-fiction book or sometimes a biography. We don’t meet in July and August.” There’s a list of some of the books the club read last year after the last photo of this post.

The Great Books group–that should meet monthly in the town’s Chamber of Commerce–is on hold. This 37 year old club, that Deb founded with her co-leader, hopes to resume in fall with a new anthology. There is one Poetry Night a year.

Because most of the members of the Shakespeare Reader’s Theater are seniors hesitant to meet in person during the pandemic, it, too, is on hold. Deb is one of three planners, one of whom is a retired teacher and a Shakespeare scholar, theater director and actor. Deb said: “We choose part of a play and volunteers read the selections. I do the explaining, kind of ‘in the meantime, Richard murdered…’ So I give the what’s happening between the scenes.” There’s also a great actor with a wonderful voice in the group who, with his wife, started a summer theater in town.

The Louise Penny group will meet again in August when Penny’s next book is released moving on then–back to once a month–to another well-written mystery series by Charles Todd whose main character is Ian Rutledge. They gather in the banquet-size heated garage of a member. It boasts superlative ventilation and quantities of space for participants to distance six+ feet apart. Penny is the author of mystery novels set in Quebec. The Canadian author’s main character is Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec.

Deb taught language arts [English] to all grades in a Chicago school but mostly 8th–adding American History from 1865 to the present the last five years. She’s also an artist and avid gardener. In addition to her garden and grounds, she cares for almost 100 indoor plants, four cats, an old house and her young grandchildren for weekly play dates. This summer she volunteered to tutor three first graders who didn’t cotton to remote and hybrid learning.

Have you belonged to a book club? Do you have questions for Deb?

Photo: amazon.com

Following are some of the books the woman’s book club read last year:

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens; Beloved** by Toni Morison; The Land of Sea Women by Lisa See; Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan; Before We were Yours by Lisa Wingate; Born A Crime by Trevor Noah; The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict and The Girl With Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee. Deb added: “There were a couple of others but they were not worth reading.”

Deb said “**Beloved was almost too difficult to read; I would not read it at this point in time. We also read Educated by Tara Westover at the end of the previous year. Worth reading but intense–one of those triumphs of the human spirit.”

 

Service of Screen Time for Toddlers & Children: None to Little is Best

Monday, April 29th, 2019

Photo: verywellphone.com

I was on a Manhattan bus stuck in traffic last Saturday. Just outside my window was a fascinating feat of construction dexterity. Sitting across from me was a little boy glued to his phone as his parents were to theirs. He missed the giant beams balanced in the teeth of a construction truck inching to their temporary resting place inches away.

Photo: pcworld.com

Countless toddlers similarly stare at phone and tablet screens while the person pushing their strollers chats on the phone. Both miss opportunities to communicate as well as fun things to see from dogs and store windows to characters on the city streets they pass in a place like Manhattan.

Photo: psychologytoday.com

Turns out the children are doing more harm to themselves than substituting one dimensional scenes for the world around them. According to mayoclinic.org, “The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use, except for video-chatting, by children younger than 18 to 24 months. If you want to introduce digital media to children ages 18 to 24 months, make sure it’s high quality and avoid solo media use. For children ages 2 to 5, limit screen time to one hour a day of high-quality programming.”

The Mayo reported that “too much poor quality screen time has been linked to: obesity, violence, loss of social skills, irregular sleep schedules and shorter duration of sleep and behavioral problems.”

Photo: livescience.com

New World Health Organization guidelines used even stronger language. The title of Jen Juneau’s article in People is “World Health Organization Now Recommends No Screen Time for Children Age 1 and Younger.” Instead, parents and caregivers should do what many have done for decades: read and tell stories to their children. For children up to two, WHO doesn’t recommend they watch TV or videos or play computer games either.

Juneau wrote: “With children aged 2 to 4, ‘sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better.’” She added that some experts disagree. “The WHO’s advice ‘focuses on quantity of screen time and fails to consider the content and context of use.’” said the director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford.

“The new WHO guidelines come almost three months after a study published in JAMA Pediatrics that found that ‘Excessive screen time has been associated with various negative outcomes, including cognitive delays and poorer academic performance’ in children,” Juneau reported.

According to the study on Mayo.com, “children younger than age 2 are more likely to learn and remember information from a live presentation than they are from a video.”

I conjecture that plenty of parents think they are giving their children a leg up by starting them on computers as young as possible. Others may appreciate quiet time when a little one is absorbed by colors and movements on a screen. Publicity about the WHO’s recommendations came out last week and yet I still see countless toddlers in strollers staring at phone screens. Goodness knows what’s happening at home. What will it take for caregivers to get the message about the dangers of screen time for young children? Do you see benefits for little ones to be conversant with the latest gadgets since babyhood? Is reading and telling stories to little ones out of style?

Photo: parents.com

 

Service of Contests for Kids: We’re All Winners

Saturday, August 18th, 2018

Contests that teach, encourage and reward kids to better themselves and/or their communities help us all.

Author Karen Russell told NPR “New Yorker Radio Hour” listeners on a recent August weekend about how proud she was to treat her family to a pizza when she was a kid. An avid reader, she’d qualified for a free pie with one topping through Pizza Hut’s Book It program. She’d read 10 books.

Books tossed recently at the Millbrook, NY Transfer Station

Book It was founded in 1985. It runs from October 1 to March 31 for children from Kindergarten to the sixth grade and homeschoolers can also participate.

Things may have changed since Russell won her pizza. She read printed books and today many children use Kindles and other tablets. Some may still record their books on paper and some access an app that reaches teachers who track their participation. But the goal remains–to promote reading.

The National Road Safety Foundation [NRSF] conducts contests for kids to help its campaign to drive down the number of traffic accidents, deaths and injuries here. I know about it because a colleague, David Reich, runs and promotes the contests. One is “Drive2Life,” in its seventh year, in which teens submit messages to be turned into public service announcements [PSAs] to warn drivers about the dangers of speeding. This year’s winner, a California 8th grader, received $1,000 and a trip to New York where he collaborated with Emmy Award-winning producers to script, film and edit his winning PSA, “Cars Aren’t Toys.” The PSA aired on “Teen Kids News” on 150 TV stations.

Photo: fcclainc.org

In addition to Drive2Life, there are NRSF Drive Safe student contests in Washington DC, LA, Chicago and Atlanta as well as Safe Rides Save Lives for members of Family Career and Community Leaders of America [FCCLA] and #DrivingSkills101 for Students Against Destructive Decisions [SADD] Chapters nationwide.

Can you name other great contests for children? Did you participate in any when you were a kid?

Photo: washingtonautoshow.com

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