At Tweetspeak, books matter. We host a book club, we review books, and we publish them at TS Poetry Press. We’re dedicated to literacy—for life. And we want to learn from each other about reading in the wild.
Do you want to be a wild reader? Are you reading wildly already? We’re using Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits to explore what it means to be a wild reader—someone most likely to embrace literacy for life. Read through these 5 characteristics and see which ones fit your reading style and which you might incorporate this month.
5 Main Characteristics of Wild Readers
1. They dedicate time to read.
A good weekend means I’ve set aside a large chunk of time, usually an afternoon, to read a book. For reading emergencies, those unexpected moments of free time, I keep a book on Kindle (I use the app for my phone) and one on Audible (along with earbuds). I prefer to read poetry collections in an actual physical book, although I have read Every Day Poems, which comes to my inbox every weekday, while waiting in line at the grocery store.
How about you? How do you prepare for reading emergencies?
2. They self-select reading material.
It takes approximately three recommendations from different sources before I read a book. The exception to that rule is if I’ve heard a good interview with the author. I also like podcasts that dive into books, especially classics or books outside my regular realm.
In addition to podcasts about books, a lot of other podcasts I regularly consume recommend books or deep-dive articles or essays. That’s how I came across My Family’s Slave by Alex Tizon in The Atlantic, which was the subject of a recent episode of Code Switch. It is a difficult but important read. Essays and articles are an important part of my reading life — I read them because I write them. Often I find them to be better written and more tightly focused than books.
3. They share books and reading with other readers.
My dad always has stacks of books, and I often borrow/steal from him. My daughter and I also share book recommendations, often for poetry. I love it when a friend asks, “What are you reading?” or “I have a book recommendation for you!” Next week I am having lunch with a friend, and I guarantee we will share what books are making us happy.
Earlier this year I began a book club for two, in which my best friend and I read and discuss a chapter a week, following along with the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast. She and I have been friends for 28 years, but sharing a chapter together each week over the phone has made us even closer.
It doesn’t have to be Harry Potter, by the way. In my last Tweetspeak workshop, we read L.L. Barkat’s The Novelist slowly, three chapters at a time. We all agreed we needed more than twelve weeks to adequately cover the 112-page novella.
4. They have reading plans.
Reading plans are a new idea for me because I tend to be impulsive about my book choices. However, I do keep a to-read list, and I’ve been known to peruse the Newbery awards to choose a title.
A confession: I don’t do stacks. I read one book at a time, whether it’s on my bedside table or in my phone. As soon as I ditched the stacks, I finished more books.
The exceptions are that an audio book doesn’t count (so that’s two). A poetry collection doesn’t count either (so that’s three). Neither do picture books.
Once a year I read something long and difficult, usually historical, often for a summer read. Like Lin-Manuel Miranda, I like to take a tome to the beach. However, I do not subsequently write record-breaking musicals. If you have suggestions for my summer big read, please let me know.
5. They show preferences.
Genre-switching is so important. I’ve found that good writing is good writing, and it can exist in places off my beaten path. So, yes, I’ve read graphic novels. I’ve read thrillers. I love YA.
After I finish a book in one genre, I usually switch to something totally different. So if I have just finished a fantastic mystery by Louise Penny, I will most likely go in a different direction, like to the best book I read last year, the 2015 National Book Award winner for Young People’s Literature, Neil Shusterman’s Challenger Deep.
In the comments section of wild reads for April, I mentioned my favorite book so far this year. As soon as I finished it, I read it again, which I rarely do. It was a National Book Award finalist in 2016, Paulette Jiles’ News of the World.
Letters to a Young Poet, Ranier Maria Rilke (loan from a friend)
The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach (novel—“borrowed” from a family member)
The Jubilee, John Blase (poetry. P.S. He loved News of the World too.)
Felicity, Mary Oliver (poetry)
The Happiness Dare, Jennifer Dukes Lee (A note: Jennifer is a friend. A lot of my friends write books. I usually read them.)
Early Readers and Picture Books
Hummingbird Nest: A Journal of Poems, Kristine O’Connell George (library)
Upper Elementary to Middle Grade
Maybe next month.
Sliced (1/4 to 1/2 Only: Got What I Needed and Moved On or Plan to Finish Someday)
& Abandoned (Not My Cup of Tea, It Bogged Down Quickly, or Others Beckoned)
I do slice or abandon books, but not often. Even when I come across a book that is not going the way I had hoped, sometimes finishing it helps me understand why I didn’t like it or how I might have liked it if it were slightly changed.
None this month, in either category.
The answer on both of these is Yes! Absolutely! And these two books could hardly be more different.
1. Share anything about you and the 5 main wild reader characteristics. How do you display them, or wish you did, or plan to in the future?
2. Share your May pages. Finished, sliced, started, and abandoned are all fair game.
Join an exciting literacy initiative!
“I wish the amount I had to give was as vast as my love for this project. More beauty. More joy. More love. This is how we must move through the world.”
—Holly Grantham, donor