At Tweetspeak, books matter. We host a book club, we review books, and we publish them at T.S. 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.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston came with enthusiastic recommendations from my Two Bossy Dames newsletter. The title comes from a stage direction in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and focuses on the friendship between Hermione and Pauline (here, Polly). Nevertheless, I resisted. For months. I knew the subject matter would be difficult. Then one afternoon when I had a free hour while volunteering at our local theater, I downloaded the sample on my phone. By the end of that night, I’d finished it. The next day I wrote 2,470 words, just to process.
I started to think about why we read what we read when we read it. When is the right time to read hard things? When do circumstances cause us to break from our norms, like Hermione’s mom in this story?
“Mum has problems with movies now. She can’t watch people get closure because it kills her. She barely even reads fiction anymore.”
When life takes a turn, so does our reading, sometimes. It happened to me after my mom passed away. It’s happening to a friend right now, whose husband is very sick and who, unlike this mum, can only handle stories with happy endings. Has it ever happened to you? What did you veer toward?
2. They self-select reading material.
Ever since I read L.L. Barkat’s first Reading in the Wild post and saw that she included children’s books, I’ve been making it a point to go to my local library once a week to check out these treasures. Last month Tweetspeak held its first children’s book club, and there will be a forthcoming post about children’s book buddying. This month, I read three books about animals by Jim Arnosky because they are the kinds of books my kids enjoyed. My favorite was Grandfather Buffalo.
3. They share books and reading with other readers.
It began with a book blurb. My friend and editor, Christine Granados, recently published a second short story collection called Fight Like A Man & Other Stories We Tell Our Children, which is endorsed by one of her heroes, Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street. That book has been on my short list for, oh, a good fifteen years.
I’ve never read anything like it. Cisneros is also a poet, and the novel has great economy of words. Essentially, it’s about a girl, Esperanza, becoming a writer. We come to know her as she describes her community through a series of semi-connected stories. How good is this book? It earned a nod from Gwendolyn Brooks: “Sandra Cisneros is one of the most brilliant of today’s young writers. Her work is sensitive, alert, nuanceful . . . rich with music and picture.”
After reading the book, I did something I’ve never done — I wrote out an entire chapter, “Four Skinny Trees,” which is essentially a prose poem about Esperanza that uses trees as a symbol: “Four who grew despite concrete. Four who reach and do not forget to reach.”
4. They have reading plans.
My version of a reading plan means reading one thing, which leads me to read another thing and so on. This month it all started with Texas Monthly magazine and one of the best features I’ve ever read, Skip Hollandsworth’s The Day the Fire Came. Now, in the wake of Harvey, that story and the others in this paragraph feel out of place. Perhaps there will be stories about this storm and flood in the future.
“The Day the Fire Came” mentions Hank the Cowdog author John Erickson, who lost his house and office in that fire but kept his laptop, full of unpublished Hank stories. Hank was a staple in our home when my son was little, and it had been far too long since I’d read one of his adventures. So of course, I had to read The Case of the Blazing Sky, the Hank book quoted in the article. In it, Hank sings about one about one of our favorite subjects here at Tweetspeak: chickens. Hank’s hungry and tempted to raid the chicken house. But don’t worry — Sally May’s fowl will be just fine. (Here’s the song, Chickens, sung by Erickson.)
And then I was at the library and saw a novel I’ve heard of for most of my life, Elmer Kelton’s The Time It Never Rained about the 1950s Texas drought. Guess who wrote one of the blurbs on the back? John Erickson. He writes, “The Time It Never Rained is not just one of the best novels ever written by a Texan. It is one of the treasures of American literature of any age or time.” It’s straight-up tragedy, but it reads true. There’s a family member I now understand better after spending 400 pages with rancher Charlie Flagg.
5. They show preferences.
I came back to poetry through The Writer’s Almanac. I’ve read its poem-a-day every day since 2000. In 2002 my husband bought me the anthology Good Poems, “as heard on The Writer’s Almanac.” This month I read the followup, Good Poems for Hard Times. Let’s just say my poetry preferences are closely aligned with those of Garrison Keillor and crew. In this collection, I particularly liked Rita Dove’s Dawn Revisited and Maxine Kumin’s Morning Swim.
Fight Like A Man & Other Stories We Tell Our Children, Christine Granados (novella and short stories)
The Time It Never Rained, Elmer Kelton
The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams (I love to read plays.)
Early Readers and Picture Books
King Crow, Jennifer Armstrong, illustrated by Eric Rohmann
Every Autumn Comes the Bear, Jim Arnosky
Grandfather Buffalo, Jim Arnosky
Watching Foxes, Jim Arnosky
A is for Azure, L.L.Barkat, illustrated by Donna Z. Falcone
I’m in Charge of Celebrations, Byrd Baylor, illustrated by Peter Parnall
The Fantastic Mr. Wani, Kanako Usui
Courage, Bernard Waber
Upper Elementary and Middle Grade
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)
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 August pages. Finished, sliced, started, and abandoned are all fair game.
Browse more Reading in the Wild
“Megan Willome’s The Joy of Poetry is not a long book, but it took me longer to read than I expected, because I kept stopping to savor poems and passages, to make note of books mentioned, and to compare Willome’s journey into poetry to my own. The book is many things. An unpretentious, funny, and poignant memoir. A defense of poetry, a response to literature that has touched her life, and a manual on how to write poetry. It’s also the story of a daughter who loses her mother to cancer. The author links these things into a narrative much like that of a novel. I loved this book. As soon as I finished, I began reading it again.”
—David Lee Garrison, author of Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro