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.
During last month’s Children’s Book Club discussion about Katherine Applegate’s The Buffalo Storm, someone mentioned loving her Newbery-winning book, The One and Only Ivan. I brought this gorilla with me on a plane and devoured his story in one sitting, from Boston to Baltimore. (I like to bring real books on planes because they do not need to be plugged in—a reading disaster when mechanical problems occur, as happened on this particular flight!) The story, inspired by a real gorilla who lived in a cage at a Washington mall for 27 years, is about becoming an artist. “Even as a baby, still clinging to my mother, I had an artist’s eye,” Ivan tells us. “I saw shapes in the clouds, and sculptures in the tumbled stones at the bottom of a stream. I grabbed at colors — the crimson flower just out of reach, the ebony bird streaking past.”
2. They self-select reading material.
I first heard of Kindred by Octavia Butler on the podcast This American Life, in an episode titled We Are in the Future. Butler won Hugo awards, Nebula awards, and she was the first sci-fi writer to win a MacArthur Genius award. Earlier this year Kindred was re-released as a graphic novel. But what is it? Sci-fi? Historical fiction? Literary fiction? Yes, yes, and yes. Butler called it “grim fantasy” because, as she said, there is “absolutely no science in it.” There is time-traveling between 1976 and the 19th century, but without explanation — no gadgets, no spaceships. No sense. All truth.
3. They share books and reading with other readers.
I’m teaching a class on The Joy of Poetry at our local Episcopal church this fall, and one of the participants brought me her daughter’s poetry collection, The Empress of Kisses by Gwen Hart. The collection won the 2015 X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize and was then published by Texas Review Press. I think poetry is best shared like this — person to person. We discussed Hart’s poem “Challenger,” about the space shuttle disaster in 1986, and it was a great way to talk about national tragedies and our reactions to them.
4. They have reading plans.
This month a friend recommended a book that is becoming its own reading plan, Bruce Handy’s Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult. I don’t agree with every one of Handy’s opinions about children’s literature, but I like the way he thinks — citing Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games in a discussion about The Runaway Bunny. Also, his commentary on Charlotte’s Web is par excellence. Reading Handy’s book has already led to my reading Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary and checking out Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. I may use his book for my next Tweetspeak workshop, starting in February, which will intertwine children’s literature and writing (more to come on that in late November!).
5. They show preferences.
Middlemarch by George Eliot is considered one of the best Victorian novels ever written. As I began chapter 42 of 95, I literally Googled, “Why is Middlemarch great?” Because I couldn’t see it. For me, the excellent moments didn’t add up to an enjoyable whole. That, friends, is called a preference.
I followed the links and read half a dozen articles. The essay that most helped me was The Yoke of Duty: Of Caregiving and Middlemarch by Kate Washington. (I used her essay Leslie’s House of Nightmares about Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery in my tea workshop.) Both essays are about Washington caring for her husband, who has advanced cancer, and finding solace and inspiration in literature. Her essay made me like Middlemarch a little bit more.
The Secret Chord, Geraldine Brooks
Kindred, Octavia Butler
Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, Bruce Handy
The Empress of Kisses, Gwen Hart (poetry)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling (With the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast.)
Early Readers and Picture Books
Dream Snow, Eric Carle
One Grain of Rice, Demi
Little Skeletons / Esqueletitos: Countdown to Midnight, Susie Jaramillo
Roxaboxen, Alice McLerran, illus by Barbara Cooney
Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping, Peggy Parrish, illus Lynn Sweat
Tea for Me, Tea for You, Laura Rader
Upper Elementary to Middle Grade
Ramona the Pest, Beverly Cleary
The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate
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)
Started (The Jury is Still Out. Will I Finish?)
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 September pages. Finished, sliced, started, and abandoned are all fair game.
“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