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.
There is something to be said for taking time to read, as in deliberately reading slowly. That is what I am doing as I sink into The Aeneid. (Yes, the one by Virgil.) For Christmas, my daughter gave me a new translation by David Ferry, whom she heard speak. He had the brilliant idea to render the epic poem in iambic pentameter, the form favored by Shakespeare. Which means it sounds the way a poem should.
I’m reading it slowly, a little bit every morning at breakfast, with Wikipedia nearby to look up all the names from Roman mythology. I’m absolutely loving it. For three Sundays, now, I have plunged in, reading it aloud, just to savor sentences like this one: “Now it was night and all across the earth / All living beings were harvesting their sleep.”
2. They self-select reading material.
After listening to an episode about The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy on Overdue, I decided to only read the first section, which functions as a novella. I’ve read McCarthy before — I know what I like and what don’t. This is what I like:
Of Pap: “His eyes were very blue and very beautiful half hid away in the leathery seams of his face. As if there were something there that the hardness of the country had not been able to touch.”
Of the border mountains: “Before him the mountains were blinding white in the sun. They looked newborn out of the hand of some improvident god who’d perhaps not even puzzled out a use for them.”
Of Billy: (note: McCarthy does not use quotation marks to render dialogue)
Have you always been crazy?
I dont know. I never was much put to the test before today.
3. They share books and reading with other readers.
A friend from poetry group recommended a picture book titled Rosie and the Rustlers by Roy Gerrard. It begins, “Where the mountains meet the prairie, where the men are wild and hairy, / There’s a little ranch where Rosie Jones is boss,” and it ends, “Where the mountains meet the prairie, where the men are wild and hairy, / There’s a little ranch where Rosie reigns supreme.” In between there’s some cattle rustling, but in this story “their dear friends the Cherokee” help Rosie and her cowpunchers save the day, the cattle, and even the lives of Greasy Ben and his “ruffianly men.” There’s also salad for dinner, dancing in the street, and some great illustrations of the Mountain West.
4. They have reading plans.
I’ve had a simple plan: to read more books by Diana Wynne Jones. After I read one in November and one in December, I finally checked out her best-known work, Howl’s Moving Castle. It’s unlike any fairy tale I’ve ever read. In fact, I’m not even sure if that’s what I should call it, as opposed to just fantasy. The story stands out because of its two main characters, Sophie and Howl. Each are unlike the female and male stereotypes so often found in stories — especially in fairy tales — yet I know people like Sophie and people like Howl (setting aside magic). The plot gets mighty bizarre in spots, but it all makes perfect sense in the end. I loved when they travel to modern Wales and describe it as if it’s a crazy alternate dimension.
5. They show preferences.
Right before New Year’s I went shopping with two cousins at a store I thought had nothing for me, when I stumbled upon Poems, a collection by C.S. Lewis. I’m so glad I discovered this book the same month I started The Aeneid because many of the poems riff on mythology. Which makes sense because he was a professor of English literature at Oxford University and later, at Cambridge, of Medieval and Renaissance literature.
And here’s the synergy for the month: Diana Wynne Jones was a student of Lewis’s. Here’s what she had to say about him and another fellow you may have heard of, J.R.R. Tolkien, in Reflections on the Magic of Writing:
“When I was a student at Oxford, both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were lecturing there, Lewis magnificently and Tolkien badly and inaudibly…”
“However, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were both lecturing then; Lewis booming to crowded halls and Tolkien mumbling to me and three others.”
“Oxford was very scornful of fantasy then. Everyone raised eyebrows at Lewis and Tolkien and said hastily, ‘But they’re excellent scholars as well.’”
(I’ll be quoting more from Jones in the Through the Looking Glass workshop, which starts this Monday, February 5.)
Trigger Warning, Neil Gaiman
Early Readers and Picture Books
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Judi Barrett, illus. Ron Barrett
Rosie and the Rustlers, Roy Gerrard
Sparrow Girl, Sara Pennypacker, illus. Yoko Tanaka
Middle Grade and YA
Tiger Lily, Jodi Lynn Anderson
Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones
Sliced (1/4 to 1/2 Only: Got What I Needed and Moved on or Plan to Finish Someday)
The Crossing, Cormac McCarthy
Craeft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts, Alexander Langlands
Abandoned (Not My Cup of Tea, It Bogged Down Quickly, or Others Beckoned)
The Art of Loading Brush: New Agrarian Writings, Wendell Berry
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 January 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