It’s been a year since L.L.Barkat started this Reading in the Wild journey, so we thought a small birthday party was in order. In that first post she wrote that books matter at Tweetspeak, “so, of course, we’re interested in how literacy happens and how it’s sustained.” We’re still interested in Literacy for Llife.
Writing this monthly feature has transformed my reading. I’ve always read wildly, in a variety of genres, for a variety of age groups, but now that’s kicked into a higher gear. Each month my list becomes a small gift to share with the Tweetspeak community, and then you, in turn, share your lists and more wild reading follows. It’s a circle of life.
These posts began with Donalyn Miller’s 5 Main Characteristics of Wild Readers. We’ll continue using those characteristics as guideposts, but we’d also like to know what other traits you see in wild readers. What reading signposts should we notice? What reading trails do we need to explore?
5 Main Characteristics of Wild Readers
1. They dedicate time to read.
This month has been one of reduced reading, and May will probably be similar. I’ve been back and forth between my house and my dad’s, 81 1/2 miles apart. I thought of LW Lindquist’s post on reading poetry when you can’t read anything else and ordered a collection by Tweetspeak regular Laurie Klein titled Where the Sky Opens. Turns out it’s true — poetry is the perfect thing to read when you just can’t.
2. They self-select reading material.
A few months ago I downloaded Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine on Audible. I didn’t get into it until I was spending so much time in the car, and now I’m relistening. You may know the UK appointed a Minster of Loneliness; that action was taken because of real people like the character of Eleanor, who leaves work every Friday and sees no one until Monday. I fell in love with this character, part Elinor Dashwood, part Jane Eyre. Despite its moments of horror, this story has a strong undercurrent of kindness. (I strongly recommend the audio version, as the story is set in Glasgow, and you need to hear it with a good Scottish accent.)
3. They share books and reading with other readers.
My dad shared Elizabeth Crook’s new book, The Which Way Tree. (In The Joy of Poetry, I wrote about her previous novel, Monday, Monday.) Crook’s new book tells a simple story — basically, Moby Dick with a mountain lion — yet it feels new. The story came from an experience one of her sons had with a mountain lion not far from where I live. She writes in the Acknowledgments, “But a writer can never anticipate where stories will come from. The eyes of that mountain lion held me for years.”
4. They have reading plans.
One of my general reading plans is to read more books by people of color. One that has been highly recommended is We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson. If you’re not familiar with young people’s lit, you might think it’s all the same — all funny or all sweet or all apocalyptic. You’re missing a lot of reference material that is both well-researched and beautiful. Such is Nelson’s book, complete with a bibliography, filmography, and endnotes, as well as full-color paintings, some of which span more than one page. This is one to read in hardcover. The book won the Coretta Scott King Award and The Robert Sibert medal.
5. They show preferences.
I almost always prefer fairy tales. In the Through the Looking Glass workshop, we read Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney, who passed away in 2016. She died as one of her grown children read her The Princess and the Goblin, a 19th century fairy tale by George MacDonald. In it, Princess Irene is brave, wise, and truthful — that’s how you know she’s of royal blood. I also love the ending, which is an author aside. (This part of the story is written in italics.)
“Then you’re leaving the story unfinished, Mr. Author!”
“Not more unfinished than a story ought to be, I hope. If you ever knew a story finished, all I can say is, I never did. Somehow, stories won’t finish. I think I know why, but I won’t say that either, now.”
Early Readers and Picture Books
The Widow’s Broom, Chris Van Allsburg
Sliced (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 (Will I finish? Of course!)
Where the Sky Opens, Laurie Klein
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 April pages. Finished, sliced, started, and abandoned are all fair game.
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