August is hot, and the heat saps my mental energy. I’ve found myself reading more slowly. I’ve ignored podcasts, listening instead to the second book in George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings. And I’ve savored poetry, filling books with turned down corners and pencil marks and sticky notes to mark pages.
At Tweetspeak, books matter. We host book clubs, we review books, and we publish them at T.S. Poetry Press. 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 who embraces literacy for life. Read through these five characteristics and see which ones fit your reading style and which you might incorporate this month. Or add your own.
5 Main Characteristics of Wild Readers
1. They dedicate time to read.
When Tweetspeak wanted me to write about Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale in August, I was concerned I wouldn’t have enough time. To prepare, I found Shakespeare Stories II by Leon Garfield. Unlike the websites that practically give you a ready-made term paper, this book renders the five-act play as a thirty-page story with illustrations by Michael Foreman. All the dialogue comes right out of Shakespeare’s text. What this collection adds is prose, to make it all hang together a little easier until you’re ready for iambic pentameter. The next time I read Shakespeare, I’ll check out this book again or the first volume, Shakespeare Stories.
2. They self-select reading material.
Through a quirk in my library’s holdings, I read this series by Louise Erdrich in reverse order, meaning I read the first book, The Birchbark House, last. I think this one might be my favorite. I’ve mentioned that Erdrich has done it all, writing-wise, but I failed to mention that she also drew the pictures for this series, and they are as warm and inviting as Garth Williams’ illustrations of the Little House books. If that doesn’t convince you, then read this book for the harrowing description of smallpox.
3. They share books and reading with other readers.
After struggling to find a poetry collection last month, I asked Laura Lynn Brown for a recommendation, specifically one with food poems. She recommended The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink, edited by Kevin Young. Laura and I buddied up to read his Book of Hours a few years ago, and we’ve been fans ever since. I can report that not only is Young a great poet; he’s also a great editor. This is a poetry book that made me write poems.
4. They have reading plans.
Since we’re celebrating the alphabet in September at Tweetspeak, my plan was to hit the library to see what’s new in the alphabet picture book world (besides the best of the best, A is for Azure). I found a series that marries teaching the alphabet with teaching about states. Think of each book as a miniature social studies text, full of facts and state-inspired art. In the Oregon book I learned that Q is for Quimby because the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden, featuring Ramona, Henry, and Risby, is located in Grant Park in Portland.
The two Texas alphabet books were produced independently. For the letter X — always a challenge — they both featured the XIT Ranch, which once covered three million acres. The complete list of alphabet books I read this month is below.
5. They show preferences.
In June’s Reading in the Wild, I used this section to talk about Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter. I’ve been rereading it, one poem at a time, and journaling. Because that book is built around Dad’s obsession with Ted Hughes’ collection Crow, I read it as well. Although I liked some individual poems, especially “Crow and the Sea,” I didn’t love the collection as whole, mainly because, as Neil Roberts writes at Poetry Foundation.org, Crow is a “loosely unified sequence.” I wanted the sequence to be strongly unified, as in Grief Is the Thing with Feathers and in Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, which I reread for this September’s Children’s Book Club.
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. Maureen Doallas postulated that a sixth wild reader characteristic is “6. They go broke buying books. OR They have a permanent membership in a local library.” Do you make use of your library? Will you buy anything on Kindle when it’s down to $1.49?
3. Share your August pages. Finished, sliced, started, and abandoned are all fair game.
Early Readers and Picture Books
B is for Big Sky Country: A Montana Alphabet, Sneed B. Collard III, illus. Joanna Yardley
C is for Cowboy: A Wyoming Alphabet, Eugene Gagliano, illus. Susan Guy
Texas Alphabet, Laurie Parker
Texas Alphabet, James Rice
B is for Beaver: An Oregon Alphabet, Marie and Roland Smith, illus. Michael Roydon
C is for Centennial: A Colorado Alphabet, Louise Doak Whitney, illus. Helle Urban
Middle Grade and YA
Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson (Join us for the next Children’s Book Club, Friday, September 14!)
Sliced (Got what I needed and moved on or plan to finish someday.)
Shakespeare Stories II, Leon Garfield, illus. Michael Foreman (Only read the section on The Winter’s Tale)
The Winter’s Tale, William Shakespeare (Mostly skipped act IV, which is a little bonkers.)
Abandoned (Not my cup of tea, it bogged down quickly, or others beckoned.)
Started (Will I finish? Of course!)
In the Company of Crows and Ravens, John Marzluff (savoring slowly)
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