On the Magic of Reading Aloud

When I was little, both my parents read to me. They even read in a couple of different languages that they were fluent in. I had a couple of children’s books in French, which my mom read to me. My dad read us a couple of children’s books in German and in Russian. When I was in early elementary school, I liked when the teachers read stories because they would show the pictures, they would alter their voices slightly to indicate different characters and moods. Even when my fourth grade teacher read A Wrinkle in Time, with hardly any pictures, she still made it interesting. When I hit sixth grade and my teacher read aloud, I came to hate it. There were no pictures anymore. She read straight off the page – no inflections, no animated intonation, just boring. And I could read for myself much faster than I could listen to her read. Blah.

Skip ahead to me working in various child care settings. I *love* to read stories with little kids. I worked in a variety of child care settings for the better part of 15 years. I now work in a county-based special education preschool program as a speech-language pathologist. I do a ton of stuff with children’s books. The fact that I can write a lot of these books off for work on my taxes helps out enormously, as good-quality picture books are pretty much my crack habit.

Even better, my partner is happy to read these picture books to me sometimes at bedtime. He does voices and everything!  Once in a while, when we’re feeling up to the commitment, we’ll find a grown-up book for him to read over several nights. We rarely do this on consecutive nights due to our schedules, so it can take us a long time to finish a book. But even when it’s a grown-up book, he’ll do inflection and intonation to make it interesting. And we’ve found we’ll talk about the book the next day or two as well, so it makes for some good conversation. It’s one of my favorite forms of “together time” with him.

As we head into the holiday week, here’s a suggestion for when your flight is delayed, or you just can’t possibly watch any more football. Get a book and read out loud.

But don’t just gather the kids and the grandkids.

Tonight, beloved children’s book author Kate DiCamillo shares her humble opinion on the universal and age-defying magic of listening to a shared story.

Check out the video

(you can also read the transcript here)

Build Your Own Library/Bookstore

Fat Brain Toys DIY Miniature Model Kit: “Harper’s Library”

Image result for fat brains miniature libraryIt’s labeled “library”, but it sure looks like a bookstore. Either way, it’s a room PACKED with books, and the lights even work! I’m pretty sure you could adjust it so it feels more like one or the other. From the various reviews I found (Amazon, Fat Brain Toys), it looks like a lot of the items are made from paper, and the wiring for the chandelier is fairly delicate. It also looks like it will take about 20 hours to complete – and that’s depending on your patience as well as your skill levels. So maybe not the best kit for a kid. Being made primarily with paper products, I don’t know how how long it will last, either. It definitely won’t make it more than a few days in my house with my 3 rambunctious cats! Still, it’s awfully cute and could be a neat project to work on, by yourself or with a friend.

If you do end up buying one, please let me know what you think of it, even if you don’t get around to finishing it. I’m curious what the materials and the directions are really like, and how it all works.

Just a reminder – I do not have any affiliation with any businesses here – I just thought this looked like a bit of fun.

Recent Reads

Books I’ve recently read

Image result for make me lee childMake Me, by Lee Child – I’m a big fan of action books, especially spy/thrillers and police procedurals, and I’m really liking Child’s writing. I’ve read a lot of those, and I’ll freely admit I had not guessed the twist. Looking forward to more of his work.

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Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris – I’ve had this book on my shelf for 20 years, and I finally got around to reading it. In fact, I ended up staying up late reading it without realizing it. I don’t know if I’ll be able to watch the movie – I’m an anti-fan of gross-outs and slashers, so it’ll depend a lot on how the moviemakers decided to handle it. Seriously considering reading the third novel in the set, Manhunter.

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A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway – How is it possible, that as an English major, I never read any Hemingway? Maybe one short story. Possibly. But nothing else?  I found this one at the Little Library in one of the grocery stores I frequent and thought what the heck. Apparently I’d misunderstood all the descriptions of his writing I’d seen, too. While he uses fairly spare vocabulary, his sentences and messages are anything but. I find I can only read a short bit before having to stop and take a break from his writing style, but that’s okay. I usually have a couple of books going at once anyway. It’s especially interesting to read right now, having been to Paris this summer. He writes of the Jardin du Luxembourg, and we walked all through it; he strolls along the Boulevard St. Michel, and we walked up and down it, watching the boats on the Seine. In addition to being an interesting recount of his time there – spent with authors I’m familiar with too – t’s an especially nice reminder of that trip.Image result for serenity the shepherd's tale

Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale – I can’t remember where I got this one. Maybe from a friend who went to a Comic Con, maybe from Michael’s Firefly Loot Crate. It took me a bit to adapt to the narrative style, and I don’t know that it actually answered any of the questions I’d had about this character from Firefly, but it was a good read and did provide some interesting info on his backstory. Plus it was a good reminder to find some more graphic novels.

Image result for lab girl hope jahrenLab Girl, by Hope Jahren – autobiography/memoir of Dr. Hope Jahren, geochemist & geobiologist that’s as much memoir as it is some of the best scientific writing for the layperson I’ve seen in a while. Wikipedia says this better than I can:

Jahren is an advocate for raising public awareness of science and has been working to lift the stereotype surrounding women and girls in science. One such example included the repurposing of the Twitter hashtag#ManicureMondays.  Seventeen magazine originally came up with the hashtag, but focused mainly on manicured and painted fingernails. Subsequently, Jahren encouraged fellow scientists, specifically girls, to tweet pictures of their hands conducting scientific experiments. The idea behind this was to raise awareness of scientific research and to increase the profile of women working in science.

Jahren has also written compellingly about the sexual harassment of women in science. She recommends that people draw strong professional boundaries, and that they carefully document what occurs, beginning with the first occasion of harassment.

Anyone who’s been read the “About” link on this site or my Recent Reads posts will know I’m a fan of biographies. This book did not disappoint. She writes about the best parts, the worst parts, and all the realities along the spectrum, of being a woman in the self-perpetuating male-dominated world of science, as well as how this country supports (not) and values (not) science, especially when there’s no sellable or weaponizable product to show for the work put in.

 

What are you reading these days? What do you think of it?

Reading Style

I was reading Lee Child’s “Make Me” recently and came across his description of the main character’s reading style. He seems like a prime candidate for Little Free reacher's reading style.jpgLibrary patronage.

What kind of reading habits do your favorite or recently-read fiction characters have?

 

Visiting Little Free Libraries in Eugene

I went to Eugene for the weekend a few weeks ago, for the first time in close to 20 years. I spent 5 years working and going to school there a long time back while at the University of Oregon, so I knew it fairly well then, but hadn’t kept up with much of anything since. Most of my time this trip was either spent with friends or just walking around. Of course a ton had changed since I was there last. Still, knowing that and seeing the changes are different things. Little Free Libraries as such, for example, weren’t around then. You’d see a small shelf of books and games for anyone at a bar or coffee shop, but not the Official Little Free Library movement there is now.  This trip, I also dropped a few books off in the LFLs I found via BookCrossing.

On the first day, a friend and I went out IMG_8161.jpgto Lane Community College to find the Art-o-mat machine.  It’s a refurbished cigarette machine from the 60s/70s/80s that now dispenses cigarette-pack sized art. This is one of three in the whole state of Oregon. The machines are stocked with all sorts of art, from poetry to ceramic or wire sculptures, glass pieces to mini-notebooks, photography to jewelry, paintings on mini canvases and lino prints and everything else that could possibly fit in a box the size of a pack of cigarettes. Everything sells for $5 each. This one was located, appropriately, in the community college’s art gallery. I love everything about Art-o-mats – I love that the cigarette machines are getting new lives, I love that they sell affordable and easily stored/displayed art for the masses, I love that Art-o-mats works with individual artists – famous and not – and art collectives such as teen programs, I love that you only get the barest bit of information from the tags on the machine – it’s a bit of gambling. I collect the pieces – I have around 30 pieces right now.  Here’s what I got this trip:  A woodland scene made from paper piecing (there’s even a cardstock easel on the back to stand it up), a painted block with a heart in a speech balloon, hand-drawn pen art with typed words on paper strips done by a teen, and a word made from photos, plus all the packaging the pieces came in/with.

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Once done with the Art-o-mats, we tracked LCC 18400.jpgdown the Little Free Library right outside the community college’s preschool, #18400. It’s even got its own page on the Lane Community College website! I don’t know why it was so empty. Maybe they empty it for weekends and just have books in it when the preschoolers are at school.

 

 

The next day, I was on my own. The Little Free Library map is kind of unwieldy even on a regular-size computer, and downright useless on a smart phone. Fortunately for me, I also had access to the Little Library Locator app – really, a website – to help me find the LFLs near me as I walked. The weather was beautiful, the trees still green and super-leafy, and there was hardly any traffic as I started out on this early Saturday morning.

5083 LFL.jpgThe first one I stopped by was LFL #5083.

 

 

Not too many books in it, but I did find this gem:

 

It reminds me of books and materials we used to build for the preschool kids where I worked in the late 80s/early 90s at the UofO childcare centers.

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Next up was was LFL #10252. Again, not too many books, but a lovely little yard. I’m pretty sure this is near one of the apartments I lived in while going to school. I never did find that apartment building on this trip – it’s entirely possible it’s been torn down to build a higher density apartment building or a business.

 

 

 

 

 

Further down the street was LFL #10465. Such a pretty yard! Also, a well-stocked LFL! I took one book from this library.

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I met one of the neighbors as I walked. Very friendly, not my cat.jpgnot much of a talker.

 

 

 

 

 

LFL #16774 had a nice little note on the window

 

I tried to find LFL #4202 – especially because which one is missing.jpgof its low number – but it’s not there anymore. So I sat at the park across the street for a bit to log it’s absence in the Little Library Locator, enjoy the trees and fall leaves, and to decide which direction to go.

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To make up for it, I found a little library with no LFL designation or number. (Yes, I added it to the Little Library locator)

I passed a couple of garage sales, some nice yards, ski lift chair.jpga few more cats, and this ski lift chair mounted on someone’s porch.  I love it!

Last one for the day, LFL #21177. Easily tied with #10465 for the best stocked LFL I saw the whole trip. I 21177 LFL.jpgthink I took two books from this library.

 

 

After that, much catching up over dinner with friends, some well-deserved reading time in my motel, then back home I went. The nice thing about taking the train – I got to read the whole way home!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cleared out again

The Division92 Little Free Library was cleared out again. As before, no damage that I could see. But all the books are gone. English, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Spanish, adult, children’s, fiction, non-fiction, newer, used all gone.  Most of them had library or used-bookstore stickers on them, so I’m not sure they’re worth anything to someone trying to sell them. WTF?

So I’ve put out a handful more books today.

Dear Mr. Bruel

I saw this in my Facebook feed today. After checking its veracity (yep! posted on Nick Bruel’s FB page, and just today, too!), I knew I had to share it. If you are that easily offended, maybe you shouldn’t be working in a library. Or with children. Or, really, anywhere near People.


Dear Mr. Bruel,

My name is W. and I am a library aide at L. Elementary in L, OH. Your books are very popular in my library. It was brought to my attention today by a parent that your books contain symbols ( #%&*@ ) in the dialog that most people would interpret as cuss words. This parent was asked by their child what the symbols meant and the parent had no other explanation. Please tell me that this was not your intention!!! If so, I am going to have to pull your books from my shelf and that is going to make a lot of kids disappointed.

Sincerely,

W.
•••••••••
Dear W.,

Thank you for inquiring. I embrace this opportunity to clarify this longstanding misconception. I was hoping that it would be obvious from the context of the story, but the symbols ” #%&*@” clearly stand for pineapples.

Personally, I love pineapples, but I have a peculiar relationship with them. I love them, but I can no longer eat them raw because they contain bromelain, a natural meat tenderizer to which I am unusually sensitive. If I eat pineapple, my tongue becomes numb to such a degree that I… I…

I’m sorry. I’m deflecting. I’m trying to distract you into a different topic rather than address the one at hand, and you deserve better than that.

I confess— ” #%&*@” are representative of cuss words. Which cuss words? Well, I leave that to the imagination of the reader as has been tradition for many, many decades. The use of ” #%&*@” has been a comic trope used by cartoonists for almost as long as there have been cartoons. Think Beetle Bailey and Sarge. Andy Capp and Flo. Garfield and Odie. I always imagine that if you were to put into words what Donald Duck was actually saying when he dropped a hammer on his webbed foot, it would look a lot like ” #%&*@”.

This brings us to my offense. I sense you are outraged by my use of ” #%&*@”. That is your right, of course, but I confess that I’m a bit bewildered by it. I’m not actually using cuss words. As you point out yourself, I’m using symbols that represent non-specific cuss words. So is it that you’re offended by my implying that cuss words actually exist? They do, but I didn’t really have anything to do with that. And I suspect that your students already know them. My daughter hears them virtually every time I drive on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey. Have you ever driven it? It’s just… just horrible. No one uses turn signals. Cars enter from the left and the right. There are tolls all over it. The speed limit for much of it is 55, but if you’re not going 70 you’re taking your life in your hands and… I digress. Sorry.

The point is, my daughter knows these words because of my anxiety ridden death slaloms through New Jersey. As for your students, they didn’t learn them from me.

As to my punishment— I’m sorry you feel the need to remove my books from your shelves. I won’t talk you out of it, because those are your shelves and you should do with them what you feel is best. I’m not too concerned, since I’m fortunate and feel reasonably certain that your students can find my books elsewhere if they were to try hard enough.

I regret that your kids will feel disappointed, but not so much that I feel compelled to change they way I write my books. I imagine that your students will feel disappointed because they LIKE the way I write my books, ” #%&*@” and all. I will say that of all the things that will challenge them in their future readings, my symbols will likely be the least of them. But that’s a good thing. How dull our literature would be if we weren’t exposed to those things that bewilder us, perplex us, and possibly even offend us.

I will say one more thing. When you remove my books from your shelves, rather than dispose of them, I do hope you will consider donating them to another school, another library that might have use of them. But if the thought of exposing students other than yours to the crimes of ” #%&*@” concerns you, then you may send them to me, and I will gladly find them a happy home. I’ll even pay for shipping.

Thanks again,

Nick

Featured in the Library this Week: Women

I skipped the Kavanaugh hearings. I didn’t watch or listen to the news, I scrolled past articles and posts about it on Facebook, I declined to participate in conversations about it. I couldn’t possibly participate in any of it and not rage/cry/shut down to the point of needing medical intervention.

Instead, I provided service for my kids, their teachers, and their families as best I could at work. I made plans for consulting with coworkers at the main office the day after. I had pleasant interactions with the bus drivers and fellow riders on the way to and from work. I got home, scritched the one kitty who likes skritches, put some new toys out for the other two kitties, cleaned out my lunchbox, took out the trash, and washed my hands and face.

And then I rage-ate.

Monday I will start collecting money for a donation to my local Planned Parenthood, a gift card towards a giant pizza party, and I’ll probably buy cookies to deliver with the gift card, to say thank you to everyone who works there.

You gotta get through the best way you can.

Towards that end – I dug through all my donations and put together a collection of books about women and girls. Strong women: may be know them, may we be them, may we raise them.