The Best of the Best Ereads of Summer, So Far…

The Best of the Best Ereads of Summer, So Far...; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesThis summer has been a “medical” summer. As those of you who are teachers know, any procedure that can be postponed until summer break usually is, and that is precisely what happened with this household of educators.

The positive side of this quiet summer is that I have had a lot of time for reading, both books and on the web. In fact, I saved so many articles for this “Best Ereads” post that I had to delete a few in order to not to run over long. So, these are actually the best of the best articles and blog posts I’ve read this summer so far.

Education

A cautionary tale… This title seems to say it all, or does it? Although I accept, in fact already believed, that eye/hand coordination can impact academic performance, the article does not conclude that gross motor skills, as the title implies, is the key. The most important thing I learned from this article is that it is essential to read critically, and to exercise this skill with all media, especially electronic.

The Life of the Mind

This article explores the value of imagination, which is greatly unappreciated world-wide. According to Rivandeneira, “Imagination is a practical means for achieving and enabling…commonly valued skills.” I whole-heartedly agree. Imagination is not only a necessity for children and artists, it is the engine behind problem-solving and the creation of every practical thing that makes life in the twenty-first century good. Keep exercising yours and encourage your loved ones to exercise theirs.

“For those who identify as introverts, the interior journey offers an alternative path to deeper meaning—one steeped in silence and solitude, rest and simplicity, wisdom and tradition, beauty and mystery.” — Lacy Ellman

Being an introvert myself, it has been so exciting to find so much being written on the study of introversion and the introvert lifestyle. (Quite Revolution, the blog on which I found this article, is one of my favorites.) I really valued Ellman’s contributions to the discussion.

Jane Yolen is the queen of Folkloric Fantasy, the genre in which I write, and so I both enjoyed and was inspired by Windling’s profile of the prolific author. In addition to talking about Yolen’s fiction writing, Windling and Yolen discuss the centrality of writing in her life, a topic highly espoused here at Literate Lives. Enjoy!

As an introvert, I often find myself overwhelmed by the rapidity of communication options, deluge of information, and unending bombardment of the twenty-four hour news cycle. Therefore, I really appreciate Ta-Hehisi Coates and Jen Pollock Michel’s call for thinkers to be given time to think before being expected to provide insight and answers. This is a provocative read.

To facilitate your journey into the life of the mind, here are some writing prompts for August from A Symphony of Praise.

Writing

Yikes! I’m still running long. The following are posts deal primarily with fiction writing and the professional writer’s life, two areas in which I seek to continue learning and growing in skill:

This last is for both writers and Language Arts teachers: “Grammar and the Singular ‘They,’” b Steve Laube. This article addresses an issue I struggle with, especially here on the blog. I want to be gender inclusive. I will often alternate between he and she, but even doing that, things can get clunky. Therefore, I found this article by literary agent Steve Laube very helpful.

Your Turn

What have you been reading online this summer? Any particular article that inspired or excited you? Please share the title and link in the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

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Six Quotes Celebrating Summer

6 Quotes Celebrating Summer; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/The last lovely weeks of summer lay before us. I hope yours has brought you joy.

As a lover of literature and words, today I want to savor what others have written about summer. Therefore, I invite you to simply enjoy these six quotes about summer.

1

Isn’t this lovely! Here in Oregon, the blossoming of the roses do herald the first days of summer. Portland, Oregon even hosts a rose festival every June. I also adore Lovelace’s metaphor for sunshine–“powdered gold.”

This quote makes me want to seek out and read the Betsy and Tacy books that I have not read since my childhood.

2

One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.
—Jeannette Walls

This is so true for me! I remember how, after the last exam of June, I would hurry home and read a novel, beginning to end, all in one sitting. What a delight.

Even now, with darkness falling as late as 9:30 P.M. it is so much easier to read until ten or eleven o’clock at night.

3

Live in the sunshine. Swim in the sea. Drink the wild air.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

As someone who has lived all her life on the west coast, this has long been a definition of summer for me. Every year my family met for a reunion at Yosemite National Park, Mom and Marie took a house at the beach for a week with their kids from the time I was a child and well into my adulthood, and my husband and I love nothing better than camping and hiking in the mountains and visiting national parks. Summer is not summer without a little “wild air.”

4

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.”
–John Lubbock

Much as I love travel (especially road trips), I appreciate how this quote illustrates that we can experience the beauty and leisure of summer without leaving town. One of my definitions of summer is reading in beneath a shady tree beside a moving body of water (lake, stream, backyard creek, I’m not picky).

5

“Oh, the summer night, has a smile of light, and she sits on a sapphire throne.”
–Bryan Procter, “Nature Song”

I love this! The poetry– The imagery– The rhythmn… Ah!

6

“One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.”
–Henry David Thoreau

As someone who struggles with the sheer darkness of winter, I love this quote Summer is light; summer is warmth; summer is expanded horizons. I need to always carry a little bit of summer with me.

Your Turn

Do you have a favorite quote about summer? If so, please share it in the comment box below, and if you don’t feel too shy, please explain why you love it. Celebrate summer with me. Let’s encourage one another!

Individualized Road Trip Travel Folders for Kids

Road Trip Travel Folders for Kids, https://literatelives.wordpress.com/This week my daughter, son-in-law, and grands left on a road trip. To help keep the kids entertained on the way I prepared a travel pack with items for the whole family and for each individual child. (I know; they have tablets with movies and video games, but even those can get old after a few hours)

Travel Folder Contents

For the family:

  • hidden picture books
  • decks of cards

For each child (in a sturdy report folder with brads and pockets):

  • a bag of stickers to decorate their folders, or in the case of the younger grands, themselves
  • 4 coloring pages each
  • 2 scavenger hunt / paper games each
  • 2 Mad Libs
  • a book
  • a pen
  • a mechanical pencil

A Little About Some of the Items

Stickers:  1) to be used to individualize each folder (and exercise their creativity),  2) as I said, the younger kids enjoy putting them on like Band Aids (and just manipulating them is good for developing fine motor skills),  3) all of the kids could use them to make collages on the blank sides of the papers in their folders (another exercise in creativity)

Coloring Pages:  I tailored each coloring page selection to each child’s skill levels and to the trip itself (coloring provides more fine motor skill practice, eye-hand coordination, and self soothing skills). For instance, they were traveling to my parents’ house, and my parents have hummingbird feeders outside their dining room window, so I found pictures of hummingbirds for the kids to color. Also, my mom plans to take them to see the musical Beauty and the Beast, so I found free, on-line, Beauty and the Beast coloring pages to print out for them. (Note, I did not pack crayons. The grands already have plenty of those, so I did not want to burden my daughter with still more.)

Scavenger Hunts:  For the older kids, I created a grid of boxes lettered A-Z. The objective? While riding, hunt out the window for objects that start with each letter and write the name of the object in the boxes (providing observation and spelling/guess-and-go practice). For our pre-kindergartner, the scavenger hunt was similar, except it was for items that fit the basic shapes and colors (thus sharpening her skills at identifying basic shapes and colors). Alas, no scavenger hunt for our little guy.

Paper Games: For the older kids, I printed out a sheet with “supercalafragilisticexpialadocious” written across the top and instructions to make as many words as possible using only the letter in the feature word. These can be made with any word or phrase, for instance, at first they were going to travel the coastal route through the redwood forest, and I planned on making the word “Redwood National Park.” (Note: this activity builds vocabulary, and spelling skills.) Our pre-kindergartner loves mazes so I found a free one on the internet for her (another good builder of eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills).

Mad Libs:  I photocopied six fill in the sheets out ofVacation Fun Mad Libs and put two in everyone but the toddler’s folder. (As a Language Arts teacher, I loved Mad Libs for building student knowledge of the basic parts of speech, and my students loved hearing the crazy results of their word lists.) I figured one of the older kids could whisper what type of word was needed in our pre-kindergartner’s ear, so she could still ask the family for each word, and likewise her helper could help her write down the response.

A Book: Again I made sure each book was the appropriate skill and interest level for the older kids (so they can work on maintaining and building their reading skills). For our pre-kindergartner, the book I picked was a folktale I had already read to her.. Therefore, she could look at the pictures and, as she turned the pages, tell herself the story (thus developing verbal and narrative skills). For our little guy, since he got cheated in terms of activity pages, I included 2 board books–one of which features cars and trucks, some of his favorite objects.

It took me way longer to prepare these things than I had anticipated, but it was a labor of love and worth the time. When done, I gave everything to my daughter to dole out along the way as necessary.

Your Turn

I really enjoyed preparing personalized entertainment folders for each of my grandkids. Furthermore, it occurred to me not everything I packed was just for kids. Next road trip with my husband, I will definitely bring along the Vacation Fun Mad Libs .

What do you pack for road trips? If you have children, or grandchildren, what do you include for skill building? What about entertainment? Please share using the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

Savoring Summer: Today It Felt Like Summer When…

Savoring Summer: Today it Felt Like Summer When...; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesSummer… It’s both a “kick back and relax” and “have a blast” season. We celebrate it by eating ice cream sundaes, vacationing to the max, and having fun, fun, fun, except–

Not everybody lives by an academic calendar. For families with no school-age children, those whose children attend year-round school, those not employed in the field of education, and those dealing with serious medical or life issues, summer may seem to bring little variety to their days beyond the natural changes of the season–longer hours of daylight and hotter temperatures.

Therefore, it’s easy to feel like you’re missing out. I know, because that is how I was beginning to feel this year.

Savoring Summer

In the midst of my own little pity party, a contrarian voice piped up in my mind:

  • What about the bar-b-que at your daughter’s house?
  • What about the individual birthday breakfasts and shopping trips with your grandkids?
  • What about going out garage sale-ing with your husband?

The Fix

One afternoon last week, my husband and I found ourselves sitting out at my daughter and grandkids’ pool. The temperature was perfect–warm, but perfect in the shade. A gentle breeze rustled the leaves overhead. The air echoed with the shrieks and laughter of children, and our grands were showing off just for us.

Now this, I thought, feels like summer.

And suddenly my whole conundrum about feeling cheated and left out of summer dissolved like morning fog from an ocean beach. I wasn’t missing summer; I wasn’t paying attention to summer.

Today It Felt Like Summer When…

That evening, I jotted in my journal:

Today it felt like summer when we sat with Genny and watched the girls swim at their swim club.

Then I wrote:

Yesterday it felt like summer when I woke up with the sun and opened the downstairs windows to let the cool morning air inside.

The next day, I wrote:

Today it felt like summer when, after my nap, I went out front wearing a short skirt and top, and flip-flops to talk to hubby who was watering our tomato plants.

In the following days, I wrote:

Today it felt like summer when we reserved our train tickets for our trip to visit Mom and Jim.

Today it felt like summer when I prepared travel activities for my grands who would soon depart on a California vacation.

Today it felt like summer when hubby and I walked in Waterfront Park after evening church.

Thus I discovered that I, too, am enjoying summer, only I had not been savoring it.

Your Turn

What about you? Are you struggling to get that “summer feeling” that we see in commercials, T.V. shows, and movies? Do everybody else’s summers seem more “summery” than yours? I challenge you to complete one sentence each day:

Today it felt like summer when…

I’ll do it, too. Here’s the one I wrote this morning:

Today it felt like summer when I finally painted my toenails a pretty shade of cotton candy pink.

Please share a sentence or two from your own summer “savorings” in the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

Map Journal: Travel Journal Fun

My husband and I have been dreaming of going on a road trip for a long time, and so, I’ve been eagerly pinning information about keeping travel journals on my “Journaling and More” board on Pinterest

Map Journal: Travel Journal Fun; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/One pin in particular, a map journal, looked like so much fun that I decided to make one for a trip taken a few years back just for the sheer pleasure of making something.

Why Keep a Travel Journal?

Keeping a travel journal is a great way to capture memories of your travel experience while they’re still fresh. It also provides a great means to look back and remember your journey.

For children, in addition to the reasons mentioned above, a travel journal provides a fun way to exercise literacy skills during the season of the infamous “summer slide.”

What Materials do You or Your Kids Need to Make a Map Journal?

  • a map–I downloaded mine on the computer, but if I were really on a trip, I know I’d want a big map that shows the complete trip from departure, to destination, to return home.
  • marking pens, a variety of colors
  • stickers
  • scissors–to cut pictures out of travel brochures for use on the map
  • glue stick, tape, paperclips, bradsm (whatever will make things stick)–to attach pictures to the map

Now What?

As you travel, after each stop along the way, take a few moments to record the experience on your map. What you note could be as pedestrian as gas prices and restaurant reviews, as lyrical as descriptions of what you experienced and saw, as imaginative as posing some “what-if” questions or dreaming of a return in the future.

My Map

My map is a memory of a trip, from the perspective of a child, that I took with my mom and her best friend to a beach town we had been visiting since me, my siblings, and her children were kids. We met up with family and friends there, then mom and I spent a few days at my aunt’s house in Carmel. The trip is a special memory because only a few years later we lost our beloved friend to cancer.

Map Journal: Travel Journal Fun: https://literatelives.wordpress.com/Your Turn:

Do you have a trip coming up? Will you or your children make a map journal of your journey? If you do, please use the box below to post a picture of your creation/s.

Have you ever kept this, or any other type of travel journal? Do you have any tips for us newbies? Please share. Let’s encourage one another.

Summer Literacy and Fun: Some Blasts from the Past

Summer Literacy and Fun: Some Blasts from the Past; https://literatelives.wordpress.comIt is nearly mid July. Are you firmly launched into a joyously literate summer?

I have enjoyed taking my grandkids out one at a time and engaging in wildly interesting conversations. We’ve also crafted together (supporting fine motor skills needed for writing, keyboarding), played cards (supporting mathematical literacy), and of courser read together. Yea Yea’s little library is a hit with our little ones.

Are you looking for ways to nurture both literacy and family fun? Here are three posts from previous seasons that are worth a second look.

Books and Hobbies; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesBooks and Hobbies

While originally a January post, Books and Hobbies  is well worth a second look in the summertime. Hobbies bring joy, pleasure, and a sense of accomplishment to life, and help to build students’ basic skills. Summer, with its long days, vacations, and more open schedules, is a perfect time to enjoy them.

 Dining Out–Family Literacy Exercise and Fun; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/dining-out-family-literacy-exercise-and-fun/Dining Out–Family Literary Exercise and Fun

This post was inspired by a Fourth of July meal at a favorite family restaurant, however the practice it presents is one that can be useful and enjoyable in any dining-out setting, and is another great way of preserving family memories.

Summer Reading: Let's Make a List; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesSummer Reading: Let’s Make a List!

This post reflects on the stunning loss of reading skill students experience every summer and proposes a list of places in which to fit reading into your student’s summer life. After you read, please insert your own ideas for great places to read with your kids.

Your Turn

What are some ways you have nurtured literacy in your family’s life? Please use the comment box below to share. Let’s encourage one another!

A Sensational, Sparkling, Savory, Fourth of July: Using Sensory Details

A Sensational, Sparkling, Savory, Fourth of July: Using Sensory Details; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/It is nearly the Fourth of July–that sizzling, sparkling, savory celebration of the birth of the U.S.A. What better holiday to stimulate writing with sensory details!

Sensory Details

Whether writing to capture your life, writing to entertain or inform, or writing for the pure pleasure of simply writing, sensory details add richness, depth, and realism to your writing.

What are sensory details? These are details that can only be detected through the use of your senses:

  • the beauty of a white frosted birthday cake topped with strawberries and blueberries
  • the vanilla scent of the frosting
  • the sweet tang of the berries on your tongue
  • the scrap of your fork on the plate
  • the silky texture as you swipe your finger through the frosting

Happy Birthday U.S.A.

Fourth of July Writing Exercise

Fourth of July celebrations are so full of sensory detail:

  • the crisp red white and blue of a flag
  • the sulfurous scent of fireworks
  • the tangy taste of bar-b-que
  • the sizzle of sparklers
  • the warmth of the sun against your skin

This exercise can be done by yourself, or done with your family. For each person participating in this exercise you will need either a pocket-sized tablet, five index cards, or a piece of paper divided into 5 sections and a pen or pencil that will fit into your pocket or purse.

Preparation: Label either one page, one card, or one section for each of the senses–sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch.

You, or each of you, will carry this with you throughout the day and evening, and pause periodically to record what you observe with your senses.

At the end of the evening, or the next day, look over your list.

  • For those who like to journal, use this list as you capture the holiday in words.
  • For those who like to write poetry, use this list as the pre-write for a poem.
  • For those who write fiction, use this list to create a scene.
  • For those who write non-fiction, use this list to write an article about July 4, 2018 as celebrated in your community.

Enjoy!

Have fun. Participating in this exercise will help you capture and savor the very specific and particular details of your Fourth of July.

Your Turn

Using the comment box below, let’s share 3 to 5 items from our lists or a bit of the writing that results from it. Again, have fun, and let’s encourage one another!

The Best Book of Spring 2018

The Best Book of Spring; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/The summer solstice has passed, and so I thought it’s about time I posted my best read of Spring. For a long time I debated between several books, then I finally chose one, then in early June I picked one up that knocked all the others out of first place. Therefore, since I didn’t recommend a new book each month, I’ll recommend the first “first place” book, then the one that undeniably was the best read of Spring.

Almost Best: The Illuminator

This is a work of historical fiction by Brenda Rickman Vantrease. I found both the setting and the characters fascinating. The novel takes place in fourteenth century England, where Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible into plain English is outlawed, Dame Julian of Norwich has retreated to a hermit’s cell, and people of the Jewish faith are shunned and persecuted. The main characters live near Norwich, and Dame Julian actually plays a supporting role in the story!

However, the novel belongs to Lady Kathryn, a struggling widow who takes in a manuscript illuminator and his daughter as lodgers in her home. As their families mix, religious controversy mounts, and a peasant’s revolt brews, both she and her newfound companion struggle to fulfill their responsibilities to their children, their church, and society while trying to grab hold of just a little bit of happiness for themselves.

It is a gripping tale.

The Best Book of Spring; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/Best Book of Spring 2018: Six of Crows

This is the first book in a fantasy duology set in Leigh Bardugo’s “Grisha World.” (I  read and raved about her first Grisha trilogy in What I’m Reading Now: Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow & Bone.)

Six of Crows  takes place after the events of the Grisha Trilogy and is set outside of Ravka, the nation previously featured. Because of this, I was not sure I even wanted to read it; I had loved the original trilogy so much. However, as soon as I dipped a toe in the water, Bardugo captured me as swiftly and completely as she did with her first series.

To say Six of Crows  is a “heist” story would be like saying “Lord of the Rings” is a quest story. The world, the individual settings, the characters, and the stakes make it so much richer and deeper than something to which you can simply assign a label .

It is the tale of six damaged, gang affiliated, ragamuffins from the “dregs” of “Ketterdam” society who set out to save the world and win a fortune. Each has his or her own reason for wanting the money, reasons firmly rooted in their hurts and in their pasts. Each is terribly lonely; yet yearning for community, they are terrified to commit. However, in order to win their fortune, even to survive, these six very different individuals must trust each other unwaveringly with their very lives.

I hated every moment I had to put it down!

Your Turn

What was your best read of spring. You don’t have to limit yourself to just one book; I certainly did not. Use the comment space below to provide author name and title, and please, tease us with just a little bit of what the book is about. Let’s encourage one another!

The Surprising Benefits of Writing by Hand

the surprising benefits of writing by hand, literatelives.wordpress.comLast week, as I worked endlessly on my school computer sorting files, typing out procedures, and making preparations for leaving my job (a job my boss, colleagues, and I had pretty much invented as we went along because it was an entirely new position for our building), I yearned to curl up in a cozy chair and journal by hand (instead of on the computer as I usually do).

So this week, when I had a chance to catch up on reading some articles I’d been saving for a long time to enjoy, one in particular, The New York Times’  What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades,” from June of 2014 caught my eye.

What I read impacted me powerfully, not only as a writer, but also as a grandparent and nurturer of literacy.

Some of the Findings of a Variety of Studies:

  • Writing by hand activates more regions of the brain than keyboarding.
  • Young children who learn to write at the same time they learn to read, learn to read more quickly.
  • People generating ideas in print or cursive, generate more ideas than those using a keyboard.
  • Students who take notes by hand, rather than by keyboard, are better able to understand and remember the information from lecturers and other auditory sources.

The Implications for Me

  • I have always written out the rough drafts of stories, poems, and novels  longhand and will definitely continue to do so.
  • I also print out the work I want to revise and revise in pencil on paper. I will continue to do so.
  • I will start to vary my journaling practice between computer and paper, depending on my mood and the nature of the thinking in which I want to engage. I can always scan in what was written by hand if I want to keep everything together.

The Implications for My Grandparenting Style

I had been thinking a lot about ways to have fun with my grandkids this summer. We live just fifteen minutes away, so activities like picnics and craft projects have always been high on our list. However, just because we live nearby does not mean we cannot write to each other. This summer I will write to one grandchild each week and enclose a card and self-addressed stamped envelope to encourage them to write back. (Why not write to all of them once a week? I do not want this practice to become overwhelming or a burden for them, or by familiarity, to lessen the delight in getting a hand written letter now and then.)

The Implications for This Blog

As the creator of Literate Lives , I will encourage you, my readers to sometimes put pen or pencil to paper, and to ask your children or students (come fall) to, now and then, do the same.

Your Turn

What do you think about this information on writing by hand? How do you want to incorporate this practice in your, your kids’, or your students’ lives? Please use the comment box below to share. Let’s encourage one another!

 

With Summer Before Me…

With Summer Before Me... literatelives.wordpress.comI write this on the last Saturday of the school year. Just four more school days to go, and it will officially be summer. Hooray!

Excitement and Caution

I look ahead with both excitement and caution.

Why excitement? Because this is the beginning of a new writing life. I have resigned my teaching position and look forward to investing more time in crafting fiction and poetry.

And the reason for caution? I have been quite sick these last six months and therefore lost a lot of strength and stamina. I long to fling myself into projects around the house putting away messes that have accumulated during this difficult school year, and earlier. However, last summer when I was recovering from mononucleosis, I learned that it’s great to have goals and to work toward them, but I cannot hold myself to stiff deadlines when my health is so unpredictable. Last summer I ended up pretty depressed that I did not get enough done.

However, this year will be different because my “deadlines” can extend past September for the first time in five years.

What I am Looking Forward to This Summer

Sleeping in! I am still so very tired and often sleep twelve-hour nights when an alarm is not required. But, once I wake up I will be eager to either begin or resume:

  • daily reading (multiple topics, most blog or web-based) each morning as I enjoy my mocha
  • exercising to rebuild my strength and stamina
  • road tripping with my husband (He is an awesome travel partner!)
  • spending quality time with my delightful grandkids–over-nighters, lunch-dates accompanied by trips to the bookstore, crafting together….
  • finishing the final revision of The Swallow’s Spring, my folkloric fantasy novel
  • finishing revisions on my Mt. Rainier middle grade poetry book, Wandering Mt Rainier, and beginning the submission process
  • putting my guest/library/craft room back together (We packed everything, moved new things in, and made messes last summer but did not even come close to completing the job before school started last September.)

And in the Fall?

In addition to continuing any healthy practices developed in the summer and completing my summer goals, I plan to:

  • expand this blog
  • begin hunting for an agent to represent my fiction
  • write, research, write, revise, edit, and write some more!

Your Turn

What are your plans for the summer? What are your dreams for next fall? Please share using the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!