Barbara Bush: Literacy Advocate

Barbara Bush: Advocate for Literacy https://literatelives.wordpress.com/One of the many national events that occurred while I was on hiatus was the death of Barbara Bush. Now I never knew her personally, but I so admired her. You see, I always thought she was a real lady, and I’ve always wanted to be a “lady,” but seem to fall terribly short.

What is my definition of a lady, you ask? To me a lady is a woman who is confident, gracious, kind, generous, and who loves people and knows how to put them at ease. However, there is one trait Barbara Bush and I share, a love of literacy and passion to help others become literate.

Why Value Literacy?

What exactly is literacy? In its simplest sense, it is the ability to read. However, the ability to read is a complex skill set that includes more than translating letters on a page into words. It includes the ability to question what is read; to analyzed what is read; to hold and idea in your mind and compare and contrast it with others; to not just understand the words on page, but the author’s mind on the page. Even when we read for pleasure, we do this unconsciously.

Why is literacy still important when we have T.V., radio, audio books, podcasts, text to speech programs…? We can listen, and learn to listen well, (and there is a lot to be said for interpreting body language and tone), but it is much more difficult to listen and be analytical at the same time, or after you had heard something, to look back over it, tear it apart mentally, and draw deeper meaning from it.

So why be literate? It enables us to be better citizens from the local all the way to an international level. To vote wisely for a candidate of your choice, you need to learn about all the candidates. To wisely embrace a “movement” you need to understand its purpose, which sometimes is not so obvious behind its banners and signs.

For the individual, the acts of learning to read and reading engage the brain in a unique way and actually changes it, producing more synapses and connections, making it easier to think and learn. On a professional level, an ability to read, communicate effectively, and write are tickets to advancement (not the mention the ability to learn new skills, which often also requires reading). Education itself is dependent on knowing how to read. In our public schools, educational strategies shift at around the fourth grade, to not just learning how to read, but using your reading skills to learn other subjects.

And as for communicating effectively? Academic studies have shown that the more a person reads or writes, the better one becomes at doing both. While we communicate most frequently face-to-face, the ability to write involves thinking about what you want to say before putting it on paper and organizing your thoughts to present them in the most effective way—a very wise move when you have something important to say, either face-to-face or on paper.

Those of you reading this are already lovers of reading and writing, and like Barbara Bush and me, you care about helping others improve their reading and writing skills. Doing so starts in the home. Read to your children from the moment they can hear you, many people even read to their children before they are born. When reading picture books to young children, pause to ask appropriate questions about the words or pictures. The brains of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are growing and developing at a rate higher than they ever will again in life. They are ready to start learning from the people they are the very closest to from day one. Furthermore, associating words and story with the closeness of a loving caretaker loves primes their brains to view reading as something to be enjoyed.

Of course none of us have children this little for very long. They grow up, faster than the crop of spring weeds in my flower beds. However, as Mrs. Bush did during her lifetime, you can commit to helping other people learn. Volunteer in a local school (K-12) or adult literacy center. A “reading buddy” can make such a difference to a struggling reader. Or support a local, national, or international literacy organization. Here is the link to the Barbara Bush Association for Family Literacy.

 Your Turn:

What are some ways you nurture literacy in your home, in your work, or as a volunteer? What literacy organization do you know of or support? Please use the comment box to share. Let’s encourage one another.

Image: George Bush Presidential Library & Museum

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Dear Readers, Welcome Back!

Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives; Dear Readers, Welcmome Back!

Dear Readers,

Welcome back! This has been still another new year and spring consumed by family health issues. I so appreciate your patience while I have been away.

During these weeks, I have thought about you and this blog a great deal, have numerous things I want to share, and look forward to resuming our reading/writing lifestyle together. I even woke, a couple of times, in the middle of the night and got up to write down what I was thinking about because I was thinking about you.

So how did my literate lifestyle fare during the weeks of this hiatus?

First of all, in spare moments, I enjoyed journaling and sometimes writing emails to family or friends. I downloaded some journaling prompts from my Pinterest Journaling board, and rotated through them, so each time I went to journal, my prompt was very different from the last.

I could tell things were beginning to turn for the better when finally, I did not fall into bed too tired to read. Reading before going to sleep has been my rhythm ever since I first learned to read, therefore resuming bedtime reading gave me hope our family was on its way back to normal.

Through these weeks, God has been so good both in our family’s situation and in my writing life. As he often does when my actual writing must move slowly, he’s sent all kind of ideas—for the novel I’m working on and other novels in my queue, so while I have not been actually writing fiction, I’ve been thinking a lot about my novels and jotting down scads of notes.

Your Turn:

How has your literate lifestyle fared during the time of this hiatus? What literate practices carry you through when your life gets stressful?

Please use the comment box to share. Let’s encourage one another!

And Now For… A Brief Hiatus

Today’s date should be April first–April Fool’s Day. Considering the title of last week’s post, Keep Writing,  I find it rather ironic that this week, due to unforeseen circumstances, I must announce a brief hiatus.

However, Literate Lives will be back in May with more reflections and celebrations of the reading and writing lifestyle, and more encouragement and inspiration to help you and your kids keep reading and writing.

While we are on hold, remember next month is National Poetry Month. Play with your words! Have some fun!

I’ll see you back here May 1.

Keep Writing! I know I will.

Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives: And Now For... A Brief Hiatus

Keep Writing

Keep Writing (Or Reading) Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesWinter, which felt like it was going to last forever, is coming to an end. Leaf buds are swelling and apple and cherry trees are blooming. So how’s your writing life going?

I know. Odd question. What does a writing life have to do with spring?

For me, the constant lover of fresh starts, it represents renewal.

Renewal and the Writing Life

There are so many things in life that can derail the best of writing plans, but the good news is, they do not have to stay derailed.

A blog post I read this week has really renewed my writerly determination and positive outlook.

12 Tips for the Best Writing Life Ever

On The Write Conversation with Edie Melson, Melson listed 12 lifestyle tips for a successful writing life. Tips 1, 3, and 12 really resonated for me.

  • 1. Writing is a mind game—and our minds play tricks on us.
  • 3.  Take care of yourself physically.
  • 12. Keep writing no matter what.

The dreary days of winter are always a mind-challenge for me. Furthermore, this has been a year of health issues as well, and when ill or tired I find it a challenge to both work on my writing and maintain the proper mindset to work on my writing. Melson is right. Taking care of your mind and body is key to producing solid work. My default tends to be to neglect myself, however I recognize the wisdom of her words and will strive to take care of my body and mind in the months to come.

I found her final tip, though one I’ve encountered and valued in the past, even more inspiring. Keep going. Keep writing.

Here, I must extend my appreciation to you, my readers. Knowing I have built a relationship with you and have a responsibility to you has been a great spur to keep writing, at the very least, these weekly blog posts.

My love and gratitude goes out to my critique group as well. I once quipped, “Anyone can bring one page.” Since then, I do not dare show up without something to read. (I will be eternally grateful to them for many more reasons than this, but that is a topic for another post.)

Keep writing. Keep going. This will be one of my themes for this season in my life.

Renewed Commitment

Therefore, I commit to keep writing here, to you.

In addition, I will finish the revisions on The Swallow’s Spring, my novel that is 98% done already and then launch into the next phase of this novel’s life—the great agent quest!

Then I will move on to a number of other projects I’ve got waiting in my queue. It is very exciting to think of the work that awaits me.

Your Turn

How will you renew your writing life this spring?

Please share your plans in the comment box below. Let’s inspire each other!

 

 

St. Patrick’s Day Writing/Journal Prompt

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up Saturday. It’s a fun time for kids and families–wearing green, eating green, hunting and making shamrocks. It has also inspired the following writing prompt for either class writing projects or journaling fun.

St. Patrick's Day Writing/Journal Prompt Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesPrompt

  1. What is one St. Patrick’s day wish you would make for yourself?
  2. What is one St. Patrick’s day wish you would make for someone you love?
  3. What is one St. Patrick’s day wish you would make for your community?
  4. Write a paragraph explaining why your chose the wishes you did?

Note, question number three quite deliberately focuses on the writer’s community. I framed it in this manner to avoid the more generalized answers a wish for “the world” might inspire.

Use this St. Patrick’s Day Writing Prompt in the Language Arts Classroom

If you are a teacher, or a parent teacher, you might use the prompt, even the graphics I have included, for a language arts class warm-up or writing project.

A fun bulletin board might include cut-out shamrocks with each student’s wishes written in on each leaf and their explanations written on an index card to go with each.

Use this St. Patrick’s Day Writing Prompt to Inspire a Journal Entry

If you are someone who enjoys journaling (that would include me), or you want your students to journal as a way to develop writing fluency, you could also use this as a journaling prompt. Our wishes, hopes, and dreams change with the situations in which we find ourselves. A journal entry based on this prompt would provide a brief snapshot of who and where you/your students are at this time in your lives.

Your Turn

What might you wish for in answer to any of the first three questions. Explain why.

Please share your response in the comment box below. Let’s inspire each other!

St. Patrick's Day Writing/Journal Prompt: Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives

Best Book of February 2018–The Road to Paradise: A Vintage National Park Novel

Best Book of February 2018--The Road to Paradise: A Vintage National Park Novel, Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesFebruary was a difficult month. I don’t want to be a whiner, but there nearly was no best book of the month for February because the challenges we faced as a family made it difficult for me to maintain the attention span necessary for reading long works.

However, in the last days of February, I attended a writers’ conference (the OCW Winter One-day Conference) and bought a book by an attending author.

Return to Mount Rainier

A few years ago my husband and I camped for a week on Mt. Rainier. It was a wonderful trip. The park was so beautiful, interesting, and inspiring. Therefore, when I picked up the novel, The Road to Paradise: A Vintage National Park Novel  by Karen Barnett, I knew I had to buy it.

A day later, I began to read it, and I finished it on the last day of February.

The Road to Paradise: A Vintage National Park Novel

The Road to Paradise: A Vintage National Park Novel, by Karen Barnett, tells the story of a young woman who goes to work as a naturalist in the fledgling national park and a story of the struggles our national parks have faced since their founding.

Margie Lane, a senator’s daughter and amateur naturalist, fleeing an unwanted suitor, gets a job at Mount Rainier National Park where she hopes to bury herself in the beauty of God’s creation. She falls in love with the park (and is even inspired by it to write poetry, as I was). Unfortunately, her presence brings unhealthy attention and even danger to this wildly beautiful place, and Margie, accompanied by the handsome chief ranger, must fight to protect its delicate habitats and grand swathes of wilderness from the ravages of over-development.

I so enjoyed reading this book and revisiting all the wonderful places I remembered.

“A Vintage National Park Novel”

I love the idea of exploring the history of our national parks through story, so I checked the “Books by Karen Barnett” page at the front of the novel hoping to find more. No luck.

However, in preparing for this post, I checked out Barnett’s website. On her “Books” page, I discovered Where the Fire Falls: A Vintage National Parks Novel, set in Yosemite, coming out in June of this year! During all my teen years and early adulthood, my family met for an annual reunion in Yosemite National Park. You can bet I’m looking forward to reading this new national park novel and, hopefully (hint-hint, Ms. Barnett), many more.

Your Turn

Have you enjoyed any books set in a national park? If so, please use the comment space below to share the author and title.

Did you read an awesome books in February? Again, please use the space below to share.

Let’s inspire and encourage each other!

National Tell a Fairy Tale Day: Fairy Tales and Me

Yesterday was National Tell a Fairy Tale Day. I know. It probably would have been nice to know that yesterday. However, fairy tales are something that can be appreciated any day, right?

Here are a couple of cool quotes about fairy tales:

“If I am honest, I have to tell you I still read fairy-tales, and I like them best of all.”  Audrey Hepburn

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”  Albert Einstein

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us dragons exist, but that they tell us dragons can be beaten.”  G.K. Chesterton

Fairy Tales and Me

Like Ms. Hepburn, I have always loved fairy tales. Here’s some fun facts about me and the fairy tales in my life.

  • National Tell a Fairy Tale Day: Fairy Tales and Me; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesMy favorite book of fairy tales: The Princesses: Sixteen Stories Selected by Sally Patrick Johnson
  • One of my most shameful confessions: I checked The Princesses out of my school library and never returned it. Yes, that means I’m a book thief.
  • My favorite fairy tale: “The Light Princess,” by George MacDonald
  • My favorite fairy tale movie: Disney’s animated version of “Sleeping Beauty.” I know they got a bit creative with the storyline, however, due to this film, I fell in love with Gothic architecture and art before the age of 5!
  • My first publishing credit: “The Frost King’s Dowry,” a retelling of a Russian folk tale, published in Cricket magazine
  • My most recent publishing credit: a poem, “Dishwater Dreaming,” a poem inspired by the tale “Donkeyskin,” published in Enchanted Conversation Magazine, June 28, 2018
  • My favorite fairy tale blog: fairytalemagazine.com

Your Turn

What are some of your fairy tale favorites or the fairy tale milestones in your life? Please share your thoughts in the comment box. Let’s inspire and encourage each other!

Pinterest Interest: Writing, Settings, History, and More!

I love Pinterest. Pinning and seeing what others have pinned is one of my favorite activities when I ‘m feeling tired.

What do I pin? What don’t I pin!

Okay, really, what do I pin? I pin posts from this blog, of course. I also pin in the topics of reading, writing, history (I love history!), art, crafting, and more. (You can visit my pinboards at Debby Zigenis-Lowery.)

Some of my pin boards were getting so full, that I would “weed” them so they would not be unmanageable to browse. However, much to my delight, this winter Pinterest enabled categories within boards, and I am now working to combine some boards using categories within them (to keep down my overall board count) and to categorize the contents of my bigger boards.

It’s been a big job, but I’ve finally organized my “professional” boards (Writing, Settings, and History), so now seemed like a good time to share.

Writing Boards

These boards, as the title suggests relate to writing, both personal and professional, with a focus on fiction, in general, and fantasy, in particular. In the writing section of my Pinterest collection you will find topics such as:

…and more.

Settings

I have an entire section just for setting inspiration. It includes different types of landscape/ecosystems, as well as settings created by or populated by people, such as:

Most of these collections contain categories, some as simple as “interior” and “exterior,” others as complicated as grouping “types.”

History

Because I am fascinated by history, and most of my novels are some form of “folkloric” or “historical” fantasy, I was thrilled with the ability Pinterest provided, first for collecting information and images on the topics of history, society, home & family life, and fashion, and now for actually categorizing them neatly within their eras.

In addition, I keep learning more and more about history as I collect. (I love it!) My history boards are arranged semi chronologically. This section contains boards for:

As a bit of a medieval, Jane Austen, and turn of the 20th Century fan, I am still working to make my boards more inclusive of all the cultures of the world. I’m a long way from succeeding. However, as I would not feel qualified to write about these cultures, my boards will probably always end up being more Euro-centric.

More, More, & Still More!

I also have boards for other activities and topics. Feel free to pop by and visit, but be warned, I have not had time to combine and categorize everything.

Your Turn

Are you on Pinterest?  What kinds of items do you love to collect? Share the name of your Pinterest board in the comments section below, and tell us a few of the topics you favor. It would be so fun to visit and see what you have!

Wonderful Words: Dipping into My Quote Collection

Wonderful Words: Dipping into My Quote Collection: Dipping into my Quote Collection, Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives

I became a quote collector many years ago. At first it was just copying out particularly meaningful or beautiful passages from books I was reading, mostly novels. However, in my desire to continue to grow in my craft as a writer, I started collecting from my reading of writing periodicals, blog posts, and of course, more books.

Here are 3 random selections from my collection:

Quote 1, from my index card collection of quotes to use as writing prompts for language arts class daily writing:

“When I see books that I have read on library shelves, it is like running into an old friend on the street. I often take the book down and browse through it… Like friends, these books have gone into the making of whatever and whoever I am.”                                                                  ~Kevin Starr

Isn’t that so true! And when I discover books I love on a new acquaintance’s book shelves, I take it as a sign that we will have much in common.

Quote 2, from my laptop quote collection:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘presson’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”                                         ~ Calvin Coolidge

I like to think the positive side of being stubborn is being persistent.

Quote 3, from my quote file:

“I draft much of my work looking at a computer screen. Cutting and pasting with ethereal bits make new versions easier. But I find that I need to print drafts out. I want to hold the paper in my hand, so I can make a mark with the pencil, cross words out and write others in. It helps me to be in touch with my work.”                                                                                  ~Stuart Kestenbaum, Poet

I love to read about how writers work. Unlike Stuart, I prefer to draft in pencil, mechanical pencil, preferable, in a college ruled spiral notebook. The first draft gets entered into a word document. I can do surface editing onscreen, but, again, I do much better work when I print out the chapter and edit by hand.

Your Turn

What about you? Any quotes you love? Please share them in the comment box. It is always a delight and a pleasure to discover more wonderful words.