The Gift of Reading: Guest Post from Pamela Voelkel

A special guest post from Pamela Voelkel

For me as a child in England, reading was a solitary pleasure. It took me where I wanted to be, which was away from my family. We didn’t have many books in the house, just a guide to window-dressing, an anthology of animal stories, a children’s atlas and a book of 365 stories sent over by my aunt in California (which gave me my lifelong obsession with galoshes, both the word and the overshoe concept).

My grandparents had a big old glass-fronted bookcase, filled with beautifully bound classics like Dickens, Jane Eyre, Vanity Fair, Moby Dick, Treasure Island, Little Women and the Angela Brazil schoolgirl stories. I ploughed manfully through them all, loving the feel of the books and the way the illustrations were called “plates”, and the gold type on their spines, even when I didn’t love the stories. After my grandparents died, the bookcase was sold and I cried for it. As surely as Professor Diggory’s wardrobe led to Narnia, that bookcase had been my door to another world. So I never associated reading with togetherness or cosiness; for me, it was about escape.

Then I grew up, got married, and had a baby who didn’t sleep for the first five years. Reading with him was the only thing that kept me sane, and soon we’d amassed a huge library of picture books, many of them about diggers and bulldozers. Two more children followed, girls this time, and the books acquired a pinker, more glittery tinge. But everyone agreed on the family favorites: The Owl Babies, The Runaway Beard, Dinosaur Bob, The Cats of Mrs Calamari, Arnie the Doughnut, and Mr Popper’s Penguins.

Bedtime reading was my favorite part of the day and I dreaded the time when the kids would grow out of it.
But guess what? At seventeen and fourteen, our oldest kids are still not too old for a book at bedtime. Sure, they often have too much homework or better things to do. But when we can, we prop up the pillows and read together as lovely lazy luxury.

Of course, my husband and son dive into Bernard Cornwell or Philip Reeve instead of books about diggers. Our older daughter has long abandoned fairytale princesses in favor of the harsh realities of Suzanne Collins and Laurie Halse Anderson. (Sometimes, if the realities are too uncomfortably harsh, we read them separately and talk about them at bedtime.) But the pleasures of reading aloud are the same as they always were.

And that’s been the revelation for me.

That no matter how frenzied the day nor how snarky the dinner conversation, books bring us together again. Today, instead of loving books for letting me escape as I did as a child, I love them for grounding me in the precious here and now. Books begin new conversations with my kids, they give us shared ground, and they open the way for sleepy confidences that would never be aired in the bright light of morning.

Pamela Voelkel is one half of the writing duo behind The Jaguar Stones, Book One: Middleworld and The Jaguar Stones, Book Two: The End of the World Club

Share a Story, Shape a Future Blog Tour 2011

I can not believe it has been a year since the last Share a Story, Shape a Future literacy blog tour!

Vital Information:
When: March 7- 11, 2011 (M-F)
Where: Here and all over the blogosphere
Who: Blogging teachers, librarians, literacy passionistas, and YOU
Why: To share ideas and celebrate literacy in all forms
How: Through blog posts, Facebook, and Twitter

We have been working behind the scenes since last summer to pull together another fantastic week of posts.  What do you have to look forward to this year?

From the blog:

We have framed out our daily topics and here is what we’ll be talking about
  • The Power of a Book – From the literal power of owning a book and a good story to the intangible power that comes with knowing how to read.
  • The Gift of Reading – Whether you’re looking for a book to excite a reader, want to help someone learn to read or celebrate the “gift” … it’s covered.
  • Unwrapping Literacy 2.0 – With all of the talk of digital literacy, e-readers, etc. What does “literacy” look like in this new century?
  • Love of Reading v. Homework – Do they have to be at odds? We’ll talk about ways to help readers at home and at school.
  • The Gift that Keeps on Giving – To wrap up the week we’ll be remembering “that moment” when we realized we were a reader or writer and how to celebrate it with others. Lots(!) of interviews this day.

Here at my blog, I will be co-hosting Friday and the theme is “Literacy: The Gift that Keeps on Giving”.  A great group of authors have volunteered to share their stories about the gift of reading- both giving the gift and receiving it.  It’s going to be a fantastic day!

I will also be participating on Thursday, which focuses on keeping school from interfering with the gift of literacy.  Here on my blog, I will be gathering a group of authors who will be sharing how they use writer’s notebooks.  The authors have been kind enough to share photos from their notebooks and ideas for using them.  Writer’s notebooks are a fantastic, low-stress way to get kids writing for fun and I look forward to sharing them with more people.

It’s going to be a great week!  Make sure you check out the entire tour!

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