Author Archives: Rebecca Ripperton
Author Archives: Rebecca Ripperton
In order to write well, we believe it is first necessary to read widely and often. We also believe that the desire to write is a natural consequence of maintaining a strong reading practice. Writing enables us to engage and grapple with the ideas and characters we have read about; it allows us both to question and to clarify for ourselves just what it is we do and do not understand about what we have read. It can deepen our understanding of a book, and also teach us to become more careful readers. Eventually, the relationship between reading and writing becomes dialectic: one practice informs the other, which in turn informs the first, and so on.
As writing removes us from what we have read in one sense, it simultaneously gives us the ability to contextualize it within a broader framework. We must leave the all-absorbing world of the book to write about it, but in doing so, we are able to bring the book into the greater world of our lives: writing helps to situate the ideas presented in a book within our own intellectual domain. This is especially important to do for more challenging texts and topics or for anyone reading a high volume of books, stories, essays, etc. It is all too easy to read a piece, then, absent a sense of resonance or immediate identification, set it aside both physically and intellectually.
Writing can also be an important preliminary step in discussing a book, allowing us to collect our thoughts on paper before engaging in conversation with others. We may even discover that we hold beliefs we had not realized! Similarly, when we write about what we have read, we are asked to think about it more deeply, despite the fact that our notes may seem to us to be simple, sometimes even superficial. These simple notes will often initiate a cascade of thinking that both surprises us and enriches our relationship to the text. The act of writing also helps our memory encode what it is we have just read – it can be startling to discover that most of what we remember of a book has been largely determined by what we wrote.
So, as we discuss reading and books here, we also plan to address different elements of writing, as well as the relationship between reading, writing, and thinking. Our first series of posts is all about structure in writing and how to help adolescent writers begin to gain an appreciation for structure and logical organization without giving them cause to dread writing or damaging their innate creativity. Our aim in this series to open up the act of writing, not constrain it.
Check back here next Monday for the first piece and please let us know in a comment below why you write, or what struggles you have encountered in your own writing practice.
To instill in your child both a love and lifelong habit of reading, you will likely find it helpful to enlist the support of your community. One way to do this is by asking other adults to read to your children outside of the home, as well.
Children look both to their own parents and to other trusted adults to determine their norms, so when you read aloud as a family and this practice is reinforced in other settings, books are firmly established as being an integral part of the fabric of our lives and relationships. Reading aloud with other people in the community can also help children recognize that it is much more than just an activity parents do to help them fall asleep at night. Likewise, reading is not necessarily a solitary activity that removes us from others. Reading – particularly reading aloud – should ultimately bring people together, forming the basis for shared experience, as well as shared conversation and thought.
If your children’s grandparents are active in their lives, you can begin by asking them to read aloud to your children before bed or for a quieter afternoon activity. In our experience, reading aloud with grandparents can create wonderful memories for all parties involved. When we were growing up, my older brother and I absolutely loved going over to our grandmother’s house, which was 5 miles away, and spending time with her. She read to us at every visit and we still cherish the books we read with her, as well as the memories we have of reading them together. (A list of our all-time favorites from her house is at the bottom of this post!)
If your child’s grandparents don’t have children’s books in their house already, consider giving them some to keep for when your children visit. Let them know that reading aloud to your children is important to you and why. You could even ask them what some of their favorite books were when they were growing up and then use a resource like AbeBooks to find copies. If you have purchased one of our ebook treasuries, you may share it with one set of grandparents at no extra charge. Contact us here for more information.
Next, whenever you hire babysitters, be proactive about setting books out for them to read to your children before bed, and let them know that this is an important routine in your family. If your babysitters are young enough to still live with their parents or are now in possession of their childhood books, you could even ask them to bring one or two of their favorite books from when they were your child’s age to read aloud before bed. (We bet they’ll actually be thrilled to do this.)
You can ask older children to read to their younger siblings, as well as enlist the help of aunts, uncles, the parents of your children’s friends during sleepovers, etc. – really, anyone who is an influential figure in your child’s life or who regularly spends time with them, is fair game. We’ve also found that most schools, churches, and synagogues offer numerous read-aloud opportunities for children.
Most public libraries host regular read-aloud events for children of all ages. You can check out your local library’s website to find out what they offer, and if you don’t like what you see, contact their children’s desk to suggest better titles or to get more involved.
Lastly, if your children are older, two great resources to investigate are universities and local bookstores. Both often hold readings that are open to the public and that can serve as an introduction to new titles, authors, and even genres. Sometimes coffee shops will also host poetry nights (which still count as read-alouds in our book), and many theatres will periodically hold “stage readings,” where you can watch and listen to a troupe of actors read a play aloud, with no or minimal costumes and movement.
Please let us know in a comment below what strategies have worked for your family and what suggestions you have for other parents who are hoping to raise their child in a read-aloud community!
When we were growing up, our Greek grandmother – Giagia – kept a shelf of books just to read to her grandchildren. She didn’t have many books, but the books she had were outstanding and ones that we loved wholeheartedly. Some of our all-time favorites were Corgiville Fair – which I’m fairly certain we asked our grandmother to read to us every time we came over – and Jennie’s Hat. We also read the Dr. Dolittle and several L. Frank Baum books with her, and as we grew older, she would periodically order new titles from the Dover Children’s Thrift Classics, like The Boy Who Drew Cats for us to read together. (My brother and I found secret delight in the fact that her corgi, Bandit, was fond of gnawing the Dover books when no one was looking so their bindings often looked rather the worse for wear.) In all, reading aloud with our grandmother was a wonderful experience and gave us memories we both treasure to this day.