Writing as a Complement to Reading: Why Write?

January 21, 2019

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.

Introducing Chapter Books: The Twins Series

by Lisa Ripperton
January 17, 2019

This on-going series – Introducing Chapter Books – is intended to highlight books that are ideal for families who are just beginning to read chapter books aloud with their children. In our experience we have found that children are typically ready to undertake the challenge of listening to stories without illustrations on each page around age five, and all of the books mentioned in this series have been selected with this age and purpose in mind. A later series will discuss books to use when your child is transitioning to reading chapter books independently.  

Broadening your child’s horizons

Children of all ages typically delight in hearing stories that involve other children with whom they can identify. Imagine how captivated your five-year-old will be by the Dutch twins, the Eskimo twins, and the Japanese twins who are all exactly their same age, and have one interesting adventure after another.  At the same time that children listen spellbound to the story, they can't help but wonder that the ordinary experiences of every day life for the twins are so different from their own. When hearing about the Eskimo twins, for example, we discover in the course of the narrative that Menie and Minnie are clothed in animals skins from head to toe, munch on hunks of meat for breakfast and consider fish eyes a delicacy; they even live in an igloo and sleep, wrapped up in furs, on a ​bench!

Even though their customs may differ, the children who listen to these stories are, in many ways, just like the twins: their experience of the world is centered around their family life, and they likely feel many of the same desires, emotions, and conflicts that the twins do.  Perceptive children will quickly begin to note the similarities, as well as the differences, between their own lives and those of the twins.

Parents may also observe that as young as the twins are, each is as empowered as someone of that age could be. They are expected to help with tasks around the home, which they do cheerfully; they play and work alone, and, in the case of the Eskimo twins, even catch fish and spear seals to help feed their family. The twins also eagerly anticipate growing into their adult roles, following the example set for them by their parents.

Fostering empathy and strengthening the imagination

Lucy Fitch Perkins, author of the Twins series, believed that a lifelong interest and feeling for people around the globe might be developed from hearing their stories at an early age. Her determination to write such stories was sparked by her visit to a school where children of 27 different nationalities were learning side-by-side. By writing the Twins books that hold children’s interest and engage their sympathies, she did much to build mutual respect and understanding between people of different nationalities.

The twins’ adventures are related in simple language but told so vividly that children can easily imagine the scenes in their mind's eye. And, at the end of each exciting chapter, children will be eager to hear what happens next, which is just what you want when first reading chapter books to your kindergartner.

Which book should you read first?

If you’re ready to get started, but don’t know which to choose: you might consider beginning with the one that most closely matches the season you are in. The curtain rises on The Eskimo Twins in the middle of their long winter, and the story follows them through spring ice break up and their long summer day, closing just as the sun dips below the horizon to start their next long winter night. The Japanese Twins focuses on springtime with the arrival of a new baby brother and the festive celebrations of dolls on Girls’ Day and kites on Boys’ Day. Lastly, The Dutch Twins opens with a summer fishing trip, continues through the harvest season, and closes with the arrival of St. Nicholas on December 6th.

Are there other books in the series?

Yes! Lucy Fitch Perkins wrote 24 books in all in the Twins series, with the first published in 1911 and the last in 1938. You can view the complete list at the Lucy Fitch Perkins page at Gateway to the Classics.

What ages are the Twins books best for?

The Dutch Twins, The Eskimo Twinsand The Japanese Twins are all suitable for reading aloud to children as young as five and appropriate for independent reading as soon as your child reaches a second or third grade reading level. Unlike the Burgess Bedtime Story-Book series, which are all written at the same level, as the Twins series progresses, the reading level advances along with the age of the twins depicted. While these first three titles focus on events in family life, many of the later titles deal with issues arising from external events affecting the family, or wartime conditions affecting whole communities.  Because of the increase in reading level, as well as subject matter, the later titles are best read when your child is a few years older. More about these titles in an upcoming post.

Eagerness for more

After we first read The Dutch Twins together as a family, we were all so eager for more Twins books that my children urged me to scour bookstore shelves for additional titles. Having enjoyed it so much myself, I was happy to oblige!

Purchase Books at Amazon

The Eskimo Twins
by Lucy Fitch Perkins

The Dutch Twins
 by Lucy Fitch Perkins

The Japanese Twins
by Lucy Fitch Perkins

Read Online

​Get Ebooks

​Get access to the ebook editions of The Eskimo Twins, The Dutch Twins, and The Japanese Twins by purchasing the Yesterday's Classics Ebook Treasury, Volume 1

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com.

1 24 25 26 27 28 31