Dear Friends,

Conversation about children and books is always rich with many layers. We remember our own childhoods, and now, as adults, we hope we can give to children a sense of that joy that comes from a good book. There is such potential in that moment that feels transformative from the act of reading itself, which puts us into new and different worlds and gives us opportunity to envision other people's lives and to imagine our own in new ways. 

But the world now is different too. Technology has brought a new dimension to what reading means to all of us. The global community feels closer by than ever before. Yet with all of these new dimensions having the privilege of watching a child learn to read is still a tremendous thrill. That doesn't change. It's such a great gift we can give to children: being company for them along this great lifelong journey into print. If you don't have a child of your own, I encourage you to find one to read to, a child who will really appreciate your time. You don't have to be a teacher to do it. Let the books of childhood enchant you and inspire you too.

I'd love to continue this conversation with you! So here are some discussion topics for us to ponder. I invite you to share your own as well:
  • What are your own memories of reading and how have they impacted you through adulthood?
  • What is your favorite childhood book and why do you suppose it had such an impact upon you?
  • How can we continue to inspire children as readers even in spite of all the distractions around them?
  • How can we create environments for reading that will truly build lifelong reading lives?
  • Let's discuss the role of technology and raising children as readers.
  • Let's discuss five great ways to help our children become independent readers.
  • I can share my tips for how to help your child (or a child you know) learn to read.
  • What is the reading/writing connection and how can we foster it in children?


     My parents have shared with me many wonderful books in my childhood, from Richard Scarry's picture books full of interesting 'people,' on up, and this relationship continues to this day.  Whenever I (coming home from DC) am lost for inspiration, a perusal of my Mom's book shelf, or a discussion with my retired botany professor Dad about the meaning of liberal arts of how old school science was taught back before the complexities of the modern, will connect me with a text.  Why is literature so alive here?  It's certainly a 'print-rich environment!'  Within each book, from Susan Howe on Emily Dickinson, to Irish folk tales, to Ted Hughes, to Edna St. Vincent Millay's translation of Les Fleurs du Mal, to yet unread classics Russian and other, to Introduction To Plant Biology by Dr. Ray Ethan Torrey, the same magic is happening, the same bright page in a cold room.  (We'll all have our eclectic lists, maybe partially read, but changing us none-the-less.)  Even in the adult mind, there's an opening to a new voice, a response within, "I never looked at it that way," a feeling of a broader adventure.  And yes, that tender guiding love which goes 'unspoken.'

     The author's point here in the excerpt is a strong and wise one.  "The world is full of literature written by people who know you are longing to make connections and striving to put a voice to them."   Impressionable high school kid goes to Amherst and finds in teachers the literature and care for it that tells he/she that the world will continue this work of 'love' and connection, even in the physical absence of our parents and their book shelves.  And to this day, it's good to keep in touch with the Amherst reading community, to be reminded of what Sam Johnson or Eliot was up to.  That's why I'll always remember the first day of English Eleven with Professor DeMott, reading a John Clare poem, "Winter in the Fens," the comforting feeling of being taught and looked after in an intimate real way.

     A great choice for the holidays as we gather 'round home and hearth and olde books, to celebrate reading and life.