Tag Archives: Love of reading

My friend is brave…

I believe all Writers are brave. They are risk takers.  They are hard workers! I respect and admire writers…  and I especially love and respect writers for young peopleRickloveme — the ones who write the books that young people hold to their hearts, and either cry at the endings, or laugh all the way through them! Yes, the ones whose books kids will hunt for, long and hard, because of the one they just read.

Brave writers that are good writers make me wish I were a writer.  This one brave, good, hardworking writer that I want to tell you about is also a generous writer.  He has inspired so many other writer-wannabes, and he has mentored them and cheered them on to their own published books and careers as writers for young people.  My friend, the brave, good, generous writer, rick-soMANYbunnieshas done that for more writers than I even know about…  more than I can count.  I do, however, count this writer as my friend, and I know that I’m not the only one who does.

Meet Rick Walton. rick-walton-05Read his books…  and better yet, enjoy them with a child, or your children, or your classroom full of children.  Rick is a genius…  clever in word play, generous in friendship, caring in his regard for this earth and the people who love and care for it, too. Rick is kind…  and good… and hard working.  And brave.

Learn about RickSIGNINGhow Rick Walton became a writer for children. Be sure to read the paragraph you will find on the left-hand side of the screen!

See how funny Rick Walton is. Really, besides reading his books, you should read every part of his website at http://Rickwalton.com. Each time I look at his website, I find a different section that makes me laugh out loud!  My favorite section – because I teach elementary language arts methods courses — is his section on word play — and all of his amazing word lists!  (Rick is my idea of the perfect language arts teacher!)

Rick is bravely facing big trials and hard things.  I’m not a writer…  but as a lover of writers, this is my shout-out to one of the bravest of them all!  Rick Walton — you are loved!

Submitted by Nancy Peterson, Professor, UVU School of Education. Nancy teaches at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT, and is Co-Chair of UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading.

Demystifying Dyslexia in Literature and Life

Henry Franklin Winkler is not only a well-known American actor (The Fonze, from the hit comedy, Henry_Winkler_Fonzie_1977“Happy Days”), producer, and director, but he is also the author of a critically acclaimed series, Hank Zipzer.  Collaborating with Lin Oliver, who is a writer and producer of movies, books, and television series for children, Henry Winkler has written HankZipperSERIESa series of 17 children’s books about a 4th grade boy who is dyslexic. Winkler, a dyslexic himself, delights his readers in the escapades of his hero, Zipzer, who always manages to get the last laugh. The “world’s greatest underachiever”,  Zipzer  gives those who struggle with reading a reason to laugh at themselves and to find solace in a character in whom they can relate. Shouting loud and clear is the core message that everyone can succeed no matter what obstacle may be in there way.

Winkler himself did not realize he was learning disabled until he was 31 years old when his stepson was tested and diagnosed. This revelation brought him both ahas and relief. Dyslexia was an unhappy part of his childhood, and it was nice to get a label for the difficulty he had in learning when he was otherwise a very bright and intelligent child.  HWtodayMuch like his main character, Hank Zipzer, Henry Winkler is smart, funny and resourceful. Even though fonzauthorhe can tout such tributes as having a star on Hollywood Boulevard, being presented the Order of the British Empire by the Queen of England, and having the jacket he wore as the Fonz in Happy Days hanging in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., he will tell you that his proudest accomplishment is writing the Hank Zipzer series.

I am a dyslexic. Shoot!  Like Henry Winkler, I didn’t find out I was until I was an adult.  I was in a doctorate program where the science of reading was my focus.  I know, a dyslexic studying the science of reading, seems a little out of place, right?  Right! I was explaining to my professor how I read and she quipped, “That’s not how it works!” What? Yes it is. At least that is how I read.

The conversation wasn’t a complete disaster because it ended up being somewhat life changing. That dear knowledgeable professor promptly led me to Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz.  overcomingDDid you know it comes in an audio format? I purchased the audio tapes and “read” the book going and coming from my home in Las Vegas where I was pursuing my doctorate, to my home in Salt Lake.  As I read I came across a list of clues for dyslexia describing typical behaviors of a dyslexic. I was dumbfounded. I demonstrated all of them. Not one or two, not most, but ALL. I rewound the tape and listened to it again. I got out my printed copy of the book and read, underlined, and flagged the page. THIS explained so many things.

Listen to this! Dyslexia is not just a reading impairment.  It affects the ability to spell (I love spell check!), to retrieve words, spellingto articulate words and to remember certain facts. Impairment is not intellectually based. Just the opposite, those impaired are highly intelligent. (That last part I really like!)  Up to now I had wordsassumed that I just wasn’t as smart as everybody else. I was a hard worker, and I was positive it was my work ethic, not my intelligence, that got me to where I was. My memory was a disaster, especially for proper names or proper terminology.  I was always saying things like the thing-a-ma-bob, or that thing on the you know what, or I can’t remember what it is called but you know… Well come to find out, this tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon is a symptom of a phonological weakness on the left side of the brain we laymen call the language center.  Who knew!

You see, good readers have highly interconnected neural systems that encompass regions in the back and front of the left side of the brain. Most of the reading part of the brain is in the back. brainIn contrast, dyslexics show that their back of the brain has faulty wiring. Neural pathways for them are under activated. This causes them to use other parts of the brain not necessarily equipped well for the reading task. Therefore, they find themselves needing to subvocalize as they read, slowing their reading rate way down. They don’t process words as deeply and as clearly in their lexicon (a fancy word for an internal dictionary of stored words). These poor quality representations make it hard for dyslexics to retrieve words when speaking or to recognize words when reading.

Knowledge is power, and we can take this scientific information and use it to help. So the good news is that the brain can actually be rewired.  Hard to believe but it is true.  Researchers using a functional MRI scanned the brains of struggling readers as they were reading both before and after instructional treatment. What they found is that when dyslexic students were given explicit, multisensory reading instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics that those highly interconnected neural systems start ed lighting up! EUREKA! How exciting is that? Well to me, and the one-in-every-five children who struggle with reading, it is life changing.

As Dr. Sally Shaywitz expresses in her book, dyslexia is no longer a faceless beast causing havoc in the lives of its victims. We now can see the “face of the beast”, and we arewell on our way to taming it and taking command!

This week’w Guest Blogger, Dr. Ann Sharp, teaches literacy in the School of Education at Utah Valley University, Orem, UT.

ann sharp photo

Looking for a book to love…

Valentine’s Day is past, and I’m feeling guilty that we didn’t re-post our guest blogger’s great Valentine’s Day tradition from last year, so here it is (just a couple of weeks late). It looks like spring may have sprung early (around here, anyway!) and I’m fearing that my leisurely reading hoursBook_Lovers_Day will be prematurely replaced by garden-planning and yard work.  I left my last “lost-in-the-book” experience behind when I drove home from our inspiring conference (UVU Forum on Engaged Reading) at the Chateaux in September.

 

I just haven’t lost myself in a good book, for way too long. Oh, I’ve enjoyed reading some new picture books, and some that are new to me even though they have been around for a while, and I’ve enjoyed classroom and office discussions of the books that my students and colleagues have been losing themselves in.  But I’m feeling pretty melancholy about this, BLANAand I’m starting to worry.  Maybe this is more than a midterm crisis for me – I’m thinking this is serious!  I can’t hear any of my night-stand stacks of “read-me-next” books calling to me.  I look through the Scholastic Book Order leaflets and notice some recent additions, but nothing is reaching out to me. I don’t feel drawn into  bookstores at the moment – not even my favorite ones.  I am stressing over feelings of  guilt about co-chairing a conference that fights the 21st Centure problem of “a-literacy,” while I am exhibiting symptoms of it myself. I don’t want to read a book to “get current” in my field, and I don’t want to read a book just because it received some recent (albeit prestigious) award. I just want to feel lost in a book again.  medalion book-loverI’m longing for a book that holds my heart in between my reading sessions, and that I can hold to my heart as I tell someone about it.

 

I recently came across a delightful poem written by Tom Robert Shields and published (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004) in Wonderful Words: Poems About Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and Illustrated by Karen Barbour. wonderful-wordsThe poem is “I Am the Book” and it promised to be my friend, stay by my side… bring dreams I’ll “forever keep,” to warm me, and to plant in me a “spring seedling…” while I am reading.  It promises,

 

“… I am the book

You are needing.”

 So, I decided to ask you…  any reader who may have stumbled onto this blog, in spite of the fact that it hasn’t been updated for some time – until now.  What do you suggest?  Is there a book that has been your friend…  brought dreams bklvr1you have “forever [kept],” and planted in you a “spring seedling – some book that you were needing and found — that you can share with me?  Please write soon., because you may know the book I am needing.  Yours truly, An Engaged Reader in Crisis

Posted by Nancy Peterson, Professor of Elementary Education at Utah Valley University, and Co-Chair of UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading

If I were desperate, I might even look into what Heidi and Jo March were doing.

Guest Blog Post by Mike Freeman

When I was young, I lived on a farm in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri, and literally went to school in a two-room country schoolhouse.  one_room_school_houseWe were the real Waltons with eight children in a smTOWNmainSTfive-room house.  Even going to town was a rarity, and I didn’t care to go anyway because standing around watching my sisters shop was not that thrilling.  My brothers liked to hunt and fish but I didn’t.  We didn’t have a television and videos didn’t exist.

One thing we did have was a set of the Great Illustrated Classics and I liked to read.  Over and over again I journeyed down the Mississippi with Huck and Jim, sought treasure with longJsJim Hawkins and Long John Silver, fought duels with d’Artagnan, answered the call of the wild with Buck, and discovered those grim Grimm’s tales.  If I were desperate, I might even look into what Heidi and Jo March were doing.  All of these books fed the imagination of distant times, worlds and sites, and saved my childhood from utter boredom.

Once a month the bookmobile from the county library would appear at our school, and our teacher would select a single representative from each grade to select the Bkmbooks for the month.  Though the student was instructed to select for everyone, a marked bias always seemed to surface.  I just couldn’t believe the kinds of books those girls would choose.

Nonetheless, I was hooked and now years later, with English and History and Library Science degrees under my belt, I still musketeerscan’t find enough time for the endless lists to read.  Now that I am older, I sometimes revisit those old classics and marvel even now how well they still capture my attention.  Reading is the opportunity to look into the minds and souls of people across the ages, and to ponder all the struggles that have created our modern world.  Reading connects our common humanity, and makes us consider other points of view and ways of life.  Mark Twain said that a man who won’t read is no better than a man who can’t read.  I couldn’t say it better.

mike2Mike Freeman is the Library Director at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT. He holds a bachelors and MLS from University of Missouri, and his MA in History from the University of Utah.  Prior to coming to UVU in 1993, Mike worked at the University of South Carolina and the Orem Public Library in Utah.  He is an ardent Mark Twain fan.

I was attracted to the book because of its title: Creative Power: The Nurture of Children’s Writing, by Ronald L. Cramer. That title makes me wish had written that book!  I bought it and read it, and I keep going back to it… Would you believe, Cramer actually tells his readers that if we are unable to “hear” his voice in this book, to lay it aside and pursue some other enlightening activity!  I’m telling you, his book renews my courage for making bold statements such as…

Thinking is part of writing, and writing is thinking.

Children come wired for writing.  

Our job is not so much teaching writing as it is discovering children’s writing ability.

Cramer isn’t afraid to say it, and does so right up front, in the beginning of his first chapter:     “Writing emerges from the crib with the first thought, the first sound uttered, the first mark scribbled.”

             Cramer goes on to make a wonderful case about the fact that “writing facilitates thinking,” and as such, it is “the supreme intellectual achievement of humankind” (p. 2). And then he presents five characteristics of writing that influence thinking:

1.    Writing is visible.  This means it can be manipulated to help us discover relationships among ideas we might have missed if thought depended only on verbal expression.

2.    Writing is permanent. While oral language un-captured is soon forgotten, writing “leaps the bonds of time and space.”  Cramer says writing gives “eternal life” to our words and ideas.  He says “Writing is the repository of humanity’s accumulated knowledge.

3.    Writing is active. Cramer says it is a “search for meaning” requiring the fullest possible use of mental capacity.  It requires physical action, including “handwriting, spelling, punctuation, depressing keys on a typewriter or computer, erasing, crossing out, rereading, rewriting.” 

4.    Writing is precise. While it is not inherently precise because of how it is subject to the actions and understandings of the sender and the receiver, it does “discipline the mind into precise formulation of its thoughts.”

5.    Writing focuses thinking.  Cramer says that the writing process “enables us to summon thoughts out of darkness and into light.” 

 

“Language is a miracle…” says Cramer (p. 5) and as a pivotal event in a child’s life, the acquisition of it cannot help but make us want to know how it happens. And, he spends the rest of his first chapter briefly reviewing how the major theorists of child development and learning back this up.

I was so enamored by these lofty ideas that I had to find out more about this author, Ronald L. Cramer.  I googled him.  (Yes, really! And I found a photo, plus a long and distinguished list of his credits).  He is impressive, as the documentation of his career shows, but I found the best indication of his “teacher-heartedness” and proof that we are kindred spirits when I went back to the preface of the book I have discussed in this blog.  I may be in trouble for quoting so much of his preface, but I’m telling you, my heart just sings when I read his words:

I believe children are creative; I believe that creativity is as natural to children as breathing. I also believe that its manifestations are often kept under lock and key, that children are reluctant to exhibit their creative instincts if they suspect their gifts will not be well received, it they sense hostility, if they sense indifference.  Good teachers strive to unlock children’s creative potential; they understand that the mind and spirit of a child is as fragile as it is malleable. Children are artists of language, not language scholars. They use language not to impress but to express. Given a little fall of rain from a fine teacher, children can make the flowers grow (p. xiv).

Doesn’t that just make you want to be a “fine teacher”… one that can offer a “little fall of rain”?  Here’s more:  All children possess creative potential; it is resident in them from the beginning, but too often it is creative power unrealized. Someone has to tell them; someone has to apprise them of their ‘wonderful ideas.’ Someone has to entice talent out of the closets of children’s minds (p. xiii)

 Well, he had me back at “the mind and spirit of a child is as fragile as it is malleable.” But here’s where I leave him with you:

And who might that someone be? Teachers, parents, peers, but especially teachers. It is our mission; it is our sacred duty (p. xiii).  Amen!

Posted by Nancy Peterson, Professor of Teacher Education at Utah Valley University.