I’ve been blogging for about fifteen years over at The Write Now! Coach Blogs. When I decided to launch a new blog to help teachers and librarians use children’s books in the classroom, I shared my vision with just a few people.
One of them was my friend and critique partner Sandy Brehl. Sandy taught school for forty years–and continues to work with students as an author and trained Holocaust educator. She’s blogged for years about the power of picture books. Who better to introduce you to the why of this blog AND to talk about the joy of sharing books! Welcome, Sandy!
The Joy of Sharing Books
Books have power.
That’s why books are among the first pillars of society that come under attack from those who crave power: confiscated, burned, censored, and restricted. It is also why people of any age, but especially young people, grow and learn best when immersed in reading and writing lives.
I use that word immersed intentionally.
Not all young people feel at home among books, for a variety of reasons. That’s where the adults in their lives play such a crucial role. It is also why I’m so excited to welcome Rochelle’s new blog resource to the world of adults who care about kids.
From my own earliest memories, I was a “reader.” I was born into a family of readers, into a home with books and newspapers, with parents who loved storytelling and reading aloud. One read-aloud happened daily, at bedtime, for all four of us siblings. We spanned ten years in age, and yet all four of us would pile into one bed for the bedtime readings by Mom or Dad. Even though we had limited book options and the older ones had heard the stories countless times. Even though the older ones would move on after the shared reading to do homework or read on our own until a later bedtime. We never tired of that shared story time. We even had a song we’d sing if Mom or Dad tried to beg off the reading for a night:
Tell me a a story, tell me a story,
Tell me a story, and then I’ll go to bed.
You promised me, you said you would.
You gotta give or I won’t be good.
Tell me a story, and then I’ll go to bed.
So, why mention that here?
Because our current lives (and not just in Covid times) immerse us NOT in a world of books but drown all of us in forces that actively work against the ability to grow a book-life as readers/learners of any age.
One of the most potent forces working against shared-reading lives is TIME. (Bet you thought I would say digital media, right?) Actually, we have a better chance at managing screen engagement than we do time. That’s especially true for teachers (and by extension, for parents). Demands are endless, many are non-negotiable, and accountability is high. One teacher-colleague whom I admired beyond measure admitted that there were evenings at home when she would turn to her three kids and say, “What’s it gonna be tonight, supper or reading time?” That’s simply a fact of life, and those leading classrooms know that to be true, even as they assign an accounting for nightly reading minutes.
TIME is a major reason why I advocate tirelessly for sharing picture books at EVERY age. Picture books foster intense, satisfying engagement with books—the original handheld app! It’s why I lead professional workshops for educators on the power of picture books, and it’s why I launched my picture book blog a decade ago. The power unique to picture books is that they are, by definition: compact, complete, compelling.
Having fingertip knowledge and access to a vast array of books is invaluable.
And yet… that’s ASKING A LOT!
Finding and taking time to read aloud or read together, even brief text from picture books or chapter segments, fiction or nonfiction, is a priceless gift and a powerful practice for making deep connections, improving learning, and developing a love of reading and writing for authentic purposes. To expect anyone to have that just-right book and a just-right suggestion for discussion or extension at your fingertips is, indeed, asking a lot.
Introducing Tales for Mighty Writers
Rochelle has set out on a mission to provide easy access to meet the need for an accessible resources from reliable sources, even needs you might not have known you had. Among her posts will be guest notes by authors who know their own work intimately, including related content that hit “the cutting room floor” before publication, along with ideas for bringing their subject to life in a shared reading experience. Oh, how I wish such a resource had existed while I was still working in classrooms on a daily basis.
I also wish my students could have enjoyed and been inspired by authors so directly on a regular basis. We scrimped and begged to bring authors to our school once a year, and kids were both thrilled and inspired by their messages, but frustrated that their time for interaction was so brief. In this platform, students and teachers can comment directly to the author posts and connect in what comes close to real time.
The Joy of Sharing Books
During a forty-year career in education, working with kids from preschool through middle grades, in classrooms, small groups, and individually, I found that SHARED BOOK experiences had power beyond measure. Now I spend time less time with learners, but I visit classrooms and groups regularly to speak about the books I write and also as a trained Holocaust educator. In every case, I share books, excerpts, quotations, recommended lists, and examples of ways that books have been lifelines across time.
When I consider books on my website, or picture book blog, or in Goodreads reviews, I hold fast to the truth that every book is NOT for every reader. When a book does not light me up, I simply pass on commenting. The “influence” of my opinion is minimal in the world at large. But when connecting with an individual, as a loved one, a teacher, a librarian, or even as a peer reader, that influence is magnified a thousand-fold. Who am I to say that a book I react to without enthusiasm might just be the one and only, the first-ever book that could touch the heart of a particular child? I will not take a chance on turning someone away from that experience by a casually dismissive word. The flip side of that is what this platform is about. When any book or passage is shared and celebrated by others who matter to us, personally or as creators, they are graced with a welcoming glow, enhanced with our personal invitation to open the cover and join in the journey.
That’s a power worthy of our attention. And I for one am excited to follow this platform and engage with the people who contribute resources. I’m looking forward to new insights, useful suggestions, and taking a deep dive into the world of books. Won’t you join me?
About the Author
Sandy Brehl is the award-winning author of the ODIN’S PROMISE trilogy; middle grade historical novels of the WWII German occupation of Norway. She’s a member of the Wisconsin chapter of SCBWI, and a trained Holocaust outreach educator. Sandy’s first picture book, IS IT OVER? releases on July 6, 2021.
Visit her website: https://sandybrehlbooks.com.
Find picture book reviews and interviews here: http://unpackingpicturebookpower.blogspot.com
Twitter: @SandyBrehl and @PBWorkshop
Facebook: Sandy Brehl Author