Monday, February 8, 2010

Getting in Touch with my Inner Teacher

Every now and then I get hit with a case of writer's block. Even my Facebook status updates and tweets have been lacking flavor or intrigue. But secretly (or not so secretly now) I like having bouts of writer's block - they give me an excuse to do more of the other things I like. This time the block coincided with a case of tendinitis in my right hand, limiting my non-writing time choices. Reading was not only the most appealing activity, but it became the best for my hand healing, too . . . as long as I held the book with my left hand.

I read the entire Twilight series in 2 weeks. My husband caught me reading in the kitchen while "making dinner" - or rather, just hoping dinner would make itself while I devoured the book. Thankfully he's a voracious reader, too, so he just gave me the "I knew this would happen when you started those books" look and started getting out the ingredients while I oversaw the preheating of the oven. He also let me take charge of holding down the couch while he did dishes.

Thankfully I finished the series and my obsession with reading isn't quite as lustful. Now I'm pacing myself by heading to bed early to read The Art of Racing in the Rain. My college roommate (now a vet) warned me I'll need tissues for this one - hopefully not as many as when I read Merle's Door, but I'll have them handy, just in case.

The reading thing was catching for our kids. We always read several times throughout the day, but with a mom who is unwilling to put down a book at breakfast for conversation, my three year-old and kindergartner turned to books more frequently, too. Stacks of books started appearing around the house and various corners turned into book nooks with pillows and blankets and stuffed friends.

Mr. Music, as you've seen me call him, is a strong reader who could sit down and read The Magic Tree House series on his own. If I read with him, he's willing to read the entire thing in one sitting. If he tries it on his own, he gets frustrated 3 pages in. That was the case until yesterday when I channeled my inner teacher.

We've been reading Marvin Redpost Kidnapped at Birth together for the past 2 days and I noticed that he gets frustrated when his eyes pick up words from the line beneath the one he's reading. This doesn't happen with EVERY line, but often enough that it slows him down. This kid wants to know what comes next in the story, so any obstruction or distraction is upsetting. Following the line with his finger (or my finger) isn't enough to nip the problem, but I'm a former elementary school teacher, so I whipped out the good 'ol bookmark trick.

Holding the bookmark horizontally to underline, or isolate, one line of text at a time immediately improved his fluency. With the bookmark in place, the words from lower lines can no longer jump up into the line he's reading. Words from upper lines on the page were never distracting, so we don't have to worry about covering them. He glides smoothly through the sentences now, even adding inflection.

Initially I was worried that he might see this simple tool as babyish (his term, not mine), but when I asked what he thought about it, he remarked, "That's great! I LOVE bookmarks!" And so tonight he and I sat down to enjoy the conclusion of Marvin Redpost (4 chapters worth) without so much as a "Can we stop now?" or "Let's just read it tomorrow." Come to think of it, I believe his exact words were "Let's keep going so we can see how it ends!"

As I type this, our night owl daughter is "reading" to herself in her bedroom. We gave up fighting with her to go to bed at the same time as her early bird brother. Now she has a choice: read quietly in her room or go to sleep. She reads for a bit and then comes to get me to tuck her in when she's ready. This solution has made EVERYONE happier. Our bedtime routine is now struggle-free and she gets lots of book time. This is every author's dream, right?

My wrist is still in a brace (slowing me down considerably), but my writer's block is lifting. The new found consistency in my running (a steady 15 miles/week now) is also encouraging. Those things, combined with all of the reading happening in the house, make for a very content me. Let's see how long this period of balance lasts! Even if it doesn't last long, I can revel in the fact that it DID happen.

What are YOU reading now? Something good, I hope. Let me know!


sarah said...

I also loved Art of Racing in the Rain, despite my lack of interest in dogs or race car driving. Right now reading the Postmistress which is incredible! As far as kids books, you should check out The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner which features a middle-school cross-country runner. A great new title for the Fit Girls "fit lit" collection.

Carrie said...

I haven't read your blog in awhile, but just thought to check in and I LOVE this post! I love the bookmark trick too :)

Brianna said...

I have The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z on my reading list - can't wait to get to it! And Carrie, I'm so glad you visited again. :)