Monday, July 1, 2013

Not Reading?

with a kid-lit spin is hosted by Kellee Moyee at Unleashing Readers 

I have book guilt. I am not reading as much as I could be. We just finished a more than three thousand mile road trip and I have not many books to show for the miles logged. True, the twisty roads through the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia made me motion-sick enough to not be able to focus on print on the page, but still, you'd think I'd finish at least two books during a sixteen-hour haul home. I didn't.

Instead I watched the world go by. I marveled at Christmas trees growing road-side up north. I rode hills rolling southward through the Ohio River Valley. I snuggled the dog who turned out to be quite the traveler. I told family stories. I navigated. I doled out snacks.  Instead of losing myself to story, I immersed myself in family and friends.

Sometimes that's what readers do. They take breaks. They monitor or manage their time. I liken it to what I tell my son about submersing himself in video-games and electronic devices. We limit his screen-time. When he was six he developed a tic. It was scary. His head would nod sideways. His neck rolled back. The movement reminded me of someone clearing tension--that head roll motion. The tic came quickly and scared me.

We were out for pizza one Friday after school and he made that motion more than ten times in two minutes. We went to a neurologist. The doctor scheduled a cat scan to rule out epilepsy or tumors. Scary stuff.

I noticed that the more time he spent with screens, the more the tic appeared. We'd gotten him a Game Boy  and he'd play in the car, at home or while I shopped; he watched t.v. too. Lucky for us the neurologist declared him tumor and epilepsy free. She said motor tics in boys are common and can be either short-lived or chronic: time would tell. She also told us to limit screen time: two-hours tops preferably with brain-breaks. It worked.

That was six years ago. While I'm sure my son spends more than two hours on screen now, he blogs, he emails, he reads, he watches television and plays video games--he loves Minecraft and Star Wars-- his tic is gone. He self-limits when he games and takes breaks. He knows he needs to "be with the people" our family refrain for when we are out or visiting friends and family. Too often we see kids (and adults) immersed in media instead of the moment. Books (instead of video games) are that media for me.

Reading is important. I couldn't live without story and books. I love to read, but this vacation, I chose to savor the moments and be with the people instead.

That said, here's a short list of books I read (and shared) recently.

I gave In the Museum by Susan Verde (author), Peter H. Reynolds (Illustrator) to my five-year-old niece. She loves to make art and draw with me, so it was a fitting title for our fun together during our family vacation to celebrate my parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary.

I brought Art at the Speed of Life  by Pam Carriker on vacation to consult and share with my Mom. We were playing with paint and trying our hands at illustrated journaling. She meant to bring Danny Gregory's An Illustrated Life (a book we both read this year), but left it at home, so we dipped into some of his drawing videos for inspiration instead.

I reread bits of Be the Miracle by Regina Brett, a book I found on the road and gave to a friend at whose house we stayed on the drive home. I read Brett's book during a difficult time, a time when I needed to be still and heal. It's a book to sip slowly, read in bits, one lesson or miracle at a time.

On the drive north, I savored Sharon Olds' Pulitzer Prize winning,  Stag Leap. Tender and raw, her recollections on marriage as it ends gave me new eyes for my own. Love needs tending a good reminder. Care came through in The Round House by Louise Erdrich too. Seeing rape through a son's eyes, heart-breaking. Set on a North Dakota reservation, the book's story of  survivor, Geraldine Coutts, stunned me.

Love, care, family, persistence, strength, all seem to be themes that ran through my vacation reading this trip. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I bought while up north on recommendations from folks participating in Teachers Write. Lyrical, gorgeous prose that juxtapose love and family with violence and abuse. You never know what happens behind closed doors in a family. Adichie paints that picture delicately by balancing beauty against abuse.

I've got lots of have-to-read books ahead to prepare for next year. Some, like Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, and Outspoken by Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger will be re-reads. Others, like Tartuffe by Moliere and Pathways to the Common Core by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth and Christopher Lehman will be new reads.

Even when I think I'm not reading, I am. There's nothing to feel guilty about after all. Isn't that how all of life is? When I pay attention and take notice, I often see that I'm doing or reading more than I think I am. Appreciate that about yourself and your own reading today.


  1. Hey, if I read in the car I'd throw up, so it's okay. Something about summer is just not conducive to getting much done. Interesting about the tics and electronic games. It is hard to limit time as they get older.

  2. I heard Sharon Olds interviewed about her book not too long ago, and ran out to buy Stag's Leap. Such an amazing poet! No need to feel reading guilt, though - summer is also a time to catch your breath and catch up to other things - like time with your family.

  3. What a great name for what I feel often- Book Guilt. I always feel book guilt almost always if I am not reading when I could be. Thank you for giving me a name for my feelings.

    Love your two art books- my family is an art family and I love to find any picture book or nonfiction book that can connect us. As for the rest, I had never heard of them. I feel as I get more and more sucked into the world of kid/mg/ya lit, I get further and further behind on adult books.

    Happy reading this week! :)
    [And we need to catch up soon!!!]

  4. I think it's time to savor what's out the window on a road trip, so you shouldn't feel guilty about no reading, and in fact, the books you shared showed quite a lot. I have bookmarked Purple Hibiscus. It looks like something I will like reading. I've been looking for a good adult fiction book. Thanks for sharing about your trip and your family, Lee Ann. I'm glad it all worked out okay for your son, too!