Tag Archives: books

Reading to third graders

Yesterday I got to go to Sarah’s class and tell them about Kenya. I took various artifacts, including my rungu and spear, and talked a little about growing up in Kenya, and in what ways things are different there from here.

I read them When Africa Was Home, which is a wonderful book about what it’s like for a kid who has to move from one culture to another – in this case, from Malawi to America – and back again. I love this book because in a small way it’s about me.

Kids ask the funniest questions. One kid asked how people cut their fingernails in Africa. I’m not sure what thought process went into that question, but I talked about how most of the time one can get the same stuff in Africa, although it might be a different brand, or work differently.

In all the years that I’ve done these “what is Africa like” talk, there’s one consistent question that I always get. “Did you get to ride an elephant?” So now, the first time when I can actually say “Yes, but not in Africa”, nobody asked it. It was very disappointing. 😉

Expostulation and Reply

Expostulation and Reply, by William Wordsworth.

I was reminded of this while watching something about Benedict this morning, and about his urging that we observe what is around us, and learn from it, as much as from the things that we read and study. One of the Benedictine monks in the video made the simple, but profound observation, “If you miss this moment, you miss your life.”

At the same time, I’m fascinated by the notion that books are “the spirit breathed from dead men to their kind.”

“WHY, William, on that old grey stone,
Thus for the length of half a day,
Why, William, sit you thus alone,
And dream your time away?

“Where are your books?–that light bequeathed
To Beings else forlorn and blind!
Up! up! and drink the spirit breathed
From dead men to their kind.

“You look round on your Mother Earth,
As if she for no purpose bore you;
As if you were her first-born birth,
And none had lived before you!”

One morning thus, by Esthwaite lake,
When life was sweet, I knew not why,
To me my good friend Matthew spake,
And thus I made reply:

“The eye–it cannot choose but see;
We cannot bid the ear be still;
Our bodies feel, where’er they be,
Against or with our will.

“Nor less I deem that there are Powers
Which of themselves our minds impress;
That we can feed this mind of ours
In a wise passiveness.

“Think you, ‘mid all this mighty sum
Of things for ever speaking,
That nothing of itself will come,
But we must still be seeking?

“–Then ask not wherefore, here, alone,
Conversing as I may,
I sit upon this old grey stone,
And dream my time away,”

Books on tape and reading aloud

In the high and far off times, oh my best beloved, various persons read books to me.

My parents read the Narnia books to us kids at home, and Mr. Bruce read The Hobbit to us in class. I think that these two, more than any others, ignited my love of books, and in particular of that genre of fantasy that Mr. Lewis and Mr. Tolkien were particularly good at.

There were many, many other books that were read to me, but those are the ones that I most remember.

I read to my daughter, every night. We’ve gone through The Little Princess, The Secret Garden, and are almost done with the last of the Narnia books. And of course there have been many other books – the Junie B Jones books, the Boxcar Children, and the Magic Treehouse feature many times.

And I listen to audio books every day on the way to work. I have a membership at Audible.com, and get a book from them every month. When that runs out, there are numerous free podcasts of stories that I listen to. Some of these are from the Old Time Radio Podcast Network, which is one of the websites that restores my faith in the original goals of the Internet, or at least my interpretation of them.

I was discussing all of this with a coworker, who said that he doesn’t feel that he’s actually read a book if he’s listened to it. I can agree with that at some level, with some books, depending on who did the recording/reading.

There are some books that I simply wouldn’t ever get through if I couldn’t listen to them. Some of this is due to time, and some of it is due to the difficulty of certain books. Anna Karenina just about killed me, but I got through the entire thing, reading it the old fashioned way on paper. But that was an act of sheer willpower. There are some books, however, that when read in a different voice, can hold my attention a little better, and I can get through them. I made it through a number of Anne Rice books this way, which I really don’t think I could have done otherwise.

I still do read a lot on paper, too. At the moment, I’m reading Eldaterra, The Abolition of Man, and Montessori, a modern approach, among a few other things. I’m reading the Just So Stories for the umpty billionth time, and recording it for your listening pleasure. 🙂

I love reading aloud. I love reading to kids (if they actually listen) and, for some reason, I love reading and recording, with the notion that other folks are listening and enjoying, particularly when it is stories that I love so much, like the Just So Stories, or A Christmas Carol. I’d like to also do some readings from Dandelion Wine, but there’s the trouble of copyright there.

Anyways, nothing much profound to say about this. Curious what folks feel about the validity of claiming to have “read” a book, when one has only listened. I guess that once a year or so has passed, I no longer remember whether I read or listened, unless the reader was spectacularly bad, or spectacularly good. For example, I listened to “The Man Who Was Thursday”, which was just awful, because the guy reading it either didn’t get the story, or had a head cold, or … I don’t know. Anyways, when I read it (on paper) it was brilliant, and a lot of fun.


Again with the whooshing sound.

I’ve *finally* finished my latest writing project, a mere 26 days past deadline.

There are just so many things I want to get done in any given day, and if I stay up late enough to do them all, I can’t function the next day. Sleep can be a great inconvenience at times.

Geek Gap

I recently read The Geek Gap, and it was really insightful. Written by a “geek” and a “suit”, it presents both sides of the Geek Gap – the distrust and misunderstanding that makes it so difficult for geeks and suits to understand what the heck each other is talking about.

The book provides insight about what motivates geeks (all pretty obvious stuff to me) and what motivates suits (fascinating! how could they *be* so weird?), and tries to convince everyone that the other folks aren’t just out to mislead and lie to them. I think I might even believe it.

Highly recommended, and a quick read.

Mo Willems

Today Mo Willems was at Joseph Beth, and we got to hear him read his book Edwina. We then got two of his books signed. It turns out that he had lunch with my mother yesterday, at an event where they were both in attendance.

He was great at reading his books, which isn’t necessarily a given with authors. And he was great in relating to the kids. After reading, he taught them to draw the pigeons from his books, and encouraged them to go forth and “violate my copyright with abandon”, or words to that effect. 🙂

Terry Brooks

Last night Terry Brooks was at Joseph Beth. When I got home, I spaced out on something else, and completely forgot about it until this morning. I’ve been reading his stuff almost as long as any other author, and missed getting to hear him read. 🙁