Monday, May 26, 2008

Reading Vacation

Sometimes you need to be trapped somewhere with a book. I know, it shouldn't be that way. But it is. Some of the great reading I have done as a child and as an adult has been when I was stuck somewhere and at the mercy of books left by someone else.

On a rainy day when I was sick in a cloud forest in Ecuador, I adopted a book left by another traveler. It was a book about the songlines in Australia. That book led to significant creative breakthroughs in my life.

The chore of dusting has brought me to books. Cleaning off the shelves in my mom's house often leads me to end up, half way down the shelf, on the floor, reading a book. I wouldn't normally read a book of quotes by Winston Churchill even if someone gave me the book. But it it's my discovery...well, why not! Note to parents, aunties, and grandparents...assigning someone to clean off a shelf is a good sneaky way to encourage them to dip into new knowledge.

Personally, I believe in the power of boredom, of empty time. I think every child and adult needs that time to let their mind range in organic ways. But seeding a place with some good nonfiction books can yield excellent results. These are knowledge books that lift us up and inspire us in our quiet times. These are books you don't give to a child to read. You just leave them...by the couch or in a vacation house. Put them on a shelf at eye level where "time outs" are done. Stick a few in the pocket on the backs of car seats or in a bag for a long trip.

I think, as Linda Salzman said in her Thursday May 22 post, we sometimes need to start reading what we wouldn't normally choose. Each year, just before their beach vacation, my friends Andrea and Donnie visit the local library and sweep a random assortment of books off the endcaps and fill a bag. They do so without sorting or really choosing. Then they take these book bags to the beach and randomly read. It leads them to all sorts of discoveries.

Nonfiction is perfectly suited to this kind of spontaneous reading. Seed your surroundings with such books and see what happens!

3 comments:

Mary Lee said...

I agree that it's important to give kids permission to be random and spontaneous about their reading (both fiction and nonfiction) at least some of the time. Otherwise, how will they make the unexpected discoveries you write about!?!?!

katied said...

I too agree there is room for growth when we are almost forced to try something new. You never know what you might like unless you try...only reading what we love can sometimes limit us. I think we have to show kids it is ok to read in a new direction and stick with something we don't always love.

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