Reading + Writing + Family = Loads of Fun!

While trying to decide upon a focus for this week's blog, I browsed through my holidays and observances calendar for inspiration. Lucky for me, a few related themes quickly jumped out, so here I am writing about.....writing. And reading. And families. Being a bit of a bibliophile, I am quite excited to share some ideas, resources and thoughts on reading, writing and family. I read a lot, I write a lot and I have a LOT of family. This is as good as combining chocolate and peanut butter!

Did you know that November is Military Family Appreciation Month? Having just observed Veterans Day, thoughts of our service men and women are very much on my mind, not only on the level of being an indebted U.S. citizen but on a personal level as well. My 22-year-old brother is joining the Navy and leaves for basic training next week. A very close friend of our family is also preparing to depart for Iraq so he is spending as much time with his family, particularly his wife and 3 daughters, as possible. How do you put into words what you want to say to someone who is embarking on such a colossal journey? What words do you use to convey the love of a parent as well as the magnitude of a situation to a child whose father is departing for war?

For me, writing is a way to say things that are not always easily spoken. I gave my brother an address book with listings for our family and his friends accompanied by a letter filled with expressions of love, encouragement and reminders of times spent together. Putting words onto paper provides permanence that speaking alone cannot duplicate. It is cathartic for me to put my feelings into concrete words and it is my hope that being able to revisit those words in tough times will be a comfort for my brother. For my friends’ family, writing is a way for fathers and daughters, sisters and brothers, to talk any time- day or night- as often as they need to.

Though I often prefer the conventions of pen and paper, we also have the benefit of electronic communications that can deliver a message in a split second to the other side of the world. Do you have something that you want to tell someone? Write it and send it to them. Not only can it be therapeutic for you, it can remain with the recipient forever to read and relish whenever they need to hear your voice. Visit Let's Say Thanks to write your message of appreciation, hope or encouragement to military service men and women.

Speaking of family, does your family have stories to tell? Of course they do! Every family has their own quirky and unforgettable stories that get told over holiday tables or at family gatherings. November is also Family Stories Month. What a perfect reason to share stories with your family! Instead of reading a book at bedtime tonight, tell a story about yourself or another family member. Share a story or something interesting that your child or spouse has never heard before. If you're really feeling adventurous, write down some of your favorite family stories. You may be surprised at what you remember or to see what stories your children feel are memorable enough for them to want to write and share. For more ideas on writing and family stories, go to PBS Between the Lions website.

Moving right along, November 15 is I Love to Write Day! I’ve already written about writing as a means of expressing emotions and for sharing stories. What else could you do? Visit the official site of I Love to Write Day to find a wealth of ideas and activities as well as some background on why John Riddle, an author from Delaware, decided to start I Love to Write Day.

Need a abundant cache of dependable and impressive words for your penned publications? Visit the Word Girl website or watch Word Girl on your local PBS station (channel 21 in Rochester, NY, at 4:30 on Fridays) for lots of fun fun word related activities. Borrow some words from Word Girl's superfluous vocabulary and you're apt to become a voracious writer!

Just when you thought that November couldn't get any better, there's even more great news: November 12-18 is Children's Book Week and November 13 is National Young Reader's Day! Who knew? If there were ever a week to trek to your local library, this is certainly the time! Check out some new books and authors or share some of the books that you enjoyed as a child with your children. A few weeks ago, I had a lengthy and quite interesting conversation with my cousin's daughter, Kyla, about Nancy Drew books. We discussed our favorite mysteries, which characters we related to most and talked in general about what books and authors we wanted to read next. Our conversation was certainly interesting but more importantly, I gained a bit of insight into Kyla's personality and perspective that I otherwise may not have known.

With so many fabulous books available for children, there really and truly is a book for everyone to read and love. As an adult, one of my current favorite author's is Alexander McCall Smith, widely known for his #1 Ladies Detective Agency series. Ready for more great news? McCall Smith also has a long list of books for kids! Here are a few of his children's books that I know you'll enjoy:

Akimbo and the Lions (part of Smith's Akimbo series), features a young African boy that is devoted to his helping his animal friends
The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean (Harriet Bean series) follows the adventures of Harriet and her peculiar yet fascinating family.
The Girl Who Married a Lion and Other Tales from Africa, a collection of 40 traditional African folk tales.
Once you start reading McCall Smith's stories, you will find yourself clamoring for more from this talented and entertaining author.

I had no idea that there could be so much to write about in the month of November, and we're not even to to Thanksgiving yet! I leave you, as always, with some quirky and interesting facts to delight and intrigue you for the rest of the week.
Enjoy! Happy reading and writing!

November 14, 1840- Birth date of Claude Monet, impressionist painter
November 14, 1851- Moby Dick by Herman Melville is published
November 13, 1982- The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C.
November 17, 1913- The steamship Louise became the first ship to travel through the Panama Canal
November 16, 1952- In the Peanuts comic strip, Lucy first held a football for Charlie Brown. Game on!



Michael Dorris

My daughters are 17 and 12 now. Both avid readers, but only the younger one still feels like reading with her dad on occasion. Your suggestions for younger readers made me fondly recall several books by Michael Dorris. "Guests" is particularly timely. It tells a Thanksgiving story through the eyes of a young native boy. "Sees Behind Trees" and "Morning Girl" are also set within indigenous cultures. "The Window" is a modern tale but also worth a read. For me the books were remarkable because they didn't talk down to kids, gave them credit for profound and subtle feelings, and acknowledged that life can be very difficult. And the writing is just beautiful.