Prep Work

Prep Work

Hello, friends! It’s Camp NaNoWriMo time again! And that means- bad art! reblogs! now later than ever!

I don’t think anyone could argue that any of the NaNoWriMo sessions churn out polished masterpieces, but lemme tell you, I needed this. I’ve been in an awful slump since… well, since last November, really. It’s nice to feel excited about a new project again.

Speaking off, I haven’t hit my word goal for the day yet. I’d better to see to that. Happy writing!

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Blogiversary Episode VI: Escape from Wordhaven Books!

Hello, friends! Sorry about missing last week’s post. I didn’t manage my time very well, and then I found myself suddenly out of town without my laptop and all the files therein. Oops.

But exciting news nonetheless! This week marks the sixth anniversary of this doofy blog! Hooray!

fanfare

In celebration of this most momentous occasion, I knew I wanted to do something bigger than my usual posts, so it’s been on my mind for a while. A few months ago, I was sitting around with my husband listening to a really fun escape room/ role playing podcast called Escape This Podcast, and I decided I had to do one- or at least as close to one as I could do on a blog. So here it is: Escape from Wordhaven Books!

In this CYOA puzzle, you are a detective hired to figure out what a disgruntled employee is up to at a local book shop. But when you find yourself locked in the shop alone after closing, you must find and decipher the clues hidden around the room to solve the case and get back out before it’s too late!

A few suggestions as you start the escape room:

Have something to keep notes on- sequences, hints, door codes, keys, puzzles, etc. You’ll save yourself a lot of running back and forth if you write things down.

Locks are simulated by password protected pages. Most of them are numeric codes, but some use ‘keys’. The keys are used by typing in what is written on the head of the key. (Remember, keys are case sensitive.)

While it helps to have some literary knowledge, it isn’t necessary. All the required information is available within the story, but you might have to look in a few different places to find it.

Only look in Mr. Haven’s notebook if you need a hint. The escape room can be solved without it.

If you’re having a hard time, try the puzzle with a friend- two heads are better than one!

Begin your adventure here!

Kids with Books

20minReadingHooo boy, am I stressed out this weekend. One of my hundred part-times is coordinating volunteers for a local nonprofit to go into schools and read to fourth graders. The program starts today and runs for the next few weeks and I’m still scrambling to try to get together enough volunteers for the sixteen schools we’re operating in. It is hard and I am le tired.

But! I also firmly believe that it is super important! Kids with books is as right as hot chocolate with whipped cream! There are huge benefits to a child at any age who is read aloud to (Kemp, 2015), and reading for fun has huge ramifications for a child’s future academic success as well as their success in the workforce (Taylor, 2011). But right around third or fourth grade, kids often stop reading for pleasure, especially boys (Flood, 2015).

Now, my fourth grader certainly isn’t slacking in his reading time. I can hardly get him to come to meals most nights. (Why did I give him his own book case? Whyyyy?) So why does this dip in other kids’ reading matter to me? A couple reasons.

These other kids who maybe don’t read as much at home are my son’s friends. They’re the kids he hangs out with. I’m concerned with their well being – maybe not as much as his, but still. Plus I work in their school library. (So I guess that makes being sure they have book access et cetera kind of like my job… but, my other job. Not the nonprofit job. The school job. There are so many jobs…) But anyway the point is, I know these kids and I know their families and I care about them and I want to see them do well in life. They’re a part of our community. And outside of our school, it’s not hard for me to extend that blanket of community to the rest of the school district. Maybe I don’t interact with those other kids as much as our Pearl Creek Puffins, but I can’t imagine any of them are less loved by their parents and teachers than our kids are. (And Fairbanks babies are the best babies, what can I say? :P)

And then there’s the pure selfish reason that, as a writer, I want to make sure I have as many future customers out there as possible. There. I said it.

Kids may read less for all kinds of reasons, but our program is designed to engage those low interest readers. We love the high interest readers, too, but they’re going to read anyway and they’re going to like what we read no matter what, so we’re really working on those kids who wouldn’t pick up a book on their own. We want all kids to relearn that reading is fun.

To this end, we get enthusiastic volunteers who love to read to role model reading behaviors. We pick stories that we think the kids will enjoy, regardless of whether they’re literary greats. We typically read graphic novels, and while we get some flak for it from more traditional camps, the decision is deliberate. Graphic novels are better at engaging the low interest kids than text novels are. And since so much of the story can be gleaned from images instead of just the words, they follow along better. For this same reason, graphic novels can get away with higher level vocabulary without losing kids, and still light up their little brains in nearly identical ways as straight text reading. (Morrison, 2017) And since we tend toward exciting stories with engaging art, we can emphasize to the students how fun reading is, which is really what we’re after. Because if we can convince them that reading is fun, they’re going to read.

I won’t go into the details of how the program runs. (If you’re interested in learning more about the nuts and bolts of it, you’re welcome to check out the program’s website.) But it’s been running for over a decade and the kinks are mostly worked out. I think it’s a fantastic program and my fourth grader loves hearing great stories while he eats his lunch with his friends. And maybe it stresses me out, but I’ll keep at it.

Speaking of, I still have a few more gaps to fill in the reader schedule. Wish me luck, and happy reading!

Citations

(I haven’t done this since college, haha, don’t judge my sloppy citations)

  1. Flood, Alison. Sharp Decline in Children Reading for Pleasure, Survey Finds. The Guardian, 9 Jan 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/09/decline-children-reading-pleasure-survey
  2. Kemp, Carla. MRI Shows Association Between Reading to Young Children and Brain Activity. AAP News, 25 April 2015.
  3. Morrison, Leslie. The Research Behind Graphic Novels and Young Researchers. CTD News, 14 April 2017. https://www.ctd.northwestern.edu/blog/research-behind-graphic-novels-and-young-learners
  4. Taylor, Mark. Reading at 16 Linked to Better Job Prospects. University of Oxford, 9 May 2011

Secret Krampus

Secret Krampus

 

BY THE WAY (this is not by the way- this is completely off topic), a quick note:

Whatever your chosen holidayic affiliation, everyone has something to celebrate this time of year! Once you dig down through the crust of consumerism, stress, and glitter, don’t we have a lot to be thankful for? Don’t we??

Many people choose this time of year as a time to turn outward and think of others. And there are lots of ways to do that! Endless charities are out there doing fantastic things for the less fortunate. My four favorites to throw monies at are LDS Charities, Charity: Water, Red Cross/Red Crescent, and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). But it’s easy to find any movement that has meaning to you! There are dental charities, farming charities, charities to help abused animals, charities lifting women out of poverty and economic dependence, charities dedicated to disaster relief, pairing abandoned unusual pets with new families, getting people with special needs a trained helper monkey, you name it!

No dollars? No worries! There are lots of ways you can give to your community (however big or small that may be) without spending a cent. Blood donations through hospitals or local blood banks are easy, safe, and save lives. And hair donations through organizations like Locks of Love  or Wigs for Kids don’t even hurt- and some salons will ship it for you! Donate your time to help teach a child to read at your local elementary school. Donate your voice by singing at an assisted living center or children’s hospital. Donate your muscles to help build homes for the homeless and give hope to the hopeless. Even just donating your attention by amplifying requests for service or donations via social media can make a big difference in the lives of our communities’ most vulnerable neighbors.

Giving can seem hard sometimes, but everyone has something they can give. And when all of us work together, everyone is lifted up! Happy holidays, everyone!