Thursday, February 11, 2010

Booking Through Thursday - Encouragement

What a great question on encouraging non-readers at Booking Through Thursday.

How can you encourage a non-reading child to read? What about a teen-ager? Would you require books to be read in the hopes that they would enjoy them once they got into them, or offer incentives, or just suggest interesting books? If you do offer incentives and suggestions and that doesn’t work, would you then require a certain amount of reading? At what point do you just accept that your child is a non-reader?
In the book Gifted Hands by brilliant surgeon Ben Carson, one of the things that turned his life around was his mother’s requirement that he and his brother read books and write book reports for her. That approach worked with him, but I have been afraid to try it. My children don’t need to “turn their lives around,” but they would gain so much from reading and I think they would enjoy it so much if they would just stop telling themselves, “I just don’t like to read.”

Luckily both my children are "readers". Bubba, my 10 yo son just devours books. His favorite gift is a gift card to Barnes and Noble, in fact we are on a first name basis there. Boo-Boo, my kindergartener is learning to read so fast and just can't get enough of it. How did I accomplish this? I read the them in utero, as soon as they were born, and all the time after. They own hundreds of books and our home is full of them. They read for 30 minutes each night before going to sleep. I didn't really give them much of a chance!

My dear husband is the only non-reader in our home. He had reading difficulties in school and never developed a love of reading. I just could not accept that! How can you not love to read?? I became determined to "fix" him. I started out slowly, always making sure there was a Sunday newspaper around, them I started subscribing to Time, Sports Illustrated and People Magazine for him, hitting on all his interests. He read them all from cover to cover. I also read to him. Yes, you read that right, I read aloud to my wonderful, non-reader husband - every night before we went to sleep. We read all the John Grisham books and several Tom Clancy's (try reading those long military, spy tomes aloud! Whew!) This got him hooked on the stories and the authors. When the children came along, reading aloud just didn't fit into our schedule anymore, so I tried audiobooks. He would listen to them in the car until finally that was not enough and we picked up a new John Grisham BOOK at Costco and he read it cover to cover! I was so proud of him. He branched out into Jack Higgins and W.E.B. Griffin and a reader was born. This year, so far he has finished 4 books and has discovered 2 new authors - Tom Grace and Stephen Coonts. I know he will never be the avid reader the rest of us are, but I feel we have succeeded in conquering his fear and dislike of reading. It is a happy day, when you can look around our family room and the TV is off because all 4 of us are involved in our own book world. I truly believe it is never too late to encourage and develop a love of reading in someone.

Dead Until Dark

by Charlaine Harris

I read this book for the Take Another Chance Challenge -- Challenge 6 - Genre Switch Up: Read a genre you have not read before.

I don't read vampire books -- I just don't, not my thing. I did read the Twilight series, but I don't consider them true vampire book (but that is a topic for another post!) Everyone is just so over the top about Sookie Stackhouse, that I decided to try one out. When I discovered I could download all 8 books onto my nook for $3.5o/book, I decided to go for it.

This was a very quick read. I read it in 1/2 a day while home with a sick child. I liked some things about the book and disliked many others. I kept expecting it to go somewhere and I just never did for me.

What I did not like - First, I have a problem with the name Sookie Stackhouse - it just does not fit the character for me. My BFF growing up had a cleaning lady named Suki - in my mind, I picture a very short Asian woman using broken English, not a tall blonde cocktail waitress with a Louisiana accent. It is just a strange name for me, just as it seems strange for Bill the vampire to be named Bill, it is just too common a name for a vampire. Secondly, I think most of the characters lack depth. Bill is just plain ole boring, Sookie's brother is a pain and Sam, the bar owner/shapeshifter is not very believable at all. Finally, there is way too much sex for me. Now, don't get me wrong, I like my trashy, rip the bodice romance as well as the next guy (gal), but I felt the sex scenes received much more emphasis than the plot line.

What did I like? I liked all the references to Southern culture; food, class structure, the glorification of the Confederacy, burial rituals and good old Southern hospitality. I like that Sookie is a telepath, but her powers are limited in some ways. I really liked the concept of vampires living out in the open. I thought the author did a great job of including prejudices against vampires in the book. I see parallels between discrimination against blacks in the South. But, by far my favorite part of the book is the way Charlaine Harris includes Elvis and Elvis sightings in the story. Brilliant!!

Since I do not have much experience with the vampire genre, I can't really say whether Dead Until Dark is a good representation of the genre. For me this was an entertaining read, something we all need from time to time. I will probably finish the other 7 books in the series eventually -- more than likely while sitting by the pool this summer.

Rating - C+

Monday, February 8, 2010

Social Justice Challenge - WATER

This month's topic for the Social Justice Challenge is Water. Several questions were presented to us related to the topic --

1. What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you think of water as a social justice issue?

I think of women in Africa that must walk for miles every day just to get water for their families. I think of men, women and children living in Bangladesh who drown because of inadequate infrastructure to deal with monsoon floods. I think of those dependent on water sources contaminated with chemicals, sewage, etc. I think the people who suffer from water issues, whether it be too little or too much, are those with the least economic resources.

2. What exposure, if any, have you personally had to a water shortage?

I live in the community surrounding Lake Lanier, a WPA project of the 1930s designed to dam the Chattahoochee River to create a hydroelectric power plant, a steady water supply for Atlanta and North Georgia and a recreational lake.

The summer of 2007 brought a severe drought to the Southern US and Georgia was particularly hard hit. Lake Lanier, already low from years of sub-average rainfall and the over release of water through the dam, became dangerously low -- at one point, holding only a 30 supply of water with no rain in sight. We had been on water restrictions before, but now they became more strict and more important than ever before. In a community built on revenue from the recreational activities of the lake, the economic impact was severe as well. Our restaurant was hit hard - we depended on people picking up food to take to the lake every weekend. That business virtually stopped as did my husband's paycheck. With lower water levels, came lower power levels as well. We experienced more that afew "brown outs" and were advised to stagger high electricity usage throughout the day. Water was being pulled from the very bottom of the lake and the water coming into our home was nasty - full of Georgia red clay, we had to boil it at one point. The clothes I washed were tinged red. We installed a filter system where the water comes into the house and had to change the filter weekly. We truly began to appreciate clean and reliable water.

This in no way compares with the water issues other countries face, but it is my story and it really made me look at water in a different way.

3. What potential action steps can you think of that relate to this month's theme of WATER?

Since the drought we have taken many steps to conserve water. I NEVER run the dishwasher or washing machine unless there is a full load. We bought a rain barrel last summer to use to water potted flowers and the vegetable garden. We will probably buy another one this summer. I only water the garden at night so more water will be absorbed and not evaporated. I am looking for more suggestions to help conserve more water.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Another Challenge - Social Justice Challenge

I had promised myself only to join as many challenges as I thought I could complete this year. I decided on 3 that really touched on my reading interests and also stretched my normal genres. Well, my blog friend Stephanie at Laughing Stars reviewed Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks this week for the Social Justice Challenge. I had seen this challenge floating around the blogosphere but I had my 3 challenges and just could not do anymore. After reading Stephanie's review, I checked out the Social Justice Challenge Blog and this is soooooo the challenge for me. The themes for each month are topics I read about and teach about all the time.
But, I was already behind. It was January 30th and I hadn't read a book for January. That was when I realized the theme for January was Religious Freedom and I had read Sarah's Key, a Holocaust novel this month. That sealed the deal for me. I am now committed to completing this challenge in 2010 as well.
February's topic is WATER. I can't wait to find a great book on this one. I live on Lake Lanier, just north of Atlanta. The lake provides water for the city of Atlanta, metro Atlanta and many communities in Alabama and Florida as well. It has been well below full for several years and we have had water restictions for as long as I can remember. There is even a lawsuit over the water in Lake Lanier and the Chattahooche River headed toward the US Supreme Court. On a world scale, water is the most scarce resource. I believe this resource to be even more pressing than oil on the global scale. I am looking forward to discussing this other challenge participants.

Sarah's Key

by Tatiana de Rosnay

I love stumbling upon a World War II/Holocaust novel that tells the story in a new way. Skeletons at the Feast, The Book Thief and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society are such books, so is Sarah's Key. Told in 2 voices in 2 different time periods it is amesmerizing tragedy that sums up all that was horrible about this period in history.

Like many others, I had never heard of the great Velodrome d'Hiver roundup which took place in Paris on July 16, 1942. The French police rounded up Jewish families and sent them to the Velodrome, where they were held for several days with out basic necessities. The descriptions from the novel were reminiscent of the horror stories from the Superdome in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. From the Velodrome, they were sent to temporary camps and then on to concentration camps in Germany where almost none of them survived.

Sarah Starzynski's family is one of those rounded up. Trying to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in their secret hiding place and promises to return to get him, when it is safe. She doesn't. This begins Sarah's heartbreaking story to save her brother and redeem herself.

Julia Jarmond stumbles across Sarah's story while researching the Velodrome d'Hiver roundup 60 years later. While she expects to find sad, heart wrenching stories, nothing prepares her for just how close one of those stories be tied to her own family and change them forever.

The author does a brilliant job of telling the story from 1942 and 2002. Sarah's story is told via a third person narrator, which creates a detached, almost unbelievable quality to the telling of the story. I loved how it portrayed Sarah's shock at all that had happened to her and her family is just a few short days. Julia narrates her own story and her voice is so strong as she fights to discover Sarah's story as well how to resurrect her own life.

Be prepared to cry while reading this book. The central storyline itself is very moving and it will outrage you. However, the subplot lines involving Julia and her husband as well as her relationships with her husband's family will bring tears to your eyes as well. Both stories are so personal and the characters just tug at your heart, leaving you just a bit emotionally exhausted by the end.

I am using this book as my selection for the Social Justice Challenge. The topic for January was Religious Freedom. As always when I read a book about the Holocaust I can't help but question. Why the Jews? Why did the German people not help? Did the Allies really not know what was going on? Would I have done the same thing -- choose my own survival of those of my friends and neighbors? I know the historical answers to these questions - the blame placed on Jews for the loss of World War I and the resulting financial crisis in Germany, Hitler's propaganda and talent of persuavive speaking, but it is the moral issues I have a hard time with.

I have had the privilege to hear two Holocaust survivors speak as well as visit the Simon Weisenthal Museum in Los Angeles. There are not words to describe either experience. Horror, pity, guilt, amazement, disbelief -- none of these can adequately explain. Amazement comes closest. Amazement at the resilience of the human spirit, how such horrors can be overcome and that people who have suffered the unimaginable can still have faith in God and in each other.

Also read and reviewed for the Historical Fiction Challenge.

Rating - A+