Graphic Readers

Graphic readers are a format of a book,  just like an audio or digital book. If your child wants to read a book that is a graphic reader please let them do so.  It is real reading!  Graphic novels have all the elements of a story: characters, plot, conflict, and solution.   The reader is required […]

Graphic Readers

I have made it, everyone, a full year of Tuesdays and looking at another March Challenge as I write this final-Tuesday post. It was not a decision taken lightly to commit to writing each and every Tuesday on the heels of March 31, 2022.

I am an all-or-nothing girl. When I commit, I commit. My husband jokes that that is what has gotten through these past 38 years together, that and the fact that I never want to admit I’m wrong.

Today I had an array of thoughts to explore here on this momentous day, but I decided to review drafts stored in the “Posts” on my site since the beginning. I found this from March 2019 and picked, a spin-the-bottle choice.

The Oregon Council of Teachers of English (OCTE) runs a book club twice a year. We use a classroom-ready text in winter, last year it was Kim Johnson’s This Is My America for example, when everyone could use lighter fare. This year we selected graphic literature, two examples, for our four-week long exploration: Displacement by Kiku Hughes; and Victory! Stand.Raising My Fist for Justice by Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes and Dawud Anyabwile.

We have had a difficult time enlisting a crew of adult readers to be honest, but those few of us who’ve engaged with these graphic texts have benefited greatly. Initially, I was not a fan of the graphic format. To be honest, I don’t think I knew how to read them well. It was a student, a wonderful, quirky eighth grader who set me straight.

I sidled up to Taylor for a reading conference about a decade ago and opened with my standard, “So, how’s it going?” He was reading one of Brian Selznick’s stunning novels, Wonderstruck. Do you know it? Kids were inhaling Selznick after the movie of The Invention of Hugo Cabret came out.

He began telling me about what he loved, focusing on the art rather than the words. I tried to deter him, directing him towards the text. Then he asked, “Ms. Emerson, don’t you read the pictures? You need to slow down.” There was no malice in those word, words I have heard so often in so many contexts, just sheer appreciation for the power of slow, an understanding that reading layers is essential when reading a graphic format.

So…slow. I have devised my reading protocol for graphic reading, and I share it with any student who’s interested; it’s my process. Interestingly, it is the strategy used by several of the adults in this OCTE book club. I gobble the text first, my habit and the way I was taught, and then I go back and read the art. (It takes longer!) I have learned how to read and appreciate the affordances of this literature format.

Within the format lies a wealth of genres, opportunities for exploring fiction and non-fiction, from memoir to dystopia to fantasy. Craft moves, mentor text moments abound. The two we’ve been plumbing lean toward the memoir while Hughes’ has an element of fantasy that is deftly handled to bring the history and emotional impact of Japanese internment to readers of all ages. Tommie Smith’s story is worthwhile for anyone and everyone.

I hope that I am not alone in my awakening; I hope Taylor’s words echo for everyone. I finally get the bigger picture: WE WANT READERS and THINKERS.

Worth Noting

Where do you find recipes? I have been a fan of the New York Times Cooking site for quite some time well before people had to subscribe in 2017. That is definitely the trick with a successful site launch: Get people hooked on the product; then begin charging for it.

When we lived in New Jersey, we got the weekend edition of the paper in print. It fed our desire to know throughout the week until Saturday bought a new pile of print to our front door. And the Sunday magazine in print was food for my soul as well as always featuring some food possibilities for the rest of me, too!

I kept a binder, or did my best, as the clippings and tear outs accumulated faster than the sleeves in which to store them.

Now I collect so many recipes in so many places—my eyes are definitely bigger than my stomach! But I have my favorites while still dreaming big! Pinterest stores them in categories: “Pasta Perfection,” Eggs-actly,” “SWEET”—you get the picture.

My recent rotation regular is naan, my faithful guide to exquisite, pillowy perfection by Meera Sodha:

Notice the stars?!

The truth is, as much as I love the Cooking recipes, I usually ignore the comments. I am in the minority though. This morning as I began writing research, I discovered:

Often I begin reading responses to discover that the person commenting has altered the recipe so dramatically that the reason I was drawn to it in the first place has disappeared. Other readers have occasionally voiced the same complaint.

But I am not a fan of kneading when a dough hook will do, and my mixer stands ready. For Sodha’s Naan, “Sam” saved the day:

There are 258 notes accompanying this recipe, 76 of them deemed “most helpful.” Sam’s is third on that list and first in my heart! And I am living proof that, as the introduction claims, “Once you make the recipe two or three times you’ll never buy naan again.”

Not all comments are created equal!

Love Unquestioned

” Burt Bacharach died,” my husband read looking up from his ipad. With those words, I entered that time machine propelled by music. I recalled Dionne Warwick’s hit parade songs that provided the pop playlist of my middle-school though-high-school years. Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick played throughout.

As he began reading titles, we stopped to sing snippets summoned, melodies from raindrops to San Jose and beyond.

I remembered heading down to our nearby uptown mall, a diminutive version by today’s standards with Van Duyn’s candy store on one end and Youngland’s children’s wear on the other. Sandwiched in-between was a drugstore with a record counter where kids like me could buy 45 rpms for 99 cents each. And I bought a lot of them.

I’d head home, climb the three flights of stairs to my attic bedroom, and listen. When Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid played at the local theater, I showed up more than once and knew every note and lyric. I’d hum “I Say a Little Prayer for You” as I vacuumed the carpet, these songs my soundtrack.

“The 36 Questions That Lead to Love” was first published in the New York Times in January, 2015. I read it then, bookmarked it, thought about the premise that,”mutual vulnerability fosters closeness,” and like so many of the thousands of links stored in Diigo since we began our relationship in 2010, forgot about it.

Last Thursday morning, the same morning they announced Burt Bacharach’s passing , the Times revisited the article in its Wellness newsletter; reminded, so did I. In the first set of questions, question number 5 asks: “When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?” I could answer honestly, “less than five minutes ago.” Thank you, Burt and Dionne, for all the love.

“What the World Needs Now”

The Ultimate Loss

Linda Pastan – 1932-2023

It was a two-line note inside the daily Lit Hub newsletter, that announced poet Linda Pastan had died. I followed the link to the New York Times obituary and learned much more about this poet whose quiet truths have affirmed my life. It is Linda Pastan who said, when asked what she would be willing to do as Maryland’s poet laureate, “…’I’d be happy to read poems and talk about poetry to people around Maryland who usually had no contact with poetry or poets. I’d like to help those who think they don’t know anything about poetry, and are therefore afraid of it, learn that there isn’t that much to ‘know.’”

When I look through my notebooks at poems I have affixed, I find “The Bookstall” by Pastan. It speaks to me now, as it did in the summer of 2020, with these words, “For life is continuous/as long as they wait/to be read—these inked paths/opening into the future, page/after page…” Words, stories that bear our humanity, we share.

But the poem that led me to Pastan I found while teaching eighth graders, “To a Daughter Leaving Home.” Do you know this poem, a small-moment-writ-large metaphor where a parent coaching her daughter to ride her first bike without training wheels watches her ride off into the great beyond, full of optimism, “…the hair flapping/behind you like a/handkerchief waving/goodbye.”

It was an earth-shaking discovery for me because I’d just finished developing a memoir writing with my students about my son’s journey to obtain his license, beginning with that trike in front of our house, his passion for motion and my mixed reactions about the series of wheels that would take him ever farther from me. Linda Pastan knew this; she knew me.

When the WordPress site, Poetry Monday, featured her poem, “Imaginary Conversation,” I knew I had to share it here. Ninety years may well be a good long time to live, “…But why the last? I ask. Why not
live each day as if it were the first—…”

She left us all with words to remember.