Books: The New Weights for Exercising Your Brain

A Writer's Path

by Nadia Sotnikova

When I was a toddler, it took more than a few fake airplanes to make me eat my carrots and broccoli. My mouth remained clamped shut, as my mom would pilot the fork airplane filled with toddler-sized bites of multi-colored veggies. My hatred for Bugs Bunny’s favorite vegetable followed me from childhood into adulthood, and my mouth remained shut no matter how many times I was told how beneficial carrots were for my eyes.

My poor mom never stopped trying to create a health conscious carrot-eating daughter, no matter how many times I fed her carrots to the dog or left them on my dinner plate. Creating a health conscious lifestyle require us to consume a large quantity of carrots, broccoli, treadmills, and multivitamins.

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Quotable – Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou (born Marguerite Ann Johnson in 1928, died in 2014)  was an American author, poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. Image from Amazon.

 

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” — Maya Angelou

A Helping Hand #ReadWithMe


I Heart Books

Image from Google


In my late teens and early twenties, I volunteered with a community literacy program that paired increasing literacy and diversity.  As such, I was partnered with a young Caucasian man I’ll call Mark.

A year younger than me and just a year out of high school, Mark was one of those unfortunate students ignored by the education system and pushed through school with passing grades. Coming from a home where reading wasn’t a priority, no one realized Mark could read, but only enough to get by, much like my own father. There were nearly seventy years between my father’s school days and Mark’s. My father had to quit school at age nine. Mark was handed a high school diploma. Both were functionally illiterate.

While members of the literacy program would meet together to brainstorm and strategize on how best to help the program’s students, we were not teachers or educators. We were students, retirees, stay-at-home moms, moms employed outside the home, and professionals in other areas. Sometimes, teachers would join the program and write outlines for us and give us benchmarks to aim for, but most of the time we were just a group of ordinary folks who wanted to help others.

After determining Mark’s reading level, I gave him two books, a writing pad, and a dictionary. He was one read one chapter, look up and write down the definition of any word he didn’t understand, and write one paragraph in his own words what the chapter was about.

With an eight or twelve-week learning plan, most students completed the course with increased reading skills. Mark signed up for the twelve-week session and was determined to finish…because he wanted to join the military. Our program worked for people like Mark because we didn’t work on fixed times and locations like the larger better-funded organizations. Working nights with a restaurant clean-up crew and picking up odd jobs in construction meant Mark’s schedule could change daily. There were times he did miss one or both of our twice weekly sessions. But I have to confess I was near tears when he did show up…he always had his words and his paragraph.

Circumstances led to my having to relocate before completing the sessions with Mark. I wish I could say I knew what happened with him, but life isn’t that easy.

However, through friends connected with the literacy program I do know 1) Mark completed the program; 2) he never made it to the military; 3) He DID enroll in college.

That’s enough for me.

 

GIVEAWAY!
During the month of March, four random commenters – one each week – will win ebooks copies of some of my favorite books from authors like Toni Morrison, Terry Dean, and Walter Mosley!


March is National Reading Month and I invite you to #ReadwithMe by sharing a story about your love of reading.

Click on the Linky Tools link below to share a post from your blog/website about reading! (New browser opens) The join links are open until March 31st. Beginning April 1st, no more links can be added, but the Linky Tool and the links posted to it will remain active indefinitely!

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Thank you, Daddy! #ReadwithMe

hands


I feel as though I’ve been reading all my life. While I come close to the mark, I’m still a few years short.

I was reading on my own before my fifth birthday. My father taught me. The memories of this are even more special to me because my father was a functional illiterate.

Born in June of 1914, daddy had to quit school three years after he began to help work the fields of his sharecropping grandparents. Having a natural curiosity about the world, daddy always wanted to return to the classroom, but it wasn’t meant to be. Formal education simply wasn’t a priority for most people in rural Mississippi in those times, and definitely not for African-Americans.

My father taught himself many things over the years, but reading wasn’t one of them. By the time World War II began he was already a married man with a family. Being a good provider meant everything to men like my father, and work was always the priority. Again, in those times, learning was discouraged for African-Americans and ‘making their mark’ on legal documents sufficed.

His first marriage ended in divorce, and by this time, my father’s lack of reading skills embarrassed him. He wanted to better himself and have more in life. While searching for someone to help him, a friend introduced him to her sister – my mother.

Despite the differences in their ages (he in his 40s, she in her 20s), my parents’ friendly dating soon led to marriage. Daddy readily admitted to hiding the extent of his inability to read from my mother, and she admits to taking it for granted that he could. Doesn’t everyone know how to read?

Needless to say, by the time mom did find out – class was in session! Working fourteen to sixteen hours a day left little time for reading practice, but by the time I was born three years later, daddy had more than mastered the basics. I can first remember sounding out words with him…from the sports page! Daddy was a baseball fanatic and loved being able to read the team stories and standings for himself, so that was my first learning material.

As each of my younger siblings came along, daddy was a man on a mission. He demanded our best effort in everything we did, but reading and spelling were the priorities, and the first subjects he looked at on our report cards. Daddy wore the biggest grin when my fourth-grade teacher suggested he take me to the public library because I was already reading the sixth-grade books from the school’s small library.

My lifelong love affair with reading continued through school and into marriage and parenthood. My husband reads, but he’s one of those leisurely readers. I can devour six books by the time he finishes one. We read to our three children (and made up stories and songs) and they all entered school reading.

During their school years, I was involved in parent leadership and PTA and never passed up an opportunity to emphasize to parents how important reading to children AND having them read aloud was. I shared my love of reading also by volunteering with literacy programs for children and adults and reading to residents in nursing homes.

That’s how important reading is to me.

Perhaps it’s because I started reading so young, or maybe it’s the materials I choose to read…but probably not. I know it’s important to me because it’s the single greatest gift my father ever gave me. It was something he spent half his life striving for and once he got it – he gave it to me.

Even now, more than fifty years later, when I come to the end of an especially good book, I close my eyes, smile, and say, “Thank you, daddy.”

GIVEAWAY!
During the month of March, four random commenters – one each week – will win ebooks copies of some of my favorite books from authors like Toni Morrison, Terry Dean, and Walter Mosley!


March is National Reading Month and I invite you to #ReadwithMe by sharing a story about your love of reading.

Click on the Linky Tools link below to share a post from your blog/website about reading! (New browser opens) The join links are open until March 31st. Beginning April 1st, no more links can be added, but the Linky Tool and the links posted to it will remain active indefinitely!

 

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Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…