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Good readers make good writers

By Jennifer Hubbard

Rowan Public Library

I taught high-school English for years, and, 10 times out of 10, the students who wrote well were the ones who had began reading for pleasure at an early age. The ones who hadn’t read for pleasure in the past (and didn’t care much for it in the present, either) found themselves trapped in a vicious cycle.

So how do you, the parent or guardian (or the actual teenager in question), help to make up for lost time?

This isn’t one you can blame on the teachers. While the mechanics of writing can, to some degree, be taught, eloquence and flair cannot. As Mark Twain said, the difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

The difference between a reader and a non-reader is just as startling. And for a reluctant reader, longer is rarely better. If your teen is no bookworm, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, National Geographic and Vanity Fair feature stellar writing. On the second floor of the main branch of the library, you will find these magazines (and more), with comfy chairs nearby.

Once the reluctant reader has been hooked by your sneaky little plan, it’s on to longer material: books. True-crime stories offer a seedy allure irresistible to most everyone. On the second floor (not far from the magazines), have your kiddo scan the shelves at 364.1523. If something doesn’t reach out and grab him or her, biographies and memoirs can be just as compelling.

If your daughter plays soccer, why not lead her to “Solo: A Memoir of Hope,” by Hope Solo? If your son aspires to world domination, why not hand him “The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia,” by Candace Fleming? I have yet to meet a reader, young or old, who didn’t tear through “The Glass Castle,” by Jeannette Walls. “Brown Girl Dreaming,” by Jacqueline Woodson, is a gentle, affecting, easy-to-read memoir (and it’s short).

War accounts and dog tales certainly attract younger readers, but combined, they pack a lasting punch. “From Baghdad, with Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava,” by Jay Kopelman, is only one possibility. I used to teach Tim O’Brien’s semi-autobiographical account of his experience in Vietnam, “The Things They Carried,” to 10th-grade boys, who often finished it way ahead of schedule. Other books they lapped up were “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” andInto the Wild,” by Jon Krakauer, about a young man who rejects his cushy life for a solo journey into the Alaskan wilderness.

Speaking of getting lost in the woods, I recall Stephen King’s “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” as a quick, thrilling read. It’s not a true story, but, as much of King’s fiction, it reads as if it could be. For sunnier fare, teens might enjoy the novels of Alan Bradley, which feature girl detective Flavia de Luce. Though written for adults, they are easy to read, and they’re funny, too, and speaking of funny, “Bossypants,” by Tina Fey, not only made me laugh out loud, but it also made me think. I like thinking; like listening, it’s a highly underrated skill. And that brings us to a full circle that is not a vicious cycle: good writers are good readers are good thinkers are good writers are good…

Weekly events for children run through the week of April 28.

Baby Time: Infants to 23 months. A loosely interactive program introducing simple stories and songs to infants up to 23 months old with a parent or caregiver; 30 minutes. Headquarters, Char’s Little Stars, Wednesday, 10 a.m.; East branch, Tammie’s Tiny Sprouts, Mondays, 10 a.m.; South Regional, Miss Pat’s Tiny Tots, Wednesdays, 10 a.m.

Toddler Time: 18 to 35 months. Focused on sharing books, singing songs and encouraging listening skills with a parent or caregiver. 30 min. Headquarters, Reading Rumpus, Tuesdays, 10:30 .m.; East, Tammie’s Tot Time, Mondays, 11 a.m.; South, Miss Pat’s Wee Readers, Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.

Preschool Time: To encourage the exploration of books and build reading readiness skills for children 3 to 5 years old with a parent or caregiver. 30 minutes. Headquarters, East and South, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.

Noodlehead Story Time: Books and songs for all ages; primary focus is pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. 30-45 minutes. Headquarters, Thursdays, 4 p.m.; East, Tuesdays, 3:30 p.m.; South, Wednesdays, 4 p.m.

Art programs: Activities and instruction based on various themes and media vary by branch. Appropriate for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. Headquarters, Art in the Afternoon, Thursdays, 4:30 p.m.; East, Bethany’s Brushes, Tuesdays, 4 p.m.; South, Canvas Kids, Wednesdays, 4:30 p.m.

Tail Waggin’ Tutors: Children 7 to 9 can practice their reading skills in a relaxed, dog-friendly atmosphere. Dogs registered through Therapy Dogs International are available for beginning and struggling readers to read aloud to them. Reservations are recommended but not required. Headquarters, Tuesdays, 4:30 p.m.; East, selected Mondays, 3:30 p.m.; South, selected Tuesdays at 6 p.m. and Saturdays at 10 a.m.

Chapter Chats Book Club: A weekly club for teens 14-17, primarily for participants with developmental or intellectual disabilities, but all are welcome. Meets at East branch meeting room, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 5 p.m. For more information, contact Tammie Foster at 704-216-7842.

Adventure Club: March 11, 11 a.m.-noon, headquarters. Participate in adventurous, hands-on, science-based activities and projects. Programs are more suitable for children in second through fifth grades.

Anime Club: Teens and college-age individuals (21 and under) are invited to watch anime and engage in Japanese-themed crafts and games. Headquarters, March 7 and April 4, 4:30 p.m.

Dr. Who’s Days: Travel through time and space with screenings of the classic BBC program, “Dr. Who.” Families are invited to attend. Headquarters, March 14 and April 11, 4:30 p.m.

Teen Advisory Board: Teens who join this board provide input on RPL’s teen programming and book selection and discuss current events and issues of interest. Members can count their hours of participation toward school community service requirements. East, March 13, April 10, 6:30 p.m.; Headquarters, March 28, April 25, 4:30 p.m.

Teen program: March is the MuV Chat for Teens and April is the Teen Poetry Slam at headquarters. Headquarters, March 20, April 18, 4:30 p.m.; East, March 20, 6:30 p.m.; South, March 20, 4:30 p.m.

Displays: Headquarters, Rowan Doll Society and Salisbury Academy; East, celebrating Dr. Seuss; South, North Carolina pottery.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second language.



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