Monday, December 4, 2017

2018 Reading Challenge Sign-Ups

So, I really am quitting most reading challenges for 2018. I went through all the pros and cons and very few challenges made the cut to re-join for next year. I will sign up for the broad, number-based Goodreads challenge in the beginning of January as I always do. Once again, I will set a very high goal that reflects all of the types of books I read including picture books, chapter books, poetry, short stories, and graphic novels which enable my stats to climb so high. Sometimes I wonder why I bother with this one, but at this point it feels like a tradition.

The other two challenges that made the cut had a common theme: children's literature. Why am I not surprised?! I decided I would join the Picture Book Reading Challenge again as long as the categories were mostly different -- and they are! So that one is a go and my goal is to complete the entire checklist again. I've been rocking the Newberys and Caldecotts lately and have a LOT more of them on my TBR, so the Newbery Reading Challenge is also a go and I'm aiming for the highest level again.

And I'm sneaking just one new challenge into my lineup. Becky who hosts the Picture Book Reading Challenge also has a similar Middle Grade Reading Challenge that is just too tempting to pass up! I figure this one will work for two main reasons: first, it overlaps with the Newbery Challenge and second, like the picture book challenge, it features an awesome checklist of options. I have found the checklist format is pretty ideal for me in terms of keeping track. I have no delusions of completing all 104 categories for this one, but I know I can complete the minimum of 6. I won't set a goal higher than 6, I'm just curious to see how many I can check off by the end of the year. Becky has even ruled that counting a single book for two qualifying categories is allowed (but not more than two!)

Both picture book and middle grade challenges have an option to focus on a single author's body of work which I'm really intrigued by. Deciding on just one author will be a difficult choice, but I definitely want to at least consider this option for both challenges.

MY GOAL: Konigsburg level = 75+ points

Point System
3 points for a Newbery Medal Winner 
2 points for a Newbery Honor Book 
1 point for a Caldecott Honor or Medal Book

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Original artwork by Charles Haigh-Wood (1856-1927)
Info & Sign-Up
MY GOAL: Complete Checklist + Complete Option 2

Option 1: Read six picture books of your choice.
Option 2: Choose one author to focus on. Perhaps read through an entire author's work.
Option 3: Read as few as six, or as many as you like, from the checklist below
1. Title beginning with A
2. Author beginning with A
3. Title beginning with B
4. Author beginning with B
5. Title beginning with C
6. Author beginning with C
7. Title beginning with D
8. Author beginning with D
9. Title beginning with E
10. Author beginning with E
11. Title beginning with F
12. Author beginning with F
13. Title beginning with G
14. Author beginning with G
15. Title beginning with H
16. Author beginning with H
17. Title beginning with I
18. Author beginning with I
19. Title beginning with J
20. Author beginning with J
21. Title beginning with K
22. Author beginning with K
23. Title beginning with L
24. Author beginning with L
25. Title beginning with M
26. Author beginning with M
27. Title beginning with N
28. Author beginning with N
29. Title beginning with O
30. Author beginning with O
31. Title beginning with P
32. Author beginning with P
33. Title or Author beginning with Q
34. Title beginning with R
35. Author beginning with R
36. Title beginning with S
37. Author beginning with S
38. Title beginning with T
39. Author beginning with T
40. Title or Author beginning with U
41. Title or Author beginning with V
42. Title or Author beginning with X or “Ex”
43. Title beginning with Y
44. Author beginning with Y
45. Title or Author beginning with Z
46. An alphabet book
47. A counting book
48. A color word in the title
49. A number word in the title
50. Concept book of your choice— picture book
51. Concept book of your choice — board book
52. bedtime book —board book
53. bedtime book — picture book
54. book that rhymes —picture book
55. book that rhymes — early reader OR board book
56. holiday of your choice — board book or early reader
57. holiday of your choice — picture book
58. wordless picture book
59. new to you author
60. new to you illustrator
61. favorite author
62. favorite illustrator
63. free choice
64. fairy or folk tale adaptation
65. fairy or folk tale traditional
66. a title with the word “first” in it
67. a book set in the state you live
68. a book set in a place you’d like to visit
69. a book set in an imaginary place
70. a book set in the past — fiction or nonfiction
71. a book set in the present
72. picture book for older readers — fiction
73. picture book for older readers — nonfiction
74. early reader — fiction
75. early reader — nonfiction
76. picture book with photographs
77. one word title
78. long title (four or more words)
79. oversized book
80. tiny book
81. a book about playing (hide and seek, tag, or peekaboo, etc.)
82. a book about school
83. a book about hobbies (art, dance, music, crafts, sports)
84. a title that is a question
85. a title that is an exclamation
86. an award winner or an honor book
87. a collection (of poems OR stories)
88. a book with animals (fiction)
89. a book with animals (nonfiction)
90. a book about books or reading
91. a book celebrating family
92. first book in a series
93. any book in a series
94. book with an adventure or misadventure
95. a book about a pet
96. A title with the word “yes” or “no” in it
97. A title with the word “big” or “little” in it
98. a classic published before 1968
99. a book you think should be considered a classic
100. Out of print
101. Library book
102. Impulse Pick
103. Board book published in 2018
104. Picture book published in 2018

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Girl reading a book by Federico Zandomeneghi
Info & Sign-Up
MY GOAL: Minimum of 6 from checklist (but hopefully a lot more!) + Complete Option 2

Option 1: Read six middle grade books of your choice. 
Option 2: Choose one author to focus on. Perhaps read through an entire author's work. 
Option 3: Read as few as six, or as many as you like, from the checklist below

1. Title beginning with A
2. Author beginning with A
3. Title beginning with B
4. Author beginning with B
5. Title beginning with C
6. Author beginning with C
7. Title beginning with D
8. Author beginning with D
9. Title beginning with E
10. Author beginning with E
11. Title beginning with F
12. Author beginning with F
13. Title beginning with G
14. Author beginning with G
15. Title beginning with H
16. Author beginning with H
17. Title beginning with I
18. Author beginning with I
19. Title beginning with J
20. Author beginning with J
21. Title beginning with K
22. Author beginning with K
23. Title beginning with L
24. Author beginning with L
25. Title beginning with M
26. Author beginning with M
27. Title beginning with N
28. Author beginning with N
29. Title beginning with O
30. Author beginning with O
31. Title beginning with P
32. Author beginning with P
33. Title or Author beginning with Q
34. Title beginning with R
35. Author beginning with R
36. Title beginning with S
37. Author beginning with S
38. Title beginning with T
39. Author beginning with T
40. Title or Author beginning with U
41. Title or Author beginning with V
42. Title or Author beginning with X or “Ex”
43. Title beginning with Y
44. Author beginning with Y
45. Title or Author beginning with Z
46. 2018 Newbery Winner or Honor
47. Newbery Winner or Honor from 2010-2017
48. Newbery Winner or Honor from 2000-2009
49. Newbery Winner or Honor from 1990-1999
50. Newbery Winner or Honor from 1980-1989
51. Newbery Winner or Honor from 1970-1979
52. Newbery Winner or Honor from 1960-1969
53. Newbery Winner or Honor from 1950-1959
54. Newbery Winner or Honor from 1940-1949
55. Newbery Winner or Honor from 1932-1939
56. Newbery Winner or Honor from 1922-1931
57. Notable Children's Book from 2018 or 2017
 58. Any book by a Wilder Award author
 59. verse novel
 60. graphic novel
 61. biography or memoir
 62. nonfiction
 63. poetry
 64. audio book
 65. first in a series
 66. any book in a series
 67. last book in a series
 68. favorite author
 69. new to you author
 70. British author
 71. Australian author
 72. Canadian author
 73. translated into English from another language
 74. American author
 75. set in the state you live
 76. set in a place you'd like to visit
 77. set in an imaginary place you'd like to visit
 78. picture book for older readers
 79. book about a pet
 80. animal fantasy
 81. fantasy
 82. alternate reality
 83. science fiction
 84. adventure
 85. action/suspense
 86. mystery/detective
 87. realistic fiction
 88. school setting
 89. multiple points of view
 90. historical fiction -- world war I
 91. historical fiction -- world war II
 92. historical fiction, your choice
 93. historical fiction, mystery or suspense
 94. oh the sads
 95. happy, happy ending
 96. laugh until you cry
 97. coming of age
 98. "diary" or "notebook"
 99. classic, your choice
 100. out of print
 101. library book
 102. impulse pick
 103. published in 2018
 104. YOUR pick for Newbery 2019

Bonus/alternate picks:
 made into a good movie
 made into a horrible movie
 book from your childhood
 free choice
 multiple authors
 orphan child
 vacation setting or road trip
 first crush
 new book by favorite author
time travel or steam punk

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Are you joining any challenges this year?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Big Library Book Clear Out

Very often I have an embarrassing number of books checked out on my library card. Well, I thought it was embarrassing to have 40-50 books out at a time until chatting at book club one month, my friend who is a librarian looked up her own account and had out approximately 80 -- I'm not alone! I still feel awkward going up to the desk when I have a dozen or more picture book holds to pick up all at once, but I'm pretty sure that's just my own hang-up. I don't think anyone working at the library is actually upset or surprised when patrons make heavy use of their services -- or at least I hope not!

But let's go back to that dozen holds thing for a second. Whenever I go into the library to pick up a huge stack, I always feel the need to return a huge stack first. Granted, I usually only put in a lot of hold requests when I'm ready to move onto a new season/holiday/author/illustrator, etc. which often means I am done with an earlier season/holiday/author/illustrator, etc. It's always very satisfying to do a Big Library Book Clear Out and gather up all those ones I'm done with -- especially if I've actually read all (or most) of them. Hence, today's return pile -- which only includes TWO unread books.

The OUT pile

I feel lighter clearing those books out of the house. I feel a sense of completion and accomplishment. And then....

The IN pile

I take out a new stack! I'm not the only one who does this, right? Sometimes I do feel like I go overboard and then I make sure to return any hasty selections I'm having second thoughts about. I think my new stack is pretty well rounded though -- there are some for Christmas, some for the Diverse Books Club, and a couple of stragglers for the 2017 Picture Book Challenge. I've been spending the last few days of November on a hodge podge of library books and other "catch-up" type reading to clear the path for all those Christmas-y books in December. I think I'm just about ready!

* * * * *

Tell me how you use your local library! Do you ever take out big stacks? I'd love to know :)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Vacation Bag TBR #2: December Book Stack

I usually am not an early person when it comes to Christmas -- getting a tree, decorating, cards, gifts, baking -- none of these things usually happen immediately after Thanksgiving around here like they do for many. They definitely don't happen before Thanksgiving (if that's your thing though, it's all good) and usually I'm lucky if they happen at all! Last year when my son was 1 1/2 years old, I ended up with a tiny table-top tree and called it a day. I'm hoping to do a real tree this year, but that remains to be seen. I usually like to do things bit by bit over the weeks leading up to Christmas, though I can certainly see the appeal of getting it all done early. But since becoming a mom, it feels like a whole new ball game! Even if I wanted to get the ball rolling earlier, I'm not sure I could realistically manage it -- and I'm OK with that.

The one thing I can dive right into though is seasonal books! I love reading Christmas-y books in December, but usually don't get around to as many as I would like. So as I did for the fall, I thought I'd pull them all out so I can see what I have when it's time to choose my next book. A curated stack or shelf of options seems to work for me as long as I don't look at this stack like a to-do list. My intention is not to turn my Christmas reading into a homework-like obligation, but rather to narrow my focus and avoid the decision paralysis that happens when staring down my entire collection.

From the bottom of the stack up you'll see:

* 3 Christmas anthologies
* a Christmas cookbook with accompanying stories from famous chefs/authors
* a Dickens collection
* a vintage children's magazine anthology (which isn't all holiday stories)
* 7 middle grade books that are about Christmas, take place around Christmas-time, or have some sort of Christmas element in them
* the classic A Miracle on 34th Street illustrated by Tomie dePaola
* a slim collection of children's poetry by Jack Prelutsky
* a collection of 12 short stories (with recipes)
* two illustrated children's story/poem collections

Too many to list! Leave a comment if you have any questions about titles :)

I also pulled out all the Christmas picture books and the stack is bigger than I thought! We may not get to every single one this year, but I'm sure we will read plenty of them over the next four weeks. A few of these have already been read recently -- and I will admit that a couple get read year round! I also have submitted my library requests from the running list of Christmas books I kept as I went through various author or illustrator backlists earlier in the year. We will not run out of things to read, that's for sure! I fully expect little man to latch onto a handful of favorites though, so some of these I may end up reading on my own if they are ones I really want to revisit during the season.

And let's not forget audiobooks! The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is an annual re-listen for me. And I'm already listening to My True Love Gave to Me for book club. I have more than enough to choose after those two -- some new, some re-reads -- if I have any additional listening time :)

* * * * *

I know I have more here than I can possibly read in a month, but that's alright :) What are you reading this time of year? Do you have any good winter reads or books for other holidays? I'd love to hear about them!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Review: Slow Reading in a Hurried Age

Slow Reading in a Hurried Age, by David Mikics
Date: October 2013
Format: Hardcover
How did I get this book? Borrowed from the Library
Goodreads | Publisher

I don't write many book review posts these days, so it's a bit ironic that I'm reviewing a title I didn't even finish! I didn't finish it on purpose though and when I started writing this up on Goodreads, I got a lot more long-winded than I expected. So here we are.

The idea of slow reading appeals to me -- partially because I am a slow reader by default and always have been. The idea of speeding up the "movie in my head" has really not ever appealed to me, despite the fact that I would be able to read more books in the same amount of time if I did. So I guess when I spotted this title, I was really just curious about the benefits of slow reading since I felt like it was something I was already doing. In truth, Mikics' "slow reading" means much more than just a literal slow pace and it was interesting to see what "rules" he has come up with. He very clearly states these are really only guidelines and that he has no intention of ruining the reading experience with mandates -- he feels the "rules" should help readers enjoy books more, not less, and that each reader should only take what he or she can use -- which I feel is important to point out because I have seen other reviews criticize the very idea of reading "rules."

All that said, I really enjoyed and got a lot out of the Introduction, The Problem, and The Answer chapters. After that I skimmed and skipped (which is rather the opposite of what the author is advocating!) because the examples were mostly classics I have not read. I was honestly not interested in another person's analysis of books based on the advice given, just the advice itself. I think a lot of the ideas here can apply to any kind of book, it was just way beyond me to have so many points of reference I was unfamiliar with. At some point, I'd like to discover some of the books discussed for myself rather than read Mikics' analysis of various snippets.

I think the strongest part of this book was the discussion in those first few chapters of reading in the digital age. I don't want to be alarmist, over-dramatic, or demonize technology, but I could completely relate to many of the descriptions of distraction and discontent related to too much screen time. It is making me rethink my relationship with screens and validating the feeling that I really need a break from it all sometimes -- and that break is well spent if I take the time to read instead.

I'm glad I borrowed this from the library instead of purchasing it because the book as a whole didn't work for me. But I'm very glad for the parts that did resonate with me and I copied a TON of quotes into my reading journal. Those first chapters are definitely worth a read if slow reading appeals to you in any way -- or if the distractions of technology are leaving you feeling a little frazzled or sapping your concentration. But if you'd like to take a peek at the "Rules," check out this Huffington Post article which abbreviates those 130 pages very nicely.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Reading Journal #1 Complete!

It's been almost two years since I first mentioned starting a journal of quotations from books I read and I've finally filled it up!

Scribble courtesy of a certain small someone :)

Last pages -- it's full!

To the best of my memory, I had only started using this first book journal a few months (at most) prior to that blog post in January 2016. In the beginning, I only used it sparingly. I wasn't very consistent about marking passages as I read or copying them over after finishing a book. Even though I wanted to record memorable quotes, I wasn't in the habit of doing it, so it didn't always happen. I would be reading as usual and then something would really stand out and I would remember: "Oh yea, that's the kind of thing I want to record in my journal!" And then I would immediately get this feeling that I had surely missed other lines I should have recorded from my recent reading. I didn't want to turn my reading into homework, but I just knew this was a record I would love to have and look back on in years to come, if only I could figure out a good way to do it.

So this is pretty much how it went -- in fits and starts -- until quite recently. I had tried various things including marking down page numbers on a note pad (digital and paper) and snapping a photo of a page on my phone to return to later. Theoretically these methods should have worked just fine, but I still had a hard time following through. I also went through a big audiobook phase and while I love that format, it's not well suited to noting and marking quotes. Sure, it can be done, but it's certainly more complicated without a printed text in front of me and audio bookmarking proved to be a real pain for this purpose.

Book darts!

But over the last few months I finally started using my journal more consistently and the vast majority of this first one is filled with quotes from 2017 (which isn't even over yet!) And during the past two months I really hit my stride thanks to book darts -- which I have Modern Mrs. Darcy and the Read Aloud Revival to thank for. Book darts are exactly what I didn't know I needed to make this whole reading journal thing a success. They are easy to use, don't interfere with or interrupt my reading experience, and make it super simple to return to marked passages later on. Book darts are sort of like fancy paperclips that don't damage my pages and allow me to bookmark a specific line so I don't have to go scanning and searching for what exactly I wanted to remember on a particular page. They're great! If you have any desire to keep a reading journal, I can't recommend book darts highly enough.

The secret to successful book dart use -- thank you RAR!

Since I have a toddler, I was a little worried about having tins of small metal bits around the house. But one final tip from Sarah Mackenzie in her recent masterclass solved that problem too -- putting a bunch of book darts on my book's title page before I start reading. Eureka! Now I don't have to tote the tin from room to room, it's not just sitting around waiting for my toddler to crack open, AND it's easier than ever to grab a dart when I come across a line I want to mark. Now, I don't delude myself into thinking my son couldn't figure out how to pull them off the pages if he really wanted to, but they are a lot less enticing while attached to the pages of a closed book than sitting in a tin that makes a really cool noise when you shake it.

I used so many book darts in this one!

I don't want to overthink this whole process as I am reading, so I often mark more passages than I actually end up using. But that is the beauty of it -- when I am done reading, I can simply go through dart by dart and decide what I really want to remember from that particular book. If I decide not to copy a particular quote, I just remove the book dart and move on. And what I like best now that I have a "system" in place is that I have built in some time to reflect on and think about what I have read as I decide what I most want to remember and what has really resonated with me. Of course, I always want to dive into a new book, but this new little ritual has helped me slow down just a bit which is definitely a good thing for me.

New journal!

So, now I'm onto a brand spanking new book journal which is so exciting to me! It's kind of like that new-school-supplies-in September feeling when I was a kid (or was that just me?) Now that I've been doing this a while, I've figured out what works best and am making some minimal changes for this second journal. This time around I'm including page numbers and creating a heading for each book instead of noting title and author after every single quote -- which can get really tedious if I have a lot of quotes from a single book.

Slightly new format!

I never imagined I would need more than the 50 darts that come in the cute What Should I Read Next? tin, but I often have a couple different books going at the same time and I used nearly all 50 when I read The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction! So I figured it would be nice to have an extra and ordered a tin of 125 on Amazon. The Modern Mrs Darcy ones are adorable, but the Amazon tin was definitely more economical. And truthfully, if I had bought a tin with 125 the first time, I probably wouldn't have bothered with a second!

* * * * *

Have you ever kept a book/reading/quote journal of any kind? Have you tried book darts? Do you have any other tips or tricks? I'd love to know!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Stories We Shared: A Family Book Journal (Review + How I'm Using It)

I got a peek at this family reading journal while watching a free master class by Sarah Mackenzie of the Read-Aloud Revival. It was only mentioned briefly because endorsing a specific product was not the point of the class at all -- a commenter brought it up, so Sarah held hers up to show viewers what it looked like. Boy, am I glad I caught that brief glimpse! This is basically the family reading journal for my son I never knew I needed. So I bought four. (Yes, really!) One is for us, two were gifts for the kids of friends from book club, and the last one is still TBD. It's definitely going to become a future go-to gift for anyone I know who likes to read aloud. There is also a distinct possibility I'm going to fill ours in sooner rather than later -- even with room for nearly 400 entries! -- and move onto a second one.

So what's in this thing and why is it so great?

109 pages for Journal Entries
Most pages have 4 entries, with some drawings and quotes interspersed to reduce some pages to 3 entries. Each entry has a line for title, author, illustrator, # of pages, date finished, who shared the story, star rating, and an empty spot for notes, doodles, etc.

A Feature Lists section to record...
New Words We Like! (86 entries)
Our Favorite Quotes (71 entries)
Most Memorable Characters (51 entries)
Most Surprising Story Twists (38 entries)
Books That Made Us Laugh (41 entries)
Books That Made Us Cry (41 entries)
Books That Changed Us (37 entries)
Our Very Favorite Books! (38 entries)

10 Adventure Quests to complete
Each of these include a Quest, a Sub-Quest, and an Arch-Adventurer Quest depending on how challenging or in-depth you would like to go with each topic. A few of them also have an additional Bonus Quest.

World Explorers
Time Travelers
Genre Hoppers
The Serial Bookworm
The Literary Zookeeper
High Adventure
Myths & Legends
Newbery Quest
Caldecott Quest

You guys, this thing is gorgeous and if you have any desire to keep a reading record for your family, I can't think of anything more perfect. 

Even though it has a very specific set up, there were still quite a few decisions for me to make regarding how exactly I want to use this journal. First of all, since I discovered it when my son was nearly two and a half (and it's only been published since November 2016 anyway), the biggest question has been how to handle all those books from the last 2.5 years. Thanks to Goodreads, I do have a record of them all (barring any accidental omissions), but there were just way too many. So I decided I would only record books I loosely call "favorites" -- basically anything that's been on repeat that my son, myself, my husband, or any combination of us has really loved. So basically that eliminated: 1. books we read but didn't keep because none of us loved them, 2. books we read only once or twice and returned to the library, and 3. books still in our collection that have not yet stood the test of time or that the jury is still out on because they're still too advanced, out of season, etc.

I also made the decision to print out book covers to paste onto the entry squares. I know this is going to add bulk to the journal and the more we use it, the more it will start bulging with the extra thickness they add, but at least for the picture books, I really wanted to include that visual element. The artwork is such a vital part of picture books, I wanted some representation of it in our journal. Also, at this point, I don't have a whole lot of notes for most of these books. I've placed the covers in such a way that I still have a little room to write and have only just started adding in a few notations. I've been working in stages and this has been a really fun project, even if I'm a little impatient to have it all caught up to our current reading!

For the time being, I decided to leave the "story shared by" line blank. I know my son and I have shared every single one of these books. My husband has also read the vast majority of them aloud or has been in the room with us when I read them aloud at bedtime. A lot of them have also been read with his grandparents and various other relatives. I don't want to box us in by trying to figure out who did or didn't share a particular picture book one of the many, many times it has been read aloud. Someday when we move on to novels that won't get re-read a zillion times, I will definitely use this line. I feel much the same about the "date finished" line -- I also decided to leave that blank because picture books are never really finished if we keep reading them over and over again!

I'm still not 100% sure what I'm going to do about the Quests and Feature Lists. On the one hand, if I start them now, they would really be more for me than for my son. I think these sections will really shine once he is old enough to listen to chapter books and novels, have more input and opinions about the books we read, and can help find the various books needed to complete the quests. On the other hand, since I'm fairly certain I'm going to be filling in more than one of these journals, I still may go ahead and start working on them with books from these early years anyway.

So, have I convinced you yet? This journal is awesome, really. If you need a Christmas, holiday, birthday, or baby shower gift (any kind of gift really!) for a bookish friend or family, I can't recommend it highly enough!

The Rabbit Room
(I got our first on Amazon, then ordered the others through my local indie)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Podcast Love: Read-Aloud Revival

Hi everyone! If you have kids in your life, I am recommending a favorite podcast today I hope you will check out, the Read-Aloud Revival. The show is all about "building a family culture around books" and "making meaningful and lasting connections with kids through books." The show focuses on stories, reading, and literacy with a special focus on the value of reading aloud with older kids who have already learned to read to themselves. The host Sarah Mackenzie talks a lot about how it's second nature to a lot of parents to read to little kids, but that practice tends to fall off once those little kids can read on their own. My toddler clearly still falls into the "little kid" category, but I still find this podcast very inspiring and it is downright dangerous for my own TBR with all the awesome middle grade titles that get recommended.

For the current season (#11), it has become a more frequent weekly show rather than biweekly as it was in the past. And let me tell you, those "extra" mini-episodes that have been airing in between longer interview episodes are some of my absolute favorites and I've listened to all of them more than once. I also think they give a really good idea of what the show is all about without a huge time commitment which is what inspired this post! If you like any of these, I think you'll find the Read-Aloud Revival a worthwhile addition to your podcast listening.

RAR #66: Do Audio Books Count as Read-Alouds?
RAR #70: How to Find Time to Read as a Busy Mom
RAR # 74: One thing you won’t regret ← my #1, if I had to choose!

And here are 7 of my favorite full-length episodes if you'd like to check out the archives and don't know where to start!

RAR Bonus Episode: The Most Important Part of Teaching Kids to Read

One thing worth noting, especially if you do a deep dive into the podcast archives, is that Sarah and many of her guests are homeschoolers. There is a ton of great information and inspiration even if you don't homeschool, I just think it's good to be aware that some of the advice and discussion comes from that perspective. Also, I really hate to admit this, but I personally am not a huge fan of the short final segment of each episode where kids call in to recommend a favorite book -- I feel like a horrible parent for admitting this, but I usually skip those!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

I Quit!

On the off chance you might be worried by that title, no, I'm not quitting blogging. Not that I blog very much, but I'm rather fond of this little corner of the internet when I manage to gather some thoughts into semi-coherent posts and join in on all the bookishness. You can't get rid of me quite that easily :)

I know it's only October, but I'm already thinking about reading challenges for next year. And you know what guys? I never thought I would say this, but I'm just not so into them anymore. I no longer host a challenge and I cut back on how many I participate in by quite a lot. But 3/4 of the way through the year and I'm just plain tired of all the keeping track. I love the idea of so many of the challenges, but I struggle with the follow-through. And I'm starting to wonder if participating is actually helping improve my reading life -- which was the whole point to begin with!

So I've decided that needs to be my litmus test of whether or not to re-join a challenge for 2018: has this particular challenge helped my reading life in the past? No matter how worthwhile the goal is, or how interesting the set-up, a reading challenge that hinders my reading life is not serving a worthwhile purpose for me. I suppose I could be open to trying a completely new-to-me challenge, but I've tried an awful lot of them over the years to know what will work for me and what won't -- I just need to be honest with myself!

So let's take a look at my 2017 challenges and see if any of them make the cut for 2018:

Goodreads Challenge
This one is pretty hands off. I set a goal, I read, and Goodreads pretty much keeps track for me. I count everything including picture books and my goal reflects that choice. I don't really think about or worry about this challenge except when I realize I am close to finishing my goal way earlier than expected (because, picture books) and decide if I'm going to increase my goal. I don't see any reason to stop doing this challenge. It's nice to see steady progress throughout the year and this challenge does not stress me out in any way. I'll keep it!

This challenge involved a reading calendar and a schedule. I wanted it to work, but it just didn't and I unofficially quit this one long ago. I'd still like to read more Sherlock, but I'm going to go at my own pace. I think I actually could read at this pace or even faster, but the imagined pressure of having a "deadline" and working it around other books did not help me tackle these stories. So that's a definite no.

I've done this one for several years now and I love the concept. I want to show my shelves more love and read more books I already had at the start of the year, of course I do. And I love the approach of celebrating our books rather than inducing TBR guilt very, very much. But as the year wears on, distinguishing between a book I bought at the end of last year and a book I bought at the beginning of this year seems really silly. Am I not showing my shelves love if I read a book I bought 7 months ago rather than the one I bought 11 months ago? As much as I love this challenge, it always seems to work for me for the first few months of the year and then I get bogged down with what counts and what doesn't. So I'm going to have to pass on this one.

This is a challenge I want to work for me so very much to keep me more accountable, but it just doesn't. I use a notebook to keep track of what I bought and check off titles as I read them. But this year especially, I shopped at several community garage sales and other various used book sales and got super bogged down with the logging and tracking of everything. Sure, a simple solution is to not buy so many books, but I don't want to be worrying about whether or not I come home with a $5 bag of used paperbacks from a community fundraiser and how that will affect my stats. I do need to be more thoughtful and intentional about the books I buy, I just don't think the actual challenge is helping me do this as intended. I've been building a family library of picture books and middle grade books -- which I had hardly any of prior to my son's birth. I've found some amazing books at great prices on Book Outlet and I always dread logging them for this challenge. I don't know my exact plan going forward, but I need to quit this challenge!

I adore the concept of this challenge, especially the amazing Hogwarts House Cup component the hosts came up with. But man, I spend way too much time submitting my books read for credit and figuring out which titles fit which prompts for the scavenger hunts. I don't know for sure, but I get the sense the hosts of the challenge found this a bit more overwhelming than they expected and that's a bit how I feel about participating. SO FUN, but ultimately, this is not helping me make good use of my time. I will probably continue the rest of the year, but I was feeling very annoyed with myself after realizing I spent almost an hour the other night fiddling around with this challenge. This one is a sad no, but it still has to be a no.

I first joined this challenge in 2014 and I totally tanked it. Then I tried again in 2016 and got into a much better groove -- all the Caldecotts I picked up with a baby/toddler around really helped! Then this year, I really hit my stride because I'm now reading both Caldecotts and Newberys for my own enjoyment in addition to what I might pick up to read with my son. I signed up for the highest level with a goal of 75+ points and I'm already up to 81 points and I want to keep reading. I take that as a good sign -- if I can hit my goal and I just want to keep going, this is definitely one that is working. I added a lot of Newberys to my collection this year from those used book sales and from Book Outlet, so I will have no shortage of titles to choose from for 2018. So I'm hoping Julie will run this one again!

I chose the checklist option for this challenge and I loved it. I borrow tons of picture books from the library and the categories helped me branch out and explore some new titles. I completed the majority of the checklist without hardly trying. But as fewer and fewer categories remained, it was fun to find some books I wouldn't have picked up otherwise in order to try something new and check it off the list. This one was easy to keep up with and keep track of and I enjoyed the vast majority of what I read, so it definitely worked for me. If the categories remain the same next year, I wouldn't join again, but if they are significantly different, I would give it another go. 

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It occurs to me that most people probably don't really care why I do or don't re-join a challenge, but with all these thoughts mulling around in my brain, I needed to get them out! And I needed to work through the pros and cons and make some decisions before all the sign-up posts start rolling in for 2018 to tempt me :)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Is Anyone Else on Litsy?

Hi everyone! I've been using the Litsy app more often lately and I was curious if any blog readers out there are on it too? If you're not familiar, it's a lot like Instagram, but solely dedicated to books. You can review, share quotes, curate book stacks, etc. I really didn't want to have one more thing to distract me on my phone, but I've found I really like it for participating in bookish events such as readathons. I used to participate here on the blog, but have found I no longer have the time or inclination to write up dedicated update posts. My Instagram is a personal account and I've pretty much quit Twitter -- so Litsy has been perfect! Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon is about to celebrate it's 10th anniversary so they started a really fun 30 day countdown challenge and I've been playing along on Litsy. So if you're on there too -- connect with me or share your handle in the comments!


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Diverse Books Club: September Wrap-Up

The first month of the Diverse Books Club is in the books! The theme was centered around race, the history of racial oppression in America, and current civil rights events. I read all of the selections except for one board book my library didn't have, one picture book I had read previously and didn't re-read, and I ran out of time for the adult selection.

Given time restrictions, my realistic plan for participating going forward is to read all of the picture books and at least one from the Adult, YA, and Middle Grade selections. My very favorite thing about this group so far is the high quality of the books selected, so even if I can't read the whole list in a month, I know any books I miss can go on my TBR for the future. This month set the bar pretty high, so I am confident future selections will be just as engaging, thought-provoking, well-written, and overall worthwhile reads.

It's hard to put into words what I have learned this month from the books I read. I don't think I could do them justice by trying to spell it all out, but I can wholeheartedly say all of these books taught me something, made me think, and helped me see and understand different points of view. The books deal with very difficult, but very important issues. There is a lot I've taken to heart and there have been so many nuggets of wisdom in these books. If you haven't read The Hate U Give or Stella By Starlight yet, I highly recommend them!

Young Adult Selection:

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
I read this over Labor Day weekend and could not put it down! It is extremely relevant to current events. Even though Starr is fictional, stories like hers have been happening all over the US. By seeing the problems of police violence, racism, and the justice system through Starr's eyes, I think it makes it personal in a way a news article or sound bite can't.

Middle Grade Selection:

Stella by Starlight, by Sharon Draper
An incredible story of racism, hardship, and unfairness as well as community, love, and hope. I absolutely loved it -- and as soon as I finished this one, I lent it to my mom!

Picture Book Selections:

written by Alan Schroeder & illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
The is a fictionalized account of Harriet Tubman as a child. It was so interesting to see how this famous historical figure's early experiences could have shaped and influenced the incredible work she would go on to do.

written by Laban Carrick Hill & illustrated by Bryan Collier
I had read this one previously, but checked it back out from the library to re-read for the DBC. I feel like the book may have oversimplified Dave's life and what he must have faced on a daily basis, but I also think it's important and valuable to share his story and his accomplishments as an artist and poet despite his enslavement.

written by Doreen Rappaport & illustrated by Bryan Collier
Informative, educational, inspiring, and beautiful. I love how this picture book told the story of Dr King's life by drawing from various writings/speeches, not just his most famous. A really powerful book. This was another re-read for me and one I'd definitely like to add to our picture book collection at home. 

written & illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh
Hopefully everyone knows about Brown v. Board of Education, but like so many others, I did not know anything about the fight for desegregation in California's schools that occurred a decade earlier. An informative read and important book that I had not even heard of before, so I'm very glad I was introduced to it.

written by Sarvinder Naberhaus & Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
This was another re-read for me. A beautiful and artistic tribute to America's diversity and the highest ideals we want our country to stand for.

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October selections are up next! Join us in reading about Immigrant and Refugee Experiences
Middle Grade, Young Adult, & Adult selections
Picture Book selections