Pandemic Reading

One-third of the adult population reports that their reading of books has increased because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Magazine readership has shot up to a record high with people preferring print copies to the online versions. And it’s not just printed copies. Just walk down the street and notice how people are reading. Smartphones, as always, are an apparatus for reading, no matter what the subject. That’s encouraging.

E-book sales have increased due to the instant availability of titles. The convenience of books published in electronic form appeals to many. Heather, librarian and mother of two youngsters, has rediscovered the joy of audiobooks. “It’s been quite difficult to find alone time being home with two young children during this pandemic. But with audiobooks, I’ve been able to “read” while I multitask….making dinner, folding laundry, and cleaning up. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being read to and found it to be a marvelous escape during these trying times.”

Moreover, keeping up our connection with others while reflecting on the current worldwide health situation have become important pastimes. Liz, another avid reader, says: “I usually read history and biographies and history reminds me we will persevere.” Some folks have strayed from their usual genres, having to rely on what titles were available at their homes or borrowing from others in their circle. My brother, who lives in North Carolina, and is the most voracious lifelong reader that I know, said, “I think because there has been so much less going on, I have focused more on longer works. (I) also went back and reread favorite kid’s books for the comfort factor.”

Whatever the platform or topic and whether it’s the print or audi version, friends with A to Z Literacy Movement recommend reading as a way to escape even for a short while.

Thanks so much to Pat Kelly for the blog post this week.

Summer Reading and Great Conversations

For kids everywhere, this past school year ended with virtual goodbyes and feelings of uncertainty around what will happen in August. Teachers and students tried their very best during the remote learning, but at times, it was challenging to stay motivated and engaged. So now with summer in full swing, I believe one great way to support kids, academically and emotionally, is through small neighborhood book clubs. 

With a selection of four different books to choose from, I invited my 4th-grade neighbor to join me in some fun summer reading outside on the patio. We are currently reading The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani which is a fantastic story of a girl traveling from Pakistan to India during the partition of 1947. Like any good book club, we have enjoyed snacks while reading favorite parts, and of course, have gotten off topic with conversations about getting your ears pierced, picking out the right cat from the local shelter, and discussing the importance of why people are protesting in the world right now. Sure, the book has supported Penelope’s reading comprehension, but more importantly, our conversations have generated connection which will elevate her social emotional skills and promote the love of reading. And more good news–my book club partner has invited two more neighbors to join us in our next book, Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed.

(Thanks to Dr. Mal Keenan for the blog post this week)

The One and Only Bob

Katherine Applegate won our hearts in the beautifully crafted Newbery Award winner The One and Only Ivan.  Ivan, a Silverback gorilla, was trapped off exit 8 at the Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. As the story of Ivan’s journey to a zoo unfolded, we fell in love with him and all his friends.  In the sequel, Katherine steals our hearts again.  

Bob is a mutt of uncertain heritage.  Although, he believes to come from Chihuahua and Papillon descent.  Through his journey to rescue his friends and family in the wake of a devastating tornado, we learn how he becomes to be known as The One and Only Bob.

The character development of Bob is masterfully done through unique craft moves.   A canine glossary appears in the prologue.  We are introduced to terms such as crazy mutt, me-ball, and water bowl of power.  In the first chapter, the voice of Bob brings laughter from the first line, “Look, nobody’s ever accused me of being a good dog.”  It doesn’t stop there.  HIs obsession with food, his harassment of squirrels, and his desire to roll in garbage to enhance his aroma gives us a clear idea of the type of dog Bob is.  

As the story continues, we are reunited with Ivan and Ruby.  We also meet a few new characters: Snickers (Bob’s nemesis), Nutwit (a gray squirrel), Kimu (a grey wolf), Kinayani (a female gorilla), Kudzoo (a baby gorilla), Stretch (a giraffe), and so many more.  Each character brings depth and pivots to the story.  In the aftermath of a tornado, Bob searches his inner self to realize he does not look out for numero uno. With the help of his wise friend, Ivan, and his playful friend, Ruby, Bob finds out he is not as selfish as he proclaims. He is, in fact, a hero. 

(Special thanks to Dr. Stasia Gruper for this week’s blog post)

Reading During Difficult Seasons

Looking back and reflecting on the past, I think I appreciate reading more now than I did years ago. After my husband Tim died, I just could not focus my thoughts. I couldn’t read a novel or write in my journal…at least not the way I did before. I might have been able to focus for 10 minutes…and that was on a good day. That season of my life lasted for almost two and half years. I know now through grief counseling that these distracted days, weeks, months, and years are very normal. It it was rough, but with time, I continued to heal. These days, as we all continue to stay at home to stay safe, I have found myself sitting around reading, enjoying the time with authors like Brene Brown and Daniel Pink. I’m also looking forward to reading Profiles in Courage in the coming weeks outside in the warmer spring weather. While our reading lives may shift, depending on the season we are living in, reading does promote resilience and healing in all of us.

(Thanks so much, Kate, for writing the blog post this week.)

“A Pilgrim, True of Heart”

Master storytellers have the power to transport a reader to another time and place––to help readers lose themselves in the story and challenge their thinking long after the story ends.  During the “Stay at Home” orders my heart called for a master storyteller. Pam Muñoz Ryan answered the call. In her newest masterpiece Mañanaland, I was lost in the land of Santa Maria on a quest with Maximiliano Córdoba of “somewhere in the Americas, many years after once-upon-a-time and long before happily-ever-after.” 

In this beautifully crafted tale set in yesterday, today, and tomorrow, I was immediately drawn to Max–– the motherless boy seeking a birth certificate to play on the Santa Maria fútbol team.  When Papá leaves to resolve the issue, Buelo shares some insight. Max takes it upon himself to search for answers.  Through his quest, he uncovers the secrets of his family and reveals he is true of heart.  Even now (long after the story has ended) I am pondering how to be “A pilgrim, true of heart” who escorts people who are fleeing from danger to Mañanaland.

(Blog post written by A to Z board member Dr. Anastasia Gruper)

The Gift of Time

We all have a little more time for reading these days. Whether it’s on your phone (I’m guilty of way too much of that), an e-reader, or a book, the absence of the many activities that take us outside of our homes gives us the gift of time. 

With the temporary shutdown of public libraries, people have gotten creative in finding reading material. Swapping books with friends, visiting Little Free Libraries, and gleaning long forgotten books from our own bookcases are some of my methods. Additionally, the stimulus checks may fund some online book or magazine purchases. 

To encourage reading, why not send a few books to children you know who are stuck at home?  These little gifts will for sure bring some smiles and you can use the less expensive USPS Media Mail to ship. Or perhaps buy a magazine to send to a senior citizen who is sheltering in place. Time and reading material are two things that we can take enjoyment from despite the worries of the world.

(Thanks to A to Z team member Pat for this post.)

What Have You Been Reading? (Part 2)

How’s everyone doing? Are you getting outside for some fresh air and sunshine as spring begins to settle in? A to Z team member Betty has been trying to get outside and explore a few remote natural areas in between the rainy days. (No crowds – just water, rocks, and sand) Check out Betty’s book recommendations and reasons why she loves to read.

Books to Enjoy

  • The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
  • A Minute to Midnight by David Baldacci
  • Voices of the Bulge: Untold Stories From Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge by Michael Collins and Martin King

Why I Love to Read

  • To be entertained
  • To relax
  • To keep learning
  • To stay connected to others around the globe

We will check back in again next week with a few more book recommendations for you to enjoy! Take care and be well!

A Book A Day


By Kalan Gott

Several months ago I was in the waiting room at my doctor’s office.  I was excited for my eight-month pregnancy check-up.  As I sat there, an already experienced mom entered with her daughter and son. Both children were elementary school age.  The mom and daughter sat down next to each other and pulled out books.  The boy, poking his mom, talked non-stop about being bored.  The mom set her book aside and said with seriousness and love, “Oh I am sorry.  That is why your sister and I bring our books with us.  Don’t you wish you had your book? Maybe next time you’ll bring it.”

I couldn’t help but smile! Three months later, I have my own child.  A daughter.  Almost every day I think about what I want to teach her, share with her, and the example I want to be to her. Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around literature. As a parent, I am now thinking of ways to foster a culture of reading in our house and build fond memories for my daughter.  Here is what I envision so far:

  • Magazines that my husband and I read lay on every flat surface
  • The cornerstone of our bedtime routine is a read aloud each night
  • Every Christmas we buy a new Christmas book to create a collection for her
  • We each have our own book next to our bed
  • There is a library in our room
  • There is a library in her room
  • We will read the Harry Potter series aloud when she is old enough to listen for at least 20 minutes

How do you foster a culture of reading in your house?  How do you grow readers, thinkers, and lovers of books?  I have my list started, but I would love to hear other ideas!