“Boxed Readings”


The other odd addition to our reading instruction in the 7th grade was a box of color coded sheets with short readings printed on them. They resembled the picture shown above, though ours were for a higher grade level than the illustration. You took a sheet from the box, read it, answered the questions, graded yourself, wrote down your score and went on to the next sheet. The idea was to gradually improve your reading comprehension.

Sadly, the selections were as dull as those early Dick and Jane stories I had endured in 1st grade. I imagine that our principal had fallen for the advertising from McGraw Hill, publishers of these SRA Reading Laboratory boxes. I went to the McGraw Hill web site and see that they still sell updated versions of the same thing. Apparently having children read on their own in these truncated bits frees the teacher to help other kids. It might be a great marketing ploy, but it is a waste of kids’ time. We were better served in other grades by being able to read full length books once we were finished with our other assignments.

Our grade school had a rich library and we went to it frequently. While I had the ambition to read every book there(I was a nerd even in those days!), it never happened. The savvy librarian kept buying new books! And every one was more interesting than anything in that box.

“Hurry Up”

I am delighted when I read other bloggers respond to reading challenges, such as going through 25 books in a summer. In a similar vein, I encourage my grandchildren to enter book stores’ summer reading programs with a free book as a reward. I appreciate those readers who keep track on Good Reads and similar platforms. But as for me, I am a recovering speed reader now focusing on slow reading.

In grade school we were constantly encouraged to read faster. This peaked in seventh grade when we were introduced to the contraption pictured above, a controlled reading machine. It projected filmstrips on a screen with just a portion of a sentence at a time. The speed increased every time we were shown these passages which were broken down into bits as illustrated in the right hand photo. The faster the filmstrip bits sped by, the more anxious I became. Anxiety shuts down the cerebral cortex, so I lost the ability to comprehend anything. Unbelievably, I still am haunted by a selection focusing on the stickleback fish and its mating habits! It totally confused me and I never forgot the ordeal.

In college my roommate took the Evelyn Wood speed reading course to try to keep up with her assigned reading. It seemed to involve moving one hand diagonally across the page quickly. I never tried it, but she thought it worth the tuition. I just tried reading ever faster, particularly the semester I had to read a 19th century British novel each week. I wasn’t able to because I kept falling asleep.

A good friend introduced me to the concept of slow reading. She really takes her time with each book with no intention of hurrying herself along. Remarkably she actually remembers what she reads! I am trying her method this summer, lazily reading my way through literary biographies a few pages at a time. I have more time to absorb and think about what I am reading. But I won’t come close to covering 25 books this summer. Maybe I need to establish a new reward for the least reading done!

“Three Little Birds”


Woke up this morning, saw this robin’s nest under our upper deck and immediately began singing along with Bob Marley “Three Little Birds.” Its message is very clear. “Don’t worry about a thing, Cause every little thing is going to be all right.” I have always loved that old song, and was especially glad to be humming it as the head of my country went overseas and seems to have solved Brexit all by himself! Oh and his son-in-law has found a way for lasting peace for the Palestinians and the Israelis! And a tax on imports from Mexico will solve the humanitarian crisis at our Southern border! As you know, I have rarely commented on the political insanity of the United States, but the series of news items risked putting me over the edge.

Thank goodness the robins are oblivious and decided, for the first time, to nest in a spot I see as I walk out the back door. The nest to the right is empty, but the one on the left has three thriving and always hungry babies. They are watched over by a fierce robin, a phrase I would have called an oxymoron before witnessing this adult. The bird has even dive bombed my grandson who got too close to the nest trying to talk to the babies. So no matter how misguided my president is at the moment, one robin knows exactly how to take care of those under her. I wish my Commander in Chief knew as much!

“Unexpected Generosity”


A favorite singer songwriter of mine, John Gorka,  has great lyrics “I’m from New Jersey, I don’t expect too much. If the world ended, I would adjust.” Though I am not from New Jersey, the rest definitely applies to me. Moments of generosity were sorely lacking in my upbringing. One such moment shown above is the love given me by my then sixteen year old Aunt Cary after I had been left with her and my grandparents for several months as a toddler.

So when I received two mentions from two different bloggers yesterday, I was totally delighted. I have been stunned by the generosity not only of those two, but also from the blogging community in general. This blog was my first foray into social media, after avoiding Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I had no idea what to expect when I began posting. I only knew the venomous comments that often appear on-line about news articles or editorials. Whether I have stumbled onto a particularly kind part of the blogging world, or whether it is kinder in general I don’t know. What I do know is that responses to my writing have been generous and thoughtful.

I have tried to reciprocate this generosity by taking the time to consider others’ writing and then to comment about it. I have also tried to respond to each comment I receive. This give and take keeps me keeps me generating new ideas to write about. I also want to repeat an offer I made some time ago to edit anyone’s writings that would like the help. I recently edited three research essays for a nurse in London for whom English is a second language. I learned a lot about critical care nursing along the way. I want to repeat that this is free of charge, just a way to use my skills from years of teaching.

So thanks to you all. Your reading makes my writing very rewarding.