Read & Respond: Why I Read…

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I read because… 

Books are consistent. Books are powerful.

Pliable or hardened, they always have a cover. Freshly stiff or broken glue, they always have a spine. Paper pages full of ink – full of power. One book can take you to a whole different world. Another can help you sort through your current life situations. Whether escaping reality or trying to make sense of it, books are powerful. Arguably more so than spoken words, for they live on and require a sort of engagement that audible content consumption doesn’t always demand.

“One must be careful of books, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”
—Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices

Books have always been a part of my life.

I remember sitting on the laps of my parents, listening to them bring the then nonsense symbols on a page to life, then learning about letters and words, and finally devouring books all on my own. I used to snuggle into our living room recliner, feet barely dangling over the edge of the seat, and spend hours engrossed in the Book of Virtues, Aesop’s Fables, or The Chronicles of Narnia.

When I stop reading, I notice a difference.

As soon as a few days, weeks, or months go by without an ample amount of time spent reading, I feel off. I am much more myself when my philosophies are being nurtured by nonfiction, my senses are soaring in a fictitious world, and my craft honed by advice-giving articles and tips. The same goes for writing. When I’m not adequately emptying my mind, thoughts, and heart, I begin to feel congested. Like a sinus infection of the brain.

The longest I think I’ve ever gone without reading intentionally was the summer after I graduated from university. I’d been devouring a couple of novels, multiple articles, and peers’ papers every week, so after I’d donned my black cap and gown, I was ready for a break. While my eyes were happy for a rest from such an intense and rigid schedule, by the end of the summer, I couldn’t wait to make a new dent in my bookshelf.

When asked why you read, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind? Don’t overthink it, just share it! Respond to this post for a chance to be featured here on our blog and in our newsletter!

Written by Emiley Jones.

Did you like this post? Browse more of our Read & Respond stories.

Great Writers Are Always Great Readers

An active and engaged reader makes for a more effective and persuasive writer. But what does it mean to be an active reader?

Becoming a great or active reader is more than just simply breezing through a piece of text. It requires you to develop active, analytical reading strategies, as opposed to passive-receptive reading habits. Passive reading turns you into a simple receiver of what a text has to offer (i.e. raw data). But active reading empowers you to move more effectively, evaluating and interpreting the meaning of what you are reading. It makes you think critically, leading to a deeper understanding of the text.

Dorsey Armstrong Ph.D., English Professor at Purdue University, says there are at least three lives to a text—the pre-critical response, reflection, and the third life which involves reading the text again.

First Life of a Text – The Pre-Critical Response

This is your initial response to a piece of writing or text. It can be simply, “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it much.” What is the initial feeling it elicits in you? Is it confusing or difficult to understand? Is it interesting? Did the author successfully grab your attention, or do you find his or her writing awkward? The difference between a reader who is simply interested and one who is deeply engaged can be found in if, or how, they move beyond the pre-critical response to think about how, or why, a particular writing affects them a certain way. Moving beyond this phase of reading will allow you to appreciate writing that you may not even really like. It can help you recognize a writer’s artistic skill. You can appreciate how he or she can make you feel an emotion, even if you don’t find the emotion particularly pleasant. The key to becoming a competent writer is to first become an attentive reader.

Second Life of a Text Consider and Reflect

If you liked what you have read, this is the time to reflect on why you liked it. If you found it awkward, why is that? Any text can be a story if it is read insightfully. What did you like about it? Was it written in the first person? Perhaps you enjoy that it is written in a way that feels like your seeing into the mind of the author or that she is speaking directly to you. If your reaction was negative, you can still glean something from the text. What is the narrator’s attitude? Does it take you to another place in time? You can come to understand the setting of the story simply from the tone you use. If you can get past the negative impression, you can become an insightful reader who has a better understanding and enjoyment of the written word. If you can recognize the powerful, clever nuance moments in a variety of written text as a reader, you will soon be able to work these into your own writing. Once you start reading text insightfully, you will notice the world around you can be read as a kind of text.

Third Life of a Text – Read It Again

After you have reflected on the writing, read it again, now armed with your pre-critical response and the insights you have garnered from your initial read-through. This third life is when you can apply what you have learned in terms of insightful reading. Remember, almost anything can be read or interpreted insightfully. The practice of better reading will help you become a better writer. Exploring the writer’s craft from one perspective can make you become a better practitioner of that craft, especially if you are reading in the genre you enjoy writing in.

It is helpful to consider the three lives of a text as you contemplate your own writing (be it a short story, a poem, an essay, or a book). Your own writing may have several lives, and you should keep this in mind as you write. There will be a first impression of your writing (its first life). What you hope for is that there will be a second life—that someone will stop and reflect on what it is that you have to say. If the second life happens, it is very likely there will be a third life. Becoming a better reader will help inform your writing. Grant it, you may not have the time to read everything that comes your way so deeply or analytically. However, if you are really trying to hone your skills as a writer, refining your reading skills will be crucial to developing your writing skills.

Remember to be active in your reading, don’t simply rush through it. You can gain a deeper understanding and enjoy reading more when you are fully engaged in what you a reading. Practicing becoming a better reader will undoubtedly make you a better writer.

Read & Respond: Christmas Traditions

The holidays are hard to dislike.

Extra lights illuminating houses, yards, store windows, and bicycles—yes, even bikes…keep reading! Festive banners and garland don city streetlights and buildings. Red, gold, green, silver, blue. Warm smiles and warmer drinks. Even here in Florida, where I’ve broken a sweat on more Christmas Days than not, there is an undeniably festive buzz.

When I was a kid, Christmas Eve dinner at Grandma’s and church service led the way to the much anticipated morning of December 25th. Still in our pajamas, my older brother and sister and I would crouch on the stairs right around the corner from the tree decorated with miscellaneous ornaments.

Each year before Christmas Day, we would carefully pick out a new ornament to add to our personal collections. My sister would pick the cutest ones she could find, while I would go on a hunt to pick something that most accurately depicted my year. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but it had to be symbolic. For 3 years straight I had different breeds of horses added to the tree; in 7th grade I played a waiter in the musical Hello, Dolly!, so it was a reindeer with an apron and tray; just a few years ago, I chose a german shepherd dog to represent my new puppy.

But back to Christmas morning. As my siblings and I sat huddled together in the stairwell, we could hear my parents arranging the gifts and laying the stockings on the couch as the coffee brewed and the cinnamon rolls baked.

Years later, the anticipation is much less heightened, the gifts less in the spotlight, and our ornament shopping sometimes forgotten till after the season passes. My brother is states away, and my sister has a family of her own.  But the magic is still attainable. What reaches beyond the commercial celebration of Christmas is the connection that happens between family and friends. I’ve been blessed with a tightly knit family. This year was different from other prior holidays, but in the best of ways. I noticed growth and positive change. For presents, my family drew names and were able to really focus on the person we were buying for without breaking the bank. Our Christmas Eve dinner took place at my sister’s to relieve my grandma. My 16-month-old nephew brought a new element of complete joy and sweet entertainment that is often missed when a family’s children grow up.

Another new tradition I started this year was a “Lights by Bikes” event. My roommates and I threw a party for our friends where we decorated our bikes with garland and lights, then rode them around town to enjoy the decorated houses around us.

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Whether it’s a childhood time of wonder and glee, a teenage phase of apathetic participation, a stress-filled time of shopping, or a mellow month of reflection and thankfulness, for me, Christmas has always been a season of sweet details and evolving traditions.

Written by Emiley Jones.

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What about you? What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? How have they changed over the years? What made this last season more special or more difficult than past years?

If you want to write your own response, go ahead and send it to us so we can feature it later this year!

The Gift Guide for Book Lovers – PART 2 – 10 Unique Gift Ideas

holiday gift guide for book lovers

Part 2   |   10  Unique Gift Ideas for Bookworms & Writers

Last week we released Part 1 of our Gift Guide for Book Lovers full of our favorite book-themed DIY presents and holiday decor that are just as fun to make as they are to give. Part 2 is not only for the Christmas shopping procrastinators, but also for those who plan ahead – these gift ideas are great for any time of year or occasion. So take a look, let us know what your favorites are, and share it with your literary friends!

1. Gift Cards to Your Local Bookstore & Coffeeshop

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Give the gift of keeping small, local businesses alive, of helping your friends find new favorite places, AND of books and beverages. What could be better?

2. Personal Library Kit

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For a bibliophile, there’s no greater pleasure than sharing beloved books, but no crueler pain than losing them for good…the Personal Library Kit can put an end to lost books for good!

3. A Book to Keep Writers Writing

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When the ideas are running short, there’s no better place to turn than this book for entertaining, witty writing prompts.  The writing prompt book options are endless – browse for more.

4. Shirts Fit for Bookworms

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5. Literary Artwork

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When bookshelves and lamps aren’t enough decor, grace a  book lover’s walls with book-inspired prints and artwork.

6. Mugs for Avid Readers

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Who doesn’t read with a cup of coffee or tea at their side?

7. Writerly Pins

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These are the perfect stocking stuffers for the writers, notetakers, and educators in your life!

8. Candles to Read By

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Don’t have time to read every day? Light up one of these book-inspired candles as an excellent substitute.

9. Literary Jewelry

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10. Book-based Board Games

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More of a DIY person? Don’t miss the first part of this gift guide!
What are your favorite presents to give and get? Tell us in the comments!

 

The Gift Guide for Book Lovers – PART 1 – 11 Holiday DIY Projects

holiday gift guide for book lovers

Part 1   |   11  Holiday  DIY  Projects  for  Book  Lovers

Whether you’re a self-proclaimed book lover or you have a book enthusiast on your Christmas shopping list, look no further! We’ve compiled a guide to our favorite book-themed presents and holiday decor. Part 1 focuses on the Do-It-Yourself lovers. So minimize Pinterest and check out these unique gifts that are just as fun to make as they are to give!

1. Book Page Ornaments

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You can make these for your tree, string them together to make a garland, or give them as gifts!

2. Book Trees

3. Book Wreath – made festive with ornaments!

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4. Custom, Handmade Stationary from Old Book Pages

View the Tutorial HERE

This gift is even better if your book lover not only loves reading, but writing, too!

5. Book Page Art

There are tons of Etsy shops that sell these prints on vintage book pages, but they’re also fun to make yourself! + If you are an artist, you could make these even more unique and meaningful.

6. Book Page Coasters

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We’d be crazy to pretend that reading doesn’t go hand-in-hand with drinking your hot beverage of choice – and these coasters are a great way to be reminded of your favorite books.

7. Old Book? …Secret Box!

8. Book Candleholders

There’s nothing quite as relaxing as reading with a candle or two lit nearby, and these book page candle holders make it an even better scenario!

9. Book Page ubble Magnets

Not only is this a fun way to spruce up someone’s fridge or message board, but with a slight variation, you can make these into pins to put on Christmas stockings.

10. Tiny Books Necklace

11. Gift Tags

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What better way to personalize your Christmas gifts than with words (or pictures) from a page?

Check out Part 2 of our Gift Guide for Book Lovers!

Did we miss anything? Comment below with your favorite gifts for bookworms!

 

PRE-ORDER SALE – Paul Wilbur’s New Book

Touching the Heart of God:  Embracing the Calendar of the Kingdom
by Paul Wilbur

Paul Wilbur is an internationally-acclaimed worship artist, song writer, pastor, teacher, & the founder of Wilbur Ministries. Certa Publishing is honored to have published his most recent book being released on September 4, 2015.
SYNOPSIS
Did you know that you have a huge inheritance and that you serve a King who exposes His plans, purposes, power, and deepest secrets to you as a citizen in His Kingdom? In Touching the Heart of God you will learn about this King and His Kingdom-its order, its benefits, and the privilege afforded to its citizens in celebrating the greatest military and spiritual victories in recorded history.

The God of all creation actually keeps a calendar that celebrates His activity in the history of mankind and encourages our participation in the feasts. Whether you are a Messianic or Gentile believer in our amazing Messiah, you will find new and empowering insights in this book, which will build your faith and provoke your participation.

* The Feasts of the Lord…you have an engraved invitation!
* Your citizenship in the Kingdom of God brings major benefits to your life today!
* How can Christians and Jews walk as One New Man and change our world today?
* Clearly see how the Old and New Testaments integrate for His purpose.

* Is it possible to Touch the Heart of God?

 
Sale ends Thursday, September 3.