Adventures at Home: Compendium

I have planned to post this for a couple of months. With all the uncertainty of where and when it’s safe to travel, and what places are open, this seems a good time to compile my posts of some opportunities for enrichment and inspiration.

Please note: I have not revisited most of the links, and some things have undoubtedly changed. Also, I hope people are able to find ways to get outside that are safe and healthy for themselves and those around them.

Click here for virtual travel to:
Museums
Gardens
Libraries
Unusual destinations
Fantastic worlds and their soundscapes

Click here for ways to experience:
Theater
Old Time Radio
Audiobooks and storytelling
Shakespeare’s sonnets
Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Sessions of world music
More arts and music

Click here for mostly off-screen adventures, like:
Reading
Audiobooks (again)
Jigsaw puzzles
Coloring pages for adults and kids

And for a small fee you can take a virtual tour of a mystery house, or explore some of it via still photos for free.

May you all find ways to stay creatively engaged and connected.

Adventures at Home: Off-screen (Mostly)

People have been sending me cool ideas of things to do at home, and I’ve been collecting them to share. Maybe you’ll enjoy some of them, too!

There are so many, I plan to divide them into multiple posts. First up: things to do off-screen.

Here’s one of my favorites: reading.

Have any books you have around the house you’ve been meaning to read? This may be the perfect time. Pull some off the shelf, and start with any that calls to you.

Need a new book? This is the perfect time to buy anything from my publisher, Running Wild Press. They have put all their published catalog on sale for pennies above cost for paperback and 99 cents for eBooks* through May 1, 2020. You can find contemporary and historical fiction, memoir and other nonfiction, and eclectic collections of all kinds of short fiction. Here’s their list and details.

 

If you want a book — ANY book — paperbound, try your local bookstore — a lot of them can ship from online orders! You can search for an independent bookstore on Indiebound. Or try Barnes & Noble, especially for e-books*. Support real bookstores! (Amazon will probably weather this storm all right; bookstores are struggling.) And support booksellers, authors and publishers – they all need it.

If you don’t want to buy a new book, check out your nearest library’s website. Many libraries have e-books, audio books, and even magazines available online. And yes, checking out e-books from libraries does support authors and publishers! And it supports the libraries, too, by showing the Powers That Be how vital they are to our communities, especially in a time like this.

For the young and young at heart, Audible is offering free audiobooks for now.

If you have some spare time, review books you like on Goodreads or Amazon. Help out authors to get through these hard times!

My Copy, Reviewed on Goodreads

Here’s something that uses a totally different part of the brain: jigsaw puzzles!

Again, you can try your local bookstore to see if they deliver. We stumbled upon a favorite of ours in Wellington Square Bookshop, a wonderful bookstore I look forward to making the journey to when bookstores can open their doors again. Scroll down a bit to see results when you do a search on Wellington’s website.

Or try Barnes & Noble for puzzles — they seem to have a good number right now.

Another hands-on pursuit: coloring, for kids and adults as well. Coloring is another cool pursuit that uses other parts of our brains, and I find it fun and calming, both.

A library reached out to Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., who very kindly shared their Kids’ Resource Hub – coloring, puzzles, and more.

The Winchester Mystery house is offering their kids’ coloring book and crosswords puzzle.

An astounding array of museums are offering coloring pages from their collections – plenty to appeal to adults and older kids.

I plan on another post soon about more adventures at home on computer – including touring some amazing places, and seeing world-class performances. Check back!

*OK, yes, e-books are on screens. But I find reading a book a different experience than browsing the web, streaming a show, etc. And sometimes e-books are the best choice.

Guest Blog by Laura Selinsky: Holiday Reading Break

picture of Laura Selinsky
Laura Selinsky, Author and Teacher

Today is St. Nicholas’ Day, a traditional time of gift-giving, and in honor of the occasion I offer you this gift: a blog by my friend Laura Nelson Selinsky.  It is particularly fitting for this day – please read on to find out why!

Candles, a cup of tea, and…a Christmas story. Sure, there are television specials by the score, but nothing compares to cocoa or tea and a heartwarming story after a busy day. I’m here to share my favorite way to step back from my too-busy life and prepare for the holidays.

In my family, we often shared reading breaks before Christmas…our quiet little respite in the hallowed chaos of the season. Until my kids left home, we read aloud regularly. For the holidays, we read everything from Luke’s sublime nativity story to the nonsense of Vip’s Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher. We read our copy of Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever to tatters. I owe the Christmas reading tradition to my high school drama teacher who read Dylan Thomas’s* A Child’s Christmas In Wales to us each year, a practice I continue in my own classroom.

Perhaps you’d enjoy a holiday reading break of your own. The best place to start is Charles Dickens’* A Christmas Carol, with its happiest of happy endings. Be prepared for a little social justice tucked between the candles and figgy puddings of the Dickens. There are many shortened versions of his novella available, and reading a condensation is not an insult to the author. Dickens himself recited a condensed version on his lecture tours. Christmas Carol always awakens a little holiday spirit. If you are one of Gemma’s writer friends, visiting Scrooge is a good way to review Dickens’ mastery of playing his reader’s heartstrings.

If heartstring tugging is your pleasure, then holiday romances make a perfect break between wrapping and baking. My own little romance Season of Hope** was released by Anaiah Press on November 1. Can two new adults with big responsibilities find holiday happiness at the end of their struggles? Of course! That’s why romance is the perfect genre for a relaxed holiday reading break.

cover art for Season of Hope novella

Gemma’s note: And the hero of this story is a pastor named Nick! Happy Namesake Day, Nick.  

Thank you for sharing your lovely way of calming this hectic season, Laura! I invite readers to connect with you on your Twitter and Facebook. They can also find you on Amazon.

*Thomas’ and Dickens’ works are in the public domain and can easily be obtained online, but reading from a screen is less relaxing than from paper, (blue light, social media, yadda, yadda…). Your public library certainly has A Christmas Carol on paper. {And likewise your local bookstore! Gemma.}

**Season of Hope is available from Anaiah Press  {Gemma’s note: see coupon code for 30% off , then scroll down just a little to see their Seasonal Titles on sale!} or from Amazon. My publisher Anaiah Press has a Santa’s pack  full of charming novels and novellas being released for the holidays. They might be just what your reading break requires.

Banner of Season of Hope cover art

 

 

The Lingering Joys of Summer

Adult Summer Reading Program

August is over, Labor Day is past, and kids are back at school – there’s no denying it, summer is over. But many of the pleasures of summer linger, like summer reading, and I am not yet ready to let them go!

Last year I waxed nostalgic about summer reading when I was a kid, and lamented (and yes, vented) over schools’ required reading lists. I also celebrated some of the cool things libraries do to help make reading fun instead.

This year, libraries brought fresh fun to summer reading, for kids and adults alike. The theme was “A Universe of Stories,” and a bit of research revealed it spans many states through the Collaborative Summer Library Program . Their mission: “librarians sharing ideas, expertise, and costs to produce a high-quality summer reading program for children, teens, and adults.”

What a great idea. My local library took part. For the younger kids, there was the “Patch Power” quest.

Kids' Patch Summer Reading Program

Kids kept track of when they read, great library programs they took part in, and fun, creative things they did at home. All of it added up to earning patches. Here are two of many choices.

Kids' Summer Reading Badges

(I have to admit, my inner kid is kind of envious of those patches, especially the Epic Wizard…)

They had a separate program for young adults.

Teen Summer Reading Program

Teens kept track on a game board of reading, listening to music, taking part in cool library programs, and other fun things. They could go to an ice cream party, a potato chip taste-off, or an afternoon movie; they could also try out yoga, make crafts, or make cards for wounded veterans. A really excellent array of things to participate in.

Teen Summer Reading Gameboard

I took part in the adult program. Lots of cool things to do and try, and there are stickers for achieving a set of things.

Adult Summer Reading Checklist

(Okay, my inner kid is unexpectedly strong: I wanted one of those stickers!)

By taking part, adults earned raffle tickets for gift certificates to things like stores, sporting events, local museums and public gardens, and theater tickets. I may not have earned one of the stickers, but the real joy was in expanding my horizons and trying some things I might not have otherwise. (And of course, reading some excellent books.)

Libraries weren’t the only ones finding ways to encourage reading. Bookstores big and small took part. Wellington Square Bookshop is a gem of a bookstore to stumble upon and worth traveling a distance to return to.

Wellington Square Bookshop Logo

They had a special offer to help kids get the books they needed and wanted for summer reading. And to encourage reading all year long, they have book clubs and storytimes.

Barnes & Noble  had a summer reading program, too. Up through August 31st, kids could keep track of any eight books they read in a journal and what their favorite parts were.

Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Journal

Then they could choose a free book from a nice selection B&N provided.

Even banks got into the program!

Bank Summer Reading Offer

So summer and these neat programs are over. But the joy of reading goes on. I confess, I am still reading one of my favorite summer books! When I’m done, I hope to post a review of it on Goodreads. Stay tuned.

Happy Reading to All!

Summer Reading

Summer is almost over, which makes me a bit wistful and nostalgic. When I was a kid, one of my favorite summer activities was going to the library with my mom. She would take me to the kids’ section and go to the adjacent adult section (those were different times; I could never recommend such a thing now). I loved going through the shelves and taking down all the books I wanted to check out. By the time my mom came to get me, I needed her help to get them all to the checkout desk! I devoured them at home, and was ready to check out more by the time they were due.

 

Old Favorite, Secondhand from Library

In other words, I LOVED summer reading.

BUT – if my school had required me to read specified books over the summer, I would have HATED it. I would have resented that chore and put it off until the last possible moment. And then I would’ve approached the required readings with such a chip on my shoulder, I might not even have enjoyed books which otherwise I would have loved, if I had just been given the choice to read them.

If this is true of me, an avid booklover, what must it be like for kids who don’t love to read, and for those who struggle with the process?

I do understand why so many schools put a great deal of emphasis on reading over the summer: to keep and build reading skills, and keep kids’ minds active. I entirely respect that. But is forcing kids to read really the way to do that?

When I worked as a bookseller, every spring the dreaded reading lists would come in. And I would be filled with sympathy for the kids. For one thing, the lists were patently unfair. Some kids got to read popular novels by the likes of John Grisham or Stephen King, while other kids had to read things like the nonfiction book First They Killed My Father. I have absolutely no doubt that the latter is worthwhile to read, but in that case, why not have the kids read it during school when they could discuss it, and then help them process the difficult material?

Many kids had long and specific lists they had to read over the summer. Heavens to Murgatroyd, there was required reading for kindergartners! Again I ask, is forcing a kid to read the way to nurture a life-long love of reading? I have to think the answer is NO.

In the words of Mark Twain, “Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and… play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” Why make such onerous work out of something that could be a joy?

Why not do something like libraries around the country are doing? My local library system hosts Summer Reading for kids of all ages and adults. It varies from library to library and between age groups, but what I’ve seen are things like game boards for the younger kids and bingo cards for the older students and adults.

Reading for Fun

You get to fill in a spot when you finish a book or do other fun things – like go to a library program, write a book review, or design a book cover.

Then you get raffle tickets for gift baskets of cool things, like movie candy with vouchers for free DVD rentals, and gift cards for everything from grocery stores (for adults) to concerts, plays, and music lessons. And for students, books read must be age- and reading-level appropriate. The library offers lists for reading suggestions, for example from the YA Library Services Association and Teen Reads. Note that they emphasize to the kids “a book YOU want to read.” They also encourage kids to ask the Youth librarians for help. And the teens get a pizza party at the end of the summer. How cool is that!

Reading by Choice

I tell you what: I took part in the adult program, and it was great fun!

Libraries absolutely do rock!

Reading Fun for Adults

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