Monday, February 18, 2019

Presidents' Day Musing

Happy Presidents' Day! While the children in school today talk about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree or Abe Lincoln splitting rails, those of us at home sitting before our computers have a chance to muse over other aspects of what made a president a president. For me with a master's degree in education and reading, today is the perfect day to reflect on the impact reading had on our American leaders.

The catalyst to my train of thought goes back to a column in the "For the Record" op-ed section in today's Charlotte Observer. Guest columnist Mark West writes about the importance of reading to character development. According to what he discovered, President Theodore Roosevelt typically read a book a day.

(Way to go, Teddy!)

What an example for a child in class today. Chopping down cherry trees shows them the value of telling the truth. Splitting rails shows them the importance of hard labor. Teachers now need to add this one more story to the line up of legends passed along on Presidents' Day.

In his special column, Mr. West goes on to elaborate about how essential reading is to the development of one specific character trait, empathy. "By reading about people whose lives were so different from his own, Roosevelt developed a sense of empathy for these people." If learning about others is a direct result of the reading process, then taking action, it seems logical, would be its by-product. What the world needs now, I must suggest, is empathy.

Reading that George didn't tell a lie about chopping down the tree and about Abe working hard splitting logs into rails is a rite of passage of American school children. Might I be brazen enough to add this one more yearly legend: Rough and Ready Teddy reads a book a day! Imagine a generation of children brought up aware that a president developed this essential ethic called empathy through reading and reacting.

Don't lie. Work hard. Read a book a day.

Catch of the day,


Monday, February 11, 2019

Lovely Little "Ly"

As my writing has developed, I've discarded a few habits along the way. One of them is my reliance on adverbs. When I taught using the whole language approach, one assignment I remember was for my students to find adverbs in that particular day's reading. Of course I had chosen carefully (note the Lovely Little Ly), and sought out passages that fit my purpose.

Surprisingly (LLLy), I did notice one thing. The novels I selected to work with student lessons had fewer and fewer adverbs as the publication dates became more recent. Finding "ly" words became increasingly (LLLy) more difficult.

A blog by a fellow author clearly (LLLy) explains the devaluation of the "ly." Take a look at Joan Edward's blog on writing and see what I am talking about. I read her blog faithfully (LLLy), and this post really struck home with me.

Not that she's claiming putting "Ly" on permanent exile is the answer. There is a time and place to insert the perfect "Ly" adverb when it fits like the missing part of a five hundred piece jigsaw puzzle. It's the snick a writer hears when that one well chosen word completes the intended image.

But in this blog she's pointing out the value of sentences constructed to give the reader the full picture, not the short cut version with an "ly" stuck on the end of an adjective. 

I made a comment on her blog reacting to a humorously (LLLy) written comment by another reader, and because of that, I won Joan's lottery. In fact, in honor of Valentine's Day, and because she is a wonderful person, all of us who commented were offered the same reward, a critique of a thousand word snippet from our own personal manuscripts that would flesh out those LLLy's and give the sentence a new life. 

I know exactly which thousand words to send: The final few pages of my work in progress. Reading back through it I realized there weren't as many of those pesky "Ly" adverbs after all, so I inserted a few to add to the verbs the old fashioned way. Hopefully (LLLy) she will give me a new awareness of how to revise and make those vivid verbs come alive without the "Ly" crutch.

I'm looking forward to seeing what she suggests. Thank you, Joan!

Catch of the day,