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    April 11, 2014:
    Fall 2014 Children's Sneak Peek
    A peek at forthcoming middle grade books (as well as picture books and YA books) in a round-up from Publisher's Weekly. First printed in the February 22 issue, but now available online. Time to add to your to-read list. Read more ...

    April 9, 2014:
    How many Newbery winners have you read?
    You could make a traditional list of all the Newbery Medal Award-winning Children's Books you've read, but there's something so satisfying when you check them off and get a final tally on this BuzzFeed quiz. Read more ...

    March 28, 2014:
    Middle Grade fiction is hot at 2014 Bologna Children's Book Fair

    For the second year in a row, publishers are clamoring for middle-grade, reporters Publishers Weekly. "I’ve been coming [to Bologna] for 12 to 15 years, and I’ve never had as many European publishers asking for middle-grade," said Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency. Read more ...

    February 14, 2014:
    Cybils Awards announced
    Ultra by David Carroll (Scholastic Canada) wins the Cybil for middle grade fiction; Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Hyperion) wins for Speculative Fiction. Read more.

    January 27, 2014: And the Newbery Medal goes to ...
    Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal for "Flora & Ulysses"; Rita Williams-Garcia won the Coretta Scott King Author award for "P.S. Be Eleven." Newbery Honor awards to authors Vince Vawter, Amy Timberlake, Kevin Henkes and Holly Black. For all the exciting ALA Youth Media Award News ... READ MORE

    November 12, 2013:
    Vote in the GoodReads semifinal round

    Readers' votes have narrowed the middle-grade semifinals down to 20 titles. Log in to your GoodReads account and vote for your favorite middle-grade (and in other categories, of course). Read more ...

    November 9, 2013:
    Publishers Weekly Top Children's Books of 2013

    Middle-grade and young adult titles selected by the editors of Publishers Weekly as their top picks of the year. Let the season of "top ten books" begin! Read more ...

    October 14, 2013:
    Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids debuts January 2014

    Shelf Media Group, publisher of Shelf Unbound indie book review magazine, will launch a new free digital-only publication for middle-grade readers. The debut issue features interviews with such notable authors as Margaret Peterson Haddix and Chris Grabenstein as well as reviews, excerpts, and more. Middle Shelf will be published bi-monthly beginning in January 2014.
    Read more ...

    September 19, 2013: Writer-in-Residence program at Thurber House

    Dream of time and space to focus on your own writing project? Applications now being accepted (11/1/2013 deadline) for The Thurber House Residency in Children's Literature, a month-long retreat in the furnished third-floor apartment of Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Read more ...

    September 18, 2013: Vermont College of Fine Arts Scholarship opportunity

    Barry Goldblatt Literary launches The Angela Johnson Scholarship, a talent-based grant for writers of color attending the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at VCFA. Up to two $5,000 grants will be awarded each year. Read more ....

    September 16, 2013:
    National Book Awards longlist for youth literature

    For the first time, the NBA is presenting lists of 10 books/authors on the longlist in each category. The 2013 young adult literature list includes five middle grade novels and five YA. Read more ...

    Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
    Check out Publishers Weekly roundup of upcoming children's books to be published in spring 2014. Read more...

    August 21, 2013:
    Want to be a Cybils Award Judge?

    Middle grade categories are fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction. Applications due August 31! Read more ...

    August 19, 2013:
    S&S and BN reach a deal
    Readers will soon be able to find books from Simon & Schuster at Barnes & Noble. The bookstore chain was locked in a disagreement with the publisher over how much it was willing to pay for books. Read more ...

    August 6, 2013:
    NPR's 100 Must-Reads for Kids
    NPR's Backseat Book Club asked listeners to nominate their favorite books for readers ages 9 to 14. More than 2,000 people nominated titles, and a panel of Newbery authors brought the list to 100. Most are middle grade books. Read more ...

     
    July 2, 2013:
    Penguin & Random House Merger

    The new company, Penguin Random House, will control more than 25 percent of the trade book market in the United States. On Monday, the newly formed company began to take shape, only hours after a middle-of-the-night announcement that the long-planned merger had been completed. Read more ...

    March 28, 2013: Big at Bologna

     This year at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the focus has shifted to middle-grade.  “A lot of foreign publishers are cutting back on YA and are looking for middle-grade,” said agent Laura Langlie, according to Publisher's Weekly.  Lighly illustrated or stand-alone contemporary middle-grade fiction is getting the most attention.  Read more...

     

    March 10, 2013: Marching to New Titles

    Check out these titles releasing in March...

     

    March 5, 2013: Catch the BEA Buzz

    Titles for BEA's Editor Buzz panels have been announced.  The middle-grade titles selected are:

    A Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

    Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward

    Nick and Tesla's High-Voltages Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

    The Tie Fetch by Amy Herrick

    For more Buzz books in other categories, read more...

     

    February 20, 2013: Lunching at the MG Roundtable 

    Earlier this month, MG authors Jeanne Birdsall, Rebecca Stead, and N.D. Wilson shared insight about writing for the middle grades at an informal luncheon with librarians held in conjunction with the New York Public Library's Children's Literary Salon "Middle Grade: Surviving the Onslaught."

    Read about their thoughts...

     

    February 10, 2013: New Books to Love

    Check out these new titles releasing in February...

     

    January 28, 2013: Ivan Tops List of Winners

    The American Library Association today honored the best of the best from 2012, announcing the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards, along with a host of other prestigious youth media awards, at their annual winter meeting in Seattle.

    The Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature went to The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Honor books were: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin; and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

    The Coretta Scott King Book Award went to Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

    The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award,which honors an author for his or her long-standing contributions to children’s literature, was presented to Katherine Paterson.

    The Pura Belpre Author Award, which honors a Latino author, went to Benjamin Alire Saenz for his novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which was also named a Printz Honor book and won the Stonewall Book Award for its portrayal of the GLBT experience.

    For a complete list of winners…

     

    January 22, 2013: Biography Wins Sydney Taylor

    Louise Borden's His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, a verse biography of the Swedish humanitarian, has won the Sydney Taylor Award in the middle-grade category. The award is given annually to books of the highest literary merit that highlight the Jewish experience. Aimee Lurie, chair of the awards committee, writes, "Louise Borden's well-researched biography will, without a doubt, inspire children to perform acts of kindness and speak out against oppression."

    For more...

     

    January 17, 2013: Erdrich Wins Second O'Dell

    Louise Erdrich is recipient of the 2013 Scott O'Dell Award for her historical novel Chickadee, the fourth book in herBirchbark House series. Roger Sutton,Horn Book editor and chair of the awards committee, says of Chickadee,"The book has humor and suspense (and disarmingly simple pencil illustrations by the author), providing a picture of 1860s Anishinabe life that is never didactic or exotic and is briskly detailed with the kind of information young readers enjoy." Erdrich also won the O'Dell Award in 2006 for The Game of Silence, the second book in theBirchbark series. 

    For more...

     

    January 15, 2013: After the Call

    Past Newbery winners Jack Gantos, Clare Vanderpool, Neil Gaiman, Rebecca Stead, and Laura Amy Schlitz talk about how winning the Newbery changed (or didn't change) their lives in this piece from Publishers Weekly...

     

    January 2, 2013: On the Big Screen

    One of our Mixed-up Files members may be headed to the movies! Jennifer Nielsen's fantasy adventure novel The False Prince is being adapted for Paramount Pictures by Bryan Cogman, story editor for HBO's Game of Thrones. For more...

     

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How Do You Make Time to Read?

Inspiration, Librarians, Parents, Teachers

 

I have a confession to make: I’m a bad reader. Let’s be honest: I’m a lousy reader.

I’m the kind of reader that lets all kinds of interruptions stop me from finishing a book. There is my schedule, my kids’ schedule – my writing projects that always seem to take precedence over an evening curled up in bed with a great book. And there is my writer brain that doesn’t seem to turn off when I’m reading supposedly for pleasure. There is the unwillingness to suspend my disbelief like I did when I was young, a general impatience for the story to get where it should be, then exasperation when it does and I think I’ve seen it all before. Is this adulthood? Lack of sleep? Lack of time? Is this maturing writer syndrome? Whatever it is, I feel like I should be reading, and enjoying reading a lot more.

This summer I read six books. For me, six is a pretty good number. I read two on the plane, to and from ALA. The other four I read at my parents’ when I had no place to drive my kids, no major cooking or housework to complete – nothing to do really but kick up my legs for a few weeks.

But let’s compare this to the number of books my fourth-grader read. That would be 26.

6 and 26. Luckily, I’m not trying to be her. Otherwise, I would feel like a pile of doo-doo.

But I did study her reading habits over the summer, to find out how she read so much. She didn’t have a completely free summer. She had a morning camp that ran for 6 weeks, But her afternoons were open until the end of July, and then for the whole of August, nothing at all. She read the Percy Jackson series, the Sisters Grimm series, several standalones, and even a few ARCS that I brought back from ALA, or that she received through a fantastic children’s reading program at a bookstore in Boston. Some came from the bookstore, but most came home from the library. She was not a picky reader, but she read what interested her, and during the summer, she completed every book she started.

Then I looked at my own reading patterns, during the summer, and during the school year (because even if I’m not a student, my day-to-day life is determined by the academic and extra-curricular schedule of my kids).

This is what I came to realize about reading:

1. It’s important to have uninterrupted time. For my daughter, this time was vast – enough that she could keep reading until she finished a book, which was generally in about 2 days. It was harder for me to find this same kind of uninterrupted time. If I did, it was generally when my kids were asleep or out playing with friends, cousins, etc. The best time honestly, was at night, when everyone was asleep. For this I actually preferred my iPad, because I could read in the dark (which okay, might be horrible for my eyes), but which gave me the closest sensation that I was completely alone with my reading.

2. Even when you’re busy, you can still make time for reading. You need to carve out a time to read, and keep that time only for that. It might be at night before you go to sleep. It might be on your morning commute. Or maybe it is at your kid’s soccer game. Where ever it is, it should be consistent and guarded against other obligations.

3. Reading is a mental exercise. Just like your body can go out of shape, your reading muscles can atrophy over time, too. The best way to build up those reading muscles is to keep reading. It gets easier to read when you develop the habit of reading.

4. Sometimes liking a book means having to get to the end. While I don’t advocate finishing everything I read, I do also find that certain books require a greater amount of time to build trust. In a way, when you decide to read a book, you are trusting the author to take you somewhere you want to be. One of the books I read this summer became extremely satisfying by the time I got to the end – but it was an end I couldn’t have seen coming (or enjoyed) when I reached the halfway mark.

5. Reading a little more means writing a little less. I don’t know how to get around this fact, at least as it stands in my life. Because as a writer and mom and family member, there are only so many hours in a day to get things accomplished. Sometimes a fabulous book means giving up an evening dedicated to writing. Sometimes it means putting that fabulous book on hold while you finish your draft. It’s a delicate balance. For me, it does help to be between writing projects. So for the time being, reading is a great way to transition from one project to another, to refill the well, and allow myself to enter someone else’s imagined world for a change.

Now that school has started for my kids and me, I’m sure our reading habits will change. But at least I’ve got 6 books tucked inside my brain, and I feel so much better because of it.

So how about you? Where do you read? When do you read? How do you fit reading into your life?

 

_______

Sheela Chari is the author of VANISHED (Disney Hyperion), the latest Al Roker Book Pick. You can watch her live on the Today Show in October, or visit her online at www.sheelachari.com

16 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Ms. Yingling  •  Sep 5, 2012 @5:38 am

    This is very true. This is also why my blog is called Ms. Yingling READS and not WRITES!! Reading is so much easier!

    sheelachari Reply:

    @Ms. Yingling, Actually for me, reading is so much harder! But maybe it depends on the book and the writing project! :)

  2. Joanne Johnson  •  Sep 5, 2012 @6:36 am

    @ Sheela–I hear you. My strategy is to have seasons for reading and seasons for writing. When I’m in the middle of a draft or revision, I don’t read much. When I’m between drafts (or over school breaks), I set reading goals and read as much as I can. Sometimes I’m reading with a purpose, studying examples of POV or setting or any area in my writing that I’m trying to improve. I also have seasons (like back to school chaos) when I take a break from both. But you are published and I’m not, so I don’t have external deadlines. Great suggestions!

    sheelachari Reply:

    @Joanne Johnson, It’s taken me a long time to recognize that there are cycles to writing projects – and that reading can be part of this cycle, too. I’ve discovered only after a couple of years that summer, winter vacation, and the month of September, are impossible times to get writing done. Now that I know that, I plan on not writing at that time, and finding a few books to read instead. I like your use of the word “season.” I think it’s very apt!

  3. Karen B. Schwartz  •  Sep 5, 2012 @7:46 am

    I read at night because it’s very relaxing and I’ve found that I can’t write at night. If my kids are home from school, like on break, I don’t write at all and the reading amps up more.

    sheelachari Reply:

    @Karen B. Schwartz, It’s funny how I can read with the kids around (and ambient noise), but it’s really difficult to write much. Night is perfect for reading, and I’m opting towards it (though the internet is such a huge temptation at that time, too!)

  4. tricia  •  Sep 5, 2012 @11:28 am

    What a thoughtful and thought-provoking post. For me, reading is an always changing experience. It’s rare now to ever completely give myself up to a novel–I’m so often noting form, voice, pacing!

    Sheela Chari Reply:

    @tricia, Thank you, Tricia! It’s also very, very hard for me to read without holding back a little.

  5. Jennifer Rumberger  •  Sep 5, 2012 @6:22 pm

    Great post! I too find it hard to find time to read, write, work and be a mom. A couple of weeks ago I decided I needed to set some goals for myself, just for a bit more consistency. As best as I can, I make a point to write for 15 minutes every day and read for fun 15 minutes every day. Total, that’s only half an hour, which makes the goal seem easier to attain. Good luck with both!

    Sheela Chari Reply:

    @Jennifer Rumberger, I like the idea of 15 minutes. I’m trying really hard to fit time for reading, especially now after school started!

  6. Jill  •  Sep 5, 2012 @8:38 pm

    I struggle with reading while writing. I always have to be reading something. It’s like eating breakfast every day…reading is something “i have to do” just for the “zone out” part.
    The challenge I find is when I’m writing/revising a project and I’m reading something..suddenly I want to emulate that author I’m reading and this can trickle into my project and I do not want that to happen. But I also don’t want to just not read either….so I’m just going to hope that I can make reading a separate entity from my project altogether. One thing though that confuses me is that I might be writing MG, but reading YA and suddenly be on the YA-train :) So I feel like I”m never going to rein in my ideas and voices and committments if I keep this up.

    But i just love to read. So…I don’t know how to solve that thing :)

    Sheela Chari Reply:

    @Jill, This problem happens to me all the time! I find the books I’m reading “interfering” with what I’m writing. But I think this happens often, and it’s a common problem among writers. I really think it’s best for me to separate them so that I’m not doing both at the same time.

  7. Donna Gephart  •  Sep 6, 2012 @10:54 am

    I was thinking about this very topic this morning, as it seems to be taking me forever to finish a novel that I’m enjoying very much. I realized it’s because I’m spending more time writing, which is a good thing. But I’m also doodling around on the Internet, which is a bad thing. I’m going to keep making time to read because it feeds my soul in such an important way.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post!

    sheelachari Reply:

    @Donna Gephart, thanks so much for writing, Donna! I apologize for not responding sooner (school started a few days ago – and it’s been chaotic).

    I’m so glad to hear again and again that I’m not the only writer facing this struggle with reading and finding time for it without my writing time (or work) getting affected. I do also think I waste time online…that if I’m more disciplined, I can have time to do both.

  8. Dianna Winget  •  Sep 7, 2012 @10:13 am

    Great post! I can especially relate to point number 5 about balancing reading with my writing time. Sometimes I read when I shouldn’t–when I should be cleaning my house, catching up on gardening work, ect. But my favorite time and place to read is out in my hot tub in the winter. My husband fixed up a flood light for me out on the porch so it’s a great, quiet, relaxing place to read.

    sheelachari Reply:

    @Dianna Winget, Hot tub in the winter! I’m imagining this with a little envy! :)

    I’m sitting down with the Sisters Grimm, Book #1 in the evenings. 15 minutes a day. I’m enjoying it. But a hot tub would make it better. grin!