The Pleasure of Reading Fast and Short by Donalyn Miller
We are moving and most of our books are packed. Spending every waking moment cleaning and packing limits my reading time, and influences my reading habits. I have rediscovered a new appreciation for the short texts that I subscribe to and regularly read. Whether it’s a news article about the American Southwest’s water shortage or a thought-provoking blog post about teaching and parenting, I find daily information and edification from reading short texts—a wonderful supplement to my reading life. Here are my current favorite sources for short texts and online reading.
A News Letter from the Desk of Austin Kleon: Austin Kleon is a poet, artist, and author of two books about fostering creativity and promoting yourself—Steal Like An Artist and Show Your Work! Each Friday, he publishes a weekly newsletter that collects random bits of inspiration and fascination he discovers such as documentaries, interviews with artists, photographs, and tips for fostering your own creativity. One of my recent favorites was this collection of letters revealing how creatives graciously say no to requests for their time and work. Austin’s books are essential short reads, too.
Choice Literacy’s Big Fresh Newsletter: Choice Literacy’s website is an endless source for best practices in literacy instruction from thought-leaders, classroom vignettes, and tips for engaging students with reading and writing. You can sample Choice Literacy’s premium content and find links to other sources through this free weekly e-newsletter, which organizes information around a theme like conferring or writer’s craft.
The Skimm: Traveling a lot, I struggle to keep up with breaking news and current events. My friend, Franki Sibberson turned me on to The Skimm, a daily e-newsletter that aggregates international and national news into a clever, concise format. I rely on The Skimm to keep me informed and entertained. Perfect airport reading.
Magazines: While we subscribe to several magazines, I admit that I let them pile up around the house. Weeding my magazines stacks for the move, I have rediscovered the fun and engagement that interesting magazines offer. Many magazines offer online access that may include enhanced multimedia content, so you can forego the clutter and always have something to read on your phone. We currently subscribe to: Wired, Mental Floss, Entertainment Weekly, Smithsonian, Texas Monthly, and Better Homes and Gardens.
Blogs: Recently at a conference, a presenter said, “Blogging is dead. No one reads blogs anymore.” I must be behind the curve because I still read a lot of blogs. I spend Saturday and Sunday mornings drinking lots of coffee and catching up on blogs–like my parents used to read the newspaper. Educational and reading blogs provide an endless source of book recommendations and professional learning, as well as introduce me to smart thinkers and reflective practitioners all over the globe. I currently subscribe to: The Goddess of YA Literature; A Year of Reading; The Reading Zone; Read, Write, Reflect; Watch. Connect. Read; Sharpread; Ruth Ayres Writes; Empathic Teacher; Three Teachers Talk; 100 Scopes Notes, and The Dirigible Plum. I also browse many others, and I read The Nerdy Book Club blog, of course.
Book Review Periodicals: When looking for book recommendations, I rely on multiple sources—my reading friends and colleagues, award lists, and reviews from professional review publications. My current favorites are Booklist and Horn Book. My husband knows that he will lose me for an hour when these publications arrive in the mail. I happily pore over them reading reviews, ordering books, and comparing my impressions to professional reviewers, and I use their online databases when researching titles. Don’t miss Booklist’s new launch, Booklist Reader, which collects reviews, news, and lists.
Social Media Sites: I see a lot of things that irritate and concern me when reading Facebook and Twitter, but the benefits outweigh the drawbacks for me. I have found an irreplaceable tribe of authors, librarians, and teachers on Twitter that feeds my need to talk about books and reading, and to learn all I can about being a better teacher. Facebook helps me remain connected to high school friends and distant relatives, along with random cartoons, memes, and articles that entertain me. I am spending more time on Instagram and Pinterest—learning more about using these sites to connect and share.
Professional Journals: Staying current on best practices and educational trends remain a vital part of teachers’ professional development. I like reading about the work of other teachers and researchers who are asking smart questions about teaching, learning, leadership, and literacy. I currently subscribe to many journals from the American Library Association, the International Literacy Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. I skim journals when they arrive to see what catches my eye, and reference these publications often when researching material for presentations or writing.
I also squeeze in more reading time by reading short stories, poems, and listening to audiobooks and podcasts—“reading with my ears” as Teri Lesesne says. While I enjoy nothing more than curling up with an epic tome, my reading life would be less interesting if I confined myself to books. Reading short texts helps me stay current and connected, discover new things, and ensures I squeeze in daily reading when time and attention are limited. Share your favorite sources for short reads and celebrate all types of readers and reading!
Donalyn Miller has taught fourth, fifth, and sixth grade English and Social Studies. She is the author of two books about encouraging students to read, The Book Whisperer (Jossey-Bass, 2009) and Reading in the Wild (Jossey-Bass, 2013). Donalyn co-hosts the monthly Twitter chat, #titletalk (with Nerdy co-founder, Colby Sharp) and the Best Practices Roots (#bproots) chat with Teri Lesesne. Donalyn launched the Twitter summer and holiday reading initiative, #bookaday. You can find her on Twitter at @donalynbooks or under a pile of books somewhere, happily reading.