Reading is more than text

I have a couple of friends that just don’t like to read. They don’t really see the point of it. It boggles my mind, but they are still my friends. I don’t hold it against them. In fact, they are reading – they listen to podcasts and audiobooks, read articles and the news, and take part in discussions and performances. Many parent patrons let me know that they do not view graphic novels as part of their kids’ reading time claiming that there are too many pictures. But why? Sometimes text can be overwhelming to early readers (and let’s face it, to some experienced readers, too!) and maybe they aren’t developmentally ready for text only chapter books. Some readers need to listen to retain the structure of and themes within a story. Some readers need visual information to really reinforce the context of the printed word. Reading is more than text.

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RuPaul’s Drag Race. The library is open.

Reading is one of many forms of communication. It does not have this narrow definition of processing text printed left to right on horizontal lines on multiple pages of a physical paper bound together. Egyptians had hieroglyphics. Many early Central American and South American cultures recorded and read their history in a visual format. Some drew symbols to share information, while others communicated through quipu, various colored threads knotted in different ways, or other craft-like formats. Many cultures prided themselves on a rich oral storytelling tradition with words and sometimes instruments. This form of telling stories emphasized community and sharing. Then as a tool of colonization, Western explorers decried visual language and storytelling rituals as savage and proclaimed written language as proof of higher status. But they still loved their Shakespeare and political cartoons. Go figure.

colonial-man

Ye Old Englishman

While many people still view text as king, visual and oral communication are a huge part of our lives. Green tells us to go, award ceremonies for entertainment are huge events, we share stories every chance we can– at the dinner table with family and friends, in storytime, in movies, songs, and plays. Stories are everywhere. They reflect cultures and individuals, truths and deception. The power of stories is an incredible force in connecting people and expanding worldviews. Literacy is important and reading is just a portion of that. There’s a reason that the Public Library Association and Association of Library Services for Children include singing, playing, writing, and talking as early literacy skills. Along with reading, these activities reinforce how to communicate.

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One of my book club reads

Winter Cravings

The wind is starting to nip more. The trees are finally radiating bold red, gold, and orange. Teas are bought and drunk in abundance. My cat is won’t stop cuddling in the morning. There is just something about winter that speaks to my soul.

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Just say YES

“Every few years one needs to shake one’s life through a sieve, like a miner in the Yukon. The gold nuggets remain.” – Amy Poehler

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I did a brave thing a little over a year and a half ago. I signed up for improv class at Dallas Comedy House.  I found myself in a rut after grad school and was struggling to find a  strong community after moving from the little d (Denton) to the Big D (Dallas). I was also TERRIBLE at public speaking and knew that I needed to do something about it to grow professionally. What better way than to practice carrying a scene and eventually a whole show with no script, no plan, and absolutely no idea how it would end. I had only an inkling of how this decision would shape my life.

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The people in my classes were not actors in the traditional sense, except one douchey guy and later on one sweet guy who wrote plays. Most of us didn’t see ourselves as the next Amy Poehler or John Belushi. We were all a hodgepodge of people thrown together by a love of comedy. We were journalists, insurance salespeople, college students, accountants, teachers, lawn mowers, food scientists, literally all walks of life.We all subscribed to the cult of Sarah Wyatt and Amanda Austin, two of the most passionate, inclusive, open-hearted, and talented people I’ve known. We worked hard during the day, but got to come together once a week and created some zany shit.

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As we moved up in the levels, the stakes were bigger, more commitment was expected, and some people left the ranks. I had to leave half-way through the program after getting a less flexible job – but I was finally using my Master’s, so yay! I was lucky and had been asked to join a troupe with some classmates. We tried something that we had never done before and won King of the Mountain as little baby improvisers. It didn’t last, but I’ll always treasure that group. That troupe enabled me to stay in people’s minds, so that I could start two new troupes with different people and keep my improv skills from completely rusting closed. And finally, in June, I was  able to jump back into classes.

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Cut to 2 weeks ago. I graduated from Dallas Comedy House’s improv program. It took hard work and it forced me to let go of my desire to control. But overall, it was just simple fun. While troupes were certainly keeping me in comedic shape, I was missing those foundation lessons and that individual support that only comes from classes.

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Comedy has been such a blessing in my life. It’s gotten me through the hard stuff and given me an outlet to create. The ephemeral nature of an improv show is tough for some folks. Unlike sketch or stand-up, the magic of improv isn’t focused on the refinement of content – the lines, the props, or costumes. It is about the sheer miracle that a group of people, who haven’t planned ahead are able to create comedy together, to discover the funny in a simple one word suggestion. When everyone is checked in with each other and the audience is engaged, there is a buzzing energy that is electrifying. Off stage, I find myself taking a moment to listen and be more open to what could happen. Rather than soothe my social anxiety by planning what I will say and how I will act (this never works, by the way), I relish in the fact that I never know what will happen and that is okay. More often than not, life ends up better than I could ever plan.

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Eye Candy: Esmé Shapiro

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I discovered Esmé Shapiro’s work while I was sliding down the rabbit hole that is Tumblr. I was mindlessly scrolling through my blogroll, wading through a mess of visual imagery, and all of the sudden the work above completely captivated me. The floral wallpaper print! The joyfully content expressions on the couple! The wonder of that color palatte! Who was this Esmé Shapiro?  The more I saw of her work, the more entranced I became.

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Beautiful blues and greens fill up the page, or screen, with pops of bold red, pinks, and oranges. Nature is infused in her imagery, whether in actual flora or through decorative details.

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While I was recently weeding picture books, I was pleasantly surprised to see this displayed with the other new books – a quirky and whimsical book by Esmé! It must have been my lucky day.

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For more Esmé goodness check out her website and this lovely interview by Julie Danielson (aka Jules) from 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Instaread: Mr. Splitfoot

 

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Reading can be a very intimate thing. I tend to read in public places – a coffee shop or the breakroom. However, when I am reading my surroundings are a blurred background. I am focused on building and exploring a new world, which is constantly evolving as I continue the story. I use what I know from my own life and experiences to color characters, places, and interactions. But no man is an island. Book clubs are a wonderful and different way to experience stories. They help get you out of your head and hear how other people processed the same exact story. I’ve enjoyed a few books a little bit more because new information was pointed out to me by another reader. I joined two this year and they are radically different, but integral to my reading process.

In January I joined a ladies book club. They had been meeting for almost a year and I was nervous that I wouldn’t fit in. I knew one girl at the first meeting and it wasn’t at her house. I showed up to the host’s house after work and knocked on the door, BUT THERE WAS NO ANSWER. I tried again and wondered if I had the right address. I did. Social anxiety flooded my synapses. I desperately messaged my friend, “HELP! ARE YOU INSIDE? HOW DO I GET IN?” She was running late, so I waited. When she arrived, I discovered I needed to go in through the back. And that was the only time, I felt uncomfortable at book club. It’s a great group and we pick a diverse selection to keep things interesting, although I’ve noticed an unconscious bias towards female writers.  So far we have read: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, How Should a Person be by Sheila Heti, Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout, and Zeroville by Steve Erickson. We are about to discuss Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt later this month. I enjoyed this gothic, eerie tale, but am interested to see what others thought.

The other book club I joined was through improv. I was asked to join in August and am very excited about it. Every month the DCH Book Club reads a book and puts on a show based on the themes. So the audience doesn’t necessarily need to have read the book to enjoy the show. I started the month we read The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. Everyone in DCH Book Club is a seasoned performer. I wanted so badly to bolt from the green room before we went out on stage. We did a show based on rich people’s problems and sibling rivalries. This past show we performed a show based on the Alchemist‘s themes of fate, prophecies, and personal legends. It was a great show and I felt myself growing as an improviser. I’ve found myself reading books a bit different with this book club, I’m paying more attention to the broader theme, mood, and mass appeal than usual.

Book clubs help me hear how other people perceive a story, which helps me hone my reader’s advisory skills as a librarian. As much as reading is seen as an isolationist’s pastime, reading informs how we perceive and interact with the world.

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.” – Henry Ford

sloth hammock

personal spirit animal – taking it super easy

Curiosity is a major factor in being a good librarian. To remain relevant in our jobs and our community, we must be constantly seeking out new programs, technology, perspectives, etc. in the larger world and then figuring out how, or even if, it fits within our local population. I’m a creature of habit and often times slow to evolve, especially with technology. I accept change is inevitable and do embrace it, but I would just be happier if it happened at a slower pace. Luckily, I have a job that keeps me on my toes and with the times. I learned quickly that I would have to fight my sloth-like nature and foster a more innovative attitude in myself. Our library system received funding for two Digital Creation Spaces a couple of years ago. There were a few staff that were proficient in the software, but not a lot. I was interested in learning the various Adobe software so I could be helpful to patrons, but I was also personally curious about what I could create. I putzed my way through various “Getting Started” tutorials, but had no context for those concepts. I got very overwhelmed pretty easily and focused on other projects, ones that I knew I could do well.

curious cat

professional spirit animal – endlessly curious

Cut to January earlier this year, while I was still working as Youth Services library staff. A co-worker, Alyssa, proposed I help her with an early literacy craft tutorial project, Library Make. Her original partner had moved to a different library system. I immediately said yes. We filmed the tutorial and then it was time to edit. Ummmm, I had no idea what I was doing. I kind of knew what I wanted to do from the tutorial I did a few months before, but my immediate reaction was to ignore this project. Very slowly, Alyssa and I figured out how to roughly edit our first episode together (i joined the project on episode 2). Instead of letting that experience deter us, we forged ahead and learned as much as we could about editing videos in Premiere and lighting for a green screen. Alyssa is such a great person for collaboration! She has a clear vision and is constantly questioning how we can make our videos better. Each episode we have learned a new shortcut or tried something new. We just finished our 10th episode and are super excited about how far we’ve come. Watch it below and let us know what you think.

Library Make has been such a joy to work on and I’ve grown so much from the experience. I learned a valuable skill that helped me get my job that I have today. The Digital Creation Space at my new library is a huge part of my workload. I’m taking classes in Illustrator and InDesign to feel confident helping patrons with projects. I’m starting to create curriculum and propose more project-based classes. The next step I’m focusing on is how to best market the space. I’m curious about how many people aren’t using the space because they don’t understand what they can do with the software and related equipment. I’m thinking back to when I knew nothing about any of the Adobe software and using that feeling of being horrendously overwhelmed as inspiration and motivation. Many people probably don’t realize that they can use our Digital Creation Space to brand their new entrepreneurial venture or edit their graduation photos and then create a zine of memories to be sent out to family. They can create their own calendars for themselves, to give as gifts, or to sell. I really hope to empower the patrons, as well as staff who are helping the patrons.

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Eye Candy: Fumi Koike’s Illustrations

girl reading

Fumi Koike. Reading a Book.

You guys. Fumi Koike’s illustrations. Just look at them. They are simply divine. What could be more comforting than food and home, nature and dogs? She is a freelance illustrator and designer working in Saitama, Japan. The illustration above is one of my favorites. The bold red scarf brings your eye to the center. The way the women is positioned, the viewer feels as if they are reading over the shoulder of a stranger. The woman isn’t inviting, yet she is alluring. I found another version of this same woman.

woman sans book

Without the book, there’s much more emotional distance between the woman and the viewer. The colors aren’t as bold and the color palette is much cooler. Many of her figure drawings are uninterested in the viewer.

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Fumi Koike. Cloudy Weather.

Her still lifes of food,coffee, and clothes are simple and refined. The two prints below have me pining for winter windy days and just a bit of free time.

coffee

Fumi Koike. A Mug of Cafe Au Lait.

yellow sweater

Fumi Koike. Yellow Cable Sweater.

Her interiors are full of everyday details. They are relatable and inviting. Fumi mentions that some of her rooms are based on her actual surroundings, while others are just ideas or what she would like to see.

room

A few of my friends are doing inktober. I’ve been meaning to stretch my lazy bones and challenge myself to create more – knitting my nephew a blanket for Christmas, cooking meals, this blog. These illustrations are definitely an inspiration to start paying attention to my surroundings and make at least a doodle a day.

For more information on Fumi Koike’s illustrations, check out:

This interview

Her Facebook page

A simple Google image search