Frequently Asked Questions
1. How can I help readers younger than 7?
Consider making a buddy of the nearest children's librarian. Remember that a really GOOD good children's picture or story book will withstand many readings. Children LIKE knowing what’s coming in a story! Gradually stretch your child's attention span with longer and longer books.
2. Can you help me with my writing or read my manuscript/tell me what to do?
Not unless I stop writing, and I’m a witch when I don't write. Consider enrolling at your community college or nearest university and taking some writing courses. Few things are more stimulating than going back to school as an adult. Also you can sneak into a writing career by writing for your local papers; I wrote for several when we lived in Princeton--very helpful!
3. How can I get your books about a dyslexic child?
The first book is Aunt Morbelia and the Screaming Skulls, currently out of print. It and the sequel, Beware the Ravens, Aunt Morbelia, are available as used books online. I created Todd Fearing--the main character--because I know so many fine dyslexic kids. Aunt Morbelia and the Screaming Skulls was a Starred Review in School Library Journal and listed on many statewide Reader's Choice Lists.
Beware the Ravens, Aunt Morbelia is an English mystery that takes Aunt M back to the ancestral Fearing estate in England. Todd and best friend Jeff accompany her, but no one is prepared for the weird events that follow. Reviewers loved this book, thankfully.
You might also want to read About Dyslexia, by Priscilla Vail. This book is widely recommended.
4. How Do I Inspire My Homeschooled Kids to Write?
Please read what is on this site about the writing process. Know that writing regularly helps. Young writers need to write enough times to begin to feel comfortable doing it, and finding the satisfaction of it all.
Always write yourself when you ask your students to write.
Read finished work aloud. Students find many of their own errors by reading their work aloud. You have to read aloud also.
Do not always correct grammatical errors. Sometimes correct only for organization, or another aspect of writing that you select.
Stress outlining. An outline is a road map, making the job easier and faster, giving the writer more confidence.
Read part way into a story and stop, letting the students finish the story in their own ways.
Offer a helpful prompt, such as: My worst nightmare was.... My best memory is.... My idea of a perfect dog (or cat) is.... Some children think they can never get a good idea and depend on prompts to get going.
Stream-of-consciousness writing is another good way to get going. Type out a page of your own stream-of-consciousness writing with no punctuation or capitalization WHATSOEVER. Ask your students to read the page. This exercise usually makes the point about punctuation, which is so important for readers. So is capitalization. I give my students part of the benjy section from Faulkner's The Sound and The Fury. Their eyes glaze over and they pay attention to punctuation after that.
Good luck, and don't give up. Write some every day, even if only for 10 minutes. We all basically teach ourselves how to write. Frequent writing is key.
5. Excellent books for slow/reluctant readers
Shorter books for older kids have always been in demand. A children's librarian will be of great help to you and your child/students. Try some of the following titles with exciting, fast-moving plots:
How to Eat Fried Worms, by Rockwell. (An old, beloved, hilarious title.)
Rick Riordan's books, e.g., The Lightning Thief, (Percy Jackson and the Olympians), --all other wonderful titles!
Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen. (Paulsen writes fast-paced books, set outdoors, that really appeal to boys.)
The Stone Fox, by Gardiner (A classic set in Alaska—sled dog race)
The Pinballs, by Betsy Byars (3 orphans in one foster home—well-written, realistic, very funny, very thoughtful)
My own books are not lengthy, also funny, and realistic—try one.
David Macaulay’s books that are half art, half factual information. Some titles are Ship, Unbuilding, Pyramid, Cathedral, Castle—all award-winners
Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli—a mite longer, but gripping
Diary of a Monster’s Son, by Ellen Conford (very funny)
Gone-A-Whaling, by Jim Murphy (factual literature, and another award-winning author)
Note: A boy often prefers factual literature. How lucky! We live in the Golden Age of factual lit for kids. To help any child who should be reading alone, start with short reading periods for a few weeks, then add only 5 minutes. Later on, add 5 minutes more, but move slowly so you don’t spook him.
Be sure your ADD child gets LOTS of exercise so that he’s ready to be still for a while and focus on a book. Learning to read for both pleasure and information is one of the most important skills we learn, as you know.
6. Great Read-Aloud Titles:
Basically, you want the very best writing you can find, because it will read better. Today's writing is heavy on dialogue, which always is fun to read, and fun to listen to. Your listeners want stories that move right along; they enjoy suspenseful stories; and they love humor. Whenever you find an author your listeners enjoy, read more by that writer!
The Bed and Biscuit trilogy: Welcome to the Bed and Biscuit; Wild Times at the Bed and Biscuit; and Magic at the Bed and Biscuit; by Joan Carris
The Howard boys’ series: When The Boys Ran The House; Pets, Vets, and Marty Howard; Hedgehogs in the Closet; and The Greatest Idea Ever; and more Joan Carris books
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Skink, by Carl Haissen
Babe The Gallant Pig, by Dick King-Smith
Harry Potter series---These read aloud extremely well. Lots of tension, conflict, and humor.
Gary Paulsen's books, e.g., Hatchet; Winterdance (running the Iditarod--true); The Foxman; Dogsong, etc.
All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriot (country vet in England; witty and heartwarming)--for older listeners
Enslaved by Ducks, by Bob Tarte--hilarious true stories of a couple and their "pets"
Books by Katherine Paterson, esp. The Great Gilly Hopkins; Lyddie; et.al.
Books by Leon Garfield--set in 18th/19th century England; gripping; great characters--one of the best writers for young people in the 20th century. All ages love his books.
Books by Richard Peck, esp. A Long Way From Chicago, A Year Down Yonder; Fair Weather; and The Teacher's Funeral