On Life

Through Books, You Can Travel

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One of my favorite aspects about reading novels is that they allow us to travel to places we may never get to experience, at least not the same way the author sees them. Books such as Adriana Trigiani’s The Shoemaker’s Wife or Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things—two books I can’t and have no desire to get out of my head—submerge us into different aspects of the world and see it through their eyes.

As another example, who reads Maeve Binchy’s novels and doesn’t want to go to Ireland? Who reads anything by Rosamunde Pilcher and doesn’t want to visit England and the villages of Cornwall?

On the flip side, as a writer myself, I welcome the opportunity to incorporate a place into my stories by offering readers the most accurate description of what that place entails. When I do my research, I take a lot of notes. I also take a lot of photographs to jog my memory when I begin to write and tell my stories. For my latest novel that is set on the Eastern Shore of Maryland—particularly in the towns of Oxford, St. Michaels, and Easton—I spent a lot of time exploring and writing impressions, anecdotes, and talking to people. Getting things right, and using places that actually exist as the storyline unfurls is important to me and offers readers that realistic feel. I take writing about places as seriously as I do developing my characters. In fact, I think of the places as characters in the story.

Additionally, I instruct a  Special Topics course at my university in Travel Writing, and I implore students to document their travels as it makes their writing come alive. Taking the time to recount what you’ve learned, seen, and experienced allows you to bring everything to life. Travel journals are awesome, and I love them, but any piece of paper will do.

If you read either my first novel called Beneath the Mimosa Tree that I set in Annapolis, Maryland or Inn Significant, my latest novel that I set on the Eastern Shore, I would love to hear your feedback.

Did I get the places right? Could you “see” them as you were reading? And, did you travel there via the novel?

I surely hope I succeeded.

Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of the newly released Inn SignificantBaseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree.  Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.  To visit Stephanie’s Amazon Author page and see her books, click here.

 

 

On Life

A Little Gift Book Basket

A book basket for a friend.

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The best part about giving someone a book as a gift as that it can be the gift that keeps on giving. People love to lend a book to someone when they love it. Therefore, that particular book may have many readers, as it lovingly gets passed from friend to friend to enjoy.

I’ve always loved giving books as gifts because you can write a nice message inside it–even if you are not the author. While it’s lovely to get a signed book from an author, it’s even more special to receive a book from a dear friend and to inscribe the book with a sentimental message.

Just yesterday, a friend of mine was packing her home to move, and she found The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom inscribed to her a few years ago by her late father. It was a touching moment when she found that book and what her father had written to her inside of it.

It’s also fun to make a little gift basket with books. I’m planning on giving this one to a friend of mine. You can pack the basket with things the people like. In my basket is tea, hot chocolate, Blue Crab munchies, and homemade chocolate chip cookies in a Mason jar, along with the three books I’ve written. Yes—signed, of course, with a message in each.

Books are a sweet gift, because when the person is done reading, it warrants a get-together over wine, coffee, or tea to talk about the book.


15781589_865992106837911_1585157622209528074_nStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of the newly released Inn SignificantBaseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree.  Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt. 
To visit Stephanie’s Amazon Author page and see her books, click here.

On Life

Book Promotion Wrap Up Week One –Thanks for Entering To Win!

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Week one of book promotion for Inn Significant has come to an end, and I wanted to thank all 594 people who entered to win on Amazon for doing so! We had three winners this week–Thelma, Kendra, and Jessica. I hope you all enjoy Inn Significant…I really do.

I’ll be giving away some signed copies this week on my author Facebook page thanks to some good ideas from my savvy students in public relations class. So stay tuned…

I also wanted to thank the Star-Democrat newspaper on Maryland’s Eastern Shore for featuring the story about the book this week. Hopefully, some folks who either live on the Eastern Shore or love visiting Oxford, St. Michaels, and Easton (like I do) will enjoy the story of Milly Foster and her life at the Inn.

If you’ve finished reading the book, you might enjoy my recap of that includes photos and places that inspired the setting of my book that I posted. Check it out and see if it’s what you imagined as you read the story.

The dining room of the Edgewood Manor House in Providence, RI
The dining room of the Edgewood Manor House in Providence, RI

Thanks, as always, for reading, following, and caring! Have a great weekend, everyone!

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imageStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of the newly released Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.  To visit Stephanie’s Amazon Author page and see her books, click here.
On Life

Book Giveaways for Inn Significant

innsignificantanovelThere’s a first time for everything, ladies and gentleman. I’m still learning all the ropes for succeeding as an independent author, and it’s a constant learning curve.

That said, I’ve set up my first BOOK GIVEAWAY ON AMAZON. If you follow the link below, you can enter to win by the 28th of February; I’m giving away 3 copies of my newest novel entitled Inn Significant.

Good luck, you guys!

Follow the link below to enter to win a copy of Inn Significant!

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/aa533a36d37b846b

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imageStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

About Inn Significant: A Novel

Two years after receiving the horrifying news of her husband Gil’s death, Milly Foster continues to struggle to find her way out of a state of depression. As a last-ditch effort and means of intervention, Milly’s parents convince her to run their successful Inn during their absence as they help a friend establish a new bed and breakfast in Ireland. Milly reluctantly agrees; when she arrives at the picturesque, waterfront Inn Significant, her colleague, John, discovers a journal written by her late grandmother that contains a secret her grandmother kept from the family. Reading her grandmother’s words, and being able to identify with her Nana’s own feelings of loss, sparks the beginning of Milly’s climb out of the darkness and back to the land of the living.

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On Life

7 Gifts Under $50 for Your Lady Book Lover

So many people enjoy reading, and many of your friends may be serious readers. If you are on the hunt for an affordable (under $50 gift that is NOT a gift card) for a book lover, allow me to assist you in your search. Below I have found 7 perfect gifts that suit both your budget and that special bibliophile. Happy shopping!

Personalized Book Lover Unisex Watch
Personalized Book Lover Unisex Watch | Gadget Bargains | $39.99
book lover gift, Christmas gift for best friend, personalized jewelry gift, gift for girlfriend, birthstone jewelry, initial jewelry
Book Lover Bracelet | HopeisHipJewelry | Etsy | $26.50
Weekend Booked Tshirt, Book Lover Gift, Men's Clothing, Women's Clothing, Mens, Womens, Ladies, Guys, Youth, Kids.
ElephanTees | Etsy | $14.93
Harry Potter bookmark, Platform 9 3/4 gift literary gifts Librarian gift Resin bookmark Book lovers gift unique metal bookmark BM008
Harry Potter 9 3/4 Bookmark | LoveIngredients | Etsy | $8.99
Barnes & Noble Olive Utility Book Tote with Pockets (12.75
Utility Book Tote | Barnes & Noble | $39.99
Sherlock Holmes Book Scarf - Literary Scarf - Storiarts - 1
Sherlock Holmes Books Scarf | Toriarts | $48.00
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Gray A-Z Bookends | Pottery Barn Kids | $49.00

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.

 

On Life

Books That Make You Cry

220px-'Me_Before_You'About two months ago, on a nice day in March, I sat on my back porch and cried my eyes out as I finished Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. My friend, Shawna, and I were talking about both the novel and the upcoming movie on Saturday at the pool. She hated feeling so sad at the end of the story, and I didn’t mind it; she also doesn’t want to see the movie, and I get that. It is terribly tragic, but it’s also so touching. I’m ready to face it in the theatre with a box of Kleenex. I’ve been waiting a couple of months to see how it transitions from book to film, one of my favorite pastimes.

This got me thinking about the different books that have made me cry over the years. Another particular book that caused waterworks was Dickens’s classic Great Expectations. I remembered reading it as a high school student, and it had little affect on me emotionally. As an grown up with two small kids who was pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing, I read it again in my forties for my class. That one, I finished on the porch or our former home in Ellicott City, again, tears streaming down my face as I finished it. What a different perspective I had with regard to Great Expectations as an adult than I had as a teenager. I highly recommend reading it for pleasure if you don’t remember it well. Also, Dickens always manages to make me cry with A Christmas Carol, a novel I’ve written about many times before on Steph’s Scribe.

Mitch Albom, no matter what book he writes, typically has the power to make me cry. Whether it’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Tuesdays with Morrie, or Have a Little Faith, I find his stories sentimental and often tear-jerking, with profound lessons in between the lines.

markus zusak holding The Book ThiefI can’t even think about The Book Thief without getting goosebumps. I loved every page, every word, every ounce of creativity Markus Zusak put into that book. He’s inspired me to be a better writer and to write the way your gut tells you to write. The Book Thief is one of my favorite books ever. Tears and all.

Another book that had me crying on the beach–only this time they were tears of laughter–was Jill Davis’s book Girls’ Poker Night. My family watched as I went into hysterics, laughing uncontrollably at this hilarious book. Jill Davis’s sense of humor is right up my alley, and I giggled the whole way through it.

513JVTZT07L._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_Also, if you’re looking for sentimental books to read with your kids, I highly recommend Kate DiCamillo. Two of my favorites by her are The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Magician’s Elephant. During that mega snowstorm in 2010, my kids and I read The Magician’s Elephant curled up together in bed. I was reading aloud when I got to a part that choked me up. My daughter reached over, grabbed my arm, and said, “Mommy, I can read for a little bit if you want.” Bless her heart. She was so little then, but she understood that it was sentimental and touching.

On the flip side, as a writer, I’ve had quite a few readers of Baseball Girl, my most recent novel, tell me that they got a little choked up and even shed a tear while reading it. I’m glad to hear that it had that affect, because I meant it for it to delve into that deep love people have for their fathers, and I used the relationship of Francesca and her dad to illustrate the power of that type of love.

BaseballGirlwTypewriter

For a list of some of my favorite books, click here to visit the page BOOKS I’VE ENJOYED, and don’t forget to tell me what you’ve enjoyed reading, whether they’ve caused tears or not.

xx |

signatureStephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice

 

On Life

Porch Sitting & Writing, A Winning Combination

image3My summer break is finally here. As a college professor, we love our teaching, but sometimes a little down time is important. For months, people have been asking me what I’ll be doing this summer.

My answer? Reading, writing, relaxing.

There you have it in a nutshell.

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And yes, I have some things to accomplish, but they will get done on my schedule.

I’m still editing “Postcards and Other Short Stories,” and I’m writing my third novel. But the beauty is, I feel no pressure. I’m on my own timetable.

Our porch at home is my little sanctuary. I love my office, its space, and the new chandelier, but in the summertime, I like to be outside as much as possible, and so my little laptop and I venture to the table on the porch where I listen to the birds chirping, the airplanes fly overhead, and the sounds of silence while I write. It’s a great time to collect my thoughts, get creative, and let things unfold as they may.

My pile of books to read is long. I’m finishing up The House on Primrose Pond by Yona Zeldis McDonough. Next up: After You by JoJo Moyes.

I hope you get to indulge and enjoy some quality time that’s all yours, too. Let me know what you’re reading; I always love a good book suggestion.

In the meantime, if you need me, you can find me on the porch. I’ve got a cold glass of iced tea waiting for you.

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xx |

signatureStephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice

On Life

A Good Book Will Never Let You Down

theshoemaker'swifeI’m about to finish Adriana Trigiani’s touching and inspiring novel entitled The Shoemaker’s Wife. I’ve enjoyed reading this sweeping story of Italian immigrants loosely based on the history of the author’s own grandparents. From the mountains of the Italian Alps to New York City to a small town in Minnesota, the characters and sights covered in this novel will allow you to become a part of a different time and place when the world was a different place, America was growing, and World War I loomed. The truth of the matter is this: a good book will never let you down.

As I’ve become older, wiser, and more finicky about how I spend my free time, I find getting lost in a good book some of the best therapy around. My knowledge about various topics has grown immensely by reading the works of others, and I don’t just mean as a writer. Sure, as a writer, we learn things from other writers such as technique, style, tone, and scope of work, but we also learn about people, places, and things.

Reading allows us to be entertained, to escape, and to challenge ourselves. It requires us to tap into our own imaginations as we read the words the writer put on the page. I keep trying to tell my students to pick up some of the classics that they might otherwise not read because they think the work may be too difficult. However, upon closer inspection, my students have found Dickens and Austen fun to read. They tell me they are glad I pushed them to pick up a book they may not have chosen for themselves.

When you spend time with a good book, it becomes etched in your mind. You may not remember every detail of it or all the things that happened along the way after you are through, but you will be left with an impression, insight, and new information that you did not have prior to making the commitment to it.

When I find an author I love, I try to read everything she or he has written; however, the worst part comes when you realize that you HAVE read all that he or she has written and start to twiddle your thumbs until the next one is released. Nevertheless, the truth of the matter is this: a good book is one to cherish and love, recommend, and encourage others to read.

I am probably going to cry when I finish The Shoemaker’s Wife. It will be as if I am saying farewell to my own Italian family as I kiss them goodbye.

Schilpario Italy
Schilpario, Italy. One of the settings in The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani.  Photo credit: sell-arts.com
NYC_During_World_War_One
New York City during World War I. Photo credit: oldmagazinearticles.com. Ciro, one of the characters in the novel, leaves his NYC to become a soldier.

 

 

 

On Life

Some Quick Book Recommendations

I may not be writing and working on my next novel and collection of short stories as much as I should be, but I sure have read some pretty good books lately. It’s been nice to read other people’s works as opposed to worrying about my own stories right now. Books are piling up on my nightstand, and I’m hoping to read a lot of them this summer as I sit by the pool. It’s one of the great perks of being a professor–summers are made for catching up on writing and reading.

Of late, I can recommend three books that I have thoroughly enjoyed.

Book Shop of Dreams

The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag

This quirky fantasy was a fun, light, and creative read. I loved the quirkiness of each of the characters, the bit of magic thrown in, and the way the story neatly ties together, because guess what? Sometimes we like a neat little package that makes us happy.

Museum of Extraordinary things

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

I’m not going to lie about this one–I was on the fence for many chapters while reading this book. Hoffman’s prose is extremely detailed and descriptive, and the book is low on dialogue between the characters. However, that being said, the melding of history and fiction is always exciting, especially in this drama. I found myself constantly looking things up to see what was real and what wasn’t. The story is interesting, and is definitely creative. I enjoyed being taken back to Coney Island in 1911 to an unusual museum with a cast of characters that includes a conniving and manipulative professor, the professor’s daughter who doubles as a mermaid, and a Jewish boy who is conflicted about his father.

MeBeforeYou

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Her ability to tell a meaningful story is masterful, and she sucks you into the plot right away. This bestselling book is being made into a movie that is slated for release this summer, so if you want to read the book before it hits theatres, I suggest you get to it right away. You’ll follow the romantic story of Louisa and Will…and you will need your tissues nearby as you read this tearjerker. But it’s all worth it. (I also highly recommend The Girl You Left Behind.)

Here’s the trailer for the movie that’s due this summer.

 

 

 

 

On Life

Box Stores and the Internet Killing the Local Bookstores? Not So Fast.

Longfellow Books, Portland, Maine. Photo: BuzzFeed
Longfellow Books, Portland, Maine. Photo: BuzzFeed

There is good news today, and as soon as I saw the piece in The New York Times by Francis X. Clines, I knew I wanted to write a post about it. In the editorial notebook of the paper entitled Indie Bookstores Are Back, With a Passion, we read there is hope for smaller bookstores that offer a sense of community and social activity along with an extensive collection of books as a retailer. So the encouraging news is this: there is room for indie bookstores in a world of full of internet purchases and large retailers.

In 2008, sales of e-books skyrocketed and the publishing industry went into a bit of a panic as they wondered whether print books will survive or if they will go the way of CDs. However, over the last few years, publishers have seen sales level a bit. Readers have more choices now than ever before of how to read a book—they can purchase the hardback or paperback, download it from the internet to their Kindle, Nook, iPad or computer, or listen to it as an audio file or CD.

As someone who worked in the field of publishing for a baseball team whereby everything we produced at that time was in print, I admit to being a lover of the book or magazine made of paper. I like to hold books in my hand (although these days, I do “read” a lot of books on CD during my 45-minute commute to work each day). However, for me, nothing can replace a bound book and the ability to turn the pages, see the words in print, and yes, inhale the smell of a book. Some of you dedicated e-reader lovers will beg to differ, and that’s okay.

But what’s even more okay is the notion that bookstores are alive and well and are experiencing a comeback in our communities. As more and more people become less social as they stick their noses into their cellphones, it is hopeful to hear that communities are supporting their local bookstores in search of camaraderie and personal connection. Folks want to frequent a place that offers warmth, friendly interpersonal connections, a place to sit and chat or read over a cup of coffee, and even a venue to attend a book talk, poetry reading, or social event. And, most importantly, these bookstores offer a local place where customers can buy a book.

Book lovers should be thrilled this morning (as should authors and communication professionals!) that we are seeing a need for places that offer human interaction. Even I have romanticized about one day owning a charming bookstore. I can visualize it now—it would be dreamy with a vintage coffee bar, rows and rows of books from the floor to the ceiling, comfortable sofas and chairs, tables for discussions and work, and lots and lots of crystal chandeliers.

The Ninth Street Book Shop. Photo: The Examiner
The Ninth Street Book Shop, Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: The Examiner

Indie bookstores offer so much; they are a celebration of creativity, a gathering place for people to talk and connect, a collection of knowledge waiting for you to open it, and a little place where imagination can soar. Welcoming these retailers into our neighborhoods should be something we do with open arms.

The word on the street is we are doing just that.

BookSigningG&S
Yours truly promoting Beneath the Mimosa Tree at Maryland’s largest independent bookstore, Greetings and Readings in Hunt Valley.

 

 

 

 

On Life

Stuff Those Stockings with Books

stockingwithbooks
Baseball Girl and Beneath the Mimosa Tree are both available via Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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This week, I’ve received a couple of nice reviews for Baseball Girl. Ironically, both of these kind words have come from men, which makes me happy. I’m so glad to know men are enjoying the book as much as women; after all, there are three main characters who are men in the book—Archie, Francesca’s dad; Joe, the Blackbirds’ star outfielder; and Jack, a reporter for the newspaper. All three of these men hold special places in our protagonists’ heart.

In my role as a “promoter of reading,” I’d like to suggest stuffing your loved ones’ stockings with books. They make a great gift…one that can last for days, or even in hearts for years to come. When we get the opportunity to power down and enjoy a good book, the pleasure is sweet. Instead of plopping down money on lots of electronics–which are fun, too–save a little bit of cash for books your family, friends, or significant other might enjoy.

I forget who said it, but I read a quote from someone who said, “Books were meant to be written in…make notes in…and comment on the pages.” I really love this. Or, if at the bare minimum you just write your name in the book, it becomes yours to share and pass along to others who might enjoy a good story.

Share the gift of storytelling this holiday season. Writers spend time writing stories for you to read…

We need you.

 

On Life

Suggestions for Helping Kids (and Adults) Enjoy Reading

booksI’ve been teaching now since 1993 when I instructed that first course in public speaking. Over the years, I’ve moved from teaching public speaking into teaching writing and other communication courses. Over this period of time, I’ve noticed a dramatic drop in the amount of outside reading done by students (I’ve also noticed, as have my colleagues, that textbook reading has decreased as well, as too many students rely on the course Powerpoints). Admittedly, we have a lot of distractions today—cell phones, social media, cable television, sports and social commitments, and family life—all of which contribute to having less time to “sit down and enjoy a good book.”

A recent study by Carnegie Mellon University found that reading lights up brain activity because it asks readers to put ourselves in the shoes of our characters, which, in turn, tends to make us more empathic people. Being able to understand how others may feel is at the core of reading; we learn to understand and ask questions, and this process allows us to learn more about ourselves as people. Would we do the same thing as that character? Would we have acted in that manner? As we read, we wonder…we are curious…and that exercise leads to being a person who can empathize with others.

The bottom line: it’s important to read. And it’s important to get our younger kids and students, reading, as well.

When I asked my feature writing students why they don’t read outside of class, one answer was because there was difficulty finding anything to read of value. Another answer was that there just isn’t time for it. And yet another was a lack of enjoyment that comes from it.

So, how can we, as parents and teachers, foster a love of reading with our children and students and with others in our lives? I have a few suggestions that may help as we move forward to tackle this meaningful endeavor.

  1. READ ALONG WITH YOUR CHILD/STUDENT — With younger kids and students, a good idea is to read along with them. This does not necessarily mean you must sit and read the books out loud with them (although with the little ones, this is imperative). It suggests that you read the same book the student is reading, almost as one does in a book club, which would enable you to have discussions about the book with your child. I did this last year with my son; we both read Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, and we had wonderful discussions about Nazi Germany, the main characters, death as the narrator, and more. This tactic works well and it opens all of us up to reading a variety of stories that we may not otherwise have read.
  2. SET AN EXAMPLE — Instead of turning on the television at night, curl up on the sofa with a good book. Fall is coming, and it’s a good time to decompress and read some of those novels or professional guidance books you’ve wanted to read. Demonstrating a love of reading yourself will set a positive example for your children.
  3. SELECT A BOOK THAT IS ALSO A MOVIE — One thing children and students love to do is to draw comparisons. Let them read the book, and then promise them that you’ll see the movie or get it OnDemand or from Red Box. Being able to see differences in the work (from book to film) engages students and allows them to think critically and analyze both works. This is also fun to do with book clubs.
  4. FIND A GENRE THAT WORKS FOR THEM — What we like to read isn’t always what a child or student might like to read. Take time to visit the library or Barnes & Noble and get suggestions from educated and passionate librarians or employees who are there to help. Be open to recommendations, and be sure to tell the librarian what types of stories usually capture your child’s or student’s attention.
  5. START SMALL — I can see it in students’ eyes when a particular piece of work I ask them to read feels overwhelming or daunting. Start small. Novels and stories come in all different lengths. Choose one that your child or student can complete easily and does not have to labor through to finish. They will get a sense of satisfaction from reading the book from cover to cover.
  6. PICK A SERIES — Lots of readers today enjoy getting caught up in a series like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. Mature readers enjoy reading a series, too. Find one that might win over your reader and may keep them wanting to know more about the characters and what their fates may be.
  7. GET TO KNOW THE AUTHOR — Many times, readers feel connected when they know a little bit about the person who wrote the story. Do a little homework. Watch the author talk about his or her book on YouTube. Read the author’s biography on his or her website. Feeling something for the author or hearing a personal story about why he or she wrote the book in the first place may pique curiosity.

With any luck, any or all of these suggestions might be helpful and can potentially encourage reading. Good readers often become good writers. They dissect books and learn technique, style, and story construction. Reading opens our minds to wonderful new worlds and implores us to use our imaginations.

Lots of good comes from reading. Let’s continue to encourage our children and students to allow themselves to get swept away into a good book.

Once they do, with any luck, there may be no turning back.

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To see a list of BOOKS I’VE ENJOYED, CLICK HERE.