Sunday, January 31, 2010

Read, Reflect & Respond

Dear friends,
Here is the newest audio version of my workshop "The Real 3R's of Literature: Read, Reflect & Respond." This is from my presentation at the Books & Beyond 2010 conference in Orlando.

Read, Reflect & Respond
  1. Life has a purpose! Reading has a purpose! Down with ignorance and apathy!
  2. The discipline of reading, reflecting and responding helps us learn to think more deeply and relate to others more wisely. We are less likely to be duped and more likely to engage in real life. We will have something worthwhile to say in a conversation. We will be prepared to meet life challenges.
  3. Reflecting and responding increases long-term retention of information, beyond the test.
  4. Our response often includes practical application and action to transform our lives and culture.
  5. Reading improves comprehension, logical thinking, creativity, writing skills, grammar, spelling, etc.
  6. Reflective reading feeds the spirit and inspires our souls. Readers become leaders!
  7. The reading, reflecting and responding stages overlap and can be simultaneous.
  8. Research the Charlotte Mason method of education for more inspiration. Read The Charlotte Mason Primer by Karen Andreola and check out
  9. Use the RR&R techniques for art, music, movies, nature study, sermons, and life experiences.
Mom Tip! You need this as much as your children do! Are you feeding your mind and your spirit so you can keep up with the many overwhelming demands of life? Are you going deep or just trying to get through the surface stuff? Take time to read, reflect, and respond -- and set the example for your kids!

A few little quotes to amuse and inspire…

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
Groucho Marx

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”
Mark Twain

“When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.”

“The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think. No book in the world equals the Bible for that.” McCosh


♥ Choose carefully! Books can make a deep and lasting impression, so avoid exposure to much “twaddle” that dulls or pollutes the mind. Reading for amusement and relaxation is fine, but be careful.

♥ Create a literature-rich environment with a well-stocked home library.
  • Kinds of reading: academic, pleasure or personal interest, skills, devotional, etc.
  • Formats: books, newspapers, magazines, web sites, blogs, books on CD or DVD
  • Genres: Scripture, realistic modern fiction, historical fiction, fairy tale, sci-fi, romance, mystery, poetry, song lyrics, plays, art, biography, history, science, how to, self-improvement, essays, etc.
♥ A variety of genres enhances and balances. When studying a historical period, read novels, biographies, key documents, and poetry. Listen to music and speeches. Watch a movie or documentary.

♥ Help your children select books or do it for them.
  • Selecting good books takes a little research and a lot of discernment.
  • Check book lists and ask for recommendations from people you trust.
  • Click on “inside the book” at or to read a chapter.
  • Do a web search on the author’s name or the book’s title to see what others say about it.
  • Stock a special bookcase with parent-approved, interesting books for your kids to choose.
  • Share your favorites with your children! Introduce a book like a friend.
♥ Evaluate reading choices by pre-screening from front to back.
  • Is it wholesome, age-appropriate, and highly recommended? Newbery & Caldecott books are a good starting point, but check each title yourself to see if it is appropriate for your child.
  • Is it accurate and fair, without being too simplistic or overly biased?
  • Is it interesting, well written, and thought provoking? What is quality of the illustrations?
  • Is the author reliable? (Your children may want to read his/her other books later.)
  • Is this the right book for right now? Is it worth the time it will take to read, reflect and respond?
♥ Choose a mode of reading. You can alternate between these during a single book.
  • Parent reading aloud to child: allows instant interaction about content, models proper speech
  • Child reading aloud: same benefits as above, plus personal practice with pronunciation and inflection
  • Reading independently – in one sitting or over a period of time (check in to see if they need help)
  • Reading independently but with periodic parental discussion or group interaction
♥ Encourage pre-reading preparation. Before reading, encourage your child to browse quickly, ask questions and make predictions. Preview any study guide questions before you read.

♥ Give plenty of time to read, in a quiet and comfortable setting.

♥ Read with pencil and paper handy!

“Children well educated, who employ their minds on serious subjects, have, for the most part, but an ordinary share of curiosity; what they know gives them a sovereign contempt for many things they wish not to know. They see the emptiness and futility of the many things which the idle and the ignorant pursue with so much eagerness and passion. Children ill instructed, and not accustomed to application, have wandering imaginations. For the want of solid nourishment to the mind, their curiosity turns towards objects which are vain and dangerous. Those who have wit often become conceited, and read books which nourish their vanity; they become passionately fond of romances, comedies, and novels, which silently instill into their unguarded breasts the poison of profane love. These imaginary adventures render their minds visionary, in accustoming them to the strained sentiments of vain romantic heroes. Children filled with thoughts of their romantic heroes, become astonished when they look around in real life, and cannot discover a single person throughout the world bearing resemblance with their ideal hero. They would wish to live like those princes and princesses who are always charming, always adored, always above every care. What a disgust for them to descend from a hero and heroine, to the low detail and drudgery of taking care of a family. Children should be influenced by books that vividly portray life in all its trials and victories. Divine providence should echo throughout its pages. Characters who suffer wrongfully in a righteous manner, and display humble dispositions, will lay a secure foundation for the time when childhood may be stolen away; perhaps through the death of a loved one, sickness, or calamity. Children need informed instruction, and models of heroes and heroines of righteousness to fill their reserves for such a time. In literature as well as in history, God who doeth all things well, must be seen through the filter of His divine love and tender care for His children and as an avenger of all who harden their neck.” Francis Fenelon, 1685, in Education of a Child: The Wisdom of Fenelon, published by Lamplighter.

Mom Tip! What books are you reading now? What do you want to read soon? Write a list! You might choose a variety, including books about spiritual life, marriage, parenting, home education, homemaking, cooking, crafts, social justice issues, historical fiction, etc. Download free Christian classics on-line at


“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” Francis Bacon

Study questions should require critical thinking, not just factual recall. More advanced questions will require a synthesis (combining) of information from different parts of the book. Go beyond the questions in a text book!


• What kind of book is this and why am I reading it right now?

• What is the significance of the title or cover art?

• What is the author’s life background and worldview? What did he or she want to communicate?
• What is the author’s tone in this book (upbeat, harsh, relaxed, urgently persuasive, funny, reverent, etc.)?

• When and where was the book written, and under what life circumstances, such as war?

Character, Setting, Plot & Style:
• What universal themes, such as courage, pride, justice, greed, honesty, or jealousy, are woven into this book? Which one is most prevalent? What can I learn that is applicable to my own life?

• What perspective can I gain about these themes from this time period, culture, and worldview?
• Which character reminds me most of myself? What would I have done if I were that character?
• Which characters are dynamic (developing & maturing) or static (unchanging)? How do main characters learn/grow from events in the story? How do their values, fears, motives, or conflicts change?

• Are the characters believable? What flaws do the “heroes” exhibit? What virtues do the “villains” exhibit? (In simplistic stories, good and evil are more clearly demarcated for young minds. Books for more mature readers show the realistic nuances of authentic human behavior and attitudes.)

• How would the story be different if written from a different character’s perspective or in another setting?

• Do the characters speak in the same manner as I do? Are any special accents, idioms or dialects used?

• What are the main events in this story? How does the plot rise, fall and twist? Do this a chapter at a time, and then for the whole book at the end.

• How is cause-and-effect used in this story, especially in consequences for actions?

• What symbolism is used? What does it mean? Is the symbolism effective, understandable & significant?

• What other Biblical, literary or historical references are made in this book?

• Are there any words that I don’t fully understand and need to look up in a dictionary?

• How does sensory detail (what I vicariously see, hear, smell, taste, and feel) put me “on the scene”?

• Does this book use flashbacks or drop hints about what might happen in the future?

• Can I follow the clues and make predictions? Is the outcome too predictable or contrived?
• Does the outcome give a sense of closure, or is it unsettling or confusing?

Discernment & Application:

• How does this information fit in with what I already know (or think I know)?

• Humility is needed! We don’t know everything about the topic just because we’ve read a book or two.

• Is what I am reading essentially true or in agreement with Scripture? (Obviously, no other book is perfect!)

• Does this information contain logical fallacies or propaganda? Does it represent opinions as being hard facts?

• Does this reading challenge my assumptions or stretch my perspective? Is this good or not?

• What should I accept or reject from it? What do I need to fully absorb or apply?
• Is this book what I expected? Did it answer any burning questions for me?

Aids in the reflection phase:
• References: Bible, dictionary, encyclopedia, map, timeline, history/science text, commentaries, Google

• Published study guides (Progeny, Five in a Row, or Glencoe) or parent-written study questions
• Personal conversations, interviews with experts, discussion groups, literature classes, on-line forums

• Journal to take notes, ask questions, and make comments as you read. I like a notebook or composition book.

• Field trip related to story: art or history museum, zoo, bird sanctuary, horse riding, ethnic restaurant
Mom Tip! Are you truly thinking about what you are reading or putting your brain on auto-pilot? Does your reading motivate and inspire you? Does it make you draw in your breath or furrow your brow?


Communication Responses (Oral, Written & Artistic)

• Talk about it! This could be as you read or after you finish. You can do this as a parent and child, as a whole family, or as a discussion group. Give a short “book talk” to introduce it to a friend or a group.
• Read it aloud to someone, with expression, different character voices and sound effects.
• Recite or write a passage from memory. This is especially good for poetry, Scripture, and famous speeches.

• Do an informal oral or written narration, telling it back in your own words.

• Prepare a short formal presentation to teach to your siblings or friends using a poster or Powerpoint.

• Copy key quotes into your journal, along with your reflective comments and questions. These journals can become lifetime treasures! Or make a quote book.

• Copy it in your best handwriting, illustrate it, and give it as a gift. This is especially appropriate for poetry, Scripture, and short quotes.

• Summarize the main events or points either in a paragraph or a list.

• Write a complete, unbiased pro/con list about an issue as if you are investigating a potential decision.

• Rebut an argument or stage a full debate on an issue.

• Do a character analysis or compare & contrast characters or events within the story.
• Write a journal entry for one of the characters telling an event or feelings from his/her perspective.

• Write a short fable with a moral. Or, if you are reading a Bible passage, write a short story about it.

• Pick a book that you think one of the characters might enjoy and tell why.
• Give the story a different ending and/or write a sequel to the story.
• Compare and contrast a theme in this book with the same one in another book.
• Write an essay about the themes as they relate to Scripture.

• Write a book review and design a book jacket.

• Write a blog post or a personal letter to a friend about it. Include digital art or your own pictures.

• Write an imaginary letter to a story character to share your advice or express admiration.

• Write a letter to the author with your comments.

• Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper or magazine about how the issues in it relate to current events.

• Give a speech about the themes in it.

• Attempt to emulate the style of writing by writing a similar story or essay.

• Write a poem, song, or creative story about the key themes.

• Turn the story into a play. You can produce it, film it, and then edit it using Windows Moviemaker.

• Write questions and answers for a trivia game (like Jeopardy) or design a board game.
• Draw a picture, diagram, map, or illustrated timeline.

• Make a 3D sculpture, diorama, mobile, or collage.

• Make a costume or doll clothes that one of the characters may have worn.

Mom Tip! Practice your own speaking and writing skills! Start responding to what you read and then sharing it with your family and your friends. This is also an effective way to share your faith. What kind of person are you becoming in response to your reading? Start a reading journal today!

Application Responses

Decide on an appropriate action in response to a character’s example or an author’s persuasion – and then do it!

• Reach out to someone who is lonely or give help to someone who is needy.

• Make your voice heard about an important cause.

• Ask forgiveness of someone you have offended or forgive someone who has offended you.

• Break a bad habit and start new wholesome ones to replace it.

• Work harder at doing what you already know to attain a personal goal.

• Learn a new skill mentioned in the book, such as cooking, sewing, wood carving, nature collecting, camping. Find project instructions in library books or on Google. Many book series have their own cookbooks.

“Committing a great truth to memory is admirable;
committing it to life is wisdom.”
William A. Ward

1 comment:

  1. you really have a fantastic blog! i have bookmarked it for future reference and plan to return often! thank you, again!


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