Summer Fun

Summer Selections, Dyslexia Deep Dive, and as always, Recent Reads

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Summer is finally here and this year we can actually go places. It is the perfect time for evening porch reading or grabbing a few new titles for your vacation. Check out these lists to see which books are being recommened this season:

And here are a few of my own suggestions for you:

A hot new book: Malibu Rising is everywhere, including on my coffee table waiting for me. I don’t usually recommend books I haven’t read, but I have yet to see a bad word mentioned about this novel. It is set in the early 1980s around an annual end-of-summer party in Malibu. How much more Summery can it get? I will be diving into this one very soon.

A backlist selection: The Shell Seekers. This beloved novel was published in 1987. Penelope is facing her mortality and deciding what to do with a now famous and valuable painting by her father. She is struggling with her adult children, while revisiting the memories of her childhood on the Cornwall Coast. There is an extended section in Ibiza that has an amazing sense of place, perfect for summer. This is one of my all time favorite novels.

A vacation gone wrong: Do Not Become Alarmed. This is a fast paced suspense novel not for the faint of heart. Two families are on a cruise to Central America and the children go missing during a beach excursion. Told from the perspectives of both the parents and the kids, it is riveting, well written and the characters are well fleshed out.

A novel to savor - Longbourn is on my favorites list for this year. My review of this backlist gem is below.

A wintery novel - During the hot days of summer, I love to read a book set in a cold climate. Two of my favorite icy books are The Snow Child and One by One. The Snow Child is set in 1920s Alaska. A childless couple are homesteading and dealing with hardship when they catch a glimpse of a little girl running through the forest. A wonderful sense of place and just the right amount of magical realism. Read more about One by One in my January 2021 Bookish Newsletter.

Dyslexia Deep Dive

I realized recently, as I tore through another novel, that not everyone thinks reading is as delightful as I do.  Most everyone loves a good story but not everyone enjoys reading.  Some people have difficulty reading. Dyslexia is the general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect intelligence. It is severely under diagnosed and goes mostly untreated in our school system.

I witnessed this when my friend Ann’s son was struggling in junior high and she realized the problem wasn’t his effort or ability.  Something else was going on.  A friend suggested he might be exhibiting symptoms of dyslexia and when she investigated, she immediately saw that all the characteristics lined up. She had him tested by a Dr. of Optometry and he was diagnosed with severe dyslexia. 

I spoke with Ann about how this is impacting her son Scott’s success at school and we talked about what she would want others to know about diagnosing, treating, and living with dyslexia:

What were some of the signs that something was wrong?

In elementary school Scott only had one teacher and could follow and compensate better.  Once he got to junior high (7th grade), there were seven teachers, all assigning different work and every homework assignment became torture. My son is intelligent but I couldn’t figure out why school was so difficult. When I shared our struggles with my friend, who is a school principal, she asked if we had considered dyslexia.

What did the school say when you showed them the diagnosis?

Once he was tested and diagnosed with severe dyslexia, I emailed his teachers, the special education teacher, and principal. None of them responded. Finally, after I followed up again, they indicated they would need to do their own testing but failed to schedule anything. We were in a waiting game and then COVID happened.  I unenrolled him and began teaching him myself.

You have been homeschooling Scott now for most of jr. high and plan to continue through high school. What are the strategies you use to help him learn?  

I read to him. This was advice I received from a specialist who works with dyslexic students. If there are notes to take he does “speech to text”.  Ann explains that by reading history and literature novels to him and then discussing them, his comprehension has gone through the roof. He doesn’t have to struggle just to form worlds, he can absorb what he is hearing and learning.  Scott also has excellent retention skills.  (They were able to read seven novels for Literature class this year!) 

Does Scott enjoy particular kinds of books - i.e. graphic novels, audio books, etc?

Scott reads graphic novels when reading on his own. He never chooses audiobooks but I hope that changes in the future. His dad uses audio books a lot, so maybe by modeling that, Scott will follow suit.  At the end of the school year, he wrote me a note saying the books we read for Literature were his favorite part of the year.  This was SO gratifying, knowing he would never have read those on his own.

What would you like other people to know about dyslexia that you don’t think is widely known?

Dyslexics are usually highly intelligent. They just learn differently. They are out of the box thinkers, problem solvers. Why? Because they’ve had to learn how to adapt in school and problem solve for themselves.

As we discussed dyslexia and her son’s problems in school, it is clear it was very traumatizing for him.  Scott suffered from stomach issues and migraines during his in-person learning in 7th grade.  We also talked about what a blessing it has been for his mom to be able to work so closely with him.  She has had to reduce her work hours but felt it was necessary.  And yet we both agreed that there are too many families where homeschooling is not feasible.  This is where our schools need to step up and work with these smart kids that are struggling so much. If you want to learn more about Dyslexia, Ann recommended 2 books:

  • The Dyslexic Advantage by Brock and Fernette Edie.

  • Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  This middle grade novel is about a girl, struggling with dyslexia and the teacher trying to help her.  My friend loved this book but said her son could not read it because it hit too close to home; it was too painful. Note: This book has over 5500 FIVE STAR reviews on Amazon. Guess what just moved to the top of my reading pile!

Traveling the U.S. this summer? Don’t forget to stop at an indie bookstore. Check out this list or you can search using IndieBound’s Indie Bookstore Finder.

Recent Reads

The Good Sister - is exactly as described “a gripping domestic page turner.” I loved Hepworth’s The Mother-In-Law, so I was hoping not to be disappointed. This book is about twin sisters, and is told from both perspectives. Fern is trying to help her sister Rose start a family while she is dealing with sensory disorders. A new friend helps her see the world a bit differently. This reminded me of both The Rosie Project & Eleanor Oliphant. The Good Sister is not life changing but was a fun book and would make a great summer read. This was hard to put down, and even when I thought I knew what was going on, it still had some surprises.

I don’t read enough history books but when I do, I never regret it. The Pioneers by David McCullough filled a huge gap in my knowledge of the settlement of the Northwest Territories (think Ohio, Indiana, Illinois). I loved listening to a part of history I knew little about. I learned about ancient burial mounds in Ohio dating back thousands of years, the early and important determination that slavery not be allowed in this new territory, and the problems Arron Burr created when he turned his attention to this new land. The book is crafted around interesting people and stories that I was unfamiliar with. It would be a great listen if you are planning a road trip this summer.

I am so happy to have discovered Longbourn, a backlist title from 2013. Wow, is this book beautifully written and a joy to listen to. The author has taken us to the servant’s side of the Bennet family estate from Pride and Prejudice. Sarah is a young maid, whose life is given over to the drudgery of constant work at the sizable but understaffed Longbourn Estate. She longs for something more but knows that is unlikely; she is lucky to even have this job. But things seem to start to move and change when a new footman is hired and a neighboring footman begins to notice her. This book feels like it was written with the same manner and language of Jane Austin and yet brings an entirely new perspective to manor house stories. I found this book so delightful and charming.

Good Company is a new novel that traces the lives of two couples that are dear friends over decades. Much revolves around the theater and acting world (LA & NY). Told in flashbacks and different voices, Lucy suddenly begins to question everything when, on the day of her daughter’s high school graduation, she finds the wedding ring her husband told her he lost long ago. I can’t exactly pin what I liked so much about this book but I did find myself completely involved in the character’s lives. Even though there are not huge plot twists, the author keeps the pace going through both flashbacks and current day. If you like books about complicated but loving relationships, this is one for you.

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Happy Summer Reading - I would love to hear back on what books you are planning to read this summer!

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