Reading Slump? You’re Not Alone

I think most readers have endured a reading slump at one point in their lives. There are many factors that can cause a reading slump – some good and some bad. For instance, I had a major reading slump after my daughter was born. It took me almost a year to enjoy reading again.

I read a lot of reading-related articles, and recently there have been many talking about how people are either getting a lot of reading done, or are experiencing a reading slump right now. I have been falling somewhere in-between, leaning toward the slump side.

I went into working from home thinking I was going to get a lot done. And, I actually have. At least most days. Unfortunately, I also thought I was going to have lots of time to read, while simultaneously being able to make sure my daughter gets her distance learning done, and trying to do a bunch of enriching activities on top of that.

Looking back, my expectations were pretty unreal. I chose a really long book to read, thinking it would be no problem to knock it out in a couple of weeks. Toward the middle of the month I started to get a little panicky because I had only gotten one book read, and it was an audiobook.

Then, I received a notification that “Educated” by Tara Westover, which I had put on hold while doing a tutorial for this blog, was available. I contemplated letting the next person in line have it, but then decided it might be just what I needed. It was.

Looking back, I realize that not only were my expectations of myself unrealistic, I was making a slump out of a molehill. I had chosen a book that it wasn’t likely I was going to finish in a month, much less a couple of weeks – and that’s under normal circumstances. Sometimes I just don’t get much reading done during the work week, and that’s without the pressure of distance learning on top of it. I set myself up for a reading slump, or at least what I perceived to be one.

If you find yourself in a reading slump right now, here are a few things I’ve learned. First of all, it’s okay. It’s a difficult time and there is a lot of uncertainty. If you can’t concentrate on reading, don’t worry about it. You will get back to it when the time is right. If watching TV or playing games or doing puzzles is what’s keeping you sane right now, there’s no shame in that.

Second, the cure to a reading slump is usually finding the right book. I know, that’s easier said than done. If you start something and it doesn’t grab you, let it go. You can always read it another time. Often, a short book is good for breaking out of a reading slump. Reading something you can get through quickly can help to build up your confidence again. Other times, a complete change may be what’s needed. I was having a hard time staying engaged with fiction, so I turned to non-fiction.

Third, don’t compare yourself to others. If someone else is reading 10 books a week right now, that’s great. That doesn’t mean you have to do the same. For some people, reading is working as an escape mechanism right now, and for others, it is not. Don’t feel bad if you fall into that latter category.

I’m not going to talk about setting aside time to read every day, or setting goals. If you’re struggling, that’s likely not what you need to hear right now. Just know that you’re not alone.

~Val

Libraries Have Big Impact

This week is National Library Week. I have been thinking about how important books and libraries have been to me throughout my life.

The first library that made an impact on me was our home library. I come from a family of readers, and we always had books around us. My parents read to me often when I was little, and I was an early reader. There wasn’t a lot on television – I think we got three channels, including PBS. There wasn’t much else to do for entertainment – especially in the winter – so it was “read or die,” as my dad once described it. I’ve found as an adult, especially in this time of social distancing, that being able to entertain oneself through simple enjoyments such as reading is a priceless skill.

The second library that made an impact on me was the public library. I grew up in a very small town. When I was little, our library was tiny and in the same building as city hall and the liquor store. There may not have been much there, but I don’t remember feeling that our choices were lacking. I discovered a lot of books there, from the Baby-Sitters Club to Stephen King. When I was in high school, a new library was built in the new community center constructed downtown. It was there that I signed up for my first library card (before that I just used my parents’). My library account shows that I got my first Plum Creek Library System card in 1995. I’m proud of that.

The third library that changed my life was my school library. Our elementary and high school buildings were connected. There were two libraries right next to one another in the newer part of the building – one for elementary and one for high school. Both are vivid in my memory. In high school, our librarian started recommending classics to me. She was the person who put “Great Expectations” in my hands and started what has been a lifetime love of the classics. I think my love of long books started there also. We had Accelerated Reader (yes, way back then), and we always had a competition to see who could get the most points. I liked to read longer books and get a lot of points all at once. I think the book I read with the highest number of points was “Gone With the Wind” (71 points).

All of these libraries have influenced me greatly, and helped send me down that path I’m on today. My life wouldn’t be what it is without my love of books and libraries.

Happy National Library Week!

~Val

One Book | One Minnesota

Something I have noticed over the past few weeks is how, in this time of social distancing, people are still finding activities and ideas that bring them together – not physically, but virtually. Thanks to a new program being offered in Minnesota, we all have a chance to become closer through reading and discussing a book.

This week, the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, in partnership with State Library Services, announced One Book | One Minnesota, a new online book club. Readers of all ages are invited to read “Because of Winn-Dixie,” by Minnesota author Kate DiCamillo, and come together for virtual discussions. All Minnesotans will be invited to participate in a statewide virtual discussion with the author in May.

“Because of Winn-Dixie” is available at Ebooks Minnesota, where the book will be available for multi-use downloads at no cost for eight weeks. It is also available in the Plum Creek Library System’s OverDrive collection (single use only).

“Because of Winn-Dixie” is an excellent choice for this program, because it can be enjoyed by the whole family! Adults can read it to their children, or members of the family can read independently and share their ideas. Include grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins…the possibilities are endless for a multi-generational experience.

Get started reading any time, and stay tuned for more information about discussion opportunities.

We may not be able to be together, but we can still read together!

Read Local With ebooks Minnesota

Ebooks Minnesota has been around for a while now, but I feel like many people still are not aware of it. Even I do not use it as much as I should. This week I attended a webinar about this great resource and wanted to share what I learned.

What is Ebooks Minnesota? It’s a collection of ebooks made available to all people in Minnesota. It’s brought to us by Minitex and the Minnesota Department of Education, and features books for all ages on a variety of subjects. There are more than 10,000 titles from Minnesota publishers.

Access to Ebooks Minnesota is geolocated, meaning that if you have a Minnesota-based internet provider, you can access the site. You don’t need to create an account in order to use Ebooks Minnesota, but if you do, you will be able to create a “favorites” list, make notes, and use bookmarks.

Creating a profile on Ebooks Minnesota allows you to save your favorites to read later, use bookmarks, and make notes.

One of the great features about Ebooks Minnesota is that its content is multi-use. So, if you are a teacher who wants everyone in your class to read a book, they can all download it onto different devices.

Ebooks Minnesota also has a focus on Minnesota authors and books about Minnesota. You’ll find books Bill Holm, Larry Millett, and Lorna Landvik, for example. In adult non-fiction, there are books by Arcadia History Press, which publishes many great historical titles. In addition to these Minnesota-based books, you’ll find many classics on Ebooks Minnesota.

Ebooks Minnesota also has some books in other languages, including numerous titles in Spanish, and a few in Somali, Ojibwe, and Karen.

You can browse the Ebooks Minnesota catalog in a few different ways. “Curations,” are put together by Minitex librarians. Current curations include “Minnesota,” “Mental Health & Social Issues for Kids and Teens,” and ” K-12 Educator Resources.” “Categories” are sorted by subject headings such as “Art,” and “Comics and Graphic Novels.” “Modules” are broader categories such as “Adult,” “Children’s,” “Scholarly Resources,” and “One Book One Minnesota” (more on that last one in a future post).

In the Menu, there are options to explore the collection by “Curations,” “Categories,” and “Modules.”

The Ebooks Minnesota Collection app is called BiblioBoard. This app, which is available in any app store, allows you to download books for later use. Books cannot be downloaded onto a computer. All of the pictures included with this post were taken of the app.

I highly recommend browsing this great resource. It’s unique to Minnesota and contains a lot of excellent material for free. In addition to the regular Ebooks Minnesota site, there is also Ebooks Minnesota for Schools, which includes only children’s and young adult content. It’s a great place to find supplementary materials for distance learning.

The “Favorites” list allows you to save books to read later on. This works well when you are browsing and find multiple titles you would like to read.

Happy reading!

~Val

ebook Tips & Tricks Part II: Reading Settings & More

One of the great parts about reading ebooks is that you can adjust the settings to suit your own preferences and needs. You can adjust the font, text size, and background color so it suits your comfort level. For example, I prefer to read white text on a dark background. I have floaters in my eyes, and they are less noticeable when I read on a dark background.

When you first open a book in Libby, it will have a preset font, background color, and size. If you’re reading on a phone, it can be pretty tiny. If you tap toward the middle of the screen, you’ll see a few different things. On the top left, it will say “Back.” That takes you back to your shelf. You can also get there by tapping “Shelf” on the bottom right. Tapping “Library” will take you to the ebook catalog.

On the upper right, you will see a magnifying glass, a bookmark, and a menu.

Reading Settings

The menu has several different options. We’ll start with reading settings. This where you can adjust the text size, background color, and font.

To adjust text size, slide the tab up or down. If you need a bigger text size than the ones offered, tap on “include accessibility sizes” below the slider.

There are three background settings – bright (white), sepia, and dark.

If you scroll down, you will see the options for fonts. You can select a serif or sans serif font depending on your preference. Libby also offers the Open Dyslexic font, which is easier for people with dyslexia to read.

Bookmarks

If you come across a page that you want to go back to later on, you can tap the bookmark, located between the menu and search icons. You can find your bookmarks later on by tapping on menu, and then on bookmarks.

You do not need to use bookmarks to keep your place in your book. Libby will automatically open up where you left off. In fact, if you return a book you are in the middle of reading and check it out again later, it will remember where you were before it was returned!

Highlights and notes

You can also highlight specific passages in a book. If you tap and hold near the beginning or end of the passage, and drag it to the other end, it will highlight the passage. Then you can select whether you would like to define, highlight, or search. You can select the color of the highlight you would like.

When you select “highlight,” you can also add a note. This is useful if you are using the book for discussion such as book club.

Dictionary

If you are reading and come across a word you do not know, there is no need to get out a dictionary! You have one right at your fingertips. Just tap and hold the word you would like to define, then choose “define.”

Search

Libby also has a handy search function. Just tap on the magnifying glass icon at the top of the screen, and then type in what you would like to find. It will bring up all of the places you will find the word or words you are searching for throughout the text.

You may not need or want to use all of these functions, but it is nice to know that they are available and how to use them.

As always, if you have any questions, email me at vquist@plumcreeklibrary.net

Happy reading!

~Val