Monday, April 06, 2015

The ways to read

A WEBSITE simplifying science for kids clarified why summer always has this effect on me: Earth spinning on a slightly tilted axis = more hours of daylight = more hours to read.

It would be cool, so to say, to be in the North Pole during the summer because the daylight would be endless there, with no nights at all.

From book blogs, I found several common themes running through summer-time reading. Many readers squeeze in a book or more while going on a holiday voyage or taking a quick break to the beach.

For this kind of “retreat reading,” the wisdom is equally divided between those who recommend narratives that share the setting of the reader and those who prefer a book that creates its own “imaginative getaway” within its pages.

I enjoyed the Aug. 8, 2014 The Guardian review by reader Daniel Gooding who found Frederick Forsyth’s “The Day of the Jackal” “perfect” for “under-the-sun reading.” Gooding read the novel’s opening line while lying under the “scorching blue skies over the Platja de Torrenostra” in Spain: “It is cold at six-forty in the morning on a March day in Paris, and seems even colder when a man is about to be executed by firing squad.”

Not all reading in summer is for escape. Children specially must be encouraged to read in summer. Three months of being idle results in young minds going through “summer slide”.

According to the Reading is Fundamental website (, children who don’t read over the summer will “lose more than two months of reading achievement”. Summer slide is cumulative. By the sixth grade, children who don’t open a book in summer will be two years behind their batch in terms of reading achievement.

The RIF website suggests ways for encouraging children to read. In our family, picking a novel that’s part of a series works well. It’s based on the “salted peanuts” rule: it’s virtually impossible to eat only one peanut.

In summer 2014, I read and chased all 19 but one novels in the Inspector Rebus series created by Ian Rankin. Edinburgh detective John Rebus was followed by the Los Angeles tandem of psychologist Alex Delaware and homicide detective Milo Sturgis, creations of Jonathan Kellerman.

Rebus, Delaware and Sturgis are tangled masses of humanity, as internally messy as the bristling criminals they confront across a thin divide. They are worlds apart from the other genre sleuths I followed a decade or two earlier: Agatha Christie’s Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot, and Georges Simenon’s Inspector Jules Maigret.

If I gathered all my idols in one place, what would they say to each other? Gentle spinster Ms. Marple, rock-music aficionado Rebus, gay-and-grim Sturgis, and Monsieur Poirot of the mustache and “little gray cells” will acknowledge their debt to my girlhood love: Nancy Drew.

For creating Nancy, Carolyn Keene was my favorite author until I learned that this was a pseudonym the Stratemeyer Syndicate invented to tap about a dozen ghost writers to pen the 80 or so mysteries that started my serial reading.

Keene may have turned out to be a fiction within a fiction. But thanks to writers, ghost or real, my summers have been an endless read.

( / 09173226131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s March 29, 2015 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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