Tag Archives: reading

Make Reading an Adventure

Little Free Libraries are steadily growing in number across the United States and the world. The movement began in 2010 with its creator, Todd H. Bol, giving away 30 Little Free Libraries. Over the next few years, he watched them multiply. Today, they number over 50,000 registered locations, with a goal to reach 100,000 by the end of this year.

Wilshire Avenue, Grandin Road area (LFL #12354)

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the Little Free Library is a place where one can take a book or leave a book in a common neighborhood area. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common version is a small wooden box of books.

There are several little libraries scattered throughout neighborhoods in our area. Although the exteriors are different, the overall sense that each library steward is not only fostering a love for reading, but also cultivating a sense of social responsibility emanates from each carefully crafted box.

Oak Grove Elementary (LFL #14031)

At Oak Grove Elementary, for example, a small green and blue library greets parents, students, and visitors near the entrance to the school. Fourth grade students designed, painted, and built three libraries as part of a Children’s Engineering/Project Based learning project in 2013-14. They chose this library for the school, and organized a book drive to stock it. In the years to come, they have pledged to continue to care for the location. From a young age, this encourages students to nurture their reading habit, seek out new books to read on a regular basis, and share their favorites with neighbors and friends.

31st Street, Roanoke (LFL #13970)

Just as the students poured their creative spirit into this design, artists, craftsmen and women, designers, and architects are all expressing themselves through the new medium. Locally, Marijke and Steven Barber spent the better part of a cold winter making one. The beautiful painted library is located on 31st street. They completed it as the weather turned warm, and it has attracted visitors ever since. Like many of the others we visited throughout Roanoke, the façade almost echoes the exterior of their home.

Waxmyrtle Drive, Roanoke (LFL #44308)

On Wax Myrtle Drive, a small red and white library accents a family home with similar features. The library was built by a grandfather and grandson as a birthday present. When families love to read, and share that love with their neighborhood, it becomes a gift for everyone around them. These locations make for quirky and unique family road trips around the county, but also serve as an opportunity for local groups to promote civic engagement, and awareness about social and environmental issues. In fact, several of the locations we visited contained copies of the Constitution, left by a local political outreach group.

Laurel Woods Drive, Salem (LFL #21400)

Of course, each location offers something for everyone, and not just in the form of literature. Our favorite stop was located at the trailhead of the Chisom Trial in the Roanoke County community of Laurel Woods. There is a picnic bench just beyond the little library, and it is an easy stop for hikers and explorers. “The library was established in memory of Charlene Lenox Denton (1942-2012),” steward, Brian Chisom, explains. “Charlene enjoyed outdoor activities: gardening, hiking, camping, and walking with friends. And, in many settings, she found ways to help others. The Little Free Library that bears her name is a testament to Charlene’s devotion to service and community.”

There are six newspaper boxes, donated by the Roanoke Times, interspersed throughout the map. The Roanoke Arts Commission hired artist Dan Kuehl to transform them by covering the exterior with familiar landmarks from the Roanoke region. Each box has a steward that is responsible for its upkeep.

Although every library is different, they serve as a direct reflection of our community’s growing dedication to the arts, literature, and service. If you are interested in exploring the locations with family and friends, or simply looking for a new book to take you on an adventure, visit www.littlefreelibrary.org.

Strong is the New Pretty

Kate T. Parker began taking photos of her girls in everyday life–biking, playing soccer, discovering tide pools–and quickly came to realize the most resonant images captured her daughters’ true, authentic selves. Her recent book, Strong is the New Pretty, is a celebration of the tenacious spirit inherent within all girls. Featuring Parker’s stunning photography alongside advice and wisdom from her subjects, the book demonstrates that all girls are unstoppable.

“As the project grew, I met and photographed hundreds of girls from all over the country, and I learned that strength doesn’t ways come in one package, and it doesn’t always manifest itself the way it does in my girls,” Parker explains.

This book features girls reading or studying, girls jumping in mud and leaves, girls comforting their best friend, girls on the playing field, and girls creating art, among many other awesome activities reflecting their mental and physical strength. It reminds us that beauty is not about being a certain size, having your hair done a certain way, or wearing a certain dress. It is about being yourself.

Head over to www.katetparker.com to learn more about the author. We will be giving away a copy of Strong is the New Pretty on our Facebook page tomorrow! For those that do not win, you can purchase it here.

What We’re Reading

Upon reading Kim Dinan’s first book, The Yellow Envelope, even the most apprehensive among us may start to see that if you believe in the ability of the Earth to take care of you, it will.
After Dinan moved to Portland with nothing but her husband, two dogs, and a few boxes, her generous new boss offered the luxury of her home (and tours of the city!) to the couple. Jump a few years into the future and Dinan had her own home, a different job, and a seemingly perfect life; but she knew that she was missing out on the life she wanted. After talking her husband into selling everything and planning to travel until whenever they decided when, her former boss (now friend) gifted the couple $1,000 in a yellow envelope to help others throughout their travels. They only had a few rules with the money. Don’t overthink it, document it (or not) so that they might be able to see it in the future, and decide the amounts to give away based on how they were inspired.
Throughout their travels in South America, India, Nepal, and Peru, Dinan realized that every time something on her trip didn’t go the way they planned, a native aided them. She was most surprised by the generosity that was shown in India. Between losing a cell phone and traveling in an old rickshaw that was prone to breaking down every time she drove it, someone was willing to reach out without expecting compensation in return.
She speaks openly about how their travels challenged the relationship between her and her husband. The strain of being constantly together in an unfamiliar environment after being in such a stable routine for years put constant tension into everything they did. The distances traveled, the strenuous hiking, and the ever-changing landscape took them as far apart as they could be, changed the outlook they both had on the relationship, but ultimately brought them back closer than ever.
The purpose of the yellow envelope was to make a difference in the world, no matter how slight. It also changed Dinan’s perspective on life completely. Not only did she gain more confidence and happiness through gifting small donations to many people during her travels, but the reality of traveling to Third World places brought her to appreciate the smallest things handed to her. She loved harder and more often. She came out of the three years of touring the world a completely different person.
While not many believe in the reality of dropping everything and traveling for extended periods of time, Dinan’s newly identified lessons can be incorporated into believing in the humanity of the world. It does still exist, and we should not be so scared that we miss the opportunity to experience it. Visit Dinan’s blog, www.so-many-places.com, to learn more about her travels and where to preorder The Yellow Envelope, which will be available for purchase on April 4.

Written by Zoe Pierson

Tackle Reading

We believe that one of the most important things you can foster in your child’s life is a love for reading. It serves as the foundation for developing skills that will serve them in every facet of life. Recently, we were ecstatic to learn that Kathryn Starke, author and native of Richmond, Virginia, is helping parents and educators everywhere achieve that goal.

Starke has experience teaching multiple grades in elementary schools, and served as a literary specialist for over a decade in Richmond and Chesterfield’s public school systems. Her multicultural children’s book, Amy’s Travels, is used in schools in over twenty countries.

Tackle Reading COVER 6x9.inddTackle Reading, her most recent book, combines her expertise with advice from valuable community mentors and resources including NFL players, celebrities, and authors to inspire children, parents, and fellow educators. It includes lesson plans, activities, and guidance to improve literacy for all children.

The impact of this book is just beginning. Thousands of copies of Tackle Reading were donated to inner city elementary schools nationwide thanks to charitable giving and sponsorship. Regardless of your role in a child’s life, it can be a great tool to nurture their love for reading. To purchase your copy and learn more about Starke, visit www.creativemindspublications.com.

Books We Love

I used to think the whole #adulting thing was something that someone attempted to make popular so they could show off the fact that they bought a lawnmower, or actually loaded and unloaded the dishwasher in the same day. After reading a couple of books exploring the reality of adulting, I am changed.

510VK8Q1dbLAdulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown
Through her personal vantage point, she didn’t hold back when she wanted to tell all. She explains things like a friend giving helpful advice, and even gives ingredients to a “grown-up soup.” Not surprising that this one is up there on the New York Times Bestseller list. Self-discovery starts on the first few pages and it was hard, but it helped me to realize that you and everyone you know are not the most perfect people in the world. Making yourself realize you are not perfect is really the first step in lacing up your boots and growing up.  I personally related to Kelly’s struggle to clean the cobwebs off of the baseboards of my 10×10, 67-year-old dorm room. She didn’t shy away from scolding me for not having a separate mop, broom, and dustpan. Moving into college 5 months ago, I firmly believed I only needed a Swiffer.

Womanskills_Hi+Res+CoverWoman Skills: Everything You Need to Know to Impress Everyone by Erin La Rosa
If you’re really into learning exactly how to combat fruit flies or making your own cleaning solutions, this one really gets down to the ingredients of being the ultimate adult. Through encouraging words and detailed advice, the author feeds on the fact that while “adulting” seems hard to wrap your head around, not everyone knows how to do everything you’re “supposed” to know when you move out. Hey, if I can read a book to keep my refrigerator from bursting into flames without learning it the hard way, so be it. The book may be titled “woman skills,” but the vast majority of it is “everyone skills.”

I would recommend these picks to people of all ages, but I’m biased to gifting them to your fellow twenty-somethings, because trust me, they need them. They are hilarious, entertaining, and you can only benefit from reading them.


Written by Zoë Pierson

Books We Love: Sound the Deep Waters

Enjoy classic works of literature, poetry and art with editor Pamela Norris’s compilation book, Sound the Deep Waters: Women’s Romantic Poetry in the Victorian Age.

This book of poetry consists of four major sections, sorted by genre, and presented in a way that highlights both the comforting and relatable tones of the dynamic, romantic relationship: “Love’s Bitter Sweets,” “Moments of Delight,” “Dreams and Realities,” and “Last Songs.” Each sections provides readers with 12 poems and prints of artwork to absorb and enjoy.

fullsizerenderFeatured in the book are works from well-respected poets and authors: Emily Dickinson, Emily Jane Bronte, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Elliot, Christina Rossetti and many more.
Together these poets bring emotions of love and longing to the surface of each reader’s heart, aided by the classic and intricate illustrations of artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Evelyn de Morgan, and John Everett Millais. These reproductions of Pre-Raphaelite paintings will draw in readers, fully immersing them into the Romantic and Victorian eras of love; depictions of queens, stormy seas, fruitful gardens and angels drape across the pages, bringing the poems to life.

With over 52 color illustrations and 48 poems to explore, Sound the Deep Waters offers an array of classic, Romantic and Victorian poetry. Share this book with your sweetheart, a dear friend, or someone close to your heart to let them know you care. Whether it is for an anniversary, special occasion, birthday, or just because, this compilation of delicate art and literacy will certainly communicate that you care in a refreshingly classic, romantic way.


Written by Emily McCaul

The Gift of Reading

We always want our gifts to reflect the character of the person receiving them. Do you know a strong, independent, powerful woman? Are you at a loss of what to get them? Not sure what gift would really capture just how much they inspire you?

chandleroleary_jessicaspring_deadfeminists_book_169pxCheck out Dead Feminists by Jessica Springs and Chandler O Leary. This book is dedicated to exploring the lives of 27 powerful and inspiration woman in history that the history books tend gloss over. Each chapter is centered around a call to action and is an intricate exploration of the way feminism has transformed over the years. Including artwork, lettering, and archival photographs the reader is able to really educate themselves on the lives of the 27 women and the culture in which they existed.

P.S. This book is great for everyone’s library, so don’t forget to pick up a copy for yourself too!



Written by Nicole Brobston

Halloween Reads: Local Author K.L. Kranes

K.L Kranes is a Virginia author debuting her first novel, The Travelers. This novel is about two Wiccan tribes and the love story between the two main characters, from opposite sides of the feud. I reimagined Romeo and Juliet story that takes place in the underbelly of our beloved state. I had the pleasure of speaking with K.L. Kranes about her experience writing her debut novel, a feat that took her 10 years to complete.
This book is an important part of K.L. Krane’s life. One scene is even based on one of her own memories with her husband. According to Kranes “[The Travelers] centers on this relationship between Marc and Dagny, who actually meet by chance on a plane. That chance encounter was actually based on how I met my husband, obviously without the witches and magic. But, many of the details in that meeting in the book are exactly what happened when I met my husband on a plane from LA to Australia. I had an editor once make a comment that the scene wasn’t realistic and would never happen like that and I could only think ‘but it did!’”

What is The Travelers about?
K. L.: The book follows Dagny and her family, who are Travelers. Imbued with magical abilities, they can transfer their souls from body to body, staying young forever. But it is not safe in the world for Travelers. For centuries, Dagny’s family has been pursued by an unknown enemy bent on their destruction. The only way to stay safe and hidden is to keep Traveling. But when Dagny meets Marc, everything changes. For the first time, she wants a future that doesn’t involve changing bodies. Despite the risk, Dagny vows to stop Traveling and be a normal girl. But as her enemies start closing in, Dagny starts to wonder if she can ever really be normal and if she can actually trust Marc.

travelers-cover-finalWhat makes The Travelers stand out from other fantasy novels?
K. L.: The Travelers isn’t just a standard fantasy novel about witches, where a girl meets a boy, falls in love and sinister forces try to tear them apart. My overall goal was to create a story about two groups of people who hate each other and, then, make the reader feel sympathy for both sides. Therefore, the book changes perspectives often. Although Dagny is the main focal point, it doesn’t just follow her character. The book takes a scene or experience and shows it to you from several different points of view. I hoped this approach would underscore the idea of trying to understand differences rather than judging with little information (i.e, “walk a mile in someone’s shoes”).

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? 
K. L.: Dagny is a Traveler, which means she is part of a group of witches that can move their souls from body to body and stay young forever. Travelers are rare and powerful, but also hated in this Wiccan world. Even among Travelers, Dagny is different. She is even more powerful than other Travelers. But, Dagny doesn’t want this power. She just wants to be a normal girl. I think that desire makes her special. Everyone wants to be a superhero. Here is someone who has great power and can stay young forever, travel the world with ease. Instead, she would rather grow old in one place and live a normal, peaceful life.

In a previous interview you describe her as “feisty.” Why is that?
K. L.: Travelers are hated in book and because Dagny is so powerful, her family fears even more for her safety. They keep her life strictly controlled. Unfortunately for them, Dagny is headstrong and impulsive. At the beginning of the book, she tries to be a good daughter and sister. But as the novel progresses, you see her rebel against her family, refusing to let their prejudices and fears become her own.

Where did the idea for this book come from?
K. L.: The idea started with the concept. I wanted to write a book about two people on opposite sides of a feud who’d been taught to hate each other and how they overcome that engrained hostility. I also wanted to turn the tables on the typical story often seen in YA fantasy books, particularly vampire novels where the older, wiser vampire falls for a young girl. And I didn’t want to write another vampire story, plenty amazing ones have been written already. So I came up with the idea of Travelers who move from body to body and stay young for centuries and made the main character a female Traveler who falls for a technically younger boy.

How much research did you have to do for this book?
K.L.: This may sound strange, but I tried not to do too much research. My fantasy novel is about magic and Wicca. However, I didn’t want it to be reflective of the actual Wicca religion. Sometimes I would research symbols or meanings for inspiration. But, in general, I wanted the witches not to be constrained by current convention.

What is the hardest thing about writing this novel?
K.L. I think the hardest part was actually showing it people. I spent 10 years writing this book, not because it took me 10 years to write it. But because it took me a long time to build up the courage just to show it to my husband. Then, it took even more years before I showed it any additional people. My parents and best friend only read it with in the last year during the publishing stages.

What draws you to the fantasy genre?

K.L. I’ve always enjoyed the dark, mystical aspect of stories. My first favorite books growing up were by R. L. Stein, Stephen King and Anne Rice. As a girl I wanted to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I like that fantasy takes you into a different and exciting world, but still reflects something about real life. In fantasy, novels you can explore issues and concepts through a different lens and I think, sometimes, that can be even more effective than showing people reality.

How long did it take to write your book?
K. L.: It took me about 10 years. However, as I said previously, I didn’t write it the entire time. I shelved the book for years on end at different points because it took me so long to build up the courage to show it to anyone, let alone submit it to a publisher.

Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
K. L.: My best tip is to stop whatever you are writing and write something else. For me, it’s kind of like when you can’t think of a word or an idea, so you do something else and then it pops into your head. Writing something completely different, even it if it something mundane like an email, clears my head and helps me move forward on my other project.

klkranes-pictureWhy do you write?
K. L.: The simple answer is because I love it. I can start writing something and spend hours on it and it feels like only minutes have passed.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
K. L.: I wish I wrote a lot of books. However, I recently read Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. I couldn’t help thinking as I read it how much I wished I could write something so unique and powerful. To me, it was like The Color Purple meets Gulliver’s Travels. I’d never read anything like it.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
K. L.: Don’t be afraid to show people your writing or wait so long before submitting it to publisher.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
K. L.: Probably the same advice I’d give my younger self. Don’t be afraid. Show your work to people. Feedback is critical and helps to shape you as a person and a writer.

Be on the look-out for this Virginia Native’s debut novel The Travelers paper back was recently released on June 23, 2016! It would make a great read for October or gift for the Halloween lover in your life! Also, be sure to check out her blog at klkranes.com/blog.


Written by Nicole Brobston