Monthly Archives: September 2009

Geno & The Bugliest Bug

Geno talks about the bugs.

Geno walked out onto the floor of the Gampel Pavilion yesterday with a copy of The Bugliest Bug written by Carol Diggory Shields and illustrated by Scott Nash tucked under his arm. Billed as a press conference announcing Geno’s Reading Team, a project with the Connecticut Association of Schools, what actually took place was a lively book discussion led by Geno.

Students from five Connecticut schools attended the event. They had each read The Bugliest Bug as had Geno and players Caroline Doty, Kelly Faris, and Heather Buck. Geno walked back and forth, got up close, and asked the middle schoolers which characters the liked best, and why, and then he discussed the other characters with them and the roles they played in the book and what the book made them think about. He asked them if, like Dilly in the story,  they’d ever done something that they were afraid to do. “Ride a bicycle,” one answered. “Get on a stage.”

“Does anyone speak another language?” he asked and three hands went up, one from a girl who spoke Chinese and two from girls who spoke Portuguese. Geno told the students that when he was in second grade, he spoke only Italian. He learned to read English from setting the Frosty Flakes box in front of his cereal bowl in the morning. He loved Tony the Tiger. And he has been a voracious reader ever since.

Players Caroline, Kelly and Heather joined in the discussion and shared their love of books and reading with the kids. By this time, many of the students had questions of their own. Who was your favorite character? Were you ever afraid to try something?

I’m not sure if many of the young students knew or cared that Geno is the coach of the winning Huskies, but by the end of an hour spent with him, they had each committed to reading twenty minutes a day. And they promised him that they would graduate from high school.

Schools throughout Connecticut will be invited to participate in Geno’s Reading Team. Students will commit to spending 20 minutes a day in “deep reading” (books, not screens). They can read anything they want and any place they want, but a suggested list of books will also be provided plus a reading log. The Huskies will read the same books and make DVD’s discussing them, which will be available to the schools.

Thank you Geno for turning your coaching skills to getting kids to read. And thank you Huskies for helping with this. Now if everyone, young and old, would “read deeply” for twenty minutes a day, imagine what could happen! Posted by Suzy

Geno & teamGeno & kidsHeather

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Homer & Langley and My Dad

Before my dad lost first his sight and then his mind to the ravages of age, he was a great reader. Though an aeronautical engineer who graduated with honors in math and physics from MIT, he read history and fiction, relying on audio books when blindness overcame him. Now, even they cannot hold him. He dwells in his own nightmarish world, seeing things we cannot see.

I write of him today, because I am reading E. L. Doctorow’s newest novel, Homer & Langley based loosely on the true story of the Collyer brothers of the same names.  My dad loved Doctorow and convinced me to read Ragtime, which he thought was one of the great books of all time. I read it reluctantly; annoyed that Doctorow used real historical figures as characters and took great license with their lives. Why not make something up entirely? I protested. Why not write real history? But my dad, the scientist, grounded in facts (he forbade gossip at the dinner table), a man deeply interested in history (one of his other all time favorite books was Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror), could not understand my objections. He thought Ragtime was brilliant. And so, years later, I realized that it was.

I love history too, and do want to know the facts about the Collyers, but I eagerly picked up Homer & Langley and was immediately drawn into the brothers’ cluttered, complicated and sequestered lives  as imagined by Doctorow.  I am struck by the twin themes of madness and blindness and want very much to talk to my father about these things. It is also a book about history, like Doctorow’s other novels, told with made-up details about real people, but, also like his other works,  fiercely honed by the truth. Doctorow, only five years younger than my dad, has succeeded beautifully with this, his latest book. I hope he gets to write one or two more. Posted by Suzy.

Homer & Langley

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