[Editor’s note: This interview was conducted by Miriam Ruff to trace one person’s path as a reader; to demonstrate the relationship between writing and reading; and to convey the experiences of a homeschool mom teaching her children the love of reading. It has been edited slightly for length, fluency, and clarity. To read Part 1, click here.]
MR: What tips would you give other people about cultivating a love of reading? And coming back to writing, how do you write your books for a reader’s maximum enjoyment?
FQ: To develop a love of reading. Read at your reading level and move up. I love reading kids’ books. As you read look things up. As you read about art, go to the museum and find that art. Make it real. Make it holistic. If your character eats something yummy make it yourself. If you’re reading about an African culture go to that restaurant, invite friends, share that book with them. Reading can be part of the structure of your life. Let your author inspire you to new (knew!) things.
When I write my books, I write in ways that I know will biologically/psychologically impact my readers in a way that their bodies crave. Did you know that when we read things that are threatening but a learning experience that our bodies reward us with dopamine? It’s like chocolate dessert for our brains. It’s about survival. In days of old, before there were readers, we sat around the campfires and told stories of do or die. If you listened, then you might have a tactic for survival, if you didn’t you could be a bear’s dinner. So our brains latched on and rewarded us for listening to stories that get the adrenaline racing. I try to give my readers a healthy dose of their daily required dopamine.
MR: Would you view reading technology (like AceReader) to be an asset in helping students learn to love reading?
FQ: I think that people enjoy doing things they feel successful doing. Being truly successful is a step by step task. You don’t pick up a ball and go play in the big leagues. A program like AceReader, I feel, helps students to acquire the speed reading/assimilating skills required in a school setting. However, it also gives the students the ability to feel confident in their abilities. Confidence means comfort. Comfort is something we seek out. And therefore, that comfort will lead a student to read more. This is why I mentioned earlier read at your level. If you’ve had trouble reading and then you pick up Shakespeare, you’re going to struggle and it will not be fun. AceReader helps to move a reader to that higher level in a progressive way.
MR; So let’s talk about being a homeschool mom. Why did you make that choice, and how did you go about teaching your kids to read?
FQ: [As I mentioned before] in Montessori, we had boxes with cardboard letters in them and we could use them to spell out stories on our tables before our hands had the dexterity to hold and manipulate a pencil. When I was teaching my kids to read, we practiced making letters by having a pyrex dish filled with cornmeal, then my kids could make the letter with their finger and if they didn’t like the way it looked, they could just shake it away. They were reading children’s novels by age four. So they weren’t ready to write yet.
I always wanted to read, but I found that traditional school made it almost impossible to be a reader. For my children, I started the first two off in public school, when I saw that the school system was shutting down their natural curiosity and their willingness to fail (failure I see as being a major component of success) I took them out and homeschooled them. Their days were filled with experiential learning and that triggered desires to learn (read about) new things.
As an adult with my own children, I decided to make up for [my background]. I read and read and read to them all the time. We read all of the classics, and all the Newbery winners. On top of that, I required them to read 104 books a year as a minimum. These had to include at least twenty-five biographies and twenty-five non-fiction books. The rest they could chose whatever they wanted.
MR: Awesome and inspiring! Obviously you can’t homeschool our readers, but where can they go to find out more about you and get copies of your books?
FQ: My website is FionaQuinnBooks.com Everything they need to reach me and my books is there.
MR: As always, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you. I’m so inspired, I think I’m going to go pick up your latest book, “Deadlock,” and start reading. Thank you so much for doing this interview.
Do you have any questions for Fiona Quinn? Please leave them in the comments below or contact her directly on her website.