How to Become a Better Academic Reader

As a student, a large portion of my homework revolves around assigned, academic reading, and as an English major, that is increased tenfold. As much as I love reading, I don’t usually enjoy the topics I’m reading about in those assignments, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. However, over time, I have discovered a few tips and tricks that have helped me with academic reading and to make it slightly less painful to endure.

One lesson about reading that I have repeatedly learned the hard way is to avoid procrastination. I’m sure we are all familiar with the mad dash to finish two weeks’ worth of reading in the space of one evening and promising ourselves we won’t put it off this long next time, only to repeat the same process the following week. The best solution to the problem of procrastination is to schedule out the reading over the course of the assignment time. If you have fifty pages to do in five days, do ten pages per night instead of all at one time. For people like me who may have trouble sticking to this schedule, I’ve found the best thing to do is to block out a chunk of time in the day to do that specific assignment and to not do anything else until the reading is done.

Another common problem that comes with reading textbooks is getting bored easily. The temptation to check my phone or talk with my friends increases exponentially with my distaste for the particular topic I’m studying. I can spend hours reading my favorite novel but, after five minutes of reading a history book, I have checked out completely. To help combat the boredom, I try to make the assignment fun for me in some way. Either I will reward myself for reaching certain milestone in the assignment (i.e. eat a piece of chocolate every time I finish a page), or I will choose colored pens or highlighters and use them to mark and annotate in my book. It seems like such a silly, little thing, but using the various colors gives the task a fun element that makes it more enjoyable. Whatever way you can come up with to help you enjoy the assignment will take some of the edge off of the monotony.

When I find myself struggling to focus, I will also sometimes take notes to help focus myself and ensure that I don’t miss anything. While this method may not work for everyone, some people may find it helpful for keeping their concentration. Also, similar to the highlighter technique mentioned before, making your notes colorful or artistic can be another useful trick in having a more pleasant experience. However, be careful to not get too caught up in the note making and lose focus on the actual reading. Do what you need to do to stave off boredom while still getting work done efficiently.

Because textbooks and academic reading are just a fact of life when we’re a students, we have to learn how to use them in a way that will best work for us individually. Whether you’re super artistic and make the most colorful and decorative notes or you prefer to go in cold turkey and read the whole book in one sitting, it’s important to make the experience the best it can possibly be. So, next time you have a reading assignment get out the gel pens, grab a bar of chocolate and ready your notebook. Happy reading!

Written by Taylor

Image credit

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“Around the World in 80 Days” in One Afternoon

One of the best ways to relax after a long day of class is to read a good book, and Around the World in 80 Days is a delightful way to see the world from the comfort of your own home. Written by Jules Verne, this work has been beloved by many ever since its original publication in 1873. So here are a few quick reasons why you should definitely check it out:

Nostalgia. If reading Around the World doesn’t bring you back to your childhood love of adventure and imagination, I don’t know what will. Follow the stuffy, indubitably British Phileas Fogg as he bets his club members that he can travel all the way around the world within precisely eighty days. Joining Mr. Fogg are his French manservant, Passepartout, and a dogged but at times misguided agent of Scotland Yard.

It’s short. Clocking in at 159 pages, Verne portrays an infinitely charming and intriguing story without overwhelming the reader. You can knock it out in an evening or two!

Adventure. Duh. How can you say no to travel, especially on such glorious sources of transportation such as elephants and wind-powered sledges, or merry chases involving Sioux Indians, India Indians, angry Japanese circus masters, and a stuffy British detective? You can’t, I tell you.

Jules Verne’s one-liners. “Moreover, it is safe to say that, when Americans, so casual as a rule, show signs of caution, it would be the height of folly not to be cautious too.” Or “Passepartout stuck on the animal’s back and, receiving directly the full force of every jolt, was all the time trying to remember his master’s recommendation and to keep his tongue from getting between his teeth, as in that position it would have been bitten in two.”  Verne’s dry sense of humor gets better and better.

Delightful stereotypes. The antics of a certain hot-blooded Frenchman contrasted with cool, calm, and collected Phileas Fogg are incredibly entertaining, and the ensuing chaos from such a decided clash of cultures is hilarious. (Sidenote: is there anything Passepartout can’t do?)

Also: how do you pronounce “Passepartout,” you ask?

…Good question.

Phileas Fogg’s thought processes. “Oh, you don’t believe I can circumnavigate the globe in 80 days, old chap? Allow me to bet my entire fortune on the fact that I can, and knowing you have nothing better to do with your life and your money, you’ll take my bet.” He is literally surprised at nothing; unless of course his latest manservant in a long line of manservants brings his shaving water to him at 82 degrees instead of 84 – truly shocking.

Finally, Verne’s love for travel, technology, and other cultures comes to life in such a delightful and humorous way that one can’t help but laugh, smile, and go along for the ride. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Written by Carilee

Image credit: Featured Image, Middle Image

3 Reasons Why You Should Read Junie B. Jones

I grew up reading Barbara Park’s Junie B. Jones books both at school and at home. Throughout elementary school, I devoured the series. As a six year old, my reading level was challenged by the books and my love for literature ignited. When I was ten, Junie B. Jones was a source of entertainment, and I loved that I could read a whole book in half an hour. A blissfully hilarious half hour, at that. Nowadays, I revel at the opportunity to read one of the books to a younger friend or cousin. I’m convinced this world would be a more relaxed, jolly place if everyone knew about Junie B. Jones and wasn’t shy about reading the books, no matter what age they are. Why are these books so beloved by me and readers around the world? I’m glad you asked.

  1. They’re clever and well-written

Though these books are filled with hilarious exploits and charming life-lessons, they aren’t on the low end of literary intelligence. The plot, the characters, the jokes, and the writing itself are all cleverly constructed. They are appealing to every age group. If anything, the series, though intended for children, contains humor more appropriate for adults. Junie B.’s honest outbursts and childish thinking patterns are detailed in an attention-getting, yet light-hearted manner which charms both children and adults.

  1. They’re funny

I’ve already mentioned this point, but it’s worth elaborating on. Both deliberately and unintentionally, Junie B. Jones is a hoot. From her candid reflections on kindergarten life to observations on relationships and beyond, she tells things as she sees them. I think one of the reasons people are so enchanted with this young character is because she says the things many have thought yet are too afraid to express out loud. One of my personal favorite quotes by Junie B. Jones concerns her feelings regarding clowns. I’m pretty sure all children loathe clowns. I certainly did, which is perhaps why I thoroughly enjoyed her saying, “I don’t even like clowns. Clowns are not normal people.”

  1. They’re timeless

I was surprised when I learned that the first book in the series was released in 1992. When I first started reading them in around 2003, fresh books were being cranked out every year or so. It’s a series that transcends the bonds of time or place. Are you at home? Are you at school? In first grade? In college? Doesn’t matter. It’s Junie B. time. Even now, if I happen to be at my local library or am walking past a bookshelf that belongs to someone younger, when I see a Junie B. Jones book I feel compelled to pick it up and start reading. As a nineteen-year-old college student who has studied bits and pieces across the whole literary spectrum, this series still applies to my life and never fails to make me laugh. I’m convinced that in twenty, fifty, or a hundred years, those fortunate enough to stumble across the Junie B. Jones stories will be just as amused as the readers who delighted in the series upon their publication.

Since I probably have all of you convinced by now, allow me to recommend the perfect story for beginning your new reading adventure, Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus. So what are you waiting for? If you don’t want to live a happier, funnier, more joyous life, then by all means, don’t read these books. It’s summer time. What else are you doing? Go to your local library and if people look at you funny for wandering around the children’s section, just hold up a Junie B. Jones book. They will understand.

Written by Karoline

Image credit

Writing Pet Peeves

While I certainly haven’t read every book under the sun, I’ve come across various types of written works during my journey as a reader. From stumbling through Dr. Suess as a five year-old to dissecting ancient Greek plays as a college student, I have witnessed a plethora of writing types, styles, and mechanisms. Though the wonderful, vast world of literature has greatly enriched my life, along the way, I’ve picked up on multiple things that I disdain, too. Yes, I really do have writing pet peeves. Most readers probably know what I’m talking about. When I was in high school English, one of my often-expressed pet peeves was, “If Charles Dickens goes into another four page monologue AGAIN…I’m going to throw this book in the bird feeder in hopes that the crows ravage it.” I interviewed a few of my co-workers in the University Writing Center to get a few outside opinions, and I think we compiled a pretty convincing list of complaints. I hereby declare that if any author includes one of the following literary nuisances into his or her work that they shall be banned from the creative world. Because that’s what creativity is all about, right? Conforming to one idea and squashing out all outside opinions…no? Oh well; I’m still going to share my pet peeves anyway.

  1. Using fragments excessively (see what I did their…I mean THERE. We’ll talk about that later, I’m getting ahead of myself.)

My friend, Alfred, described to me a reading experience in which the author was so prone to beginning new chapters and scenes with small sentence fragments that he was too annoyed to finish reading the story. I know what he means. We’ve all stumbled across that YA suspense novel that’s attempting to twist every emotion inside us by throwing grammatically nauseating half ideas at us.  It might read a little something like this,

Darkness. Can’t see. Hands sweat. I grip again. Nothing. All is lost. Where am I? Oh, that’s right. Work again. Burger King at four in the morning. Simply mind-numbing. I can’t stand it. This blasted job. The sizzle of the fries rings in my ears. No hope. Just carbs. Woe is me.

  1. Over-poeticizing

Similar to sentence fragments, the attempt to come across as deep and poetic can often appear as just the opposite. The author might think that those hard-hitting, three word sentences can’t possibly grow old, but let me tell ya, readers catch on fast. Maybe at first we released a dreamy sigh when we saw that darling metaphor, something probably akin to, His eyes sparkled as a forgotten ship still dreaming of sailing in glory, which now rests at the bottom of the vast azure sea. Yet, when these types of pathos-infused sentences are consistently written throughout a story, it’s tiring. It can even be annoying, and in my personal experience, it may entirely turn the reader off to the point of the story. Too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing, concerning this.

  1. Using the wrong word

My coworker, Nathan, presented this pet peeve as well. There’s nothing more frustrating, especially when texting or emailing, when our dear friends, whom we love despite their flaws, can’t seem to grasp the concept of using the correct “there” or “to” or “your.” I’d like to take all of these offenders on a friendly picnic which includes both a quaint wicker basket full of bite-sized sandwiches and a grilling grammar lesson. My hope in this endeavor is that they would walk away informed and determined to not cause further literary confusion in their writing. You’re welcome. See? It isn’t so hard to get the hang of it.

  1. John Green

*Listens to sound of teenage girls banging my front door with pitchforks as I sip coffee safely indoors* No, you didn’t that read that wrong. And YES, I am a warm-blooded, fully-human, teenage girl. I am John Green’s target audience, and yet, I cannot stand his writing. I know he means well and that his stories have harped the heart strings of millions of adolescents worldwide. However, I just can’t take it seriously, and I find it a little humorous that I am supposed to find his stories serious. To be fair, I have only read two of his novels. I tried to read The Fault in our Stars when it was at the height of its literary fame. I mean, everyone was talking about it and my friends begged me to read it. I gave it a whack. I pretty much gagged through the whole first chapter. I mean, Mr. Green, I know you’re trying to be relatable and all, but neither Hazel Grace nor Augustus Waters were believable to me. Sorry, but my peers don’t engage in philosophical conversations which end up not being philosophical in the slightest. I’m down for reading about thought-provoking ideas, but not when they are presented through ludicrous scenarios. I’m merely saying that as a teenage girl, I would find it more weird than romantic if a boy confessed his love to me and immediately followed it up with, “and I know that love is just a shout into the void.” Then like…why say it, moron?

Though these annoyances have merely scratched the surface, I’d like to think they cover some of the most grieving irritations to be found. However, don’t let these get you down. Reading has a lot to offer. Chances are, you aren’t as cynical as I, and you will probably learn a great deal from your reading experiences. But if you do happen to notice any writing habits that really burst your bubble…*evil grin* tweet meeee! Let’s be friends.

Written by Karoline Ott

Personal Twitter: @Karoline_Ott

UWC Twitter: @dbu_uwc

Image credit: https://thecreativecavern.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/everyone-is-a-reader-some-just-havent-found-their-favorite-book-yet.jpg

Works Cited

Goodreads Inc. “A Quote from The Fault in Our Stars.” Goodreads. Goodreads Inc., 2016. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.

He is the Potter; I’m Only the Clay

Hello. My name is Haley, and I am a student at Dallas Baptist University. Today, I’m writing this blog to share something with the world that I’m not very proud of.

I’m an addict. I’m addicted to something so powerful, I lost possession of the strength needed in order to resist indulging myself with it. In fact, over winter break, I transformed from an addict into a full blown junkie.

My name is Haley Briggs, and my drug…is Harry Potter.

Okay, so maybe “addict” isn’t the most appropriate word to describe myself in regards to the fascination I have with J.K. Rowling’s seven-book series. However, anyone who knows me well would definitely say that I’m a Harry Potter fanatic (especially when it comes to the most superlative character, Ron Weasley).

ron weasley

(Beautiful, I know.)

By now, most of you are probably wondering, “Why is this psychotic, twenty-one-year-old college girl still fixated on a series that was written for children?” Well, I’m glad you asked.

When I was in the first grade, my older brother began his voyage through Rowling’s fictional world of magic. At this point, my youth prevented me from reading the world renowned chapter books alongside him; however, I watched as he marveled over Harry’s world and the things that Rowling made possible within it. I was intrigued, but as I aged, I sadly lost interest in Harry Potter and began reading books about princesses and cheerleaders and everything that my current role model, Hermione Granger, would have hated. I was a Muggle, and I didn’t even know it.* Even so, the years went by, and, though I thoroughly enjoyed the parts of the movies I ended up seeing, I never really understood how wonderfully enchanting Harry Potter actually was. Until now.

Imagine this:

It’s the first day of winter break. I come home, change into my favorite pajamas, and plop down on the most comfortable spot on the couch, swaddled in every blanket and pillow in sight. I turn on the T.V., start up the fireplace, and begin searching for something good to watch on Netflix. In approximately 8.5 seconds, with a Sonic cup in hand, I convert my parents’ living room into a paradise where I intend to stay until the daunting spring semester beckons me to return to life outside. Nothing could make this day better.

Or so I thought.

A few minutes into my somewhat colossal movie search, a strange figure emerges from the shadows of the hallway. As it moves into the light, I see my brother holding a stack of movies, still wrapped in glistening cellophane. He sets them on the coffee table, sits on the couch next to me, and forms a nest-like structure that is similar to mine.

“Wanna watch Harry Potter?” he asks, nodding towards the stack of 8 movies. “Sure,” I reply. Little did I know, this one word response would change my life forever.

Throughout the course of 4 days, I watched in awe as the characters of Rowling’s imagination grew and learned and lived. In roughly 1,186 minutes, I fell deeper and deeper in love with Harry and his friends. I marveled over potions, daydreamed about spells, and dreamed about jumping frogs made out of chocolate. Amazed, I watched for 19 hours and 46 minutes as witches and wizards mended broken glasses, healed fractured bones, levitated objects, and morphed into creatures of many kinds. In 19 hours and 46 minutes, one author’s imagination, portrayed in a series of motion pictures, clearly defined the meaning of courage, friendship, justice, love, magic, power, academia, family, loyalty, and kindness. I was obsessed. I was addicted. I was certain that nothing else had or would ever exist in the world that could ever compare to Rowling’s creation.

So, let’s flash forward to today.

As previously stated, today I’m writing this blog to share something with the world that I’m not very proud of. I’m writing this blog to admit that, over the course of winter break, I spent 19 hours and 46 minutes binge-watching Harry Potter, another 3 to 5 hours reminiscing about it by reading articles and watching videos on YouTube, and at least another 2.5 hours discussing just how mesmerizing the series really is with friends, family, and colleagues. That’s roughly 30 hours of my five-week break devoted solely to Harry Potter. Wanna know the sad part? Only 9 hours out of my five-week break were spent with the God and Father who created me.

Ouch.

Here I am, a Christian, entirely committed to imaginary friendships made with characters who fail to exist past the bindings of Rowling’s seventh book. There He is, God, entirely committed to strengthening a real relationship with a girl who hardly puts forth the time or effort to do so.

This. This is why I’m so ashamed.

pretty

I love Harry Potter and the qualities I see in Rowling’s writing; however, I find it disgraceful that I often fail to recognize the same qualities written in the Word of God. These qualities- courage, friendship, justice, love, magic, power, academia, family, loyalty, and kindness- were first defined by God in the Bible. From the age of two, I’ve heard and recited stories of Jesus doing miraculous things. He gave sight to the blind, turned water into wine, and brought the dead to life. He walked on water, calmed the deadliest of storms, and gave cripples the ability to walk. He was God in the form of a man, and He died on the cross so that we could be seen as sinless in the eyes of our Creator. We haven’t even gotten to the coolest part; He rose from the dead three days later without even saying “Wingardium Leviosa.”

If that doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what will. All I have to say is this: Harry Potter is great and inspiring and magnificent, but he ain’t got nothing on Jesus. So, from now on, I’m going to be addicted to Him. After all, He is the Potter; I’m only the clay.

*A muggle is a non-witch/wizard, typically unaware of the magical world.

Written by: Haley

Photo Credits: favim.com, thequeenstich.com, & clumsycrafter.com

What I Learned from the Classics

My brother once told me that the definition of a “classic” was a book that everyone knows about but no one reads. Aside from the obvious attempt at being snarky, he was right about one thing. Sometimes people don’t think that the “classics” are applicable to life as we know it. This makes me sad; so, I chose a few of my favorite works and set out to prove that these literary masterpieces are worth your time. Not only do they provide humorous insight, they also impart valuable lessons about life, character, and relationships.

Please note that snarkiness (is that a word?) may or may not run in my family, so I couldn’t be completely prim and proper as I wrote this. Here we go.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens:third wheeling pic

  • No one is ever too far gone to turn his or her life around. Sydney Carton’s ultimate sacrifice illustrated this beautifully.
  • Doing the right thing isn’t always easy; it usually requires self-sacrifice.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald:

  • Money can’t buy happiness.
  • Optimism is a wonderful trait, but people aren’t perfect; they might let you down.
  • Calling someone “old sport” is no longer a thing (At least not in America).

Lord of the Flies by William Golding:

  • The struggle for survival can sometimes break the strongest of principles.
  • Doing the right thing can alienate you from people you thought you knew.
  • Never underestimate the power of a hungry boy.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte:

  • Never back down on your convictions. Do what you know is right, whether it is convenient or not.
  • Be careful who you marry – people be crazy.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway:

  • Never, ever give up. Also, sharks are jerks.
  • Survival of the fittest: some people don’t choose to destroy you, but instead take aim at your greatest accomplishment.
  • Never, ever give up.
  • After you’ve accomplished what you set out to do, take a nap.

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll:

  • Making up words is easier than you think.
  • Don’t do drugs.

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift:

  • In which you could call someone a Yahoo, and you’d be right.
  • England and Ireland did not get along
  • Never go on a cruise.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien:

  • Good is worth fighting for.
  • He should have gone to Jared.

Written by Carilee

(photo credit: pinterest.com)