Friday, June 8, 2018

Jen "Book Guru" Robinson

Today on my blog I have book blogger Jen Robinson on my blog. Jen's Twitter feed is interesting because you can tell Jen does her research when she talks about books. This research really shows when she shares her feed on her blog, except on her blog she sorts everything into subjects so books are easier to find. I love her articles. Her recent post about summer reading is great, and is a great read for parents!


Dani: How did you get started book blogging?

Jen: I always loved reading children’s and young adult books. I also cared very much that children, those I knew and those I didn’t, would grow up with the chance to love reading. I was always talking about that (giving people copies of Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook when they had babies, buying picture books for baby shower gifts, etc.). In late 2005 two different friends said to me, independently, “You should start a blog.” The message that I took from those suggestions was: stop talking about this and take action. So one December day I started my blog. I looked around online and connected with some of the relatively few people who were blogging about children’s books at that time, and I started reviewing books that I read. The blog took off from there.

Dani: What do you do when you aren't blogging about books?

I have a PhD in Industrial Engineering and I co-own a small software firm that sells a web-based reporting product for high-tech manufacturing companies. I also have a husband and an 8 year old daughter. So I juggle most of my time between responsibilities for my family, my work, and my blogging. When I have downtime I mostly read and exercise (often at the same time). I’m also a Boston Red Sox fan, and I like to watch baseball when I can. I live in California, and my husband and I like to go wine tasting. 

Dani: Why is reading so important for you?

I think that being a voracious reader as a child helped make me who I am today. Some of my core values were at the very least reinforced by things that I read in books. Books helped me to develop empathy and imagination. Reading many books left me with an excellent vocabulary and an ability to process information. I believe this in turn helped me to get into a good college, and to become successful professionally. I feel that reading has given me many gifts over the course of my lifetime. I blog because I want to help children accrue those same benefits.

I’m also extremely introverted, and reading is my number one way to recharge.

Dani: Describe your perfect reading area.

My favorite place to read is in a comfortable chair somewhere outside, with a view, in the shade. I once spent an entire day reading on a lounge chair on a little peninsula in Bar Harbor, Maine. I had ocean on three sides of me, and multiple books to read. It was pure bliss. In my mind, I sometimes try to go back to that spot. But these days, my backyard and a cup of tea or a glass of wine works pretty well, too.

When I was a kid I would read in a tree in our yard, and sometimes on the roof (my bedroom had a dormer window, so it was pretty easy to get out there).

Dani: How do you decide which books you are going to read?

I read a number of book-related blogs and magazines. When something catches my eye I often send myself a Kindle sample. Then I’ll periodically go through and read the samples, and decide which ones are interesting enough to read in full. I’m very picky, because my reading time is so precious, so I will stop reading anything that isn’t working for me. I do have quite a number of authors that I know I love, so I’ll read whatever new books they publish. I do a lot of my “reading” in the format of audiobooks, and I find that works especially well for series books. These days I’m reading a lot of mysteries, mixed in with some science fiction and some nonfiction.

Dani: What are your goals for the future?

My blog is in a bit of a transition at the moment - I’m reviewing fewer books, and talking more about the joy of learning in general. I think this is influenced by where my daughter is in the educational process (she’s about to finish second grade), and perhaps a bit of burnout after reviewing children’s and young adult books for 12+ years. A primary goal for me right now is making sure that my daughter continues to love reading. I’m particularly concerned that schools (AR programs and whole class novels and reading logs) sometimes quench the joy of reading, I don’t want that to happen to her. Because it’s what I do, I will be sharing the ups and downs of this process on my blog.


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