Touring the blogosphere this month is author and literacy specialist Hal W. Lanse, whose latest book, Read Well, Think Well, explains to parents how to teach their children to build the essential reading and comprehension skills they need to succeed in school even before they start it. Besides valuable information, the book also includes strategies and exercises to help your children become good readers and thinkers.
Thanks for this interview, Hal. Please tell a bit about yourself.
I’m a teacher trainer and a reading instructor. I also give family literacy
workshops for parents. My book is an extension of my work. For years,
parents have told me, “This workshop gave great information. Can you
recommend a book that will teach me more?” I couldn’t do it because most
books on reading are filled with confusing jargon. I decided it was time for
me to write a book on reading in clear, accessible English.
How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it
stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?
As a nonfiction writer I had no choice. Unlike fiction writers, editors
don’t want to see a finished book. They expect to see a sample chapter, a
marketing plan, and an outline. Without these, editors won’t read your
proposal. If they buy the book, they may suggest changes to the outline.
They often want a hand in shaping the final product. In my case, they didn’t
ask for changes. They did ask for an additional chapter.
Did your book require a lot of research?
I’ve written an informational book so research was mandatory. Fortunately, I
didn’t have to do it all at once. I constantly attend workshops on current
research and I belong to several professional organizations that send me
research journals. Research is part of my work; so when it came time to
write my book I had a lot of information at my fingertips.
Who is your target audience?
This is a book for parents, though teachers will also find it useful.
There’s so much that parents can do to support reading at home. The
strategies I share go far beyond the typical read-aloud. These strategies
build comprehension, critical thinking skills, and a love of reading.
What will the reader learn after reading your book?
The reader will learn:
- Techniques to prepare children for reading before formal instruction
- Techniques for improving reading comprehension at any age.
- Techniques to teach children how to write well early in life.
- Study skills.
- Techniques for building vocabulary.
- Strategies for choosing the right books for your child.
- Meditation exercise to reduce stress and improve concentration.
From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book,
how long did it take?
Hold on, let me catch my breath. From conception to signing the contract it
took about six months. That was the easy part. The contract was signed at
the end of June. Then the editor called my agent and asked, “Can Hal send us
the book by September 1st?” Yes, I wrote the whole thing in two months.
Thank heavens for summer vacation. I spent my entire summer sitting at the
They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative
criticism or a negative review?
I’ve spent my life working with teens; and Kenny, my son, is just now
emerging from his adolescence. It wasn’t an easy adolescence, either. (Are
they ever?) I learned to put my ego on the back burner long ago. It’s the
only way to avoid conflicts when greeted with: “I know it all and who are you
anyway you stupid adult?” So, criticism about my writing doesn’t rattle me a
whit. Literary critics have nothing on disgruntled teens.
Do you have any favorite books or authors?
As a reading instructor, I make it my business to read a lot of young adult
novels. Today’s YA authors are producing incredible stories. They’re edgy,
psychologically complex, and addictive. Cut is one book that blew me away.
My son went through a period of self-mutilation, so the topic interested me.
It turned out to be a thoroughly gripping psychological suspense tale.
Breathing Underwater is another winner. It’s the fictional diary of a boy
who is forced by a judge to attend group therapy and to keep a journal of his
thoughts. If he doesn’t comply, he’ll be jailed for beating up his
girlfriend. The experience is painful, but in time he confronts his demons
and takes responsibility for his actions. Another book I love is Define
Normal. A high achiever is asked to become a peer counselor to the school’s
most infamous punk rocker. It turns out that the “normal” girl is living
through the home life from hell. Her quirky classmate comes to the rescue.
And the punk rocker’s home life? It’s not what you think. This book gives
new meaning to the old adage, “Never judge a book by its cover.”
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your
If readers go to www.readwellthinkwell.com, they can learn more about me and
my work. They can also sign up for my free monthly education newsletter.
As an author, what is your greatest reward?
My greatest reward is overhearing my son tell people, “My Dad’s really
smart. He has his doctorate and he wrote a book.” That’s the intellectual’s
answer to “My Dad can beat up your Dad.”