By Erin Crowell
This story is about fathers and daughters, mothers and husbands. Its about the sharing of ideas a story about stories, inspired by a poem.
The Books for Walls Project is a virtual dinner table, surrounded by conversation. The topic is primordial, the medium modern.
Enter www.BooksForWallsProject.org and discuss your favorite book, your newest book and books you have yet to read. Listen. Others are reading too.
Books for Walls was a family project, set in motion by a mother who wanted to share her familys conversation about books, hoping to inspire others to join in the discussion an open seat, if you will, around the dinner table.
starting WITH BOOKS
The Moehle home sits near the shores of Turtle Lake, somewhere in the woods between Honor and Beulah. Inside, freshly brewed tea sits on the kitchen table, a jar of local Sleeping Bear Farms honey accompanies a tray of chocolate covered trail mix.
The walls are covered with quotes not framed or hung, but sketched in Sharpie marker and crayon directly on covered drywall.
We told the girls they could draw and write on the walls before we repainted them, says Amy Daniels Moehle. That was five years ago.
Daniels Moehle points out her daughters artistic evolutions, colorful cartoon scribbles to sophisticated quotes by Anne Frank and Diana Cohn. AmyThe Mom, as she is called on the Books for Walls websitehas used books as the primary tool for her daughers home school educations.
We wanted to start them with books, and then introduce them to the world of media later, she says. I believe you can set a child on your lap and read them a story and they are perfectly happy and focused. Its natural to see a four-year-old with a book, its not natural to see them with a laptop.
The Daniels Moehle girls, Nadia (a.k.a. The Big Sister) and Sonja (The Little Sister), just recently started learning how to use a computer; and with that, the Internet but they werent impressed.
Ugh, youre wasting a whole day, Nadia groans as she describes surfing the web. You could be spending it reading or being outside.
Its a frame of mind most young children today do not possess; and although they have identified that fact, its something Nadia and Sonja do not understand.
Sometimes Sonja and I will be reading and mom will be using the computer, says Nadia. Its like our roles are switched! She used to be on Facebook. Theres something wrong with her brain.
BOOKS FOR WALLS
While unimpressed, the girls have found some use for the computer mainly, as a tool for sharing their favorite books, their current reads and more with family and friends around the world.
The Books for Walls Project was born from that same idea of sharing stories. Amy once shared a story with her daughters about a poem her father had written about a family friend a man who owned many books. So many, in fact, that books hid behind other books on his wall shelves.
Plates now empty but table company lingers Around warming conversation
One conversation winning over many
One laugh laughed by all
Crackling fire and field view window
Frame Books for Walls
In his lamb-skinned rocker
Leafing, listening, watching, smiling.
The Bundle found,
Books for Walls warm edict issues forth
The poem inspired The Mom, who, in turn, inspired Big and Little Sister to share this idea of conversation about literature. Today, the family regularly posts online assignments inviting family members and friends to think more about books. For example, First Line/Last Line challenges a person to place value on a book based on the first and last lines of the story. Other assignments are simple, like what was your favorite book growing up?
WHATS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDHOOD BOOK?
Its a question that took the Daniels Moehle family and the rest of the nation by surprise when National Public Radio host Diane Rehm came for a special live broadcast at the City Opera House on April 7.
Amy and her mother, Kathy (a.k.a. The Bean), went to the event, bringing with them that weeks challenge. Amy approached one of the microphones during the Q&A portion.
My quick question is for my two daughters. They wanted to know what your very favorite book was when you were six or ten an innocent questioned that elicited laughter from the audience, but evoked a thoughtful and intimate response from Rehm.
Well, here is the truth, Rehm replied from the stage. There was not a single book in our home. Rehm went on to describe her childhood, saying her parents did not believe in education for girls; and, therefore, she did not read a full book until she was 21.
I couldnt believe it, Nadia says. I have so many books right now, I just cant imagine not growing up with books.
So how many books does the family have?
A thousand, says Nadia.
A thousand and two! Sonja adds excitedly.
BOOKS & MOTHERHOOD
Their enthusiasm for books comes from Amys own love for literature. Just before she and husband David (a.k.a. The Dad) decided to become parents, Amy quit her job and spent an entire year reading.
I decided to stop looking for satisfying work that paid a decent wage; and worked, instead, on expanding my mind and maintaining inspiration. I also joke that I never really worked until I became a mother, she says.
Part of that job is encouraging learning and communication through books, the sharing of stories and ideas. Books for Walls has allowed the girls to touch an education beyond their home.
We have friends and family and others from around the world that follow our blog, Amy says. Every time we get a new follower, we find out where theyre from and learn about their home.
Amy pulls out a map of the U.S., sprinkled by dots marking the location of somebody new in the online conversation.
The girls get to learn all about the states and other countries, she says. What country did we learn about recently that was really interesting? she asks the girls.
The Netherlands, says Nadia. Sonja nods her head in agreement.
While the Books for Walls project has become a learning tool for her children, Amy says she is also learning just as much.
Im learning at an alarming rate, she laughs.
The Books for Walls Project is an online community of avid book readers, inspiring people to think and discuss literature. Join the conversation by visiting their website at www.BooksForWallsProject.org. There, you will find a link to a library nearest you, along with several assignments to get you thinking. For an audio clip of the Diane Rehm question, click on the link to the Interlochen Public Radio website, which includes an interview with the family by Linda Stephan.