Today's featured reader is Kendra Winchester. Kendra is one of the most passionate readers and feminist advocates I know. She has a MA in English and truly unbeatable taste in books. Currently, Kendra co-hosts, produces, and edits the Reading Women podcast (one of my favorites) as well as her own booktube channel. In addition to putting great books into the hands of readers through just about every available avenue, Kendra is freelance editor and dog-mom to an adorable corgi named Dylan.
I discovered Kendra through her podcast, Reading Women, which she co-founded and co-hosts. This podcast is one of my absolute favorites. While it was the focus on Women writers that initially sold me, I've found that I'm continuously impressed by the variety the Reading Women offer. Kendra and her co-founder Autumn Privett have brought in a wonderful team of co-hosts and contributors who offer a wide range of perspectives and literary tastes. Reading Women episodes include everything from author interviews to deep-dives into texts to themed book lists that are sure to topple your to-be-read list. All this is to say, Kendra is intimidatingly well-read and a phenomenal advocate for women writers and diversity in literature. I am honored that she took the time to chat with me about the books and habits that made her a reader. Her thoughtful responses have me thinking about how schools might be able to foster a love of reading through an interdisciplinary approach, which is something I hadn't really considered before. Keep reading for more gems of wisdom from this inspiring reading woman.
What is your reading life like now? How many books do you read each year?
I typically read about 200 books in a year, but this year I’m taking a bit slower (for me) and will probably read around 150.
As a teacher, I’m always curious about how people fall in love with reading. For you, was it in the classroom, or outside it?
As a kid who was chronically ill, I was homeschooled to allow flexibility with learning. My mom made sure to foster a love of reading very early on in my education. She introduced fiction titles that corresponded to whatever we learned in history, which made history come alive for me. When she realized I had severe migraines and couldn’t read as much as I wanted to, she bought me a tape deck and borrowed books on tape from the library. I still read dozens of books in print on my good days, but my mom always found solutions for my brother and I that fit with our particular educational challenges.
How did you figure out your personal taste in books? Was it through friends, parents, teachers, librarians?
Aside from my mom, librarians played a huge role in my life. When I was in first grade, I wrote a story that my mom bound up in a book and gave to my favorite librarian. She kept it at the front desk of the library so I could say that I had a real book at the library.
Did you do your required reading in high school?
All of my assigned reading was required throughout high school—no skipping allowed when Mom’s the teacher! I read a lot of books outside my assignments as well, but I will never forget reading Pride and Prejudice for high school. I hadn’t realized that classic books could be fun before then! It was such a great experience.
Did you have a teacher in your life who helped you learn something new about yourself as a reader or appreciate books in a new way?
In college, one of my professors introduced me to classic feminist texts by authors like Virginia Woolf, Adrienne Rich, and Audre Lorde. Reading these women for the first time opened my eyes to the ongoing need for feminism in today’s society. Then, just a few years later, Reading Women was born.
What is one book you LOVED reading in high school?
I loved reading fictional accounts of animals for life science. There was The Story of a Grizzly that made me realize how the science I was learning could be explained through storytelling. The interdisciplinary approach to my reading assignments taught me to make connections between ideas.
What is one book you HATED reading in high school?
I read Pearl Maiden in freshman or sophomore year. I hated it with the burning fiery passion of a thousand suns. The protagonist was so perfect, so ideal, there was no way on this planet she could be real. I was more than happy to chuck that book into the donate box as soon as I was done with the class.
What is one book you would love to see introduced in classrooms now?
I think students should be introduced to feminism early on. Accessible texts like Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists would be great places to start.
If there was one additional piece of advice you could give teachers to help students enjoy their reading more, what would it be?
Recommend both literary books and fluff. Encourage them to read books they love, not just books you think they should love. Encourage students to try using audiobooks, comics, ebooks, or whatever format sparks their interest. After they learn a love of reading, tackling a literary book may seem far less challenging.
What are you reading now?
For Nonfiction November, I’m currently reading These Truths by Jill Lepore. I love how she makes American history comes alive and makes sure to include the history of different minority groups throughout the decades.
Purchase books mentioned in this article on Amazon:
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
- Adrienne Rich's Selected Poems and Selected Essays
- Pearl Maiden by H. Rider Haggard
- A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
- We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- These Truths by Jill Lepore
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