Tackle Reading - A Guest Post from Kathryn Starke

Tackle Reading: A Book & Movement to promote a love of literacy with a passion for football-a partnership supported by the NFL! 


Kathryn Starke, national urban literacy consultant and author, wrote Tackle Reading, a popular reading resource published by Creative Minds Publications. The book has motivational tips, engaging activities, and inspirational stories written by 45 contributing writers including NFL athletes. It’s used in teacher book clubs and PD across the country and nominated for the book list of Books Every Teacher Should Read.

To bring the book to life for children, Starke partnered with fellow literacy leader and author Michelle Staubach Grimes to kick off the annual Tackle Reading day, held each March to celebrate Read Across America and national reading month. NFL athletes coast to coast spend the day reading to their local elementary schools. Thanks to corporate sponsorship and charitable giving, we are able to donate children’s books to classrooms across the country on this special day.

Find Out: How the Minnesota Vikings help Tackle Reading Across America

Check Out Our story in Read it Forward and Publisher’s Weekly NFL Players Inspire Kids to Read Coast to Coast

Read the Story Monsters Magazine feature: Kathryn Starke Scores a Touchdown with Tackle Reading

Tackle Reading “180”-a reading model to help schools achieve literacy success any time of the school year


How Anyone Can Participate in Tackle Reading Day:

1-Any school across the country can participate on #TackleReading day (next date: March 1, 2019) by implementing any of the ideas (football themed books, cooking, etc.)  from this link.

2-Any NFL athlete can join our team to serve as a guest reader by contacting the Community Relations department of your NFL team or emailing Kathryn Starke, founder of Tackle Reading, at info@creativemindspublications.com

3-Any individual, business, or organization can sponsor a #TackleReading event in a local school of your choice and help give the gift of reading and books to children and classrooms.

4-Note: Tackle Reading assemblies, teacher PD, book club discounts, and family or community literacy events are available all year long at a discounted cost when using the code word: #TackleReading. Email info@creativemindspublications.com to inquire and book for your school.


Taking Your Part in the Conversation

To me, a great novel says something. Beyond having compelling characters or page-turning plot elements, a great novel makes a point of some kind. It has something to say to the world. It might be as simple as “Love conquers all,” or “You can never go home again,” or “Do unto others.” Or it might be a far more complex statement about human nature or political systems or whether there is a God. But one thing that all great novels have in common is that they have something to add to the Conversation.

You may not be surprised to learn that someone who thinks this way—namely the writer of this article—was an English major in college. It’s such a delightfully impractical degree. Why would anyone get a degree in a language they already speak? Surely others have their own reasons, but my reason was that I loved to read and I wanted to teach others to love to read. I thought I’d be a professor and take my place as another happy cog in the futile wheel of teaching students literature so they could teach students literature so they could teach students literature.

Of course, that oversimplifies things a bit too much, don’t you think? As an English major studies poetry, plays, short stories, and novels she is learning plenty of “useful” skills: how to read a text closely, how to identify subtext, how to interpret symbols, how to think critically, how to defend one’s position on an issue. But that’s not why one becomes an English major. One becomes an English major because one wants to be part of the Conversation.

The Conversation I’m talking about is that time-bending, mystical union between writer and reader. That magical transference of thought from one mind to another over miles and over oceans, over years or decades or centuries. A writer speaks onto the page and sometime later a reader listens.

John Donne opines on the nature of love in the 16th century and 450 years later a brokenhearted man finds solace.

In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe exposes a generation of Americans who preferred to look the other way to the horrors of slavery and ten years later President Lincoln is said to have said upon meeting her, “So this is the little lady who started this great war.”

In post-war Britain, George Orwell puts pen to his fears about humanity giving up freedom in exchange for safety, and in 21st century America his words ring out from countless memes shared on social media.

Personal or political, quiet or inflammatory, satirical or sentimental, the Conversation continues through the ages as new books are written and new readers are born. What a privilege that despite our own obscurity we can speak with the likes of William Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson and Virginia Woolf and Toni Morrison.

As it turned out, I went into publishing rather than academia, into the realm of creation rather than critique. I am adding my own thoughts to the Conversation, which will carry on without me after I die. So when I write, I want my novels to say something. Something about what it means to human, what we lose when we ignore the past, what it takes to forgive, what we gain when we love each other anyway.

I don’t regret getting a degree in a language I already spoke. Because all the while it was allowing me to speak to countless people I would never have the chance to meet. And those people have become some of my closest friends and greatest teachers.

Erin Bartels has been a publishing professional for more than fifteen years. Her short story “This Elegant Ruin” was a finalist in the Saturday Evening Post 2014 Great American Fiction Contest. A freelance writer and editor, she is a member of Capital City Writers and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and is former features editor of WFWA’s Write On! magazine. She lives in Lansing, Michigan, with her husband, Zachary, and their son, Calvin, and can be found online at www.erinbartels.com. We Hope for Better Things is her first novel.

What Reading Books Means to Me with Rachel Scott McDaniel

Happy Monday! At Hope By the Book we are trying out some new regular features here on the website, and today’s guest - author & avid reader Rachel Scott McDaniel - is someone you need to meet! Her debut novel, Above the Fold, releases December 2019 and she’s bringing us the first installment of “What Reading Books Means to Me” .

What Reading Books Means to Me

by Rachel Scott McDaniel, Author of Above The Fold

Have you ever considered the power of story? How is it possible that words on a page can refresh a wearied soul or bolster a feeble heart? It’s just a conglomeration of sentences and paragraphs. Just a book. Yet within the boundaries of Chapter One and The End lies the potential of something remarkable. What if I told you it holds the capability of bringing to life that which is deemed dead?

Ten years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom who wrote Christian romance during my kiddos’ naptimes. Then something occurred in my family that challenged my secure little world. My three-year-old daughter was diagnosed autistic. I wish I could say that I donned my super cape and stood as Faith Woman, but the truth was, I struggled. Everything came to a screeching halt. I closed my laptop, stopped reading Christian fiction, and only concentrated on surviving the day. The following decade was spent focusing on caring for my kids and reorienting myself to life. My daughter was significantly progressing, overcoming delays which were branded insurmountable. Slowly, my brittle faith strengthened, but I allowed my dream to collect dust in the corner of my heart.

how to catch a prince.jpg

One day, my sister-in-law mentioned a contemporary romance she’d read by some novelist named Rachel Hauck. At that point, I had been so far removed from Christian fiction—hadn’t browsed the inspy aisle at Barnes and Noble, hadn’t fangirled any authors on Facebook, hadn’t even cracked open a book in years. Not to mention, I hadn’t written a single word in my own story. I completely detached myself from my dream—that aspiration which had once sparked my soul. So on a whim, I snagged To Catch A Prince from the local library, yet I was inwardly skeptical. After all I’d experienced, did I even believe in such a thing as happily-ever-after? But the unexpected occurred in the form of me binge-reading the book, taking in the layered characters and absorbing the vivid prose.

Then it happened.

Somewhere between the pages, the dormant ember ignited. The love of story returned. The only way I can explain it is that I had a “God-nudge.” A pivotal mark on my soul where I knew what had to be done. I dug out my laptop and opened my manuscript. It’d been so long that I nearly forgotten what I’d written. I started creating again and immersed myself into the world of storytelling. Before long, I had the entire novel completed and from then on, the dream unraveled before my eyes. That particular story had won a national contest. I signed with an agent and within a year, I’d landed a book contract.

What would’ve happened if I never had picked up that book? Would my lifeless dream have been revived? I’m not certain. But one thing I do know is the power of story. It can fortify what is frail. It can liven what is dull. So what does reading books mean to me? Simple. Reading is—and always will be—a game changer.


Rachel McDaniel Headshot.jpeg

Rachel Scott McDaniel is an award-winning Christian romance writer. She hopes to inspire the mind and refresh the soul with words infused with faith and heart. Because she could never resist a good mystery, suspense and intrigue routinely sneak into her stories. She currently enjoys life in Ohio with her husband and two children. You can find Rachel at her online home RachelMcDaniel.net or on all major social media platforms.

Look for her debut novel - ABOVE THE FOLD - coming December 2019 from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas!

Change. New. Unknown.

Change. New. Unknown.

What kind of emotions do those words stir in you? Do you feel a bubble of excitement rising? Or maybe your stomach just sank and the blood drained from your face? Maybe your response was somewhere between those extremes, or maybe you’re wondering what the context is. After all, the context could make all the difference, couldn’t it?

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7 Ways to Make Time to Read

Designed by Freepik

Designed by Freepik

Is your to do list longer than your TBR (to be read) list? I’m sure it is. Most of us, let’s face it, don’t even have time to be reading this blog post. Here’s a few ways to sneak in some time to read in a schedule that barely allows you to shower.

Read while you wait: Patience a good reader makes. Show up early to your appointments and read while you wait. On hold with Comcast? Pull out your current read. Waiting in the school pickup line? Throw it in park and grab your book. Fill these small bits of time throughout your day with reading, instead of scrolling through Facebook or catching up on news (I’ll give you the recap: the world is a sad and broken place).

Tuck yourself in with a story: Kids get a bedtime story so why shouldn’t you? Set a limit for yourself to read a chapter before bed each night. Not only is this the perfect wind down after a long day, but you will also get great dream inspiration from it.

Listen to audiobooks: Listen to a book during your commute or at the gym. Audiobooks can be somewhat expensive, so make sure to check out free resources like your local library and Librivox for public domain classics.

Don’t be afraid to DNF: If you are struggling to finish a book, do not finish (DNF) it. Read a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Don’t force yourself to slog through something painful. If you don’t like it, just pick up something else. There are plenty of fish in the sea books in the world.

Set yourself a goal: Are you a part of the Goodreads challenge? Set a goal for yourself to see how many books you can read this year. Be realistic and set a goal you know you can complete. Having a reminder of completing a goal will help you make reading a priority.

Grab an ereader: Carry a device with you, whether a smartphone or ereader so you can read anywhere you go. Even if you have a diehard hatred of ereaders, you have to admit, they are handy. If you like the book after you read it digitally, buy a hard copy to display on your shelf.

Quit wasting time: Choose to read a chapter or two instead of watching a rerun or scrolling through social media. Wake up early to read a book and drink coffee, instead of hitting snooze every five minutes until you’re late for work. There are 24 hours in a day and I’m sure there’s something you can stop wasting time on.

Read everywhere: Read wherever you are. Leave books in the bathroom, your gym bag, your car… Keep your mind entertained whenever you have a second free. You’ll soon find yourself enjoying tasks that you once thought mundane.

If you still can’t find time to read, you may have other issues. Remember to breathe now and again. Sometimes it’s important to take  a break and let your mind escape reality into the pages of a good book.

How To Prep for Christmas (and still have time to read)


‘Tis the season! You know what I’m talking about right? The lights, the misletoe, the chaos, the stress, the cooking, the cleaning…and the list goes on…

How are we supposed to find ANY time to read? Today I want to give you a few tips that help me get through this crazy busy season while still satisfying the Book Nerd in me.


1.Cook Christmas Dinner Ahead of Time
Now, I know every family has different traditions when it comes to Christmas dinner. A few years ago we started hosting Christmas at our home. As the only family with small children, we made the executive decision that the rest of the family can come to us from now on! Haha! Also, we LOVE hosting parties! In our family, Cornish Pasties have a special place in family gatherings. For this reason, I decided to start a new tradition of making pasties for our Christmas dinner. The best part about this? I make them a couple weeks ahead of time and freeze them. That way, all we have to do is pull them out Christmas Eve and warm them up on Christmas. This has saved us SO.MUCH.chaos and stress. (Here is a recipe for Cornish Pasties)

Reading Tip: Fewer dishes ON Christmas means more time reading all those new books that Santa brought you hehe!

2. Shop Online
It’s no secret that I am not a fan of crowds. I avoid them at all cost! And unless you are super prepared for Christmas presents, going to ANY store in December will be a mad house. I have found that shopping online tends to cost me less money as well. Not only can you find super awesome deals almost everywhere online (and free shipping codes) I am more likely to stick to my list because I’m not distracted by all the lovely displays and stocking stuffers in store.

Reading Tip: All the time you would have spent dealing with driving, crowds, etc. you can now spend curled up with your favorite book.

3. Long Car Rides
Sometimes driving around in December is unavoidable. Whether it’s because you enjoy shopping at brick and mortar stores or you travel to see family for the holidays. Or like our family, Santa pictures at the downtown mall is a yearly requirement. The perfect solution? Audiobooks. You can bet later today, I’ll be happily seated in the passenger seat with my earbuds in for the hour treck downtown. Audiobooks are great if you are the driver too. I can’t read in the car at.all. So audiobooks are perfect. If you haven’t checked out SCRIBD yet…DO IT! They are amazing! Best price out there for UNLIMITED ebooks and audiobooks!

Reading Tip: If you are the driver, and you have kiddos, I give them headphones and their kindles #noshame. Mama needs peace and quiet while driving, whether I am listening to an audiobook or not.

4. Make a Cleaning Schedule
The dreaded word…CLEANING….Probably my least favorite part of hosting Christmas. I have found that if I stick to a cleaning schedule of 1 (or 2) rooms a day. The cleaning isn’t as overwhelming on you know, Christmas Eve. Especially if you start a couple weeks ahead of time. This year my kids are finally old enough to help out with the household chores, even if I need to go back through and do a little touch up cleaning lol! Also, having Norwex for my cleaning supplies makes life so much easier. No nasty chemical headache after cleaning the bathroom. (Here is a sample of a cleaning schedule.)

Reading Tip: I think you know where I am going with this…Audiobooks…Yup…So handy to accomplish some reading while cleaning.

5. Do Not Overcommit
I know. I know. This can be so hard! It is tempting to want to go to every Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, cookie exchange, recital, and party. But remember, it’s OK to say, “No.” Remember to make time for your family (and I’m talking you and your kids) to make special memories. We went to the new Grinch movie last week. We were the ONLY ones in the theatre and it was so precious to make such memories with the kiddos.

Reading Tip: Spending time at home is OK. Besides, you can squeeze in some more reading time.

6. Take Time for Yourself
This is my most important tip! There is no shame in taking a little break. Take a soothing bubble bath, go get a mani/pedi, go out for coffee with your BFF, or simply curl up with a book.

Reading Tip: Take a book with you wherever you go. A few minutes here and there can add up to a whole lot of reading before you know it. Reading at my son’s karate lessons is one of my favorites.

The bottom line to making it through the holidays with at least a smidgen of sanity left over is priorities. This year, I am intentionally focusing on reading some books for myself and making memories with my family. Having 2 young boys, Christmas is such a magical time of year, especially seeing it all through their eyes. And if that means passing up on certain things the marketing agencies deem “I can’t live without thie Christmas” then so be it. Because I know what is important to me and that’s all that matters.

Rachel enjoys reading, reviewing books, and sharing her passion for literature at www.bookwormmama.org. She's a virtual assistant and shares the small-town life with her husband and children.

Thanksgiving Hangover vs. Book Hangover - They're Not So Different!

Hangovers. Most people associate the word with alcohol, but there are actually several types. Readers everywhere use the term book hangover. A book hangover is defined as a condition in which attachment to a book or series that has ended causes the reader traumatic emotional distress (urbandictionary.com). On Thanksgiving Day, people around the US gather together and eat until they burst. This can cause emotional distress as well.  

As I joined America in eating until the button on my pants pops, I couldn’t help but think about how Thanksgiving Hangovers and Book Hangovers have so much in common.

  1. You don’t want to even think about having more.

    Let’s face it, by the time we’ve reached nighttime on Thanksgiving Day, we don’t even want to hear the word turkey anymore. In fact, we don’t even want to see food at all. It can be that way with book hangovers too. When you finish a book that still holds your undivided attention, you do not even want to think about starting another book. That TBR stack on your desk? Yeah, you just kind of close your eyes as you walk by.

  2. You find yourself wanting more.

    Some people are just the opposite, and find themselves wanting more. Maybe it’s a midnight turkey sandwich or a before bedtime extra piece of pie. The food was just so good they don’t want the yumminess to end. In the book world, sometimes you just enjoy reading a book so much that you don’t want that feeling to go away. It can make you dive right into the next book, especially if it’s a series. You just hope that you like the next book as much as you enjoyed the first one!

  3. You need to switch things up.

    There is so much work that goes into Thanksgiving dinner that, the next day, it seems easier to just get takeout. Chinese, pizza, or whatever your hometown has to offer. The main thing is that it does not consist of typical Thanksgiving food. Same goes for the book world. If you’re suffering from a book hangover from a contemporary read, maybe you’ll switch to a suspense or historical novel. Something that will take your mind in a totally different direction.

  4. You feel groggy.

    Ever heard someone say they wanted to take a nap after eating a big Thanksgiving meal? It’s because their minds are groggy and they can’t concentrate. Books can have that effect as well. Once when I suffered from a book hangover, I was so invested in the characters and storyline that my mind couldn’t let them go. My family tried to engage in a conversation with me, but I just kind of stared off into space, my mind too groggy to understand what they were saying. I had to wait for the hangover to subside before I could enter into a regular conversation again.

  5. You might just need to detox.

    In the food world this could be eating extra healthy the following day, or increasing your water intake. How can we detox in the book world? Read a no-nonsense book. It could be a novella, a book I’ve read in the past, or a book that I know isn’t going to totally take over my mind. Maybe even a kid’s book. Hey, they’re fun to read too!

Hangovers are hard to deal with - be they Thanksgiving or book hangovers - and everyone handles them differently. But let’s be totally honest, don’t you love reading a book that causes a book hangover? It typically means the book was so good that everyone needs to read it!


What book have you read recently that gave you a book hangover? How do you cope with a book hangover? Share in the comments below or share the discussion on social media (don’t forget to tag us @hopebythebook)