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Who We Are

Sisters and best friends

We’re Becky and Jenny, founders of LitWits Workshops. We’re blessed to be sisters and best friends who grew up on great books.  Many of you have asked  “How’d you come up with the idea for LitWits?”  Well, here’s the whole saga!  If you were just looking for plain old bios and creds, click here.

Becky and Jenny Clendenen family photos 1960s-70s - LitWits.com

When we were kids ourselves, we read for fun. Our parents had read to their six children since we were born, and thanks to our mom, who had been a teacher, we learned how to read early on.  She also filled our shelves with vintage and classic books, and took us to the library often. Her emphasis on the joy and importance of great books impressed us all for life.

Reading for ourselves was exciting and empowering, a way to explore new situations, personas, countries, and families while still safely ensconced in our own. We felt the pleasure of choosing our own worlds and wandering through them at our own pace, pausing to think, look, or feel for as long as we liked.

And there was nothing faster or flashier to lure us away.  The television we briefly owned was banished, and distracting electronic gadgets were yet to be invented. So none of us was ever without a book.

We would read in the car on the way home from school, in our favorite nooks around the house, at the dinner table with our books on our laps, in the living room before bedtime, and under the covers with a flashlight until we were caught.

Becky and Jenny Clendenen family photos 1960s-70s - LitWits.com
Becky and Jenny Clendenen family photos 1960s-70s - LitWits.com

When we weren’t reading, we were pretending – and most of our pretend play was based on the books we had read. On weekends we would act out favorite scenes, or do the things the characters liked to do.  It was that sensory experience, more than anything, that brought the books alive for us, that let us break from the old-fashioned syntax to feel, smell, see, taste, and hear the distant story in our own place and time.

We couldn’t read Heidi, for example, without stopping to assemble a tray of a few chunky slabs of cheese and a wooden salad bowl filled with milk. Tom Sawyer had us building forts in the nearby woods; The Secret Garden sent us beyond the rosebushes to scratch out “a bit of earth” in the hidden space along the fence.

After we moved to the farm, Little Women introduced us to the joy of putting on plays in our tumbledown barn. Treasure Island took us out to the orchard to bury our favorite objects, pirate-style.

When our reading triggered questions, our parents responded with an enthusiastic “Let’s look it up!”  (They were both former teachers.) It didn’t take long before we were doing just that without being told. Right in the middle of a good book we’d flip it upside down and seek out the definition, the historical context, the mythological allusion, the Latin phrase translation, the references to authors and artists, or whatever stopped us in our reading tracks.

And those digressions through The Golden Book Encyclopedia or musty sets of The Book of Knowledge often proved just as enthralling as the text we had set aside.

Becky and Jenny Clendenen family photos 1960s-70s - LitWits.com
Becky and Jenny Clendenen family photos 1960s-70s - LitWits.com

Our book-inspired imaginings and digressions broadened and deepened our knowledge. The books we were reading simply because we wanted to sent us off to experience and self-educate – simply because we wanted to. There was nothing pedantic or overtly “educational” about it, no awareness that we were being taught.  We were curious about experiences and issues our books had raised, and we enjoyed satiating our curiosity.  It was fun. And we grew up to be (and raise our own) close readers and excellent students, still following book-paths down enticing trails of discovery.

Today’s students expand on their knowledge and reading by following enticing links online.  But the Internet, though speedier and far more comprehensive than our old encyclopedia sets, can sometimes lead a child astray.  For better and for worse, it’s not self-contained like The Book of Knowledge was. Not every digression is relevant, credible, or even safe.

And though the Web can provide great ideas for having fun and learning more (for instance, our virtual LitWits Kits!), it certainly can’t play. The sensory supplement is essential to experience – the tastes and touch, the smells and sights and sounds of a story.

And so is the infectious enthusiasm of a present, caring human being – something that teachers have known since Socrates.

That’s why we founded LitWits Workshops – to help kids experience great books the way we did. To help them reenact, imagine, immerse, digress, consider, decipher, play – and love to teach themselves. To help them find their way through enticing allusions and tangents.

Yes, it’s fun and enriching – but it’s also tremendously educational.

We know that experiencing literature lets kids absorb its lessons naturally. Because books, after all, are not about words but experiences of action and being. By joining the characters in their experiences, kids connect with great books — and want to read more. And we know that when kids read for fun, they learn for life.

What they learn depends on what they’re reading — so we inspire them to read GREAT books.

We have such a wonderful time re-experiencing our childhood books with our workshop readers, but we can’t be everywhere. With the help of our LitWits Kits and the support of our fellow enthusiasts, you can provide these experiences too. It’s not rocket science.

Well — actually, it might turn out to be!

Happy reading,
Becky and Jenny

Bio & Creds

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Becky Clendenen Kimball

Becky Clendenen Kimball

Becky Clendenen Kimball is a literature-based homeschool teacher, a journalism major who spent four years as a staff writer for The Register Pajaronian, and a graphic artist.  She’s the mother of 15-year-old twin daughters who love (and thrive on) the LitWits way of learning! Becky’s the author of a custom study skills curriculum and is working on a biography of Elna Lieb Wright, wife of the famous astronomer.

Jenny Clendenen Walicek

Jenny Clendenen Walicek has a BA in English literature and is working on her MFA in creative nonfiction writing.  She’s been an elementary teacher and a language arts tutor, and has a son and a daughter who grew up (and still thrive) on literature.  Jenny’s a published scholar, essayist, and poet currently working on a biography of Maria Zacarias Bernal de Berreyesa, a Spanish-Mexican matriarch of early California.

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Jenny Clendenen Walicek

Member(s) of:

Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society
Golden Key International Honour Society
The International Reading Association
The Santa Cruz County Reading Association