A New Halloween Tradition?

Neil Gaiman (one of my all-time favorite authors) made a wonderful suggestion a few days ago:

You know, there aren’t enough traditions that involve giving books.

There’s World Book Day, which grew out of Don Quixote Day/Cervantes Birthday/St George’s Day in Spain, where roses and books are given, but really, we need some more instant traditions that involve the giving of books, the kind that spread all over the world.

And then I thought, Hallowe’en’s next weekend…

So: I propose that, on Hallowe’en or during the week of Hallowe’en, we give each other scary books. Give children scary books they’ll like and can handle. Give adults scary books they’ll enjoy.

I think that’s great! So I want to pass that idea on …

Here’s Neil’s entire post.

Effectiveness of Reading Comprehension Programs

“To help close this research gap, Mathematica Policy Research conducted a study supported by the Institute of Education Sciences in the US Department of Education over the course of two school years evaluating the effectiveness of four supplemental reading comprehension programs in helping disadvantaged fifth graders improve their reading comprehension. The study used an experimental design, in which schools were randomly assigned to use an intervention or not …

The study found positive impacts for one of the four curricula. In particular, when teachers had one prior year of experience using the ReadAbout curriculum, students scored higher on a reading comprehension assessment. The score improvement is equivalent to moving from the 50th to the 59th percentile on a standardized test. The study found no improvement in reading comprehension scores for students using the other three curricula.”

Read the summary here.

A Better Pencil

A Better Pencil

A Better Pencil

From A Better Pencil, by Dennis E. Baron:

I start with Plato’s critique of writing where he says that if we depend on writing, we will lose the ability to remember things. Our memory will become weak. And he also criticizes writing because the written text is not interactive in the way spoken communication is. He also says that written words are essentially shadows of the things they represent. They’re not the thing itself. Of course we remember all this because Plato wrote it down — the ultimate irony.

We hear a thousand objections of this sort throughout history: Thoreau objecting to the telegraph, because even though it speeds things up, people won’t have anything to say to one another. Then we have Samuel Morse, who invents the telegraph, objecting to the telephone because nothing important is ever going to be done over the telephone because there’s no way to preserve or record a phone conversation. There were complaints about typewriters making writing too mechanical, too distant — it disconnects the author from the words. That a pen and pencil connects you more directly with the page. And then with the computer, you have the whole range of “this is going to revolutionize everything” versus “this is going to destroy everything.”

More than a little food for thought …

Steal this blog.

Must read article by Ron Charles in the Washington Post … discussing college students’ reading habits (On Campus, Vampires Are Besting the Beats):

“… according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the best-selling titles on college campuses are mostly about hunky vampires or Barack Obama. Recently, Meyer and the president held six of the 10 top spots. In January, the most subversive book on the college bestseller list was “Our Dumb World,” a collection of gags from the Onion. The top title that month was “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” by J.K. Rowling. College kids’ favorite nonfiction book was Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers,” about what makes successful individuals. And the only title that stakes a claim as a real novel for adults was Khaled Hosseini’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” the choice of a million splendid book clubs.

Here we have a generation of young adults away from home for the first time, free to enjoy the most experimental period of their lives, yet they’re choosing books like 13-year-old girls — or their parents. The only specter haunting the groves of American academe seems to be suburban contentment …”

Is inspiring literature doomed? What will happen to progressive thinking if college campuses become mere extensions of high school, and no longer the place where kids are exposed to new and radical ideas?

Summer Reading

The best thing about summer is having more time to read (why is that, really? I don’t have much more time than during the school year. Must be psychological). In keeping with so many other blogs, here are recently read books as well as a list of those sitting on the nightstand (in reality and virtually) …

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks. I am not really a zombie fan, but I couldn’t resist the format of this book – it’s a future-history told as “first person” accounts during the aftermath of a global zombie war. At first I thought that reading interview after interview would get tedious, but the story was highly engaging. Great example of a non-traditional fiction format. This was also the first book I read using Kindle – makes traveling so much easier!

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t by Robert Sutton. An interesting book, more academic than I would have expected (rather well-researched). It’s an appealing argument, but I guess I would prefer that a desire to work with civility and courtesy would be just so much common sense – guess that’s simply not the case.

World Without End by Ken Follett. Thankfully, read on my Kindle because the sheer weight of this tome is ridiculous. Pillars of the Earth was one of my all-time favorite books – I’ve read its 900+ pages several times (last time while staying in Winchester, England – totally cool!). I was thrilled to read the sequel, but it quickly became “Book Without End” – rather a formulaic reproduction of Pillars and quite a disappointment.

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky. Ever since I heard Clay Shirky’s brilliant analogy of industrial revolution vis-à-vis web 2.0 technology, I’ve been a huge fan. This book did not disappoint. Truly visionary, well written, and many applications to education. I’ll probably re-read this book very soon.

Next on my reading list …

How Soccer Explains the World: An (unlikely) Theory of Globalization by Franklin Foer … after being in Germany for the Euro Cup, I am definitely more interested. And since I’ll soon be UK bound … guess I’d better be up on the football (and not the American sort).

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris … just love David Sedaris. He needs to write more books … or just come to my house to tell stories. Can’t get enough.

The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids by Madeline Levine … because I’m probably somewhat guilty of this too – what happened to wanting to raise strong, independent, and critically thinking kids?

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch … started it. Put it down. Started it again. Very difficult to read with some detachment …

Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson … Bryson is such a fabulous writer and provides such great perspective. Can’t wait to read his take on the bard …

The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence by Ray Kurzweil … this came so highly recommended by a friend … I’m ready to be freaked out because I know a little about Kurzweil and his cybernetic art

The Egyptologist: A Novel by Arthur Phillips … because I’m still reeling from seeing the pyramids at Giza and Abu Simbel.

And my kid is reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide for the first time … how cool is that?!