Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
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Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
An Educator's Reading List of Contemporary Literature, Literacy, and Reading Issues. Visit us at
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TV's Novel Challenge: Literature on the Screen

TV's Novel Challenge: Literature on the Screen | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
The new series Parade's End is testing viewers' appetites for highbrow fare at a time when HBO and other networks are snapping up literary rights.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

I don't know why the thought had never crossed my mind before. One of our favorite past times is to wait until a TV series with big buzz has released the most recent season's episodes on Netflix streaming and then we do a Boardwalk Empire marathon watching the entire series 5-6 episodes at a time over the course of 2-3 days. Though we're always a season behind, the advantages are many. There are no commericials, no worrying about whether or not our schedules clash with the "first run" viewing schedule (yes, we have DVR, though we don't have HBO or other premium stations), and best of all we don't have to wait a week to see the outcome of those "every-episode-has-a-cliff-hanger-ending" endings that have been perfected by the producers of these well-written series. I'm not a fan of TV cliff hanger endings, finding them generally an annoying practice designed not so much to create a "can't-put-it-down" forward momentum as they do in books, but to create some sort of week long addiction-widthdrawal like agitation between fixes. 


When chapters in a book end in a cliff-hanger, I want to know! immediately! and I keep reading. No one is withholding the next chapter for a week. Imagine if while reading you weren't allowed to read the next chapter after a cliff-hanging preceding chapter really ramped up your interest in the story's plot line. That's not exciting. It's aggravating. 


But, of course with a book, I've paid the full price ahead of time. It's mine. The publishing industry's business plan does not require that I subscribe to the story in order to generate ongoing income for the book's sponsors. The very purpose of cliff-hangers in books is to get us to NOT put the book down, while the same cliff-hangers between episodes of a telvision series are designed to create that addiction draw ensuring the sponsors that I'll be back next week to see their ads or to ensure HBO that I'll continue my Level-300 subscription.


It only works for me though because I've never really cared much for how up to date my contributions to "the next day's water cooler conversations"would be. What I've cared about was the depth and breadth and the ins and outs and... well, in the quality of a well-crafted story. You, know, like reading a book you just can't put down.


But, not being current at the cooler aside, the story telling in many of the more notable series and mini-series on the cable stations has become pretty darned incredible. And, telling stories that take 8-12 episodes provides a venue for depth and character and theme development that can create a rich experience similar to that of reading a well-written book. These stories become, like books, experiences deep enough to enjoy dwelling within for days.


Unlike their predecessors they are more than sophisticated nighttime soap operas because they are, or at least are perceived as, a single story with a continuous plotline and themes that weave themselves through a "longer story."


Sure, we each do need to decide where our current story telling comfort boundaries are since many of these series include language of concern and have significantly more graphic sexual or violent content than the traditional network offerings. I can't and don't particularly believe it is my place to impose my viewing or reading tastes upon other adults. I'm happy to share opinions, but because I don't happen to draw my line regarding tolerable violence-levels or other traditionally at-the-edge/over-the-edge" content where others do doesn't mean that my lesser-tolerance for extremely visual violence is "the rubric" by which other adults should determine their interest in a series' value. 


So, anyway, my point is that some extremely well-done story telling is happening in television land, much of which is truly competitive in quality to some of the best storytelling in print, paper-based or otherwise. And, now that there is an adequate audience for the well-written visual story teller, we see better and better writers, even many of our revered authors, turning towards that appreciative audience.


Is it all great? Of course not. But, the trajectory is clearly on an upward curve worthy of either reconsidering our views about TV drama or at least our keeping one ear tuned to the buzz lest we miss an opportunity to appreciate great story telling presented in a venue for which we may have not recently enough revisited our opinions.


Well, I began by directing my comments towards the downside of that forced break in the story as the broadcast scheduled series are released in weekly doses. I'm tuning in to the new paradigm being offered by NetFlix in its first series, Lilyhammer starring Steven van Zandt, famous to some for his role as Silvio Dante in The Sopranos and more famous to others as looooong-time guitar-playing band member alongside Bruce Springsteen all the way back to before the e-street band days.


Both Lilyhammer and Netflix's new House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey were released in a new "entire season all at once" paradigm. And viewing them in as small or large a bite as you wish, just as is the case when we read an enthralling book seriously closes the gap between chapter cliff-hangers' "can't put it down" enjoyment and episode cliff-hangers' "forced put it down" annoyance. 


I dunno... I love to read. I love to listen to great literature on my iPhone while doing the dreaded yardwork. I just love great story telling. And, there's some pretty great story telling going on out there right now.


No, it's not all great, but has it ever been all great or all trash for that matter in any story telling medium?



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GERM that kills schools: Pasi Sahlberg at TEDxEast

Activist & Education Director Pasi Sahlberg brings what he has learned from the education system in his native Finland to United States' parents, teachers an...
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SPOILER ALERT: I recommend this video HIGHLY.


That's a spoiler alert? Well sort of. 


I wanted to start this entry with two warnings  about the serious challenges I found in watching this talk, but didn't want to scare anyone off. 


The first challenge is the speaker's, shall we say, uhm... slow start? He seems a bit uncomfortable, speaks as though he's not sure what he wants to say and doesn't mention the intriguing word "GERM" in the video title until what was probably only a few minutes into the video, but he managed to make it feel as though it were "many" minutes. I got extremely close to clicking the close box.


But that word "GERM" kept me tuned in long enough to finally hear him get around to what I had come around to watch. And, it was extremely interesting.


He had warmed up, found a comfort zone, sliped in a few funny because I sort of like corny jokes, jokes. 


By the time he finished his talk, I couldn not help but think that the case he builds "against" the Global Education Reform Movement merited some significant consideration.


Those of us who are proud of the work we've done in pursuit of Education Reform and still believe that there is much more to do than has been done would be well served to to watch, contemplate and wonder where in our efforts the case built in this video fits.



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10 of the World's Greatest Hotels Inspired by Literature

10 of the World's Greatest Hotels Inspired by Literature | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
After spotting this Jules Verne-inspired hotel in Canada, we decided to go on a worldwide hunt for other interesting hotels that pay homage to our favorite reads -- whether in general, or focusing ...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Ah, The Sylvia Beach Hotel, one of my all-time favorite literary stopovers. 


So, I'd like to create a special project Google Lit Trip featuring not a specific piece of literature, but rather a subset of Literary Location Lit Trips. 


I've already created a few examples; one on the Anne Frank House, another on the actual Cannery Row, and a third on the Jack London Historical State Park. 


I've always wanted to do one on the Sylvia Beach Hotel, but this article made me think about a Literary Location Lit Trip set focused upon Literary-themed hotels. 


Anyone interested in collaborating?


You'd only need to contribute as little as one placemark filled with a few interesting tid-bits about one of these or other hotels. 


In fact, If there happens to be such a hotel nearby, perhaps a chat with the owner and/or a collection of images saved as a sort of virtual walk through slideshow would make for a wonderful placemark in the collection. 


Interested? Drop me a line at: 



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10 Obscure Punctuation Marks That Should Really Get More Play

10 Obscure Punctuation Marks That Should Really Get More Play | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Recently, we were apprised of a proposed addition to the world of punctuation: the "ElRey Mark," a symbol that looks a bit like an exclamation point with a dot at each end and is meant to be read a...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Whether or not they would actually be useful in written communication, the potential for class discussions encouraging engaged and creative out-of-the-box contemplation regarding mechanics, usage, and grammar rules is high.


It might even stimulate a new appreciation for the much more commonly used punctuation marks and their use and abuse. 


I'd also suggest that rather than relying upon traditional grammar texts'  too often nearly "useless usage explanations" that too often define one unknown term using three more unknown terms as though that encourages kids, while ignoring the annoying factor of having done so, that the real world sounding explanations for these punctuation marks might prove to be better models for palatable explanations.


hmmm... which one of those punctuation marks was described as being for people who like to write crazy-long sentences like the previous one?!


See this cool related article including a few of these as well as a few interesting lesser known punctuation marks not in this article:


(though I must admit, the "Section Sign" might generate questionable contemplation of literary devices such as "double entrendes" and "puns.")




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Retired teacher creates Google Lit Trips

Retired teacher creates Google Lit Trips | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Jerome Burg, a retired English teacher, created Google Lit Trips in 2006 and is now learning how to run it like a business.
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Had to share this!

Power to social media! A few days ago my Google Alerts led me to a relatively short blog posted on the EdSurge ( site about the Google Lit Trips project.


At first glance it seemed rather indistinct from the literally thousands of blogs about the project I've seen over the years; 13 lines, kind words. As with others, I tagged it for my collection of internet references and got back to some work I was doing.


Two days later I received an email from the author of this scooped article saying she'd read about the project in EdSurge. She wanted to interview me for a possible story in Upstart Business Journal, and I'll be darned! Here it is!


Sure hoping that Upstart Business Journal's targeted audience might find the project worth a closer look!


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National Football Literati.

National Football Literati. | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Nine out of ten librarians will be rooting for the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday on America’s most celebrated and cheese-laden holiday, the Super B...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Just in case you're one of those once-a-year football fans, anxious about spending the day among "real football fan-addicts" who pride themselves on sharing the vastness of their collection of football minutiae. This article might offer an opportunity to make an interesting contribution to the conversation.


Personally I'm rooting for the niners! Don't want to suggest changing the name, but if push came to shove, as it often does in football, perhaps we might consider the San Francisco Drillers, as in Frank Norris' McTeague about a San Francisco dentist. Or, maybe we could give Atlanta a run by considering the S F Maltese Falcons. 


By the way, did you know Mark Twain never said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."


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How and Why We Read: Crash Course English Literature #1

In which John Green kicks off the Crash Course Literature mini series with a reasonable set of questions. Why do we read? What's the point of reading critica...
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Haven't quite got a clue as to why this video ends mid sentence, but it's pretty interesting in its focus on WHY we read. How refreshing to focus on what value literary reading brings to our lives. 


On a sort of related note...

Had an opportunity a couple of weeks ago to attend a talk by Tony Taccone and Jonathan Moscone who developed the play Ghost Light based upon Jonathan Moscone's experience as the son of assassinated San Francisco mayor, George Moscone. It's a blend of historical accuracy and a bit of fictionalization. I had seen the play in Ashland Oregon and it was an incredible theater experience.

One of the takeaway lines from the talk is mirrored in this video when Moscone said (paraphrased), "We don't read great literature in order to  read the author's story, we read great literature to read our own stories."

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Shakespeare Is Hot Again

Shakespeare Is Hot Again | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
A slew of current projects -- ranging from young adult novels to television to a rumored Anne Hathaway film -- aim to make Shakespeare accessible to a contemporary audience.
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There is a lot of money being bet on the attractiveness of Shakespearean storylines! Perhaps that is an indication that we who love Shakespeare might have hope.


I remember well the English department meeting after the release of the Leonardo DiCaprio version of Romeo and Juliet was released. There was a great divide between those who loved it and those who did not. Yet the department division between the purists and the rest of the department was ironically completely different from the department diviision between those who showed Westside Story as part of their Romeo and Juliet unit and those who did not.


I was one of those who loved the DiCaprio film yet despised the Westside Story film, though I did like the music and recently had the opportunity to see Rita Moreno's tour de force "Life Without Makeup" which gave me a new appreciation of Westside Story's place in its time particularly as her own Hollywood experiences as a young Puetro Rican actress mirrored in many ways the Montegue vs Capulet foolishness.


The question of whether Shakespeare should only be taught in its purest form is almost laughable for so many reasons...

First and foremost is that Shakespeare's "purest form" is not text; it is performance. Though, I was still too immature, intellectually and otherwise, to harvest a wealth of benefits from the Franco Zefferelli film, I did find myself actually paying attention to the plotline particularly so after the scene where Juliet leans over the balcony! But, really, the story was told in stunning visual and audio enhanced splendor. It was actually a breakthrough moment for me in appreciation of not only great storytelling, but also in a newfound appreciation for a glorious soundtrack.


Secondly, Shakespeare, as any scholar knows, relied heavily upon updating old stories for his contemporary audiences.


Thirdly, he knew well the downside of catering to the high brow only crowd. He certainly was quite aware of the value of playing to his audience whether they were mostly entertained by the low-brow raunchy humor of the nurse or by the tragic deaths of both Romeo and Juliet.


And if anyone has seen Shakespeare performed recently on stage at one of the many, many prestigious Shakespeare festivals, it is quite likely that the staging was purposely adapted to blend elements of the pure with elements of other very different times and places settings.


I realize that there may be results of this tsunami of Shakespeare-inspired work that are disappointing. But, I also suspect that many of the results might bring a fresh interest in the bard's themes and works to another generation. And, that might not be a bad idea.


But, don't let me cram my opinions down anyone's throats. 


Here's what Shakespeare, himself had to say on the subject...



Sonnet 59

If there be nothing new, but that which is 

Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled,
Which, labouring for invention, bear amiss 
The second burden of a former child. 
O, that record could with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the sun, 
Show me your image in some antique book, 
Since mind at first in character was done! 
That I might see what the old world could say 
To this composed wonder of your frame; 
Whether we are mended, or whe'er better they,
Or whether revolution be the same. 
O, sure I am, the wits of former days 
To subjects worse have given admiring praise.



If there is nothing new under the sun, but that which
Has been before, how are our brains cheated,
Which, toiling to create something new, mistakenly
Brings forth something that already exists
O, that history could go back
Even five hundred years
To show me your picture in some old book,
At any time since thought was first put down in writing!
That I might see what an earlier time would say
To this wonderful beauty of your frame (mind, body, and soul);
Whether we are improved or they were better,
Or whether the cycle of years has yielded no better results.
O, I am sure of this, the wits [talented men] of former times
Have given praise to much worse subjects than this. 

original and paraphrase from...Shakespeare, William. Sonnet 59. Ed. Amanda Mabillard. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. (January 23, 2013) < >.

But of course, Shakespeare too was simply refreshing Ecclesiastes 1:9
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. 

Perhaps there is nothing wrong with reminding each generation in ways they can find relevant, of the great "universal truths" that can be found in the great stories.

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Iam Raj's comment, January 25, 2013 2:14 AM
Good Article about Shakespeare Stories.. He is god gift to English Language.. Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”
-William Shakespeare ~ Read More Quotes @
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Part of the takeover is the WIPE AWAY of fine...

Part of the takeover is the WIPE AWAY of fine... | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
“Part of the takeover is the WIPE AWAY of fine literature in which texting, short e-mails and media gossip replaces much of what constitutes essential reading.
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The content of the large text is a bit controversial, though not the reason for the warning above. 


What is of concern is the reference at the very end of the large text to "The 421 Group thru Joseph Lally."


A Google search results in links to Joseph Lally's "softcore homoerotic photography." 


Enough said?




So why did I scoop this?


The large text content contains a rant that begins,


“Part of the takeover is the WIPE AWAY of fine literature in which texting, short e-mails and media gossip replaces much of what constitutes essential reading. The Silencers have a project and the term they code it with is WIPE AWAY. Not only do they wish to do away with literature that has substance and that challenges ordinary thinking, they wish to do away with how our minds once operated...."


The article takes a fairly aggressive attitude towards what the author perceives as an almost, if not real concern bordering on global conspiracy levels of paranoia. 


Of course, I want to jump to agree with anyone concerned about the declining interest in literary reading, but this article gave me moments to both pause and applaud and moments to cringe.


It got me thinking about an exercise in open mindedness that I always found fascinating for myself and for my students.


You might try it for yourself. And if you'd like to try it for your students using this particular exercise, you'll probably want to exorcize the last sentence.


Here's how it works...


1. Print out the large text.

2. get yourself three highlighters; a Green one, a Yellow one, and a Red one.

3. Use the GREEN highliter to mark any passages for which you find yourself in strong agreement.

4. Use the RED highliter to mark any passages for which you find yourself in strong disagreement.

5. Use the YELLOW highliter to mark any passages that challenge your existing opinions, but also give you pause to think about revisiting those opinions.

6. Give yourself some time to revisit those opinions.

7. Now re-read your GREEN and RED highlights as though you had used your YELLOW highlighter instead and repeat step 6 above.


Did you discover anything?


That's it. It's intriguing how having to pause and choose what to highllite and then what color to highlite with, forces one to pay deeper attention to what one is thinking about while reading rather than flying by the text letting our off the top of our heads first thoughts dominate the impact that the reading might have upon us.



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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

I'm happy to announce the publication of the long awaited Frankenstein Google Lit Trip.


This project was developed by Mr. Gregory Greenleaf and his 2012-2013 Advanced Placement English students at Greely High School in Cumberland, Maine. 


I'm also pretty excited about having used Screenflow in order to create the video preview for the Frankenstein Google Lit Trip. Screenflow is capable of capturing 1080 HD video of the computer screen so detail is much easier to see. Take a look for yourselves by viewing the Preview Video here:




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Kevin Atkins's curator insight, February 12, 2013 10:33 AM

Schönes Beispiel für eine literarische Reise

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Jarrett J. Krosoczka: How a boy became an artist | Video on

TED Talks When Jarrett J. Krosoczka was a kid, he didn’t play sports, but he loved art. He paints the funny and touching story of a little boy who pursued a simple passion: to draw and write stories.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:


I'm sitting in my hotel room having just given a Google Lit Trips presentation at the California League of Schools conference in beautiful Monterey California.

Having turned the general focus of my presentations towards the impact on both the teaching and learning of literary reading of the Common Core Standards and the position I think Google Lit Trips addresses in this controversial conversation. 


In checking out TED Talks, by coinicidence or by fate, I decided to watch this video about the trajectory of Jarrett J. Krosoczka's career as it was encouraged by great teachers.


Watch and be inspired to reflect on the students you may have inspired in spite, not only of their challenges, but also in light of the circumstances under which you were able to be that inspiration. What oppoortunity did you see? What did you do or say? And if you had to defend the pedagogical basis upon which you were able to sieze the moment, what made it work?


I am reminded of the time I heard Ansel Adams explain how it was that he was so fortunate to be in the right place at the right time so often. He quoted  Louis Pasteur who once said perhaps in a response to a similar question, " Chance favors the prepared mind."


Teach long enough and you'll come across a former student or two for whom you had never realized the extent of the impact of a single comment you had made who from out of nowhere lets you know how much you meant to him or her. 


During my last 10 or so years in the classroom, I gave an assignment to my satire students "requiring them" to communicate with me 10 years from the date of the last class meeting to let me know whether the class had any lasting value now that they would have been out of high school for a decade "living in the real world."


And, I'll be darned if I don't hear from quite a few of them; pretty much all of whom are eager to let me know that their appreciation grew  rather than diminished as the years past.



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"because literary reading brings much needed wisdom to the Information Age."

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Teach the Books, Touch the Heart

Teach the Books, Touch the Heart | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Teaching English simply for test preparation rather than to develop a love of literature is a mistake.






Call it serendiptiy. Call it Irony. I dunno. I've had this article open in my browser for days while I've been busy struggling to figure out how to measure the impact that the Google Lit Trips project has on engaging students in literary reading so that I can better position the project to be attractive to philanthropic funding sources. 


This article's author nails the dilemma. Current assessment structure do NOT address the important data, because the true value of literary reading can not be reduced to selecting a "correct answer" on a multiple choice question.  Current assessment structures as Sir Ken Robinson has pointed out, "...have a tendency to make the measurable important versus the important measurable."


Like many of my literary loving colleagues, I am concerned about the Common Core Standards' 50% devaluation of literary reading. Though, I support increased attention to informational reading.


But to pit one important set of reading skills against another seems more than counter productive; it may well have destructive, perhaps devastating impact on one of humankind's longest lasting and most universally cherished modes of passing wisdom from one generation to the next; that of storytelling.


From Aesop's Fables to biblical parables; from Zuess to Dr. Seuss, the greatest truths of the human condition have been passed through the generations of every culture since the beginning of time via the ENGAGING power of FICTION. 


However, unlike many of my literary loving colleagues, I am not opposed to the desire to hold both students and educators accountable. Truth be told, I was taught to hate Shakespeare before I was taught to love Shakespeare. In retrospect I realize that at times I was a bit more of a challenge to reach than other students and that I certainly could have done more to improve my receptiveness to what I had not previously been receptive to. But, there were teachers who worked much more effectively with "that me" than others who in too many cases assumed that expressing scorn and disappointment was an effective mode of opening my eyes, my mind, and...if they cared, my heart. Looking back, though admittedly I was a large part of the problem, I realize that too many of my teachers had much to learn about learning. 


Neither do I object to funders expecting to see results from their philanthropic generosity. 


The question is how do we who teach the great questions through fiction assess our effectiveness? This article articulates the dilemma fairly effectively. though the author's proposed solutions seem as "unviable" as they have always proven to be. 


Much of our current data driven assessment structures do not measure what we hope to accomplish through literary reading. And much of those structures, well-intended as they may be, not only measures the measurable but less important, but in not measuring the truly important, misdirect student learning and teacher efforts away from the actual values of literary reading.


My concern?


How CAN we measure the truly valuable aspects of literary reading? If we who love literature do not help meet the need for quality assessment and accountability, then perhaps, as I once learned through literary reading, we are as guilty as Nero.


And for those of you who may not remember the details of Nero's choice to fiddle while Rome was burning (IF the story is even true) might find it ironic that Nero apparently was more interested in promoting culture than taking care of business.


Are we fiddling while Rome is burning?


 Perhaps we ought to be figuring out ways to truly measure the IMPORTANT value of literary reading before there are only the ashes of literary reading left in the curriculum.


Dare I ask if complaining about the status quo of assessment needs is merely fiddling?


Can we do better at helping those who need to know whether literary reading education is valuable or effective, find a better way to measure that value or effectiveness?





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Stop passing the buck: Literacy for STEM educators

Stop passing the buck: Literacy for STEM educators | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
We all know the importance of reading and writing; after all, they are two of the three R’s.




Hat's off to science teacher Doug Haller! 


To assume that the teaching of reading is the exclusive obligation of language arts teachers is such an over-simplication of the "place of reading" that it's difficult to even comprehend why it isn't obvious that reading is important in every single content area. 


And the beauty of accepting the fact that reading crosses all content areas is that incorporating contemporary articles from National Geographics or Scientific American or Hot Rod Magazine or The Atlantic or Forbes all have the very potential Haller discovers; "if the topic relates to their experiences and the presentation engages young minds" kids will eagerly read history or science articles that help them build their own bridges to discovering new  relevance of their coursework. Engagement will rise in content areas for all students; especially those who had not really developed an interest in this or that required course.


Another benefit is that kids will get the message that reading is important in life, not just in the English department. 


Another benefit is that under current thought, English departments are assumed to be the only educators who are capable of helping students learn to read informational texts. How ludicrous!


I might suggest that my expertise in assisting students to read informational text may be outweighed by my colleagues who understand the important information regarding the maths, the sciences, history, and even the other fields of liberal arts.


Meanwhile, my "real" and "deeper" expertise is in teaching the wisdom of literature, which is ironically being squeezed out of language arts classes in order to put the bulk of the responsibility for teaching informational reading in the hands of the English department.


What does it say to students if they don't perceive that informational reading is important in their science, history, math, health, and other classes? If those teachers don't think it's important, why should I believe it's ONLY important in my English class?


I do not believe that "teaching" informational reading should be removed from the English department so that they can get back to teaching only literature. There is plenty of room for relevant language arts-specific informational reading. But, redistributing the obligation for helping students become better informational readers across the curricula, at least in areas where information is important (okay, that was intended to sound "just a bit sarcastic") would send a much clearer message to students. Reading is a necessary life skill in every area of life. And, it doesn't have to be as boring as most textbooks are; it can be interesting because it's relevant. 


Haller offers several examples of the kinds of resources available that offer great opportunities for teachers of all curricular areas to find engaging as well as informational materials. Kudos to Haller for speaking out. 


BTW...An oft overlooked point worth considering... Literature is more about reading for wisdom than about reading for information.


In a better world, all students would be well aquainted with not only how to find information, but also how to use that information wisely.


For those who have not yet stumbled across this idea, there is a movement afoot to consider STEM education too narrow. There is a call for STEAM education which adds the ARTS.


Is there a pun out there suggesting that as educators we're all in this noble profession together and it is the obligation of our vocation to do the best we can to send our students out into the real world with a "full head of STEAM"?



By the way, if you happen to work in a school with Android Devices or iPads, you might want to check out Google's free App called Currents



The App is free and brings free access to current articles from such sources as...


Smithsonian Magazine

Scientific American

The Week



Fast Company

Huffington Post



The Atlantic


ABC News


and MORE.


And they beat the heck out of most textbooks for engaging articles, beautiful layouts, readability and current information currency —and therefore for perceived relevance.


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The literary Oscar quiz

The literary Oscar quiz | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
During the Oscars on Sunday, there will be lots of glamour, gold and jewels but very few books. Yet before the stars, the lights, the effects and the costumes, there were words.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Are you a Lit Luvin' film buff? Give this Oscar quiz. Then make sure you're watching the Oscars with friends who did not spend a college career readying themeselves to even be halfway competitive in Sunday night's casual Oscar commentary trivia competition.


It was a good year for literature. At least, if Hollywood's chase the money modus operendi is any indicator. Though I don't consider myself a film buff by any means and am more often disappointed in film adaptations of great literature than not,  I happened to see quite a few of the films nominated for this year's Oscar Best Movie category. And, I must admit that the film industry's bet on great storylines has led to some pretty impressive visual storytelling efforts.


And, although I realize, having been on both sides of the issue at various times in my teaching career, that tthe pull towards judging film adaptations by the rubric of the original text has left many scornful of film adaptations, they do lead thousands of people who hadn't studied the original texts back to their bookstores to read great literature that had escaped their to do lists until the adaptation sparked an unprecedented interest. 


So, take the quiz, enjoy the advantage you have because of your passion for great storytelling, and practice the casual tone necessary for dropping in an offhand comment or ten among your Oscar watching companions. You know, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if the best movie was given to the story written by a former English teacher?"


Say is casually, stick it into the conversation early, and neglect to mention which of the nominated films it was that you're referencing almost as though you didn't realize that people would need to told which one it was.



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Read 20 Great Books in 2 Minutes, Emoji Style

Read 20 Great Books in 2 Minutes, Emoji Style | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
It's easy for classic works of literature to become casualties of always-on modern life. You keep meaning to crack them open and improve your mind, but ...
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Pictionary fans will like this one.


The name of the game is to guess the famous book title from the graphic. 


But, if you want to "play the game" DON'T click the button that says "Show As List." It shows all the answers, and only people who cheat at Solitaire and then get all excited because they won, would do that. Right?


But, the first challenge you'll face, is figuring out how to show only the answer to graphic you've made a guess about to see if you were right before going on to the next one. 


Oh yes, an the article is also interesting. Check out the link to the first book written entirely in Emoji accepted by the Library of Congress.


HINT: It's actually a translation of a famous book from English to Emoji.


Personally, I might have chosen something a bit less daunting myself for a first effort.



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Stop Apologizing for What You Like to Read

Stop Apologizing for What You Like to Read | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |

"And I'm Canadian, so I know a thing or two about insincerely apologizing for stuff."

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

I loved junk reading before I loved the classics. In those days, I did have teachers who made me feel as though I should be embarrassed by my "less sophisticated" reading tastes.


But, another one of my immature practices for which, I suppose I do still feel a bit of remorse, was that I was generally more willing to dismiss the advise of "old people" without devoting much attention to considering the "criticism."


It rarely ocurred to me that the "criticism," though sounding like condemnation, was certainly for the most part "well-intended urging." 


Engaged reading of the respected canon is not so much of a decision as it is a point in the trajectory of one's developing interest in life-long reading. 


As educators hoping to encourage our students to maintain a reading preference trajectory that reaches an interest in life-long reading that includes the greatest literatures, we might do well to craft our that encouragement to read "better" stories in ways that encourage a rising reading trajectory without inadvertently discouraging existing, and thereby potential future engagement with reading for the love of reading, by keeping in mind that we have many reasons for teaching literary reading besides the creation of the next generation of English majors. 



Though this article might be quite useful as a gentle nudge for discussing one of the elephants in the department meeting agendas, the use of a single word, "douchebag" might of course, make it inappropriate for a classroom reading.




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Bookish: Find Your Next Book - Authors, Reviews, Recommendations, Lists - Bookish

Bookish: Find Your Next Book - Authors, Reviews, Recommendations, Lists - Bookish | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Discover new and best selling books. Get exclusive sneak peaks and recommendations. Everything you need to know about the world of books. Find your next book at Bookish.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight: brings a very fresh feel to online book shopping, though it's much, much more than a "store." It brings an interesting blend of the feel of brick and morter browsing, lots of articles about writers and reading, and elements of social networking that make it a very interesting "place" to just meander around and among all things bookish. You can set up a profile keeping track of your particular  reading preferences allowing you customize the environment and to keep track of your activity. You can establish a book shelf that remembers books you've read as well as books you'd like to read. And perhaps the coolest feature is the two search methods for finding books, articles, and recommendations. 


The SEARCH box is a fairly traditional search where you type in a title, author, or keywords for something you're looking for and it searches for the resources available on the site. I typed in Candide and it returned not only links to the book itself, but also links to the musical by Leonard Bernstein and even a link to a collection of the lyrics to the songs in the musical. It also returned a few other interesting results all in some way related to Candide.


The second "search box" is a recommendation search. There you type in a book that you recently read or loved and it returns "other books" you might like. When I typed in Candide here, it returned "The Portable Thoreau" and Kurt Vonnegut's "A Man Without a Country." And, below each of these suggestions it has a "More Like This" link. 


What is particularly interesting is that on this page you can actually create a search based upon up to four different titles. When I added Gulliver's Travels, it added a few new titles including Brave New World, Bob Dylan's Chronicles and Slumdog MIllionaires Q&A among others.


It was fascinating to see patterns of themes in books both serious and humorous develop.


Check it out. If nothing else, it's a very different experience for Lit Lovers!



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Skeleton of England's Richard III found under parking lot

Skeleton of England's Richard III found under parking lot | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
It took five centuries but the mystery over what happened to the remains of England's last Plantagenet king, Richard III, is finally solved.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

I remember an attentive moment in an otherwise generally unengaged interest in high school English when the teacher said something like, "There is truth and then there is Truth with a capital "T." I don't remember what we were reading at the time. I suppose it might well have been "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" or The Grapes of Wrath. I dunno. But the point was, as is the case in both of those stories, the known facts alone, though they may all be facts, never tell the whole truth. In some cases the facts are cherry-picked as in the oft quoted "History is written by the victors" or as in too much of too many political debates.


The capital "T" Truth, I was told had more to do with universal truths; those truths that seem to be universally present themes of humankind regardless of time or place. They deal with motivations behind the wise and the foolish; the virtuous and the vicious. And, what snapped me out of my glassy-eyed semi-attentiveness, ironically, was the teacher's suggestion that "perhaps we can learn more about the universal Truths by reading fiction than by reading nonfiction." 


My unanticipated engaged interest led to a rather rare experience. I raised my hand and asked a serious question. "Wait a minute! That doesn't make any sense? Are you saying that stories that are true aren't as true as stories that aren't true." 


I actually don't remember the response to my specific question, but I do remember finding the explanation interesting and enjoyably eye-opening. And, the part of the answer that I do remember was the teacher simply asking the class the question, "How can shrimp be jumbo?" And I'll be darned if that teacher didn't take the opportunity to toss in a quick lesson on oxymorons! 


I left class that day wondering, "What the heck just happened? That class was really interesting!" 


Oh yeah! The article...


From the article...

"Modern views of the medieval king have been heavily influenced by Shakespeare's portrayal in the play Richard III, historians say."


"Shakespeare shows Richard as a power-hungry, Machiavellian scoundrel who goes around murdering anyone who stands in the way of his ascent to power. He depicts him as having a withered arm but the new scientific evidence discredits this description as both of the skeleton's arms are the same length."


So, was Shakespeare's Richard the real Richard? If Shakespeare's "facts" were inaccurate, was his portrayal of Richard as evil merely "true" or was it "Truth." Was fictionalizing Richard a way of discussing the universal Truths associated with some Truth often associated with the motivations and actions of those obsessed with power and greed? It makes for a great story and I'll be darned if it doesn't shine an interesting light on the General George Custers and Ken Lays and Bernie Madoffs of the world.


Did Steinbeck really have to "stick strictly to the facts alone" to make very similar points in The Grapes of Wrath? Steinbeck was actually reviled for "not telling the truth" while at the same time being revered for telling many capital "T" Truths.


Though Steinbeck made his point through intentionally fictionalized characters, pinning his criticisms on "no particular real person," Shakespeare may have crossed a line into what might be recognized as unfair slander by choosing a "real person." That is, if his portrayal of more important untruths than a mere discrepancy regarding Richard's arm are maligning Richard's character and historical contributions then I'd suppose that there are those who would question the ethics of cherry-picking facts or misleading those who read his work assuming that the stories rested upon historical accuracy But, of course, we should keep in mind that having never actually published his work where a disclaimer might have been recorded, we have no way of knowing whether contemporary audiences were or were not aware of or made aware of, Shakespeare's use of "poetic license."


So here's one for your irony collection. The article's very next paragraph following the one quoted above is...


"Langley said Richard III was a progressive leader who pioneered a system of bail for those arrested, the legal principles of presumption of innocence until proven guilty and blind justice, and that he introduced books to England."


Wow!! "...and he introduced books to England."


Hey Shakespeare, (if that really was your name), what's up with that? 


Next thing you know, we'll find out George Washington never threw a dollar across the Potomac! 


But of course, even those of us who seriously doubt that he did, must admit that a dollar did go a lot further in those days.



btw... just finished re-reading Bill Bryson's excellent Shakespeare: The World as Stage. A fairly short but deep exploration of the "actual known facts of Shakespeare's life." One of my favorites being that of all the known ways Shakespeare spelled his name, there is no known evidence of his ever having spelled it "Shakespeare."


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How Great Books Work Their Effects On Us « Annie Murphy Paul

GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

A lot to think about in this article. 


Some thought provoking excerpts...


"As Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Styron put it: ‘A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.’"


"The Dutch study found that good fiction—the kind that sucks you in with characters you can identify with—can have a lasting effect on a person’s expression of empathy. Bad fiction, the kind you can’t really get into, has exactly the opposite effect."

and to me, perhaps most thought-provoking...


"Researchers found that fiction that engages the reader can have a ‘sleeper effect,’ in which the full emotional effects manifest over time.

‘Fictional narratives are more likely to influence behavior over the course of a week rather than directly after the narrative experience,’ the authors conclude, ‘because the process of transformation of an individual needs time to unfold.’"

I don't suppose there is a fan of great literature who doesn't recognize the truth in this "sleeper effect." 


I'm wondering... to what degree is this phenomenon taken into consideration when constructing assessment tests for literary reading? That is, is there an unintended significant margin of error created when students are expected to demonstrate a true example of their literary reading abilities if they are:

1. "cold reading"without any processing time for the sleeper effect.

2. reading only an excerpt taken out of its context of the entire story. 

3. reading under the stress of high stakes testing rather than within an environment more representative of "standard reading conditions" wherein attention to appreciating and processing a well-told story is not compromised by the misdirection caused by the testing conditions.


My guess is that the professional test makes do have a way of compensating for these "non-standard reading" conditions. 


If anyone can direct me towards an article or source of information on how test makers mitigate the negative impact on results caused by testing conditions, please send info to me at 


There may be some interest in the clicking the link in the last paragraph to another article the author wrote on the topic.



The original study from Plos ONE referenced in the article can be found here: ;


And what is particularly interesting is that the original article is built on attempts to measure and assess the variables at play when reading fiction.


Another article I've scooped: "This is your brain on Jane Austen, and Stanford researchers are taking notes"


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Book Patrol: The little libraries of Marc Giai-Miniet

Book Patrol: The little libraries of Marc Giai-Miniet | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

These are quite amazing. And they become even more amazing as one slowly scrolls through the collection toward the last image where it all explodes in "magificent amazitude."


Though I have written often about my thoughts regarding the paper vs. digital books conversation, suggesting that as a promoter of reading among others that it is not MY PREFERENCE that is most important, but rather the PREFERENCE of those "others" I want to become readers.


Personally, I love both paper and digital and neither has a trump card to play in my mind. Each has something I treasure in my reading life that the other does less well.


But, these images clearly capture one cherished advantage that paper has over digital in the area of how one's environment creates an ambience I am not eager to forgo.



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Watch Poet Richard Blanco Read the Inaugural Poem

Poet Richard Blanco reads a poem for President Obama's second inauguration. Blanco is the first Hispanic and openly gay man to read the inaugural poem.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

What a day!

I don't know about you, but I watched every second of the coverage of the inauguration. And, truthfully, among the highlights of a day that celebrated not only President Obama's inauguration and all of the tradition, history and history setting significance, but also the celebration of Martin Luther King's incalculable contribution to making our country's dream  more of a reality, it was almost more of an emotional rollercoaster than this child of the 60's could handle without shedding a tear or two.


It is my hope that whether one is entirely happy or not about the reelection of President Obama, that we are all reminded that we do share the quite admirable nature of our founding fathers' and mothers' dreams, many realized and many yet to be realized. 


But this is a Reading About Reading blog, and I must say that I was also brought to tears by the incredible beauty of Richard Blancos inaugural poem.


How many dreams of equality for all were represented by this child of Cuban exiles, born in Spain, immigrant to the United States, bi-lingual,  poet?


And did you know that he had ot just a solid STEM Education graduating from Florida International University with a degree in Civil Engineering, but also a solid STEAM Education in that he then earned a Master's degree in Creative Writing.


Watch the video.


You can read the full text here...



... and then ask yourself, if there is a benefit in literary reading in its ability to stir our hearts that is every bit as important as the benefit of informational reading's ability to inform us through its provision of reliable informed truth.


Had the poem not been part of the inauguration, had we been instead given an infomational speech listing the facts delineating  the common denominators within the variable elements of our diversity, I just don't quite believe that so many would have been moved to pay attention or to be so motivated to believe in hope during difficult times.


We must read to inform our minds AND to fill our hearts.


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Students miss literature’s lesson

The first major piece of literature I ever taught at the high school level was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic American novel, “The Scarlet Letter.”
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

Just a few comments, but before making my thoughts on this article.


What the heck is going on in this article with the little number 1 that pops up to the left of the story as one hovers one's mouse pointer over each paragraph? So distracting that I attempted to hide the phenomenon by sliding the window as far off the screen as possible without losing the left edge of the story. 


The good news is that when I stopped "tracking my progress through the story with my pointer, I discovered that if I moved it to the RIGHT of the story the phenomenon ceased.


If you know what's happening a quick note to would be appreciated.



Now about the article...


I was attracted to the story by its headline. I've been concerned for quite some time that an unintended consequence of the intense interest in "testing, testing, testing" as an "harmless and/or accurate" method of assessing progress in literary reading might be the misdirection caused in student perception of literary reading's actual value.


In fact, in schools where such testing is at the center of all curricular development creating an "if-it-ain't-on-the-test-it-ain't-acceptable-in-your-lesson-plan" attitude, even the efforts of literature-loving English teachers can become seriously derailed causing a potential perfect storm of literary reading disengagement. 


Yet, my personal dilemma is that I'm absolutely in favor of holding both students and educators accountable for having learned the lessons in all curricular area.


I don't know what forces are behind the disappointment of the article's author. It might have been the excessive Pavlovian attention to testing that caused the traditional Pavlovian automaton reaction focused not on the story's relevance but on the test where actual literary value is insufficiently emphasized in favor of the rewards of passing or failing a test.


But, it might also have been a misfocusing of the way in which the novel was presented focusing more upon a scholarly dissection than upon relating the 21st century relevance of reading the story.


It appears to be quite clear that the article's author is a caring educator who also knows the "real value" of literary reading, but perhaps the assumption of reading a story of true value "now" and hoping that students will see the real-world relevance "later" is not the most effective strategy. 


We know that teaching vocabulary and grammar without a direct connection to the value of knowing vocabulary and grammar is significantly less effective than teaching those "more easily measurable skills" WITHIN a meaningful context. 


Why might we assume that teaching literature in a disconnected context where the immediate context is more focused upon the pending test or essay would be any more engaging, and for that matter long-lasting? 


Raise your hand if you've frequently had the experience of kids doing exceptionally well on fill-in the blank tests on topics such as the difference between "your, you're, and yore," "then and than, "it's and its" and yet in subsequent writing assignments, all  those right answers on the fill-in the blank tests showed no sign of having actually become part of their working understanding of the language.



Let me count the hands...

Wait, keep them up so I can get an accurate count...

Oh damn! there are too many hands, ...

Let's try this. Just hold up your hand if you've never seen this.

Ah! that's better. 

No one has never seen this phenomenon! (double negative intended!)


Perhaps intentionally building contempory connections to the novel's THEMES into the lessons throughout the study would shorten the distance between the students' known world, and the students' unknown world would place the study of the work more at the center of the students' zones of proximal development. (Oh Vygotsky! You were so wise!)


Here's a completely disconnected connection.


When I went to school it was still quite popular to do actual animal dissections in sophomore biology classes. We dissected dead "pickled and dried" Rattus Ratti;" the common black rat. Though I have very specific recollections about the scientific name and that our pickled and dried specimen was definitely quite yellow.


I had never seen a live rat, though I'd seen several live mice. And, I had no preceding love for rodents, so except for the "gross" factor of dissection, I had no particular repulsion caused by the experience. In fact, I must admit that there was, at least in my mind, a bit of curiousity satisfaction attained.


Now, (the disconnected connection), I wonder if instead of a pickled and dried rat, we had to watch a live fluffy bunny peacefully nibbling on carrots in its cage for a few months before we were told on a Friday that we'd be dissecting Fluffy on Monday. 



(A quick aside)

Even in those pre-PETA days, when we were actually later in the same course, expected to dissect a LIVE FROG. The outrage was such that at the last minute the order for the laboratory frogs raised specifcally for this purpose had to be canceled. 


When Mr. T. explained to us that we would be expected to pith the frogs by sticking a needle in the back of their skulls and scrambling their brains so that  "they'd be dead but their nervous systems would still be active so we could see their legs kick when we stimulated a nerve," I found myself unable to resist the opportunity to blurt out, "Well, I'd be pithed too if you stuck a needle in my skull!" Although I considered the play on "pissed "and "pithed" to be sublime and my classmates considered it hilarious, Mr. T was of another opinion and I found myself explaining my lack of good judgment to the assistant principal in short order.


Anyway, back to Fluffy and Hester Prynne, my point being that caring about pets or great stories is a precious joy, but dissecting them is a different thing altogether. 


There is no doubt that dissecting a great story or a loveable bunny can actually increase our appreciation for life and literature. But, in both cases, for those students who perhaps are not destined to take an existing caring about bunnies and books to the scholarly level of becoming veteranarians or  members of the academic literati, there is a danger of disengaging more students than we are engaging if the focus of academic dissection is not tempered by an understanding that continual emphasis upon why we should CARE is a prerequisite to a discovery of life-long relevance and engagement.


In addition to creating future English majors, we ought to remember that we ought to be creating life-long literary readers, many of whom will develop a life-long interest in literary reading as a direct result of the academic dissections they experienced in our classrooms, but many will abandon any interest they may have had in literary reading as a direct result of the very same academic dissections. It is a delicate line to walk as we contemplate our lesson designs.



So here's one trick that I found quite helpful in consistently connecting literary reading to the world my students actually cared quite a bit about.


As I began the study of a literary reading title, I'd set up a Google Alert ( for that title. 


You can set up alerts to automatically notify you about current internet postings on any topic you want. I used to demonstrate this with "To Kill A Mockingbird" with fair confidence that sometime during that unit, there would be news about Harper Lee, or theatre productions, or book bannings, or...all sorts of connected "news., and, I was never disappointed.


There would always be multiple contemporary postings that pre-set a tone that we WEREN'T just reading some old book that was so old and distant from anything students might care about that even the movie was in black and white! We WERE reading a book that even to this day is widely read and considered relevant for all sorts of contemporary reasons. 


By the way, I'd trash all those automated alerts at the end of the unit rather than harvest them for possible use the next year.  Why? Because last year's news is just that last years news. The following year I'd reestablish a new alert for the same title so that we'd only see absolutely contemporary references to the stories we would be reading.  


For what it's worth...



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Exclusive: See Lena Dunham’s Ideal Bookshelf

Exclusive: See Lena Dunham’s Ideal Bookshelf | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
It's stocked with Clowes, DuMaurier, and Gurley Brown.
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:


Literature Lovers Take Heart!


Having a passion for promoting the benefits of literary reading through the Google Lit Trips Project has taken me on a wild ride. Full of obvious rewards in having been so well-received, but also on a journey that occasionally, well, perhaps too often has me wondering whether or not I'm channeling Don Quixote's notorious windmill tilting.


At times it seems as though Literary Reading itself is channeling Rodney Dangerfield's catchphrase, "I don't get no respect." I loved Rodney Dangerfield. But his humor relied upon his inability to perceive that his stage persona of ultimate boorishness was the very reason why he didn't "get no respect." And, therfore his absolute obliviousness at the cause of his complaint left plenty of room for hilarity at his scathing "negative example" of behaviors and attitudes actually unworthy of much respect at all.


But, evidence of literary reading's loss of position at the forefront of wisdom, worthy of much respect, appearing to be quickly rivaling Dangerfield's lack of respect, is disconcerting.Stories of

bookstores closing (

teens not reading (, school's reducing curricular attention to literary reading ( can challenge the energies and passions of those who still firmly believe that literary reading has significant value to 21st century global citizens.


But, one's optimism must be measured by the motivations it engenders when the challenges to maintaining optimism are high. Panglossian optimism is not productive as it merely rationalizes the status quo.


It is the optimism of Martin Luther King and of Mother Teresa where tremendous challenge is the very source of optimistic effort that is called for because the power of their hearts to take on the difficult challengs is the key to how we respond to the alarming trends. The question "What is happening to literary reading?" is worthy of consideration, but an even more important question perhaps is what can those of us who "carry the torch" of enlightenment through literary reading DO?" 


And, I'd suggest that given much of the evidence, the answer is NOT just keep on plugging along hoping, like the foolish animals in Animal Farm that maybe someday things might get better. It's not a popular interpretation, but am I the only one who does not see the animals as victims of the evil pigs, but rather as representations of the various brands of behaviors that are responsible for enabling the pigs' successful greed grab? 


So why did I begin these remarks with, "Literature Lovers Take Heart!"?


Because I watched the Golden Globes last night.


Two efforts essentially swept the awards. One, "Les Miserable" and the other, a previously under my radar HBO series entitled "Girls." The first of course is on every "great literature" list. Those familiar with the story, whether or not it was due to a textual or visual source, know the story's greatness and one would assume the movie's appeal, is based strongly in it's successful "selling" of some of the greatest themes of the best storytelling. It makes swallowing the bitter pill of the human condition palatable in a way that allows us to face a bitter truth by running that truth through our hearts and our minds. I suppose the same data could have been collected in a spreadsheet of wealth distribution and cost analysis for addressing social need, but there's something about spreadsheets and cost analysis reports that just miss our hearts making them much easier to ignore or to pretend we're not ignoring.


It's THE STORY told in such a compelling way that we not only continue to read (or watch) but if we have hearts, they are touched and we care.


I know the film was film and not the original text. But, nevertheless I find encouragement in a massive popular response to the powerful nature of the blending of TRUTH and great storytelling.


It can not be denied that the great literatures can be pretty challenging to educator devotees of Vygotsky, trying to figure out ways to bring distant times, cultures, and often difficult to fathom eloquent language into their students' various zones of proximal development. And that is why I believe that it is the time for those of us with the passion for literary reading to pause and consider whether there are still personal teaching strategies that can be improved even to our favorite lessons so that we are constantly attempting to bring "great teaching" to "great storytelling." 


I'd like to add one section to the typical "lesson plan" asking me to identify how today's lesson will address not only the standards, the vocabulary, the literary devices, etc., but also the question, "How will today's lesson reach my students' hearts." Because, that's really why we all became avid readers, so much so that we even majored in English. The first reason we become readers is because the stories reach us where we are and the best stories take us  to places we'd not realized we might care about. And, there is a joy in discovering new truths about things we care about.


So, what about that other big winner, HBO's "Girls"? Yeah, well, we don't have HBO in our house, but I'm an avid PBS Radio-junky where yesterday, in a story inspired by the Golden Globes buzz, I heard a glowing report on this series created by and starring Lena Dunham. Discovering bits and pieces of intriguing information about the storylines dealing with "real and meaningful" life experiences of the young female lead Dunham portrays. 


And this morning I came across this brief article on Lena Dunham's contribution to "My Ideal Bookshelf."


(DOUBLE CLICK the GRAPHIC in the linked story to see Lena Dunham's contribution).


And, I was proud to see that a popular 20-something, with a love of literature has found a way to take that appreciation to a young audience who may just be inspired enough to follow her admirable lead.


So... last night's attention to really good storytelling and its attractiveness to very large audiences was heartening. And, truthfully, these two winners were only two among many nominees whose love of a good story well-told were in well-deserved competition for various awards of recognition. 


We who are passionate about literary reading do have an ace in the hole. We need only be diligent about refining the means by which we 
"sell our product's attractiveness to the consumer."




   "because literary reading brings much needed wisdom to the information age" 



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RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms

This animate was adapted from a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA's Benjamin...





Sir Ken has always been one of my favorite spokespersons on topics related to educational reform. While I do have "some issues" with his criticism of ADHD medications, I also recognize that the more basic issue behind ADHD may be aggravated by the lingering obsoleting paradigms within which most educational environments continue to be based; even in those making serious attempts to break from those paradigms.


Referencing ADHD as being controversial, even though the controversy raises valid concerns, provides a paradigm that shifts the "blame" to the kid, or the kid's parents, or the kid's pediatrician making is far too easy for educators to dismiss ADHD and its treatments as being external explanations for why schools are failing to reach as many as we'd all like the case to be. 


Suggesting that kids are bored in school is probably a bit more difficult to ignore as being a part of the issue that educators might take a bit more responsibility for. However, kids being bored is easy to externalize by blaming the boredom on "kids these days!" or iPods, TV, the internet and all the alternative sources of actual engaged interest available to kids these days.


That being said, if I were to organize the points in this video that I like and the points I have some issues with  into two columns, the points worth serious consideration and re-consideration, particularly the points that provide opportunities to revisit  my own existing assumptions;  the points worthy of revisiting  for those truly interested in pushing educational reform forward, and particularly  the points worth considering for those less committed to "fixing what IS BROKE" would be the much longer list. 


Sir Ken throws down a gauntlet. Who should we wait for to pick it up?



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Vending Machine Offers Random Books

Vending Machine Offers Random Books | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
The Monkey's Paw, an offbeat bookstore in Toronto, has invested in a novel concept (literally) -- a vending machine for books.




One of life's great pleasures, at least from my point of view, has always been the pleasures of serendipity. What a great way for a used book store to turn under valued used books into an intriguing opportunity to encounter serendipity.


Of course, one could simply spin around 10 times while blindfolded and point with the intention of buying whatever book happened to be at the other end of one's finger. Not that that wouldn't be fun as well, but there's something intriguing about having to make a $2 investment in serendipity that is just plain fascinating.


No backing out. The book has been paid for. "You pays your money. You takes your chances." 


My guess is there's some sort of a smile at the moment when the mystery title appears as the book drops with a thunk into the delivery bin regardless of the title.


I wonder what the economics would be if the machine could be rigged to guarantee to deliver some sort of award winning title, say 15 percent of the time.


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