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Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
An Educator's Reading List of Contemporary Literature, Literacy, and Reading Issues.
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Mitt Romney And 11 Other Unlikely Modern 'Poets'

Mitt Romney And 11 Other Unlikely Modern 'Poets' | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
These are poet-celebrities of today, the literary voices that we can't block out. Mostly because they do not stop talking.

 

 

 

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Okay, this one is certainly not for everyone.

It's a bit playful. But, many readers may find it a bit objectionable; while others find it fascinating.

 

But, in any case, it probably is not as appropriate as a classroom resource as it might be interesting to literature lovers with a tolerance for its type of humor.

 

Read at your own descretion the words of some pretty unlikely modern celebrities formatted as though they were poets.

 

Would you believe...

P. Diddy
Rush Limbaugh
John Boehner
Gwyneth Paltrow
Fidel Castro
Lady Gaga (F bomb, but quite thought provoking)
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Mitt Romney
Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi (almost painful, no just plain painful)
Jenny McCarthy
Ann Coulter
Coolio

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

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Birth of a Book: a tour of Smith Settle's handmade bookbinding process - Telegraph

Birth of a Book: a tour of Smith Settle's handmade bookbinding process - Telegraph | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
Watch Smith Settle bookbinders bring a hardback book to life.

 

 

 

___________

An amazing behind the scenes look at how printed books are made. 

 

Like many, I'm trending towards the convenience of digital books. But, as is the case with many, I have a sentimental fondness for paper books. You know the talking points; the smell, the cuddling up with a good book, the ambience that books bring to a room...

 

But the craft, the artisanship. The love of the actual process itself of creating a book ought not be overlooked. 

 

I don't pose this as an argument against digital books. It is unlikely that the trajectory of digital books will reverse itself. I only pose this to pause and appreciate the beauty of the hand crafted human touch.  

 

When I taught a creative writing class, I offered students an optional side trip to learn how to hand craft a hard bound note book within which to do their daily writing warm ups. These were not construction paper covers stapled over thin stacks of three-hole punched college rule stuff. These were real books using very similar techniques to those used in this video. They took time, crafted over the course of perhaps 2-3 hours. 

 

Of course my students were welcome to run down to the local Payless to simply grab a generic notebook or to the local bookstore to select a nicer journal, or... to spend a couple of hours hand crafting their own personal journal. 

 

Among those who chose to craft their own journals there was not only an unexpected special appreciation  for the journals they'd made themselves, but also for the words they placed in those journals. These were very personal journals. And because they were cherished it was rather amazing how their writing became equally cherished. 

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy Birthday Maya Angelou, Who Thankfully Chose Literature over Calypso - St. Louis Music - RFTmusic

Happy Birthday Maya Angelou, Who Thankfully Chose Literature over Calypso - St. Louis Music - RFTmusic | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
If there ever was a person who could be anointed as the queen of all media, it would be...

 

 

__________
Belated best wishes to May Angelou who celebrated her 84th birthday yesterday. 

 

Though it's her birthday, let's all take a moment to be thankful for the gift she had been to us. 

 

 _ _ _ _ 

This article brings to light the fact that perhaps as hard as it may be to believe, that there were areas of talent even beyond the wide variety of talents she is known for in literature classrooms around the globe. She was an actress and singer as well.

 

Here's your extra-credit assignment:

It's clear that the film makers promoted this film as an introduction to the wonderful world of calypso music.

1. As the opening credits roll, count how many "stars" have higher billing than Maya Angelou.

2. Now, try to remember how many of the "stars" you just saw in the credits were people of color in this film about calypso. Feel free to check your answer.

 

Great film actor Alan Arkin apparently wasn't well-known enough to even make the credits.

 

I found it intriguing to discover that although Harry Belefonte was quite well-known by 1957, having already earned an academy award nomination, and had released his version of Day-O (The Banana Boat Song), in the film the song was sung by "The Tarriers," who had a hit version of the song and were given credit as the song's writers, though this seems to conflict in the song's chronology. By the way, Alan Arkin apparently was a member of The Tarriers at the time the film was made.

 

Perhaps we can thank Maya Angelou, who like Harry Belefonte, was out there doing the good work long before being recognized for the  much more noteworthy roles they played in changing the world for the better.

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com  ~

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Rare Manuscripts Help Students Understand Literature

Rare Manuscripts Help Students Understand Literature | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
Dension students use rare manuscripts to learn about literature from the past.

 

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We often praise the superior status of primary source information; sometimes referred to as original source material. But, when you think about it, This almost exclusively actually is a praise for facscimile (or virtual) versions of those sources. 

Sure, it's not the actual real source material itself. Some might consider this distinction to be an ultimate example of nit picking at the peak of pretentiousness. 

 

Perhaps. But, if this is true, then I suppose turning our noses up at reading Hemingway on a Kindle or on an iPad is equally pretentious. 

 

I dunno. But this short video showing students accessing REAL ACTUAL primary source in their literature studies, is fascinating.

 

There is a difference when one is in the presence of the actual document created by and handled by the people who brought it into being.

 

The other day, I scooped a story that brought back memories of getting a call from Hal Holbrook at school offering me tickets to his "Mark Twain Tonight" performance and inviting me back stage to meet him (still in full make up) after the performance. There is something entirely wonderful about being so close to literature.

 

Interestingly, that was not my closest encounter with Mark Twain. I've been to Hannibal, Mo and walked through his boyhood home as many have.

 

But, even that was not my very closest encounter.

 

As a brand new teacher, living and teaching in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was only a mere 30 minute drive from the University of California at Berkeley where a significant portion of the works of Mark Twain are housed. 

 

Sounded like an interesting field trip for my Mark Twain course students. Though I was much more familiar with the works of Mark Twain at the time than I was familiar with the district field trip policies, we headed off in my car and a few student cars driven by students(!), and headed towards the nearest BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station about 25 minutes away. (As I write this I can't believe how casual such things were back in the mid '70s!)

 

Anyway, we arrived at the Cal Berkeley campus and made our way over to the Bancroft Library where the Mark Twain papers were kept in pretty small quarters tucked away on an upper floor.

 

I had contacted Frederick Anderson, the Chief Editor at the time, and he welcomed us warmly seeming to be genuinely pleased to have a group of young students visiting.

 

He began sharing many of the treasures in the collection with pride and then he did something that just isn't done any more. He picked up the original hand written pages of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and placed them in my hands. IN MY HANDS! The very sheets of paper hand written upon by Samuel Clemens. I trembled at the very idea that I was touching those very sheets of paper. And, in those days they weren't even separated from my touch in protective sleeves!

 

It was a most memorable moment to say the least.

 

Using original source materials in facsimilie form or digital form is the epitome of scholarly reference; but being in the presence of the actual original materials, well, that's life changing.

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

 

 

 

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Ray Bradbury: Literature is the Safety Valve of Civilization

Ray Bradbury: Literature is the Safety Valve of Civilization | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
Ray Bradbury, one of America's beloved sci-fi writers, turns 91 today.

 

(a retro clip from 1970, posted online Aug 22, 2011)

 

 

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Interesting take on the role of literature in our lives. I found some tidbits to be intriguingly challenging to my own sense of the role literature plays in our lives. Not certain I agree, though I always like experiences where the line between "Yes, I agree" and "What?! I don't know about THAT!" is blurred,

 

I'll chew on those ideas for awhile, which is certainly one of the wonders of literature; it gives us ideas to chew on, to consider. 

 

However, I was happy to see that Bradbury spent the last minute or two discussing one of my all-time favorite stories, "The Nursery."

 

And, although I taught "The Nursery" off and on for several years, revisiting it here in my retirement and in the 21st century, after not having taught or re-read the story in several years, I find an entirely new set of engaging and relevant connections that give a whole new life to the story, and much to chew on anew in a story that has provided relevant food for thought for decades.

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

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Poster Gallery- Poets.org - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More

Poster Gallery- Poets.org - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
A resource from the Academy of American Poets with thousands of poems, essays, biographies, weekly features, and poems for love and every occasion...

 

 

 

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National Poetry Month begins with a day commemorating human folly. Perhaps dedicating the entire rest of the month to poetry is an antidote providing some degree of counter-balancing impact. 

 

Though testing this theory may be more difficult during a political campaign year.

 

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

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Steve Martin on the Legendary Bluegrass Musician Earl Scruggs

Steve Martin on the Legendary Bluegrass Musician Earl Scruggs | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
The great bluegrass banjo player Earl Scruggs died Wednesday at the age of 88.

 

 

__________

(Almost) Nothing to do with Reading

 

VIRTUOSITY

 

Maybe if we took more opportunities to pause and breathe in the pure exquisite joy of virtuosity, we might be reminded that there is much to appreciate in times where too much "What's wrong with THOSE people?" loudness often seems to to be drowning out the voice of considered reason.

 

Watching this performance is just plain joyful. I don't know anything about Scruggs' politics, spiritual beliefs, interests in great literature... pretty much anything about the man. I don't even listen to much Bluegrass.

 

The passing of Earl Scruggs this week brought back a series of long unremembered experiences that happened via fate or coinicidence within a very short period of time that had a major impact on my gradual escape from the cocoon of me-centric unquestioned high volume opinions about stuff like music and literature. It was 1967 and without digressing into the possible forces behind the experiences, I wound up becoming aware of Flatt and Scruggs, Laurindo Almeida, and Aaron Siskind; none of whom I had previously stumbled upon in my primarily me-centric meanderings. 

 

In my me-centric world, if I didn't already like it, it must not be worth liking; a narrow-mindedness that led to a quite fallacious assumption that if it was therefore not something I liked, it ergo was something worth scorn and thereby justified scorn for those who actually liked it, whatever the "it" happened to be. 

 

In retrospect it is embarrassing that I had such narrow interests and such loud opinions about things I was virtually completely without sufficient knowledge to justify those opinions. But, it didn't bother me at the time because I had no sense of embarrassment about displaying my ignorance either. 

 

Taking off our own blinders opens up such a possibility for moving from "adamant ignorance" to a life greatly enhanced by joyful serendipity. 

 

An example?

Details are fuzzy, but essentially, an interest in Bob Dylan opened the door to an interest in Woody Guthrie and Alan Lomax. This door ajar, led back to country music and Flatt and Scruggs. This led to an interest in instramental virtuosity which had never actually been important to me in determining my musical taste. I'd been a lyrics kind of guy for the most part. But once instramental virtuosity became fascinating, somehow I made a leap from Scruggs' banjo virtuosity to Almeida's guitar virtuosity and before I knew it I found myself not only tuned into instramental virtuosity but also with a significantly reduced resistance to both country music and classical music. 

 

The pleasure of discovering unprecedented areas of new interests was intoxicating. I wanted to go where I had not gone before. I was eager; not resistant. 

 

An believe it or not Laurindo Almeida's incredible rendition of Concierto de Aranjuez:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2x1l94hU4jA

 

 created a bridge to jazz via Miles Davis' 16 minute version of the same piece: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rSQVRTG0sQ

 

 So what the heck does all this have to do with reading? 

 

As an educator, I often recall two basic attitudes among my own literature teachers. One was represented by those English teachers who ridiculed the "junk literature" I liked when I was still in the cocoon transition and those who never discouraged my interest in reading, but somehow found ways to build bridges from what I liked to books I "just might enjoy."

 

The first was essentially planting the seed that I should be ashamed of my juvenile level of literary appreciation while insisting that I ought to stop wasting my time and start reading  literature of "real value." The unfortunate problem was that I was too immature to make the leap from literature I enjoyed to literature I simply did not get.

 

The second was wise enough to know that the leap from James Bond to Julius Caesar was a pretty long leap requiring a leap of faith that might be beyond (and it was) my willingness to make.

 

It was not the teachers nor the literature that both knew was of better quality that kept me back. It was me. I was a late bloomer. I needed someone to help me bloom, not someone to spray weed poison on the books I liked reading.

 

My point? We who love literature and hope to bring its great benefits to our young charges should keep in mind that our students are where they are when they come into our charge. We may not appreciate their interest in fashion, music, reading, humor and other interests. But, intolerance and scorn are not the most effective way to encourage their interests, developed or otherwise. I don't get the Twilight series myself, but I look at kids reading the Twilight series with joy and see myself enthusiastically reading James Bond; violence, sexism, alcohol, smoking, fast cars and fancy clothes and all that stuff that has become much less attractive to me since then, and know that the love of reading, any reading, is a darned good place to be as a young person and tha, as I had found in my own experience, it may be the first of many unexpected serendipities that lead to an upward trajectory in their appreciation for depth, and quality and sheer literary virtuosity.

 

Thanks Earl. I don't know your politics. I don't know your religious views. But, I do know that in your area of virtuosity, you've made a difference in my life.

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

 

 

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Fun infographic on Dystopian Literature and The Hunger Games

Fun infographic on Dystopian Literature and The Hunger Games | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it

To enlarge this infographic, first click on it once. This will load the graphic on a separate web page. Then click again to enlarge it to a comfortable reading size.

 

This is interesting and believe it or not just a little encouraging in an odd way...

There's generally not much encouraging in Dystopian Literature. But, this infographic details a bit of the history of the rise and fall of interest in the genre. 

 

The good news is, I suppose, that history shows a link between the rise and fall of interest and historical events of the time.

 

Perhaps we can call on the past as we suggest to young readers enthralled with The Hunger Games to help them see the kinds of historical influences that cause a rise in this sort of literature. Then we can help focus their attention on the question, "Does it really have to be this way?"

 

  ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

 

 

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Linguine, Literature and Laughter

Linguine, Literature and Laughter | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
My career as a writer leads me to the conclusion that three "L" words make life worth living: Linguine, literature and laughter. In this video you'll see how to make a good red sauce for linguine, while hearing crazy stories about literature.

 

 

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Well, after posting three scoops already today, I wasn't going to scoop any more. But, while taking one last desperate effort to avoid finally getting around to my TO DO chore list, I ran across this article with its incredibly enticing title.

 

It turns out to be quite intriguing, though I got off on the wrong foot as it appears to be, and actually is, an example of an increasingly common phenomenon; authors writing articles that are more about promoting their own books than about the professed commentary on all things literary.

 

But, although this article does fall into that kind of annoying category, there was just something terribly intriguing about the author's approach.

 

Personally, I'd suggest skipping the text and simply scrolling down to the video. Besides the underlying self-promotion there is an interesting and informative "back story" of one author's experience with the publishing and movie industries.

 

I found this facet of the the video to far outweigh the elements of self-promotion that typical wear thin quite quickly.

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

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Tree Bookcase Grows Books, Not Leaves - Technabob

Tree Bookcase Grows Books, Not Leaves - Technabob | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
Over the past few months, I've been trolling eBay for fantastic deals on graphic novels and comic book lots. I've bought so many books over the past few months that I'm now in the market for a new bookshelf.

 

 

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It just be another one of those days when my trolling for articles to scoop seems to develop an unexpected theme. Or, maybe it's just that it's 5:06 am and ... well who knows how clearly I'm seeing at this hour.

 

But, right after scooping the previous article about an International Edible Book Festival, I ran across this DIY (Do It Yourself) piece of book craft.

 

And, I think it's beautiful. I'm not sure whether some of those cantilevered shelves have the inherent strength to support much weight, but it is indeed an intriguing and attractive concept. 

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

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Playing by the Book's International Edible Book Festival 2012 - a set on Flickr

"Entrants to Playing by the book's International Edible Book Festival 2012."

 

 

 

__________

Who would have thought it? An International Edible Book Festival?

 

I can't decide whether to make a silly "Readers Digest" joke or a "Cooked Book" joke. Think I'll just skip it and say, there's some adorable representations of popular children's books here. And, yes, the requirement was that one's book representation had to be edible.

 

Though it appears that there was not a requirement for them to be nutritious. But, that's also a comment not worth making. So I won't go there either.

 

The bottom line? Books can be really fun and a little charming marketing may be one of the keys to perpetuating the nearly universal initial love of reading stories that most little children have.

 

To read a short article detailing how one of these edible books was created see: http://www.redtedart.com/2012/03/28/kids-crafts-edible-books/

 

 

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com  ~

 

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The History of English in Ten Minutes - OpenLearn - Open University

The History of English in Ten Minutes - OpenLearn - Open University | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it

"Where did the phrase ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ come from? And when did scientists finally get round to naming sexual body parts? Voiced by Clive Anderson, this entertaining romp through 'The History of English' squeezes 1600 years of history into 10 one-minute bites, uncovering the sources of English words and phrases from Shakespeare and the King James Bible to America and the Internet. Bursting with fascinating facts, the series looks at how English grew from a small tongue into a major global language before reflecting on the future of English in the 21st century."

 

 

 

___________

I absolutely love it when I find my own sense of my open-mindedness challenged!

 

"The History of English in Ten Minutes"? I don't think so! Gotta be more silly than serious and more "less depth" than more "more depth."

 

And, yes, there is a noticable amount of silliness, but there is also an incredible amount of engagingly interesting information in this collection of 1 minute (more or less) videos. 

 

You tell me. Is there useful value in this series of 1 minute videos attempting to cover 1600 years of the history of the English language?

 

Or is this another example of dealing with important, though complex information by "dumbing it down"?

 

Or, as I am, is this reduction of the question to a black and white choice, in itself a dumbing down of an important question that has many shades of gray worth considering before endorsement or condemnation is proclaimed?

 

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

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American High School Students Are Reading Books At 5th-Grade-Appropriate Levels: Report

American High School Students Are Reading Books At 5th-Grade-Appropriate Levels: Report | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
High school students today are reading books intended for children with reading levels far below those appropriate for teens, according to a recent report.

 

 

 

__________

I often refer to myself jokingly as a radical moderate. Not, just politically but in most areas where complex issues are contemplated. Sometimes called a fence sitter, I defend many of my moderate views as the result of seeing the world in more shades of gray than merely black and white.

 

Why do I consider the center radical? Because "radical" refers to positions outside the norm. And, I frequently feel as those having measured and weighed opinions is becoming less the norm while too much of the public discourse has reduced the conversations to little more than extreme black and white opinions whether left or right, pro or con. Personally, my concern is that public discourse has been reduced to the convenient, but counter-productive "talking points only" surface conversations that are unencumbered by the intellectual investment required by depth.

 

Though I don't particularly want to spend more words on this issue, I see this phenomenon playing out in educational discourse. For example, educational policy conversations often get reduced to the first person or group to play the extremely vague, "My position is based upon what's best for kids" card as if merely being the first to play the card need not be followed by a convincing defense that a position actually is what's best for kids.

 

Why am I going here? Because this article reduces a very complex issue to an overly simplistic, but heavily weighted towards a negative, conclusion. Yes, in an equally simplistic move, the article does give the cursory lip service to the counter argument that the research does not take into consideration the much more imporant than given credit to argument that standardized "...readability formulas can't say much for the depth of literary aspects within a text..."

 

That's a huge issue! And, one that headline skimmers will miss in this article whose headline suggests  only a condemnation of the skill levels of today's readers, and its implied a condemnation of educators who teach those "under-complex" books. And, of course, it does so without mentioning the sacred cow of the role parents ought to play in the development of reading interest at home.

 

Nor does the article address the other sacred cow of reading levels and basic literacy improvement. Disengagement with and misdirection of the actual greatest value of literacy which contrary to the methods being sold to improve literacy, is NOT so that "I can pass a standardized test."

 

Reading to pass a test is too often completely done via boring drill and kill methods that are not really any more engaging because today's drill and kill comes with technology amplified animation that too frequently is little more than offering candy as a bribe to get kids to eat their vegetables. 

 

Testing, Testing, Testing... if that's the apparent purpose for learning to read, then don't count on it also not winding up being a major reason why young people don't really see a "real world" value of the lessons that reading can bring to one's life.

 

Though I have not taught all of the books in the slide show, I have taught several TO HIGH SCHOOL students. 

 

A few of the titles, such as Of Mice and Men, Night, and Animal Farm are in fact often taught in middle school. But they are books of many levels when read for actual meaning. 

 

Think about chess. A third grader can learn the moves of chess in maybe 15 minutes. Does that mean that chess is a childish game? If the measure of chess' grade level appropriateness is a standardized test where children must prove that they know the moves, then there is no doubt that the game has a pretty low "basic literacy" level. But does that mean that chess would be a ridiculous game to have high school children play?

 

Of course young kids can decode Of Mice and Men and Animal Farm with little challenge. They might even be able to decode Night and To Kill A Mockingbird with a light challenge. And young readers, like young chess players may read these titles with a level of enjoyment and even benefit. But there are complex issues addressed far beyond those identified by basic decoding and readability tests in all of these books that offer quite important value to older students who are hopefully learning to find depth beyond the surface in the books they read.

 

High school reading should move students to these much higher levels of reading comprehension. They must become "excellent chess players, not merely chess players capable of knowing the basic moves."

 

To read superficially (requiring only basic literacy and decoding skills) vs. to read deeply (requiring complex analytic and higher level thinking skills) are different goals and skill sets.

 

To condemn a piece of literature because it scores low on literacy and decoding skills requirements without considering how high it might score in areas of interest, intellectual engagement, depth of thematic content, and real world value is at least as foolish as it would be to condemn a parent for teaching a 13 year child to play chess because it's such a simple game.

 

It almost makes one wonder who was behind the research cited in this article. 

 

TIP: Do you remember that old advise to "Follow the money"?

 

Would you be surprised that the research is funded by a company that makes its money off of selling a product designed to raise reading scores?

 

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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eReaders, eBooks More Popular Than Ever, Survey Finds

eReaders, eBooks More Popular Than Ever, Survey Finds | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
Fewer people are reading - but at least they're reading more, and in more formats than ever.

 

 

__________

Interesting in that this article does not present itself as "another argument that ereading is better than paper reading." There is actually food for thought supporting both reading formats.

 

It's short, so paying attention to the statistical information is easy enough. But, if nothing else, scroll to the chart at the end of the article that indicates data reflecting how and when people prefer one format over the other.

 

By they way, though the article does point out some statistics indicating an overall decline in reading, there is optimism in the data that suggests that reading is not in its death throws.

 

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

 

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SparkNotes Comes To Android, Makes Studying Literature A Little Bit Less Boring

SparkNotes Comes To Android, Makes Studying Literature A Little Bit Less Boring | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
Back in 1999, a site called The Spark that aimed to help its users better understand literature hit the internet. Shortly after, a series of six literatur...

 

 

__________

Great headline huh? 

 

Whether actually well-intended as sources for supporting the understanding of "difficult" literature or not, SparkNotes, like its predecessor, CliffNotes has been the "Psuedo-Oracle of Delphi" shortcut for circumventing the challenge of reading since its inception.

 

Sure, there are students who may use SparkNotes as they were intended, misled by a naive belief that knowing the right answers for the test is the goal of reading great, though challenging, literature. But, truthfully, unless research has been done to contradict the generally unanimous observations of thousands of teachers, the number of students who perceive Sparknotes as a shortcut that compensates for their lack of interest in actually facing the challenge of doing the reading probably represents the overwhelming percentage of students using these resources.

 

But, it's a shortcut that relies upon memorizing the thinking about the story that somebody else did. 

 

To dismiss studying literature as boring, so boring that even with the assistance of SparkNotes, the benefit only reduces the boredom of reading "...a little bit..." is insulting, and plants the seed that literature isn't worth the effort that deeper thinking requires or the benefits attained by that deeper contemplation. 

 

I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes...

"There are only two kinds of people; those who are bored whenever they are challenged and those who are bored whenever they are not."

 

I used to bring up Cliff Notes and later SparkNotes in class. I didn't take the rail against the horrors of cheating followed by an intense threat of public humiliation, parental contact, and placing an  un-removable stain in students' school records. But rather as a conversation among us worth thinking about. I'd actually joke about it asking whether my students ever used "or knew somebody who used" these "resources." I added the "or knew somebody who used" phrase so that every guilty kid had the choice of being honest or hiding behind the, "me? never!  but I know someone" escape route. They pretty much all raised their hands.

 

I then casually asked whether having done so they found that they did better on the tests. Most grinned in admission that they had seen better test results. 

 

I'd then laugh and say something like, "Yeah, I used them too when I was a kid, but the funny thing was I got better test scores but had no idea why my 'correct answers' were correct, I just knew that if I memorized a few phrases, I'd fool the teacher enough to improve my grade and it almost always did." 

 

The kids would all be grinning at the truth they recognized.

 

I'd then ask how many had gotten good grades on a test even though they had no idea why they answers they put on that test were correct. They just knew that they had memorized "something" that was the correct answer to "something" the teacher had said would be on the test.

 

They all had done so, many indicating surprise at my feigned shock.

 

When I asked how many had felt guilty about getting grade raising credit for "appearing to know what they really were clueless about" and then offered to give the points back.

 

Let's just say that was not a common experience.

 

I'd wrap up the conversation with a lesson on "rhetorical questions." And, I'd pose the following "rhetorical question" as an example.

 

"Well, this is only a rhetorical question, so I don't even want to see any hands raised, but does your answer to my question about taking points for appearing to know what you knew you did not really know, fit in with your  personal opinion about whether you consider yourself a person who can be trusted to do the right thing?"

 

And then I'd make a fake excuse to have to go back to my desk to take care of a couple of minutes of administrivia creating a 2-3 minute silent pause within which they might think about my rhetorical question.

 

I'd see results, but it was no panacea. I got much bigger results when I stopped giving the non-challenging "Go find some information that you can copy and pass off as your own thoughts" kinds of assignments.

 

Once I tuned into creating assignments that couldn't be copied and pasted I stopped getting copied and pasted assignments. 

 

And, I began getting compliments on my assignments because they were always some variation of "Yeah, people say this is a great book, but what does that old story have to do with anything I care about?"

 

They were exercises in discovering persona value, not in merely memorizing "useless"answers.

 

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

 

 

 

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The Top 3 Arguments for Cutting Back on Literature in Schools

The Top 3 Arguments for Cutting Back on Literature in Schools | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
A Shift in Focus from the ELA Common Core Standards is Prompting Teachers to Put Aside Traditional Literature...

 

 

 

__________

I must say I did some serious teeth gritting when I came across this article. It was difficult to get myself to read it in its entirety even though it takes less than 5 minutes to read.

 

To suggest that the number one reason for cutting back on literature is because bosses don't seem to consider how well read someone is as an important determinant in hiring employees. 

 

I'm not willing to say that this is a trump card that shuts the door on the question of literature's value. Imagine what would happen if those Wall Street firms insisted that their new hires had a familiarity with The Grapes of Wrath! Heaven forbid!

 

The author's second argument that literature is like feeding meat to lambs does capture one of the challenges of teaching great literature. Sometimes, feeding vegetables to children is equally challenging, but I'm not sure that because the challenge is difficult, that the wisest response is to simply give up on the potential for helping less interested students find a way to take their next step closer to seeing a value in what they previously have not seen a value in reading.

By the way, does this argument hold for parallel resistance seen in algebra classes, history classes, biology classes and physical ed classes, or eating one's vegetables?

 

What is good for us is sometimes an acquired taste. And acquiring that taste is generally a result of a gradual set of experiences that create a staircase transition towards a greater appreciation.

 

The third argument that they don't care is the very reason why the lessons of great literature must be learned. 

 

I was a bit amused by the argument that The Grapes of Wrath was a failure because the author could not be convinced that he had anything in common with the Joad family. I wonder if he would feel that today's students feel they have nothing in common with the Joad family. Well, maybe the depression, the exploitation of the 99% by the 1% or the unmerited predjudice about (im)migrant labors... sure, but anything important?

 

It's true, a good education should prepare us to be valuable human resources, but a good education should also prepare us to be valued friends, neighbors, and members of our various local, regional and national communities. 

 

There's more to a good education than the skill set we can sell. Much more!

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

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Lot Of 1940, 50′s Vintage Antique Children’s Books, Great Cond. Low Start On Sale

Lot Of 1940, 50′s Vintage Antique Children’s Books, Great Cond. Low Start On Sale | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it

Might be of interest to fans of vintage Children's Books.

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BERNAMA - Not Necessary To Make Literature Compulsory - Puad

BERNAMA - Not Necessary To Make Literature Compulsory - Puad | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it

"KUALA LUMPUR, APRIL 2 (Bernama)--The learning of literature as an elective subject in secondary schools currently is adequate and need not be expanded into a compulsory subject in the national education system...

 

...(Deputy Education Minister, Dr.) Puad (Zarkashi) said the introduction of literature as a compulsory subject needed a detailed study as it involved costs and change to the learning schedule in school."

 

 

__________

Yikes! Sounds a bit like those calling for eliminating the Federal Department of Education in the United States. 

 

Why? Because the concern is how much it costs. But how much does it cost when we stop caring about the humanizing impact of literature, particularly among upper grade students as they begin to sense the complexity of being humane beings? 

 

And justifying a position that dismisses literature's value because it would cause the status quo system to change... well, perhaps Kuala Lumpur has such a perfect system and perfectly humane culture that change is not needed.

 

I'm skeptical! And fearful that this sort of short-sighted vision may be contagious if not already on its way to becoming a pandemic.

 

 

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

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Top 10 Quotes of 1989 - TIME

Top 10 Quotes of 1989 - TIME | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
Salman Rushdie, speaking four days after a fatwa was proclaimed in Iran due to the controversial nature of his Satanic Verses book

February 18...

 

 

__________

Ran across this in my meanderings. Once again just in awe of the eloquence of those who work unceasingly via literature to awaken the oblivious.

 

 

~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

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Adults Should Read Adult Books - Room for Debate

Adults Should Read Adult Books - Room for Debate | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
I’ll read “The Hunger Games” when I finish the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults. By Joel Stein.

 

 

 

 

__________

I can't say that this article isn't bordering upon obnoxious. It might not be, but then again I could be wrong.

 

My first thought is that Joel Stein must have had a deadline and other issues that forced him to attempt to create "something" out of nothing.

 

The last time I saw an adult reading the kinds of books he condemns, my first thought was, "Now there's a conscientious parent," as in an adult who may have felt that having literate family conversations  might well have even more value than playing the, "Oh yes, I read that when it first came out" one upsmanship game around the Latte Machine at the office.

 

Also the last time I looked, this was still a free country where what we read didn't have to be approved or allowed by some publically elected or self-appointed literary police officer. That would bear just too much similarity to, oh I don't know, Fahrenheit 451 for example. But then again, Science Fiction may not meet Mr. Stein's baseline for adult reading either.

 

And given that books like The Hunger Games is stimulating significant public conversation about whether or not its extensive violence disqualifies it as appropriate YA Literature, would he suggest that it is not responsible parenting to be informed about the issue?

 

I generally like to pose questions worth discussing in faculty rooms of thoughtful educators here rather than push my own opinion, but this article seems just too simplistic. Perhaps as simplistic as it would be for someone to criticize Mr. Stein's respect for David Foster Wallace because David Foster Wallace committed suicide. 

 

That would not be fair to the noteworthy quality of David Foster Wallace's superb writing in spite of his tragic act of self-destruction.

 

Though I can't agree with Stein's assumption that YA Books are by some definition too shallow for adults, I would remind him of that old saying about "biting the hand that feeds"?

 

Perhaps it would be wise for Stein to lighten up on his criticism of people who read shallow writers. 

 

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

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Twitter Stories: saved a bookstore with a Tweet

A single Tweet rallied a community to save an independent bookstore from the economic downturn. Do you have a Twitter Story to share? Tell us how you or some...

 

 

 

_________

One Sweet Tweet Treat for lover's of independent bookstores!

 

 ~ http://www/GoogleLitTrips.com ~

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Top Ten Reasons Why Students Need More Literature (Not Less) | Caffeinated Thoughts

Top Ten Reasons Why Students Need More Literature (Not Less) | Caffeinated Thoughts | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it

"One of the many problems with the federally coerced Common Core State Standards is that they greatly de-emphasize the study of literature — in favor of studying "informational texts" such as government documents, computer manuals, etc. (A cynic might suspect that Bill Gates, whose foundation is funding Common Core, needs entry-level workers who have been trained to read computer manuals rather than employees who are educated in the English language.) If schools move to this approach via Common Core, they will be shortchanging their students. Dr. Steven Lynn, Dean of the Honors College at the University of South Carolina, addresses the folly of reducing our students’ exposure to literature:"

 

 

__________

And now for something completely serious...

 

Like many controversial issues, I have mixed feelings about the Common Core State Standards. I must admit however, that at the moment, my concerns about the downside may be outweighing my appreciation for the potential benefits. Though, I do feel that I'm open to continuing to learn more about both their benefits and shortcomings.

 

But, one issue I have a deep concern about is the impact on the perceived importance of reading great literature  in a world where "informational texts" seem to be hogging the stage and the budget.

 

Of course, the ability to comprehend a variety of informational texts is an important facet of the 21st century reading skillset. But, in times, as all times seem to be, when funding for education tends to be significantly short, the inevitable outcome is that if informational reading gets the headline, it gets a disproportionate piece of the budget pie, leaving other elements of literacy out in the cold like some old beat up couch unceremoniously dumped on the side of the road by someone without interest in giving a damn about how he or she gets rid of the trash.

 

And why is it that we assume that elevating the importance of one type of reading should be paid for by lowering the importance of another type of reading? Why not pay for the elevation of "informational texts" by lowering the importance of algebra? or football? 

 

I taught too long to believe that this would be a better solution. But we could redistribute the responsibility for increasing "informational texts" reading skills across the curriculum rather than expecting language arts departments to absorb the entire responsibility.

 

Science teachers could trim a little to make room for reading science articles in addition to science texts. Social Science teachers could trim a little to make room for reading political commentary in addition to Social Science texts. Physical Education teachers could trim just a little to include reading articles about nutrition, the evolution of sports equipment like football helmets, and other "informational texts" related to all things athletic.

 

But, when we take an overly simplistic view that all reading skills are the sole responsibility of language arts departments, then "little cuts" are not enough; To assume that the increased attention to "informational texts" skills belongs only to language arts departments requires "devastating cuts." 

 

I've always said, that great literature is one of the greatest educational tools addressing the educational goal of turning "human beings" into "humane beings." Without the influence that great literature brings, we may have to settle for merely turning "human beings" into "human resources." 

 

Who ever came up with that term anyway? Human Resources? The connations suggest a dehumanizing of humankind.  It reduces real live people, like you, or your parents or your children; and others like yours, your parents' and your children's favorite teachers to being perceived as little more than inventory; as tools to be used; as line items in a crowded corporate spreadsheet.

 

But hey, this article's main focus is upon reminding us that perhaps we need MORE LITERATURE (NOT LESS). And, I for one absolutely agree. But, I do not want the actual importance of increasing "informational text" reading skills to be ignored. Those skills, too are quite important for 21st century humankind.

 

The question is, will we take the quick, simplistic, though devastating approach to making more room for "informational texts" or will we take the time and opportunity to consider how room for this important subset of literacy skills can be made without decimating the heart of great literature's value to humanKIND(ness)?

 

By the way... remember when guys like King Solomon could count on people getting the point about the folly of solving an important problem by cutting the baby in half?

 

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

 

 

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'Hunger Games' Racist Tweets: Fans Upset Because Of Rue's Race

'Hunger Games' Racist Tweets: Fans Upset Because Of Rue's Race | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
It wasn't all good news for Team "Hunger Games" over the weekend.

 

 

__________

It is articles like this one that drive the passion expressed in my comments in previous article about Mark Twain and racism that I posted here today.

 

We who teach literature have much work to do. Let us have the strength to continue to fight the good fight.

 

  ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

 

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Why We Are Displaying "Hateful Things" at the Mark Twain House

Why We Are Displaying "Hateful Things" at the Mark Twain House | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
Mark Twain tried to start us talking about race by writing such books as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but he knew that our discussion would have to go on long after his death, and that our tendency would be to try to ignore it, or pay it mere...

 

 

__________

The shallowness of contemporary "discussions" re: Mark Twain's professed racism based upon his extensive use of the "N" word in his most famous work, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is often the best evidence that Twain's pessimism regarding the racism conversation getting us very far very quickly was well-founded.

 

That shallowness is not limited to those who condemn without understanding that Mark Twain's use of the abrasive term was absolutely intended because it was/is abrasive. People of good mind and heart should cringe every time the word is used. They should cringe when the story's "protagonist," the "mostly lovable" Huck naively accepts without question the racist attitudes that permeated the world within which young people grew up in "post emancipation" times. But, that cringing when the "good-bad kid"uses the term is the very point of the story. How does one escape the unquestioned acceptance of such evils as racism? 

 

And, in classrooms today educators of good mind and heart, in their attempts to defend Mark Twain are sometimes part of the problem. To defend Mark Twain's use of the "N" word by "excusing him given the times" may be well intended, but in actuality is too often sending the very wrong message suggesting something on the order of, "Well, yes he did use racist language, but we can forgive him because ... blah, blah, blah."

 

Mark Twain does not need foregiveness. His work requires no apologies. He is putting the reader, often of good mind and heart, in the very uncomfortable position of seeing a book full of people considered by many of good social standing acting in ways that we can look back at and see were not necessarily as good in mind or heart as they thought they were. And that ought to raise in our own "good minds and hearts" the question of whether or not we ought to revisit our default beliefs about what actually it is to be a person of good mind and heart. Should people who sincerely believe in the rightness of having a good mind and heart, wonder if inadvertently they're understanding of what that means is shallow and therefore, ironically more an area for shame than pride?

 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a book about the absence of shame and chagrin among people who, unlike characters such as Pap and the King and Duke, engage in at least equally damaging, but less noticed heartless cruelty.

 

Every time I reread Huck, I am amazed at the courage of a southern writer, particularly at the time Mark Twain was writing, who had the courage to publish a book that condemns nearly every white character and sets up only one black law-breaking character as being the most admirable character in the book, not because he is the "least-bad" but because he is GOOD. Period.

 

And everytime I get to that mysterious, often-criticized long ending when Mark Twain forces the reader for an agonizingly extended time to be reminded of "the old Huck" through the ongoing obliviousness of Tom Sawyer's "fun-loving cruelty" to Jim, I see the "new improved" Huck slowly but clearly emerging from the racist cocoon leading to his ephiphany that he can't go home to his racist roots, but rather has to go west to find a new beginning. 

 

Huck is to be cheered for his realization of his own reasons to feel shame. If Huck can see the wrong of his previous (mis)understandings of what a person of good mind and heart were, I imagine Mark Twain thinking, then perhaps we all can. 

 

However, alas, it is no secret that Mark Twain  had become an embittered pessimist at the end of his life, as had his literary predecessor Jonathan Swift and as did his literary successor Kurt Vonnegut. 

 

And, there perhaps is the sacred cow. Maybe the critics of Mark Twain are not only proof that the conversation about racism has made too little progress, but also is a prime example of the folly of "killing the messenger."

 

Extra Credit Assignment: 

Name 10 historical messengers who were killed because they brought messages that some people did not want to hear.

 

Give yourself 1 point for every name on your list and an extra point for every name on your list that is not one of the following:

 

Abraham Lincoln

Martin Luther King jr

Anwar Al Sadat

Mohandas Gandhi

Medgar Evers

John Kennedy

Robert Kennedy

John Lennon

Benazir Bhutto

Congressman Leo Ryan

Supervisor Harvey Milk

Jesus of Nazareth

 

 

~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

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20 Musicians Share What Books They're Currently Reading :: Blogs :: List of the Day :: Paste

20 Musicians Share What Books They're Currently Reading :: Blogs :: List of the Day :: Paste | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading | Scoop.it
The heart of songwriting lies in the art of storytelling. It’s no wonder, then, that so many bands and artists emphasize the importance of reading, especially while on the road.

 

 

 

 

__________

Something of great value for educators who, like myself, perhaps are not as familiar with contemporary music as their students.

 

And, something of perhaps surprising value to their students who are more familiar with contemporary music than with the backstory of some of their favorite musicians.

 

Reading is "in" among many contemporary musicians.

 

Though my interest in staying on top of contemporary music has waned considerably since I was young, it's not because of some curmudgeon-like negativity towards "the music these kids listen to today!" harumph.

 

So, truthfully, I'm not at all familiar with the music of (t0 put it gently) "many" of the musicians featured in this article.

 

I was glad to see that many of them find important inspiration in the writings of pretty darned good writers.

 

My immediate first level response was that I hope William Fitzsimmons', whoever he is, endorsement of Moby Dick or Urge Overkill's, a band whose name would challenge my open mindedness on even a good day, endorsement of Jude the Obscure might be the source of encouragement to their young fans to revisit the value of "unassigned reading."

 

But as I read through the intriguing comments made by many of the musicians I began to experience intriguing second and third level responses. I began to wonder about whether I ought to take a look at the book titles mentioned with which I had less familiarity. Maybe these contemporary muscians. these contemporary lyricists, these modern day story tellers,  might be a source of pretty darned good book recommendations.

 

And before I got past page one of the article, I found myself not only wanting to explore some of the titles of books they mentioned, but perhaps to even explore their music as well.

 

From an established appreciation of great literature to an intriguingly attractive invitation to some less known literature, to an earnest intrigue in finding out more about the music of these musicians with whom I've had virtually no previous awareness. That's exactly the kind of bridge building from the known to the unknown that I've endorsed for my entire career. 

 

Perhaps this is another opportunity to "heed my own counsel."

 

 ~ http://www.GoogleLitTrips.com ~

 

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